Missourians care about forests, fish, and wildlife. To ensure these resources are protected, the Conservation Department reviews the Wildlife Code of Missouri each year. In doing so, the Department considers hundreds of suggestions from hunters, anglers, and other citizens. Although every suggestion cannot be adopted, all are carefully reviewed. The following is a summary of key changes to the Wildlife Code. The changes will go into effect March 1 unless noted.
Missouri is a world-class place to hunt, fish, and experience nature. The following rules offer new opportunities to engage in outdoor activities.
- Hunters who use historic methods to pursue game will have additional opportunities to do so in 2014. Crossbows and atlatls will be allowed during spring turkey season.
- In the past, turkey hunting was prohibited on public fishing accesses less than 40 acres in size. Now, Department staff may recommend on a case-by-case basis turkey hunting on small fishing accesses.
- Anglers who use historic methods to harvest fish will have more places to do so at Otter Slough Conservation Area. Carp, buffalo, suckers, and gar may be harvested using gigs, bows, crossbows, and atlatls throughout the area according to area regulations. Previously, only Otter Lake was open to these methods.
The Conservation Department strives to develop regulations that are precise, concise, and easy to understand. The annual review of the Wildlife Code offers an opportunity to simplify and clarify existing regulations.
- If a person violates the Wildlife Code, the Conservation Commission may suspend, revoke, or deny permits or privileges to him or her. Before this happens, the person has the right to argue his or her case before the Commission. He or she also has the right to judicial review as provided by Missouri statutes. Several rules in the Wildlife Code of Missouri were amended to clarify these facts.
- Hunters should be aware of new labeling requirements for harvested turkeys. Before a turkey can be possessed by anyone other than the taker, the turkey must be labeled with the taker’s name, address, Telecheck confirmation number, and, new for 2014, the date of harvest. The addition of the harvest date makes the labeling requirement for turkeys consistent with labeling requirements for other game species.
Many regulations are designed to sustain healthy plant and animal communities. Some rules regulate the harvest of certain species; others curtail the spread of invasive animals and plants.
- Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake have a long history of quality catfish angling. But the overabundance of smaller blue catfish and the overharvest of large blue catfish are keeping many blue cats from reaching a large size. To improve blue catfish populations in Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, and their tributaries, blue catfish 26 to 34 inches long must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught, and an angler’s daily limit may not contain more than two blue catfish longer than 34 inches. In addition, the daily and possession limit for blue catfish on these waters will be 10. The new regulations will offer an increased daily limit to promote the harvest of smaller blue catfish to help reduce their competition for food and resources with larger blue cats. The new rules will also protect larger blue catfish so they can reach their growth potential and allow a limited harvest of trophy blues longer than 34 inches. Population modeling predicts that, given time, these regulations will help Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake support five times more blue catfish 34 inches and larger than they do now.
- To manage deer numbers in areas that have experienced population declines, the number of antlerless permits each hunter can fill has been reduced from unlimited to two in Atchison, Bates, Caldwell, Callaway, Carroll, Dallas, Howard, Laclede, Ray, Vernon, and portions of Boone and Cass counties. This change went into effect during the 2013 firearms deer season.
- In 2012, the Conservation Commission banned the sale of live crayfish for use as bait to protect Missouri’s waters from invasive crayfish. This rule has been amended for 2014 known as the northern crayfish). The amendment will help meet the needs of the bait industry and provide a convenient option for anglers who would rather buy live crayfish than catch crayfish themselves. Importation from out-of-state sources of live crayfish for bait sales is still prohibited.
- To align Missouri’s regulations with federal rules, shovelnose sturgeon may not be harvested from the Missouri River or on the Mississippi River downstream from Melvin Price Locks and Dam by commercial anglers. These rules went into effect Aug. 30, 2013. Sport anglers are not affected by this rule change.
- Bighead, silver, common, and grass carp are invasive species that have gained a toehold in Missouri’s big rivers. Commercial anglers may now take carp that jump from the water into an angler’s boat or onto land. Sport anglers have been able to harvest carp in the same fashion since 2011. This rule became effective Aug. 30, 2013.
How Regulations Are Set
Each year, the Conservation Department’s Regulations Committee reviews the Wildlife Code to ensure Missouri’s forests, fish, and wildlife are protected. Here’s how the process works.
- Changes proposed by the public and Department staff are brought to the Committee to review.
- The Committee researches the effects of the proposed regulation changes. Information reviewed may include costs to taxpayers, effects on wildlife populations, user group surveys, public comments, and feasibility studies.
- When research shows a change would improve a natural resource or provide more opportunities for Missourians to enjoy nature without detrimental effects to natural resources, a proposed regulation change is sent to the Conservation Department’s director.
- If the director approves the change, the proposal is submitted to the Conservation Commission, a group of four citizens who are appointed by the governor.
- If passed by the Conservation Commission, the proposed changes are filed with the secretary of state and published in the Missouri Register. A link to the Register can be found at mdc.mo.gov/node/4871.
- Publication of proposed changes in the Missouri Register begins a 30-day public comment period. If no comments are received, the final regulation is filed and becomes effective on the date specified in the proposal or 30 days after publication in the Missouri Code of State Regulations.
- When comments are received, the proposal is reviewed. Based on the public’s comments and available research data, the Commission may decide to drop, modify, or implement the regulation.
We Want Your Input
Citizen participation has been the cornerstone of conservation efforts in Missouri since the Department was formed in 1937. To offer input on the Wildlife Code of Missouri, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/24751. Once there, you can:
- Sign up for email alerts about regulation changes.
- Read the full text of each chapter of the Wildlife Code.
- Offer suggestions on how the Department can improve existing regulations.
To see a list of regulations the Department is proposing to amend and offer your comments on the proposed changes, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/24141.