Deer hunters share mixed reactions over possible changes
FULTON - Mid-Missourians gathered Friday morning at the Busy Corner Cafe in Fulton to share their thoughts and concerns about proposed deer hunting changes.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is trying to find ways to grow the deer population in the state and it proposed regulations to shorten the deer hunting season, starting in 2016-17.
The main firearms deer season currently runs 11 days every year, from November 14 to November 24.
Among other changes, the department wants to shorten the firearms season from 11 days to nine days and reduce the antlerless firearms portion of the season from 12 days to three days, starting on the first Friday in December. The proposal also would add an additional day to the late youth season and move it from January to the weekend after Thanksgiving in an effort to increase participation.
For the fall archery deer and turkey seasons, the department proposes allowing crossbows and reducing the limit on antlered deer from two to one.
Boone, Callaway and other Mid-Missouri counties have seen their deer population drop up to 35 percent during the last 10 years due to hemorrhagic disease outbreaks, drought and high doe harvests, according to the a 2013-2014 Missouri Deer Season Summary and Population Status Report.
Conservation Department protection regional supervisor Tom Strother said the shortage is not statewide.
"There are still some hot spots, where the population is still in good shape," said Strother. "But in general there might be some places where the population isn't as large, so reducing two days of deer season to have the deer population recover."
Representatives spent two hours talking to hunters and debating the changes over coffee, in what it calls a new initiative to stay in touch with the community.
Some Mid-Missourians expressed their concerns over the state's Telecheck system, a portal where hunters are required to check deer and turkey electronically, either by phone or Internet. The system eliminates the requirement that hunters physically present harvested animals at an official check station before processing.
"People aren't much accountable for checking their deer as they used to be," said local hunter Scott Robinett, "I think a lot of the numbers are wrong."
Larry Underwood agreed the system is not accurate.
"It's too many things going wrong about it that we don't agree with," said Underwood, who is a commander for Fulton Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Underwood said he supports the Conservation Department in its efforts, but he does feel it's fair to reduce the hunting season.
"I think they need to regulate the out of state hunters", he said.
The deer industry is worth about $1 billion in Missouri, with revenue raised from hunting permits, lodging and travel.