Deer Hunters Gear Up for Hunting Season
COLUMBIA- Firearm deer hunting season kicks off Saturday and Bass Pro shop in Columbia was bursting with hunters Friday gearing up for the big day. The Missouri Conservation Department estimates there are between 1 and 1.5 million deer in the state. About 500,000 people participate in deer hunting every year.
Rick Wheeler and Eric Giese are two of those hunters. They drove in from St. Louis and plan to hunt in Fayetteville. They stopped by Bass Pro Shop to pick up a last minute rain poncho.
"I just like the peacefulness and getting out with other guys," said Wheeler.
Jerry Ricker has been deer hunting for forty years. He echoed Wheeler's statement. "I like going out in the woods, the camaraderie with all the other guys I go with and just having a good time," said Ricker.
Conservation Department regional director Tom Strother said in order to prepare, hunters should make sure they have their permits, hunter orange apparel, and are in good physical shape for the rigors of hunting.
Wheeler says there's a lot that goes into getting ready for the big day. "A lot of scouting the area you're going to hunt, working on your gun and a lot of shopping," said Wheeler.
But sometimes it doesn't matter how much you prepare. "A lot of it is luck, being in the right place at the right time. I'm hoping I get lucky tomorrow," said Wheeler.
Strother said deer hunting is necessary. "We have a large deer population in Missouri. It can cause problems with people. Vehicle accidents, crop deprivation, deer eating on flowers, that sort of thing. So the best way to reduce the population, to numbers acceptable by people, is through hunting," said Strother.
Hunters have the option to donate their deer to the "Share the Harvest" program. Hunters can take their deer to one out of 120 different meat processors throughout the state. The meat processors then give some or all of the venison to local food banks.
"It's a win-win for the hunters and needy families. It's a win for the hunters because they know that they are helping a needy family and it's a win for the needy family because now they have some deer meat and protein to eat," said Strother.
Strother said this year his department hopes hunters set a record. Last year, more than 4,500 deer were donated. This year they want to double that.
Hunters like Wheeler are willing to help out. "We're hoping we have enough for ourselves and then some to donate,"said Wheeler.
Hunters have donated more than two million pounds of venison since the programs start in 1992.