As much as we hunters love to criticize and critique our state agencies when it comes to deer management, we should be just as enamored with telling them when they're doing something positive. But, of course, we seldom are.
Right now, the Missouri Department of Conservation is doing something right. And we should be showing our support for the process.
The MDC has floated several proposed changes to deer hunting regulations in Missouri and is asking for public input to help steer the final decisions.
Missouri's whitetail population has followed a trend similar to herds across the Midwest -- a steady growth over the past two decades or so that resulted in an overabundance (whether real or perceived) in many areas. Bag limits and seasons were liberalized in an effort to curb that growth. Boom times. And then, over the past few seasons, a marked decline in numbers.
The reasons for this decline have been a hot topic over the past 12 months or so with reasons cited ranging from habitat degradation to disease to overzealous hunting regulations.
On the table in Missouri are several options aimed at addressing this population shift:
- Reduce the state's gun season from 11 days to nine. Previously, the season did last nine days but was expanded to 11 in an effort to curtail a growing deer population.
- Reduce the buck limit to one during archery season. Last fall, gun hunters were restricted to one buck during gun season.
- Reduce the antlerless-only gun season from 12 days to three.
- Allow crossbows for all hunters statewide.
All of the proposals -- save for the expanded use of crossbows -- are intended to reduce pressure on the deer population.
It's important to note that these are in proposal form only. No decisions have been made and the Department wants input from hunters. Any measures approved would take effect in the 2016 season.
So here's your chance. Agree or disagree, the proposals are up for discussion. If you've been unhappy with the state of the whitetail population in Missouri, this is your chance to speak up on regulations that may, or may not, help solve some problems. The Department is holding meetings in several areas of the state and you can comment online here.
It would have been easy for the Department to ignore what Missouri hunters have been saying. They could have kept things the same -- it certainly would eliminate a lot of paperwork. They could have also made changes without listening to the hunting public.
But, thus far, they haven't. They're asking for your input.
So give it.