Deer hunter Ray Parsons hopes to harvest as many does as he can this firearms deer season. Parsons bought two bonus tags for himself and his grandson Chris Snell on Tuesday at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. If he fills those, he said, he’ll come back and buy more.
“I buy all the tags I can get, and I usually fill them,” said Parsons, one of many hunters browsing Wal-Mart’s hunting section in advance of the 11-day deer season that begins Saturday morning.
Hunters like Parsons can fill as many bonus tags as they please this season. New regulations allow hunters to buy an unlimited number of bonus permits at lower prices than previous years. Bonus tags cost $7 each; last year the first bonus permit cost $11 and second bonus permits cost $7. The bonus tag regulation is also in effect during archery season.
Hunters with a firearms any-deer permit are allowed to kill one deer of any sex or age statewide, except on public lands where special rules are in effect. They can buy unlimited numbers of bonus permits for antlerless deer. During the regular November firearms season, however, bonus tags must be used only in one of 59 “deer management units.” The unit is selected by the hunter.
The unlimited bonus tags come as a result of overpopulation in certain areas of the state, research scientist Lonnie Hansen said. Thirty-nine of the state’s 59 units allow unlimited bonus tags. During a special December season, hunters can use unfilled bonus tags to hunt deer in any of those 39 units.
“We’re targeting specific areas with population problems,” Hansen said.
Tom Strother, a protection regional supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the goal is to reduce the number of conflicts between deer and people, such as road accidents and crop damage. The number of complaints the conservation department receives, in addition to the number of crop and automobile incidents, determines problem areas.
“Reducing populations in some areas will mean less of a negative impact on people,” Strother said.
Hansen said Boone County is a pronounced case of overpopulation. Columbia, which only allows bow hunting, is especially bad, he said. And things will only get worse.
“We’re going to see an increase in problems with deer in Boone County,” Hansen said.
As the city continues to grow outward, the amount of land available for hunting will decrease, Hansen said. This, combined with private landowners’ unwillingness to allow hunting on their property, will add to the overpopulation of deer. Last month, the conservation department asked the Columbia City Council to take action on the urban deer problem.
“There are deer all over the place,” hunter Troy McDannald said as he browsed Wal-Mart’s selection of rifle scopes Tuesday.
Hansen hopes the unlimited bonus tags will prompt hunters to kill more deer. He said this year’s rules are part of a trend toward more liberal regulations that began with the offer of a single bonus tag in 1988. The department has continually allowed more bonus tags, thereby shifting the pressure from bucks to does and resulting in more harvested deer.
“It’s pretty hard to liberalize beyond this year,” Hansen said.
Gary Maiden isn’t so sure unlimited bonus tags will mean an increase in the harvest. Many people, like himself, don’t need to take multiple deer.
“I’m not sure this will do a whole lot,” Maiden said. “There are only so many deer a person can use.”
Parsons, on the other hand, said he uses all the meat from his kills to make stews and deer sausage, among other things. He said the county definitely has too many deer and sees the new regulation as something long overdue.
“They should have done this a long time ago,” he said.