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Trimming the Herd

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

In 2001, there were 8,199 deer-vehicle accidents reported in Missouri. In comparison, Illinois typically reports about 17,000 such accidents each year, Wisconsin about 40,000, and Michigan more than 65,000. Of course, such comparisons are of little consolation when it is your vehicle that is involved. Regardless, the number of deer-vehicle accidents reported in Missouri each year has remained relatively constant over the past decade even as the number of roads, traffic volume, and speed limits increased.

Over the past several years, as the deer herd has increased, the Missouri Department of Conservation has liberalized regulations to increase hunting opportunity and put more permits into the hands of hunters. For example, both the firearms and archery seasons have been lengthened, and more bonus permits have been made available for more units.

In 1996, a new Antlerless-Only portion of the firearms season was established, and in 2002 hunters were allowed to use their Any-Deer permits to take a deer anywhere in Missouri. In addition, the number of units where Antlerless-Only Archery Deer Hunting permits are valid has steadily increased.

Nearly 42 million acres, or about 93 percent, of Missouri's landscape is privately owned. Therefore, private landowners play a crucial role in deer herd management. In recognition and appreciation of the significant contributions that they make to Missouri's wildlife, qualifying private landowners have traditionally been allowed to harvest deer during both the firearms and archery seasons without purchasing any permits. Although regulations must be revised periodically to keep pace with the changing deer herd and new management goals, we intend for the landowner privilege to continue, although perhaps with some modification.

Exactly how do hunters fit in? Because there are fewer natural predators today than in pre-settlement times, regulated sport hunting is the best way to control deer numbers. Without hunting, deer management and population control would be impossible.

Beginning in 1944 when the "modern" deer season was established, hunting was for bucks only. Does were protected so deer numbers could increase. This strategy was very effective, and by 1951 deer numbers had rebounded sufficiently to allow a number of "any deer" days in parts of Missouri. Further liberalizations were implemented as the deer herd continued to grow.

Unfortunately, the attitudes of some hunters are still stuck in the 1944 era of "save a doe so the herd can grow." Some have even adopted a "real hunters don't shoot does" philosophy. Such thinking

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