Department of Conservation proposing new hunting regulations

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is proposing new hunting regulations for the 2016-2017 deer season.

MDC Deer Biologist Jason Sumners said the state deer herd has fallen below what department leaders think is healthy.

In 2012, the MDC reported that more than 10,000 deer died from hemorrhagic disease, lowering heard numbers.

"That hemorrhagic disease outbreak in 2012 pushed the population in many places below more than desirable levels, and so now we're trying to correct for some of that and stabilize those populations," Sumners said.

Sumners said at its peak, the state had 1.6 million deer, now he said the number is closer to 1 million. To combat low numbers, the MDC is proposing six regulation changes to both the firearm and archery season. Sumners said these proposed changes will help increase and stabilize the deer population.

The proposed changes include:

For firearms season:

-Shorten the November hunting season

-Expand the late youth portion to three days from two days, beginning the first Friday after Thanksgiving

-Reduce the length of the antlerless portion of the season from 12 days to three days, beginning on the first Friday in December

-Eliminate the urban zones portion

For archery season:

-Allow crossbows as a legal method during the archery deer and turkey season

-Allow one antlered deer tag per hunter

Sumners said without making changes there could be negative effects on the economy. 

"Hunting in the state of Missouri is about a $1 billion dollar economic engine in the state, deer obviously being a huge part of that," Sumners said.

He said by implementing these regulations it will not only ensure a long-term stability of the white-tailed deer population, but also make sure that the economic engine is there for the future.

Hunter Jaime Vaughn said while he understands the need for change, he hopes the MDC does not reduce the limit of antlered deer during the archery season.

"It's more than just a trophy, it's memories. You can always go sit in your stand but there is always that possibility that the one you've been chasing for a few years now, it comes out and you don't have an extra tag," Vaughn said.

The current regulation allows hunters to take two antlered deer per season with a permit. This would be one of the changes made if the proposals are approved. 

Sumners said the MDC is currently compiling and analyzing feedback it has gathered through various open houses and surveys. He said he expects these changes to move forward for formal consideration this summer.

Comments about these regulations can still be submitted here

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of "herd"]