The trip to the check station after a successful deer or turkey hunt has long been a tradition in Missouri.
Most hunters didn’t mind checking their harvest, because they recognized how important it is to collect data for better deer and turkey management and to keep tabs on the number of animals taken.
Check stations also became the primary gathering places for the public to see harvested animals and for hunters to talk about their hunts.
Mandatory in-person checking of turkeys began with the inception of the spring firearms season in 1960 and the fall season in 1978. Except from 1980 to 1985, when mail-in reporting was allowed, archery hunters also had to bring their turkeys into check stations.
The history of checking deer is more complicated. The first modern deer season was in 1944. Although there were “weighing” stations, in-person checking was not required unless a deer was to be divided among hunters. In this case, the carcass had to be stamped by a Department of Conservation representative. This procedure was maintained through 1950.
Hunters could first take antlerless deer in 1951, and that’s when we first required mandatory in-person checking of deer. From 1951 to 1958 (except for 1954) all deer had to be taken to a check station or checked by a Conservation Department representative.
Between 1959 and 1968, we required in-person checking in some years, but not in others. However, from 1968 to 2003, all deer taken during the firearms deer seasons had to be checked in person. Except from 1980 to 1985, the same was true for the archery season.
Starting in 2004, all hunters during the fall firearms turkey season and all landowners during both archery and firearms deer seasons could check their game by calling a toll-free number. All spring turkey hunters in 2005 also could use the new Telecheck system, though check stations remained open.
In-person checking of deer and turkeys has benefited management of these important game animals. Deer and turkey harvest information has been the basis for setting regulations through the years. Data collected usually included total numbers taken, as well as the age and sex ratio of the animals.
At selected check stations, we collected additional biological information. For deer, this included recording reproductive rates, weight, age, antler development and parasites. We also collected blood samples to check for disease.
For turkeys, we have collected data on weight, spur length and parasites, and we’ve taken blood and tissue samples for