Who is responsible for Deer Management?

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

Conservative seasons and harvests produced the desired results. As deer numbers have increased, however, they have reached or exceeded human tolerance levels in some parts of Missouri.

In these areas, control has become as important as protection. More liberal seasons have resulted, especially in northern Missouri, where densities are highest and deer cause more farming-related problems.

Because hunting is the primary influence on deer populations, and reproduction and natural mortality are generally consistent from year to year, management should be simple. To maintain a stable population we need to take enough deer during the hunting seasons that, when added to natural mortality, equals the number that are produced each year. In most of Missouri, this means we need to harvest around 20 percent of the does each year.

We use information from previous seasons to tell us approximately what proportion of hunters will be successful and the sex and age of the deer they will take. We then set quotas of any-deer and bonus permits in each unit to achieve the 20 percent harvest. This part is relatively easy and would work great if deer populations, numbers of hunters and harvest were evenly distributed across the state.

However, Missouri has diverse habitats and 93 percent of the state is in private ownership. As a result, the amount of hunting and deer taken vary from farm to farm. Therefore, deer "hot" and "cold" spots can develop. The Conservation Department sets deer season regulations that allow landowners to manage their deer populations through hunting. Whether that happens depends on the people who control access to property.

Liberal deer seasons in places where hunter access is limited will not have the desired effect. This includes land dedicated to farming operations and recreational ownerships.

In recent years more land has been purchased or leased for hunting deer. Often large ownerships/leases have few hunters and few does are taken as a result. Although those who oversee hunting on these sites usually want high deer populations, they can create problems for neighbors trying to farm if deer "spill out" onto surrounding farmland. Conversely, high doe harvests on smaller properties can create "cold spots" or low density areas where higher numbers are desired.

How many deer to take each hunting season is a difficult question. Of great importance is how the landowner feels about deer. Surveys show that most landowners enjoy having deer around. Some, however, would

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