Landowner Permit Changes

The Department is interested in hearing your thoughts about acreage cut-offs for no-cost landowner hunting privileges to help inform future regulation changes.


The Department has offered no-cost hunting privileges to resident landowners since the inception of the “modern” firearms deer hunting season in 1944.  The primary rationale for offering these privileges has been that private landowners, as defined by Wildlife Code, provide space and resources for wildlife.  In the early years, it was also hoped that these privileges would serve as an incentive to landowners; if they could hunt on their land for free, perhaps they would also invest in creating wildlife habitat.  Over the years, free privileges have been promoted by the Department as a type of landowner recognition for contributions of habitat and/or a tool for wildlife damage that may have been incurred.  The Department has consistently adhered to this rationale over time, although the definition of “landowner” and privileges offered have changed periodically in response to changing wildlife populations, land ownership patterns, and social considerations.


Today, as land use and ownership patterns continue to rapidly change, it is appropriate to re-visit some fundamental questions about the use of landowner privileges, whether they achieve intended benefits, remain desirable, and how they might be improved.  Land use patterns and wildlife populations have changed significantly from those existing when free landowner privileges were established with the intent to impact wildlife like small-game, deer and turkey; and to recognize the landowners with acreages large enough to impact small-game populations or provide for the habitat needs of deer and turkey.

As an example, when it comes to deer and turkey, a 5-acre threshold is not a meaningful acreage requirement and does not reflect their habitat needs.  Essentially, a healthy deer density in Missouri equates to about 1 deer for every 20-25 acres.  In 2018, there were over 180,000 unique landowners that were issued no-cost landowner deer and/or turkey permits.  The Department performs an annual qualification check of a random subset of individuals receiving no-cost landowner permits.  During our 2018 check, 34% of individuals directly contacted were found to not qualify for no-cost landowner deer permits.  The most frequent reasons individuals did not qualify included claiming to possess 5 acres or more when in fact they did not (i.e., fraud) or individuals who obtained the no-cost landowner permits when they were no longer a household member of a landowner (i.e., not eligible).


The Department completed a permit evaluation in 2018.  In this review, and during a previous 2008 review, it was noted that land ownership patterns have changed; smaller holdings have become the norm as farms and larger holdings are subdivided and resold, often as recreational lands and residential sites.  An increase of the acreage threshold to a more meaningful size provides a more realistic impact on small-game populations as well as on the habitat needs of deer and turkey, and gives emphasis and special privileges to production farmers who are most likely to experience crop loss due to wildlife.  In addition, most fraudulent and use of no-cost landowner permits occurs at the lower-end of the qualifying acreage.

Surrounding State Landowner Privileges

Regulations for landowners vary significantly from state to state for deer hunting.

State Acreage Minimum
Missouri 5; no cost landowner deer/turkey permit
Arkansas No exemption offered for landowners
Illinois 40; landowners required to certify every 5 years
Iowa 2; $2 for first deer and $13 for additional antlerless up to 2
Kansas 80; landowners exempt from hunting permit but required to purchase deer/turkey tag
Kentucky No minimum, but required to provide land information when checking in
Nebraska No exemption offered for landowners
Oklahoma Landowners exempt from hunting permit but required to purchase deer/turkey tag
Tennessee No minimum, but required to provide land information when checking in

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