Conservation Commission Adds Late Portion to Youth Deer Season, Expands Area Covered By Four-Point Rule

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Changes in this year’s deer regulations include a present for young hunters – a second youth hunt during the holidays.

JEFFERSON CITY-Changes in deer-hunting regulations approved by the Missouri Conservation Commission at its April meeting include one that enjoys popular support from hunters and one that is likely to be a hit with hunters 15 and younger.

The Missouri Conservation Commission has more than doubled the number of counties included in the so-called “four-point rule.” This regulation was tested in 29 counties from 2004 through 2007. This year, with strong support from hunters, it will apply in the same counties as before, plus 36 new counties.

The Conservation Commission also voted to add a second, late Youth Portion of Firearms Deer Season. Hunters under age 16 will have their own times to hunt Nov. 1 and 2, 2008, and Jan. 3 and 4, 2009.

Counties included under the four-point rule this year are Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Audrain, Barton, Bates, Benton, Boone, Buchanan, Caldwell, Callaway Camden, Carroll, Cedar, Chariton, Clark, Clinton, Cole, Cooper, Daviess, DeKalb, Franklin, Gasconade, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Henry, Hickory, Holt, Howard, Johnson, Knox, Lafayette, Lewis, Lincoln, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Maries, Marion, Mercer, Miller, Moniteau, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Nodaway Osage, Pettis, Phelps, Pike, Pulaski, Putnam, Ralls, Randolph, Ray, St. Clair, Saline, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Sullivan, Vernon, Warren and Worth.

The four-point rule allows hunters to take a buck only if its antlers are less than 3 inches long or have at least four points 1 inch or longer on at least one side.

The Conservation Department decided to try antler restrictions for two reasons. One was to encourage hunters to shoot more does. This could help the agency control deer numbers in areas where they rise above target levels.

The four-point rule also was designed to allow more bucks to reach ages of 3 years or older. This would produce a deer population with a more normal age and sex distribution.

The traditional hunter bias toward shooting bucks, rather than does, creates a population with a disproportionate number of does and young bucks. Requiring hunters to pass up deer with no more than three points on a side allows more bucks to live to maturity. A population with more mature bucks has more large-antlered deer. For many hunters, the opportunity to take buck with big antlers is an important part of a high-quality hunting experience.

Information gathered during the four-year test of the four-point rule showed it increased doe harvests in central Missouri counties, but not in pilot counties in northwestern Missouri. The four-point rule increased the number of mature, large-antlered deer in both central and northwestern counties.

A mail survey of firearms deer hunters statewide found a majority of hunters in 74 of Missouri’s 114 counties favored the four-point rule. The 30 counties where half or more of hunters do not want the four-point rule are in southern Missouri, generally southeast of a line from St. Louis to the southwestern corner of the state. More than 70 percent of hunters expressed support for the four-point rule in 22 counties that lie mostly in northern Missouri.

Hunters and nonhunters who expressed opinions at public meetings and through written comments were even more strongly in favor of the four-point rule. Comments from 60 counties ran in favor of the four-point rule by 70 percent or more. Only fourteen counties had comments with less than a majority in favor of the four-point rule.

“We found that most hunters in most parts of the state like the four-point rule,” said Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen, the Conservation Department’s top deer biologist. “We also discovered people liked the rule more the longer it was in effect in their counties. Approval of the four-point rule increased in adjoining counties during the four-year trial, too.”

Hansen said the rule’s popularity was a major factor in extending it.

“It didn’t work quite as well as we had hoped as a management tool. It did a better job of shifting harvest from bucks to does in central Missouri than in the northwest, where we really need more population management tools. But hunters really like it, especially in the northern half of the state.”

Hansen said the Conservation Commission decided not to implement the four-point rule in counties around urban areas at this time because it actually seemed to reduce deer harvest in some northern-Missouri counties.

“The four-point rule doesn’t seem to be the best way manage deer in urban areas, because we encourage harvest of all sex and age categories,” he said.

The late Youth Portion of Firearms Deer Season will give youngsters the last shot at deer hunting at a time of year when many can take advantage of it. Hansen said the additional days of youth deer hunting are part of the Conservation Department’s continuing effort to make hunting more accessible to young people.

“A lot of Missourians take vacation around the holidays,” said Hansen. “Youngsters who get deer rifles for Christmas will be able to use them. The youth-only season allows adults to focus their attention on teaching kids to hunt. That enhances the hunt’s value as a time for family.”

The length and timing of other 2008 fall deer and turkey seasons remain unchanged from last year. These include: –Archery deer and turkey – Sept. 15-Nov. 14 and Nov. 26-Jan. 15 –Urban Portion of Firearms Deer Season – Oct. 3-6 –November Portion of Firearms Deer Season – Nov. 15-25 –Muzzleloader Portion of Firearms Deer Season – Nov. 28-Dec. 7 –Antlerless Portion of Firearms Deer Season – Dec. 13-21

Other changes in deer hunting regulations approved at the April

Commission meeting include: –Removing two counties in the Springfield area – Christian and Webster – from the area open to hunting during the Urban Portion of Firearms Deer Season. –Removing seven southwest-Missouri counties – Barton, Christian, Dade, Jasper, Lawrence, Polk and Webster – from the area open to hunting during the Antlerless Portion of Firearms Deer Season. –Adding one central-Missouri county – Miller – to the area open during the Antlerless Portion of Firearms Deer Season. –Adding 12 southwest-Missouri counties – Barry, Barton, Christian, Dade, Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald, Newton, Polk, Stone, Webster and Wright – to the area where hunters may only fill one antlerless-only deer tag.

Additional details of deer and turkey hunting regulations will be published in the 2008 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, which will be available from permit vendors statewide in July.

-Jim Low-