ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Deer hunting season is about to ramp up and the Missouri Department of Conservation says amid the pandemic, this could be a record year.
“Activities like fishing, hiking, and being in our conservation areas in general, have seen a huge surge during this pandemic,” explains Zarlenga. “As people try to get out and socially distance to enjoy the benefits of being in nature for health and well-being. It’s possible we see increased hunting activity as well as part of that.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation reported increased numbers of hunters that pursued turkeys this last spring. With similar estimates translating to deer hunting, Missouri could see one of its highest deer harvests in years.
Luckily for hunters, the Missouri deer population has been on the rise. Franklin County is among the top deer harvesting counties in the state.
Archery deer season has been open since September 15, but this weekend kicks off the first portion the firearm season. October 31 and November 1 is the youth firearms season, for young hunters 15 and under.
“This is to give new hunters a chance to get out in the woods and hunt without the pressure of other hunters.” Dan Zarlenga with the Missouri Department of Conservation explains. “They have some time to themselves in the woods.”
The firearms portion opens for all hunters from November 14 to November 24. The second half of the youth season is the last weekend of November, November 28 and 29. Archery hunting will reopen from November 25 through January 15.
With more people hunting, it’s important to remember safety as it pertains to COVID-19.
“We encourage all hunters to observe social distancing if they are hunting with their friends and to wear masks where necessary, and are required in tight groups or indoors for any reason,” Zarlenga explains. “Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. The basic safety measures.”
General safety protocols are always crucial.
“Wear your hunter orange. Make sure your firearm is unloaded and the action is open until you are in position and actually ready to hunt. Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Always be aware of other hunters in your party.”
Hunters may notice other changes to the season. Typically, the MDC requires firearm hunters to bring in deer for the first two days of theseason to test for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), this year it is no longer a requirement.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease to deer, which has been introduced into Missouri within the last 10 years. The only way to detect and track the disease is postmortem. The annual requirement enables the department of conservation to track where the disease currently resides within the state.
This year there is no requirement, but hunters can still help.
“Because of the COVID-19 situation we are not mandating hunters to have their deer tested for the first two days of opening deer season, but it’s still an option,” Zarlenga says. “They can voluntarily do it those two days or they can voluntarily do it anytime throughout the season.”