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Outdoors with Bill Wehrle: Last chance this winter for firearms deer hunting

BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor
Bill Wehrle column

By BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor

Missouri’s last 2020-21 firearms deer season, the “alternate-methods” season, opens today (Dec. 26) and will end Jan. 5. Hunters will be able to harvest either a buck or a doe, provided they still have an unfilled any-deer permit.

Starting Jan. 6, the only deer season remaining open in the state will be the archery deer (and turkey) season, which will end Jan. 15. If you still would like some venison in your freezer, time for providing it is beginning to run short.

The “alternate-methods” season replaced a “muzzleloader” season a few years back, offering Missouri hunters several additional and different legal methods to take a deer. Centerfire rifles and shotguns are not legal during the alternate-methods season, but, in addition to muzzleloaders, hunters may use long, compound, or recurve bows, crossbows, centerfire handguns, air-powered guns or an atlatl. The centerfire handguns addition and some firearms companies offering “handguns” in rifle calibers as large as .308 that can be used with a telescopic sight and aren’t much different than a short rifle makes using a “handgun” much less difficult on long shots.

With the additional methods permitted, alternate-methods season hunters are now taking 11,000-12,000 deer annually.

Missouri’s deer population has rebounded from its 2012 EHD-caused decline, so even though hunters have already checked in more than 200,000 deer this year in the previous firearms seasons and more than 50,000 deer in the archery season so far, there are still plenty of deer out there to be hunted.

If you don’t bow hunt, the alternate methods season will be your last chance to get a deer this year. Maybe it will snow, deer hunting is loads of fun on fresh snow.

Firearms deer hunting will end on Jan. 5 and that’s also closing day for the North Zone’s duck season, ending duck hunting for local duck hunters this year, unless they extend their Missouri duck hunting by traveling south to another zone.

The Middle Zone Missouri duck season will end on Jan. 10, but the South Zone’s season runs through Jan. 31, so there’s plenty of duck hunting time left, if you don’t mind traveling to do it. Canada goose season will remain open statewide through Feb. 6.

Speaking of seasons, the Missouri Department of Conservation already has set the dates for the 2021 turkey and deer seasons, with one change – increasing the length of the antlerless deer season from three days to nine days.

Missouri deer numbers have recovered from the EHD-caused decline and are now at desirable level, so an increase in antlerless deer season length won’t harm the population.

This is close to being back to the antlerless season length we once had before the population decline caused a reduction in that season’s length. I’ll report 2021-22 season dates in a future column.

There’ll be more hunting seasons to report as the state’s Conservation Commission has approved the MDC’s establishing a bear hunting season for the Show-Me state for next fall, probably to take place in October.

Missouri residents will be able to apply for a bear permit in May. The number of permits available and the harvest quota on black bears will be established soon.

First elk, now bears? What’s next to be available for Missouri hunters??

Happy New Year!

(Bill Wehrle’s outdoors sports column appears in the Constitution-Tribune each Saturday.)