Deer Bow Hunters Hit the Field Oct. 1st

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If you have been seeing people dressed in camouflage out and about at dawn and dusk lately, it's not because the U.S. Army is on maneuvers. Archery deer season opens Oct. 1, and bowhunters are on the move. They are scouting hunting spots, checking their equipment and getting in shape for Missouri's three-month bow season.

Archery deer season runs through Jan. 15, with a break for the firearms hunting season Nov. 16 through 26. Archers can take up to two deer with a Resident Archer's Hunting Permit ($17) or a Nonresident Archer's Hunting Permit ($120), which are good statewide. Residents or nonresidents also can take as many as five additional deer in some areas with Antlerless-Only Archery Deer Hunting Permits ($5 each).

The areas where antlerless-only archery permits are valid increased this year. During the 2001-2002 season, the permits were good in seven management units. This year the number is 24. Units where hunters can use antlerless-only archery permits this year are 1 through 17, 20, 22, 23, 24, 30, 58 and 59 - in effect, the northern half of the state. You have to buy a regular archery hunting permit before you can buy the permits.

Bowhunters partake of a tradition that traces its roots back tens of thousands of years. Though most modern archers use high-tech equipment, the essentials of the challenge are the same whether your bow features aluminum pulleys or wooden limbs. You must get within a few paces of a quarry that possesses superb senses. Then you have to place an arrow in an area the size of a dinner plate. If you forget to check wind direction or breath a little too loudly, a wary whitetail will evaporate like smoke in the wind.

Last year, Missouri bowhunters outwitted whitetails 26,165 times. It's an accomplishment that increasingly benefits homeowners and automobile drivers in areas where hunting with firearms isn't permitted.

"Deer continue to cause problems with property damage around our cities," said Lonnie Hansen, a wildlife research biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "At one time, about the only problem that deer caused was damaging farmers' crops in rural areas. Now the biggest problems with deer are in urban areas and suburbs."

Those problems, said Hansen, include damage to expensive landscape plants. "It's easy to laugh at this unless you're the one shelling out hundreds of dollars to replace shrubs," he said.

Even more troublesome are deer-vehicle accidents. Insurance company records show that the average deer-related auto accident results in $1,700 damage. A few of these accidents prove fatal for drivers or passengers.

Although the statewide archery deer harvest is insignificant compared to the firearms kill of more than 200,000 annually, it is very significant in areas where hunting with guns isn't allowed.

"One of our biggest challenges is controlling deer populations in areas where hunting with firearms isn't practical," said Hansen. "In those areas, archery deer hunting provides a safe, economical way to keep deer numbers - along with property damage and danger from deer-car accidents - at levels that are acceptable to the public."