Municipal Ordinances and Deer Harvest
Most municipalities have ordinances against the discharge of projectile weapons within city limits. However, if a community determines an urban deer harvest is its best deer management option, ordinance changes can be made.
When drafting the new ordinance, keep the following in mind:
- You should include some basic language defining weapons and specific rules regarding the discharge of weapons by private citizens.
- The ordinance should be written to restrict or permit the use of particular weapons, rather than to directly permit managed hunts or harvest of wildlife.
- You can consult with other communities and/or research other local ordinances prior to drafting the new ordinance.
- Communities are encouraged to contact MDC for guidance throughout the ordinance writing process.
Drafting the Ordinance
The following components are building blocks for tailoring an ordinance to fit residents’ needs and desired outcome. A few or all of the items may be included to manage specific aspects of weapons use related to wildlife harvest.
These definitions and ordinance examples are intended specifically to guide the lawful discharge of weapons within city limits. They are not intended to address any other components of a community weapons ordinance including carrying concealed weapons; possession, manufacture, transport, repair, or sale of weapons; exceptions for police officers, military, or other licensed security agents; defacing a firearm or possession of a defaced firearm; unlawful transfer of weapons, or penalties for violations.
Air gun: Any device designed to fire or discharge a projectile using compressed air or gas.
Atlatl: A rod or narrow board-like device used to launch, through a throwing motion of the arm, a dart 5 to 8 feet in length.
Archery device: Any long bow or compound bow.
Crossbow: Any device designed to discharge a bolt, formed as a bow set crosswise on a stock, usually drawn by means of a mechanism and discharged by release of a trigger.
Firearm: Any rifle, shotgun, pistol, muzzleloader, or any similar device or mechanism by whatever name known which is designed to expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosive.
Muzzleloader: A firearm that is loaded from the muzzle capable of firing a single discharge each time it is loaded.
Shotgun: Any firearm designed to fire a number of shot or a single projectile through a barrel by a single function of the trigger.
Discharge of weapons, general provisions
These examples show language that permits the use of projectile weapons on private property to allow for the harvest of wildlife such as deer.
1. All current laws of the Wildlife Code of Missouri shall be obeyed within the corporate limits of Community.
2. This Section permits the use of the following weapons [list here] on private property, with the express consent of such property owner(s), so long as the path of the projectile and the impact area remain within the confines of said property, provided that such equipment is being used in a manner which will protect all persons against bodily injury, as well as protect property, public and private, from damage.
Discharge of weapons, specific provisions
These ordinance provisions can be applied to further restrict the use of weapons if a community so desires.
1. Discharge of weapons will only be allowed on land consisting of [insert number] acres or more.
2. Contiguous landowners may combine properties to fulfill the acreage requirement listed in paragraph 1.
3. Discharge of weapons will only be allowed from an elevated tree stand.
4. Operators of [permitted weapons] are required to have taken a Missouri Department of Conservation approved hunter education course.
5. Operators of archery and/or crossbow equipment are required to mark individual arrows with their nine-digit Missouri Conservation Identification Number.
6. No discharge of weapons shall be permitted without the written permission of the landowner or lessee of the property in question, which must be in the possession of the hunter while hunting or be in the actual presence of the landowner or lessee.
7. No discharge of weapons shall be permitted within [insert distance] feet of any road, residential structure or place where domestic animals are kept except with written permission of the landowner or lessee of the property in question.
8. No weapon shall be discharged in the direction of any human, roadway, structure, or domestic animals within reasonable range of the weapon at an angle which might allow the projectile to strike at, or dangerously near, these objects.
9. Any managed hunts permitted by the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, or the County Parks Department shall be permitted under this Section after obtaining approval of the City Council by the City or Community.
These are just the building blocks of an ordinance. You may also need to include sections about the retrieval and cleaning of the animal once harvested. Often communities with bow hunting ordinances include a section to ensure the harvested animal is retrieved and cleaned in an inconspicuous manner.
Implementing the ordinance
Inform law enforcement, MDC, and city staff
Prior to the ordinance reading, inform local law enforcement and MDC staff of the pending ordinance changes and when said changes will go into effect. This information is vital to local law enforcement since they will be the ones enforcing the ordinance.
Note: the local MDC conservation agent will continue to enforce the Wildlife Code but will not enforce any added rules set forth by the ordinance.
Informing the local wildlife biologists is important because private citizens will contact them with questions about the ordinance. Biologists won’t be able to answer questions requiring an interpretation of the ordinance but will be able to answer simple direct questions about the ordinance and about urban hunting.
You should also draft a short Q&A sheet for city employees to aid them in answering questions regarding the ordinance. This way all city employees will send the same message when addressing public inquiries.
Put your plan into action
Once your plan is in place, you will need to put it into action. Remember to be adaptive; there isn’t a silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution to urban deer management. Be willing to implement, assess, and make changes as necessary.