Archery and Firearm Deer Seasons May Include Point Restrictions

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The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved 2004 deer hunting regulations that include 15 extra days of archery hunting and expand the length and area of the urban portion of firearms deer season. This year's regulations also establish two pilot areas to test the effectiveness of antler point restrictions in increasing the doe harvest.

The Commission approved the following deer season dates:

--Archery Deer Season - Sept. 15-Nov. 12 and Nov. 24-Jan. 15 statewide

--Urban Portion of Firearms Deer Season - Oct. 8-11 in Boone, Cass, Christian, Clay, Cole, Greene, Jackson, Platte, St. Charles, St. Louis and Webster counties

--Youth Portion of Firearms Deer Season - Nov. 6 and 7 statewide

--November Portion of Firearms Deer Season - Nov. 13-23 statewide

--Muzzleloader Portion of Firearms Deer Season - Nov. 26-Dec. 5 statewide

--Antlerless Portion of Firearms Deer Season - Dec. 11-19 in 74 counties.

The Commission approved a test of deer harvest regulations aimed at shifting the sex ratio of the states' deer herd. The goal of the antler restriction is to control the number of deer by reducing the proportion of does from 60 percent to 55 percent.

The pilot program will take place in 29 counties this year. Hunters in these areas can shoot only antlerless deer and antlered deer with at least one antler having at least four antler points. No other antlered deer may be taken. The antler restrictions apply to both archery and firearms seasons, except during the youth portion of the firearms deer hunting season.

To count, antler points must be at least one inch long from base to tip. The end of the main beam is counted as one antler point. Any broken tine that is at least 1 inch long counts as a point.

Conservation Department Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen said the benefits of a more balanced deer herd will extend beyond better control of deer numbers.

"Shifting the deer harvest more onto antlerless deer also will increase the number and age of antlered bucks," said Hansen. "In states that have tried antler restrictions, they have had some opposition at first, but as hunters see the results, opinion shifts very quickly in favor of the regulations. Hunters like the fact that they see more antlered deer, and everyone is glad about reductions in deer-car accidents and property damage."

Counties included in the pilot area are Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Boone, Chariton, Cole, Daviess, DeKalb, Franklin, Gasconade, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Howard, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Maries, Mercer, Miller, Nodaway, Osage, Pulaski, Putnam, Randolph, Schuyler, Sullivan, and Worth.

The Conservation Department held 26 public meetings statewide to learn citizens' preferences for achieving this goal. The agency also sought citizen ideas through a survey, asking their opinion of five options to shift deer sex ratios. Harvest restrictions based on antlers were most popular by a large margin.

Among the 2,901 people who sent written comments, 44 percent of people surveyed statewide said they favored antler restrictions. The next most-popular option, with a 30 percent statewide favorable rating, was moving the November deer season outside the time of the deer "rut," or breeding season. Earning the right to shoot a buck by first tagging an antlerless deer came in third, with 26 percent favoring this option.

Qualifying landowners who formerly used a "farm tag" or received no-cost permits by mail will need to pick up formal, printed permits from any permit vendor statewide. The permits will still be available at no cost.

As an added convenience to landowners, all deer taken on landowner permits can be checked without visiting a check station, using the new telephone checking system. Information about "telecheck" procedures will be available at permit vendors.

To make deer management as flexible as possible, the Conservation Department has dropped the 59 deer management units used in the past in favor of county-based regulations.