COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Conservation will ease restrictions on deer hunters this season, in an effort to cull the nearly 1 million deer population in the state.
The department will introduce three major changes for this fall and winter season: the elimination of "buck-only" permits, the ability to use any-deer permits anywhere in the state and the rescheduling of a late-season extension designed to take more does out of the herd.
"Anytime we can liberalize and help our management objective, and at the same time give hunters more opportunity and flexibility -- shoot, why wouldn't we do it?" asked Lonnie Hansen, the department's leading deer biologist.
In previous years, hunters with any-deer permits could use them only in one of the states 59 deer-management units and had to indicate where they wanted to hunt. That allowed the department to set harvest quotas in various parts of the state. Only those who bought buck-only permits could use them anywhere in Missouri.
Hansen said those restrictions have been lifted because nearly every area of the state now has plenty of deer and state biologists want to encourage people to kill more does to keep the population in check.
Kerwin Crawford, a Boone County hunter, said he's happy with the changes, in part because of increasing car accidents involving deer.
"I think were starting to reach the limits of the population, and to control the population, you gotta control the does," Crawford said.
This year, hunters will still be able to buy up to two bonus permits for antlerless deer, and they can get them without buying a more-expensive any-deer permit first. Bonus tags, however, will be unit-specific, enabling the department to continue micromanaging certain areas that have too many or too few deer.