The northwest part of Boone County is one of the areas being targeted for deer management strategies that could better balance the buck-to-doe ratio and increase the number of older bucks.
The Missouri Department of Conservation will outline possible management strategies and receive public input from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight in Room 103 of the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building at Hitt and Rollins streets on the MU campus.
Lonnie Hansen, a resource scientist for the conservation department, said several management techniques will be outlined at the meeting, including restrictions on antler size, buck quotas, a shorter season for hunting bucks and a change in the season’s dates. Another possibility is “earn-a-buck” regulations that would require hunters to take a doe before they could take an antlered buck.
The department is also interested in additional ideas from the public that the department could evaluate.
“There are an unlimited number of options,” Hansen said.
Deer hunter Bob McConnell said he won’t be able to attend the meeting but said, “It’s high time the Conservation Department got input from the public because there are way too many deer.” He also said he would be in favor of a lengthened season.
Lee Brandkamp, owner of Powder Horn Guns and Sporting Goods, said he plans to attend the meeting. He said he would be in favor of a later post-rut deer season.
“I’m up for a change,” Brandkamp said. “I have been deer hunting in Missouri since 1974.”
Hansen said that nothing is set in stone, but his agency is considering a pilot deer management program in two parts of the state. One of those areas includes all of Boone County north of Interstate 70 and west of U.S. 63.
The pilot project could begin as early as fall 2004, Hansen said. The Conservation Department would monitor the deer population and public sentiment in the pilot areas to determine if similar strategies should be implemented elsewhere in the state.
The average number of deer hunters in Missouri is decreasing, Hansen said, and the average age of deer hunters is increasing. As hunters become older, he said, they tend to take fewer deer. In addition, he said, there’s increased interest in taking bucks with larger antlers.
In several Southern sates, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, hunters can only take bucks with a certain number of “points” on their antlers. But comparing those regulations to Missouri would be like “comparing apples and oranges,” Hansen said, because the seasons are structured so differently.
The Columbia meeting is the third in a series of forums around the state. About 180 people attended a deer management meeting on Tuesday in Marshall, Hansen said, and nearly 200 showed up on Jan. 6 in Hannibal. Hansen said he expects an even stronger turnout tonight.
Based on the first two meetings, Hansen said, the public appears more in favor of antler point restrictions than other management strategies, but “there is a diversity of attitudes and a diversity of opinions out there.”
During the 2003 firearms season, hunters killed 254,367 deer in Missouri, about 6,000 more than 2002.
Sara Brown contributed to this report.