Missouri’s metropolitan areas are a complex mix of municipal and county governments, each with its own jurisdiction and set of laws. Some of these governments allow the use of hunting equipment such as firearms, crossbows, and bows within their boundaries. Others do not. With a little research and hard work, metro hunters can successfully find a close-to-home hunting spot.
Find local ordinances
Before hunting in an urban area, search the web for that city's local ordinances, which are usually found in the weapons section of a city’s municipal code. Key words to look for are discharging a firearm or projectile weapon, hunting, bow and arrow, archery or crossbow.
If you have questions about an ordinance, contact the city's police department. Also, individual neighborhoods may have rules regarding hunting activity within a subdivision. Check with the neighborhood board of trustees for rules that may restrict the use of hunting equipment.
When allowed, most cities limit hunting methods to archery only. In some areas, however, certain firearms methods (such as muzzleloaders) may also be allowed, but sometimes with restrictions on lot size or acreage.
If you live in a community with abundant deer but local ordinances prohibit the use of hunting equipment, let your city officials know that you would like the ordinances to be changed. Missouri Department of Conservation staff are available to assist city leaders in drafting an ordinance to allow for the use of hunting equipment.
Where to hunt?
A number of special managed deer hunts are held in urban areas on state, county, and city properties where deer densities are high. In addition, a small number of special managed hunts for youth and persons with disabilities are administered locally.
Finding a hunting spot on private land is somewhat more difficult. It takes determination and a lot of leg work. You must find and then convince complete strangers to allow you to hunt on their property. Knock on doors, talk to friends or relatives, ask around at local community meetings or civic clubs, visit local hardware stores and restaurants, and visit places that may receive deer damage such as orchards, farms, and tree nurseries.
Remember — purchasing a hunting permit does not give you the right to trespass. Trespassing is one of the biggest complaints from landowners regarding hunters. The best rule of thumb is this: if you don’t own it or do not have permission from the person who does own it, you shouldn’t be there. This also includes retrieving your deer if it crosses property lines. If an injured or dead deer that you have shot has entered another person’s property, contact your local conservation agent to aid you in retrieving your deer.
Tips for hunting on private land
- Purchase your own liability insurance so the landowner won’t be responsible for accidents.
- Get bow-hunter-education certified. Show you care about improving your knowledge and skills.
- Offer to help maintain the property.
- Share the venison you harvested with the property owner.
- Take does if the landowner is worried about deer damage.
- Don’t invite friends to hunt if you haven’t asked the landowner.
Tips for hunting in an urban area
- Remember, your actions may influence how others perceive hunting and hunters.
- Be ethical, limit your shooting yardage, don’t trespass, and treat the land and the landowner with the utmost respect.
- Be discreet and mindful of where you place your tree stand and where you park. Cover your deer with a tarp when hauling it from your stand to your vehicle.
- Clean your deer in an appropriate place and bury the gut pile.
- Carry written permission from the landowner while you are hunting.
- If other neighborhood activities — such as children playing or a gathering next door — are going on nearby, be ready and willing to pack up and go home. You can try again another day.
Find a landowner
Information on land ownership can be found at the county court house from the assessor’s office or a plat book. Plat books can provide the name of the landowner, and a phone book or the assessor’s office can provide the landowner’s address.
Visit in Person
Don’t just make a phone call, take the time to visit the landowner. Face-to-face contact is important for landowners to learn more about you and to put a face and vehicle with the person that will be on their property. Arrange to visit at a time when the landowner may be outdoors or easily accessible. Avoid meal times, when other guests are present, and any time after sunset.
Be friendly and allow enough time to chat. A conversation can help you learn a lot about the surrounding area, deer movements, and the quality of the deer herd.
In that first face-to-face meeting, the landowner has to determine if you will respect his or her property and assets such as livestock. This judgment is based in part on how you look, act, drive, and present yourself. You should portray professionalism and trust. Make a good first impression and always be courteous, even if you are told “no.”
Ask About rules
Most importantly, ask about any rules and the landowner’s property goals. Try to help him or her meet those goals. If the landowner wants a lower deer population to reduce crop damage, be sure to harvest does. If the landowner wants bucks to reach an older age class, pass up younger bucks.
Give back: do something for the landowner
A landowner who has allowed you to hunt on his or her property has given you something. It is a good idea to offer something in return. Depending on the situation, stopping by for an occasional chat, providing a portion of your harvest, or pitching in to help around the property often will be appreciated. You also may ask if you can post the landowner’s boundaries as a gesture of good faith. All of these activities help you develop a good, long-standing, hunter-landowner relationship.
Explore alternatives to private land
If you can’t secure permission to hunt on private land for free, consider leasing land or working with an outfitter. As a lessee, you may be able to secure a property for multiple years and have control over how many people are able to hunt. Outfitters usually provide a location to hunt as well as hunting stands, lodging, other amenities such as skinning sheds. Find outfitters and land to lease on the Internet, in newspaper classifieds, through word of mouth, or from realtors.
Remember — purchasing a hunting permit does not give you the right to trespass. The best rule of thumb is this: if you don’t own it or do not have permission from the person who does own it, you shouldn’t be there. This includes retrieving your deer if it crosses property lines. If you shoot a deer and it enters someone else’s property, ask the owner for permission to search their property for your deer.
Ask for permission each year
Permission to hunt on land one year does not automatically allow you to hunt there the next year. Always contact the landowner each year to ensure you are still allowed to hunt.