There's lots of information for prospective hunters to know before venturing out this weekend at the start of the November firearms deer hunting season. But in that wide scope of information, there are a few particularly important points to hit.
Central Missouri Newspapers will assume all hunters who set out Saturday as early as a half hour before sunrise for the start of the November firearms deer season have obtained all the necessary hunter education and certification requirements, as well as signed permits that must be on hand when going afield to hunt. More information on requirements is available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/hunter-education-skills-training/hunter-education-and-certification-requirement, and information on permits is available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-permits.
The Missouri Department of Conservation also has some tips on getting started with deer hunting available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-getting-started — information including on how to scout deer, choose the right firearms, where to hang deer stands and field dress a deer.
Before taking a shot, remember the season limits — only one antlered deer may be taken during the entire firearms season, all portions combined. Some counties also have antler-point restrictions, as well as limits on antlerless deer hunting permits.
All Mid-Missouri counties — including Boone, Callaway, Cole, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan and Osage — require harvested bucks have at least four antler points on one side of their rack. More information, including on how to count antler points, is available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/regulations/antler-point-restrictions.
The same Mid-Missouri counties are also among those in the state that allow for two firearms antlerless deer hunting permits to be filled during all of the combined firearms deer season. More information is available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/regulations/county-restrictions-antlerless-deer-hunting.
Suppose a local hunter is among those who, with some tracking skills, luck and a good shot, takes a deer this weekend, or at another time during the November firearms season through Nov. 26, between a hour before sunrise and a hour after sunset each day — what's supposed to happen then?
Checking a deer is done via telephone or online via the MDC's hunting app, as no in-person checking stations are available. Hunters who've taken a deer have until 10 p.m. the day of the harvest to check their deer. Unchecked game can be transported within the state so long as the game is transportation-tagged.
A tape measure or other device should be taken afield in order to measure a checked deer and provide requested information for checking.
Hunters who use the MO Hunting App for checking select their notched permit from a list, tap "Telecheck" and follow on-screen prompts.
Those who call in a deer or check it online (mdc12.mdc.mo.gov/applications/telecheck/fall) will need their Telecheck ID number handy, as well as the county where the deer was taken, the deer type and the number of antler points that are 1 inch or longer. The phone Telecheck line is at 1-800-314-6828. Please write the eight-digit confirmation number given after checking on the permit.
More information is available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-how-telecheck.
The MDC recommends waiting to check a deer until a strong cellphone connection is available, out of the woods.
Among Mid-Missouri counties, only Gasconade County is part of mandatory chronic wasting disease sampling zones, but those who wish to voluntarily get their deer harvest tested during the entire deer season — through Jan. 15, 2020 — may do so locally during normal MDC business hours at Conservation Headquarters at 2901 W. Truman Blvd. in Jefferson City, or at the Central Regional Office and Conservation Research Center at 3500 E. Gans Road in Columbia. Please call in advance. More information is available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/wildlife-diseases/chronic-wasting-disease-cwd/voluntary-cwd-sampling-statewide-all.
After tagging, checking and any disease testing comes processing of a deer harvest. MDC statewide news services coordinator Joe Jerek said Wednesday that while "there are so many processors throughout the state that it's kind of a losing battle to list them all," MDC does list processors that participate in the Share the Harvest program.
Share the Harvest allows deer hunters to donate extra venison to participating meat processors throughout the state, and the then-packaged venison is given to local food banks and food pantries for distribution as lean, high-quality protein to Missourians in need of food assistance.
Mid-Missouri meat processors participating in Share the Harvest include: Horn's Meat Processing at 3345 County Road 318 in Fulton; Crane's Meat Processing at 11657 E. Englewood Road in Ashland; Leinbach Custom Butchering, LLC at 17754 Route K in Versailles; Russell's Custom Processing at 581 Route DD and Scherf Meat Processing at 1039 Route DD, both in Loose Creek.
More information is available at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-share-harvest.
The Conservation Federation of Missouri also this year is holding a "Share Your Harvest" photo contest.
Deer hunters can share a photo of their harvest with the CFM at confedmo.org/programs/outreach/share-the-harvest, along with information about where deer or venison was donated for processing.
Hunters are then automatically entered into a contest for various prizes, with a prize drawing on Jan. 27. The contest entry period closes at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 22.
MDC held the first modern deer season 75 years ago in 1944. Then, 7,757 hunters harvested 519 bucks in two days in 20 counties, according to the MDC.
Deer hunting in the state had been closed in 1937, following a population crash that had left only a few hundred white-tailed deer in Missouri by the 1930s, mostly in small herds in the Ozarks.
Populations have since rebounded from the damage done by habitat loss and unregulated hunting.
"Missouri now has more than a million deer throughout the state, with about a half-million deer hunters harvesting hundreds of thousands of deer annually" in a more than $1 billion annual industry, the MDC added.
Jerek said Wednesday the first weekend of the November firearms deer hunting season is the most popular two days of deer hunting in the state, when about a third of all deer taken in the season will be harvested.
Hunters in last year's November firearms season killed 200,738 deer, including 103,582 antlered bucks, according to the MDC. In the opening weekend of last year's November firearms season, 99,470 deer were taken, including 55,848 antlered bucks.
After the November firearms season, there is a youth firearms deer season, Nov. 29-Dec. 1; firearms antlerless deer season, Dec. 6-8; alternative methods firearms deer season, Dec. 28-Jan. 7.; and archery deer season, Nov. 27-Jan. 15.