COLUMBIA — The firearms deer season opens in mid-Missouri this weekend, but hunters say they're in the woods for more than spotting a big buck.
Hunting is about tradition, family, camaraderie and putting food on the table, they say.
Firearms season: Saturday through Nov. 25
Shooting times: Half hour before sunrise to half hour after sunset. (Roughly 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
Permit fees: Missouri residents pay $17 for an “any-deer” permit, which allows them to kill one deer of either sex, and $7 for “antlerless only” permits, which allow them to kill does or young “button” bucks. Non-residents pay $175 for an any-deer permit and $7 for antlerless permits.
Antler restrictions: Many Missouri counties, including Boone and adjacent counties, are subject to antler-point restrictions this year. That means hunters are prohibited from killing bucks unless they have at least four “points” 1 inch or longer on at least one side of their racks.
Reporting kills: Hunters who take deer must immediately tag them and report their kills to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Hunters can call the department’s Telecheck system at 1-800-314-6828 or check their deer online at mdc.mo.gov.
Safety first: Hunters are required to wear blaze orange vests and hats at all times.
Other seasons: Hunters may kill deer with bows and
arrows during the archery season, which runs from Sept. 15 through Jan.
15, except during firearms seasons. There is a muzzleloader season
from Nov. 28 through Dec. 7 and an antlerless-only season from Dec. 13
through Dec. 21.
More info: For more information, go to mdc.mo.gov.
“Opening day of deer season is a time-honored tradition,” hunter David Bachtel, 57, said. “For those of us who hunt, it is like a day of observance, recollection and reflection.”
That’s why the sagging economy won’t keep many of Missouri’s half-million hunters at home Saturday.
“I think deer hunters are going to do without other things before they do without hunting. They’re going to find a way to hunt,” said Robyn Raisch, conservation agent for the Missouri Department of Conservation in Boone County.
More than 600,000 hunters are expected to spend $1 billion in Missouri this year, according to the Conservation Department. The money is typically channeled into sporting goods, lodging, food, meat processing and taxidermy.
For Justin McGuire, 27, hunting serves as a stress reliever, especially this year.
“I think with the stresses of the economy being down, it’s that much more important to get out there and hunt,” he said. “I use it as a therapy.”
Like Bachtel, McGuire says hunting is more than a luxury because of the tradition.
“It’s more than the stress relief," he said. "It’s important for us because it was something that was handed down to us,” he said. “It’s something we’re not going to let the economy get in the way of.”
"I'll be hunting regardless," said Tyler Greening, 20. Manny Burkholder, 58, also said the economy would not interfere with his plans.
Ben French, 23, said hunting has become a lifestyle for him, a way to relax.
“I seem to always be planning the next hunt,” he said. “I cannot imagine not hunting.”
Raisch said people might even hunt more this year than in the past.
“I think people will seek out hunting more than in the past to get away from the day-to-day stresses,” he said.
The economy will actually push French to hunt harder than he has before.
“Meat at the store is expensive. … I’m confident that the cost of a pound of deer will be less than the cost of beef at the grocery store,” he said.
McGuire said none of the meat he brings home is wasted and he knows families who depend on hunting as a “large part of their food source.”
Raisch said that many hunters “expect to have that meat as a fresh source of meat for the year.” He also said that the meat is a bonus for many others.
“Most (hunting) is for recreation,” he said. “Eating is an added bonus.”
Another important element in hunting is appreciating nature and respecting the animals, Bachtel said.
“(It’s) a time for us to reflect on what has been handed down to us,” he said. “A time to remember our responsibility to nature, to our roots and to our children.”
French, who lives in Fulton and works in Columbia, has been saving up to hunt this year. He has cut back on eating out and carpooled more in an effort to stash funds for deer season.
His “euphoria that will last most of the week” comes from a successful hunt. Second is the interaction with other hunters.
“The second high point is heading back to deer camp and receiving the many hand shakes, pats on the back,” he said. “The relationships built at deer camp will last a lifetime, and the memories made in the woods are the ones that I hold the closest to me."