The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) on Friday announced regulation changes for the 2023-24 deer-hunting season, as well as dates for harvesting turkey and deer.
The regulation changes include a new firearms portion to manage chronic wasting disease, changes to firearms antlerless permit numbers in most counties, and a new firearms early antlerless portion in Reynolds County. The hunting dates and regulation changes were approved by the Missouri Conservation Commission at its open meeting held Friday in Jefferson City.
“The changes to deer hunting regulations for the 2023-2024 deer season were motivated by increasing deer numbers throughout much of Missouri and in response to changes in the distribution of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the state,” said MDC Cervid Program Supervisor Jason Isabelle. “With a growing deer population in most Missouri counties, we’re increasing opportunities for hunters to harvest deer both within and outside of the CWD Management Zone next year.”
MDC will offer a CWD portion of firearms deer season Nov. 22 through 26 in CWD Management Zone counties during the 2023-2024 deer season. Locally, those counties include Howell, Oregon and Ozark.
According to MDC, hunters will be able to use any unfilled firearms deer permits during the CWD portion and must abide by the statewide limit of one antlered deer during the firearms deer season, all portions combined. They must also abide by county-specific firearms antlerless permit numbers.
“Like they are in most of the state, deer populations are increasing in most CWD Management Zone counties,” said Isabelle. “Because higher deer densities can increase the rate of CWD spread, additional deer harvest in the CWD Management Zone is needed to prevent further increases in deer numbers and help minimize the spread of the disease.”
He added that the timeframe of the CWD portion was selected because it occurs during the tail end of the primary rut, or breeding season, when deer activity is typically high and when hunter interest remains strong.
“When looking for the best time to provide hunters with more opportunity in CWD Management Zone counties, we considered a number of factors including the potential for good deer movement, level of hunter interest, and potential conflict with other hunters,” said Isabelle. “The late November timeframe avoids peak archery hunting weeks and occurs during a time when deer movement is generally good, and when hunters are eager to be in the woods.”
MDC has also increased the number of firearms antlerless permits hunters can fill in most counties, including allowing hunters to fill a firearms antlerless permit in Butler, Carter, Scott and Wayne counties. MDC has also increased the number of firearms antlerless permits from two to four in 82 counties, including Howell, Oregon, Ozark and Wright. In Douglas, Texas and Shannon counties, hunters may fill two firearms antlerless permits.
“Prior to 2014, firearms antlerless permit numbers were unlimited in 74 counties,” said Isabelle. “However, following the severe hemorrhagic disease outbreak that occurred throughout much of the state in 2012, we became much more conservative with firearms antlerless permit numbers to allow the deer population to rebound.”
He noted the deer population has steadily increased during the last decade, making it necessary to be more liberal with antlerless harvest opportunities to slow population growth and keep the deer population at desired levels.
MDC will offer a new firearms early antlerless portion Oct. 6through 8 for 2023 in the same 100 counties open for the firearms late antlerless portion this year through Dec. 10, which includes Howell and surrounding counties. New for 2023-24, Reynolds County is added.
“With deer populations being at desired levels in most counties but continuing to increase, additional antlerless harvest is needed to stabilize deer numbers,” said Isabelle. “The creation of an early antlerless portion of firearms deer season and increasing the availability of antlerless permits in most counties will provide hunters with more opportunities to harvest antlerless deer and help meet our deer-management goals.”
According to MDC, firearms antlerless seasons that occur prior to the primary firearms season are not uncommon and several Midwestern states have established similar season portions.
“The early antlerless portion will help to increase antlerless deer harvest prior to the November portion of firearms season when the focus of many hunters is on harvesting a buck,” said Isabelle. “The timing of the early antlerless portion was designed to occur when weather conditions are generally comfortable and during a time that will minimize conflict with archery hunters, who spend the most time hunting during late October and early November as the rut approaches.”
• Spring Youth Portion: April 1 - 2
• Regular Spring Turkey Season: April 17 through May 7
• Fall Firearms Turkey Season: Oct. 1 - 31
• 15 through Nov. 10 and Nov. 22 through Jan. 15, 2024
• New! Firearms Early Antlerless Portion: Oct. 6-8 (in open counties)
• Firearms Early Youth Portion: Oct. 28-29
• Firearms November Portion: Nov. 11-21
• New! Firearms CWD Portion: Nov. 22-26 (in open counties)
• Firearms Late Youth Portion: Nov. 24-26
• Firearms Late Antlerless Portion: Dec. 2-10 (in open counties)
• Firearms Alternative Methods Portion: Dec. 23 - Jan. 2, 2024
Detailed information on the new firearms early antlerless portion, the new firearms CWD portion, and changes to firearms antlerless permit numbers by county will also be included in the MDC 2023 Fall Deer & Turkey Regulations and Information booklet, available starting in July where permits are sold and online at mdc.mo.gov.
Regulation details and maps of open counties are also available from the MDC website at mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/regulation-changes-2023-24-deer-season.
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