COLUMBIA — Hunters and landowners weighed in on how they think deer populations should be managed at an open house Wednesday hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The goal of the open house was to educate and get public feedback on possible regulation changes being considered by the department, in an effort to maintain the deer population. Missouri's deer population has been declining due to a combination of liberal hunting regulations and a 2012 outbreak of hemorrhagic disease.
The following changes are being considered:
- Expanding the archery season to include crossbows
- Shifting the November portion of the firearm season one week later
- Removing the antlerless portion of the deer season
- Restricting the buck bagging limit, for any hunting method, to one
- Creating a more small-scale, localized management system
- Developing a Deer Management Assistance Program
For information on the current regulations in Missouri, go to the Department of Conservation's website.
Some of the changes being considered include starting the firearm season for deer a week later in November and implementing a bag limit of one buck for any hunting method. As of now, the 2014 firearm season for deer stretches from Nov. 15 to 25.
Around 145 people attended the event throughout the day. Deer biologist Emily Flinn and Public Involvement Coordinator Michele Baumer said, similar to the 13 previously hosted events, the response to the proposed change has been positive.
"Some people don't like change," Baumer said, "but the majority of the folks that have been providing comments have been positive."
There have been many comment cards filled out and turned in at every open house. Baumer said that some nights she was up until 2 a.m. sorting through them and entering the responses into a spreadsheet. Flinn said that these comments are a small part of a large system to help biologists decide on whether to implement these new rules. In addition, yearly surveys are randomly distributed to hunters and landowners to gather more feedback.
Using the information gathered from the open houses and surveys, there will be two main meetings to decide whether to use the new methods, Flinn said. One meeting in December will rule on the new season date, while a meeting in May will address the other proposed changes.
Jeff Wallsmith, who has been a hunter for about 35 years, was interested to hear what the department had to say about deer hunting. Wallsmith was also positive, and voiced his trust in the department and their decisions.
"I feel good about the way they are managing the deer herd," Wallsmith said.
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