Missouri now allows crossbows to be used during archery deer season, which could create big changes in the deer herd.
In the past, Missouri has only allowed the use of a crossbow during the firearms portion of deer season. Crossbows are an effective, easy-to-use tool that will allow more hunters to get involved in the sport, including kids, people who can’t draw a bow and beginners.
However, with more hunters involved, and an easier means of harvest, the deer population may be affected. Many new hunters are already talking about getting crossbows, and hunters who previously used compound bows are thinking about switching. This could lead to an increase in harvest in a state where deer population is already slightly low.
To counter this change, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has also made a change to the number of deer that can be harvested. In the past, if a hunter completely tagged out in archery and firearm season, they could harvest three antlered deer – one in firearm season and two in archery season. Now, hunters are allowed two antlered deer total.
“It was a very small percentage of archery hunters that killed two bucks with their bow and arrow, so as far as antlered harvest, it’s not going to change much,” said Alan Bradford, a conservation agent for the MDC.
Bradford also said that overall harvest numbers should look about the same as they do every year, except he said crossbows could be “the big question mark.” He went on to say that the harvest depends on how many people actually use crossbows, but it shouldn’t affect much with the other regulations that were put in place.
Jay Gregory, avid bow hunter and host of PSE’s Wild Outdoors, said he doesn’t think the implementation of the crossbow will affect the deer population much, but that the biggest problem is the placement of Missouri’s rifle season.
“As long as Missouri continues to have its gun season in the middle of November during the rut, the age structure will never be geared towards a quality deer heard,” Gregory said. “Missouri is all about quantity not quality. All they care about is selling tags and making money.”
Chuck Weldon, also a bow hunter and host of Whitetail Fix agrees that crossbows won’t have much of an effect on populations.
“I don’t think that the crossbow is going to affect numbers in Missouri so much,” Weldon said. “I think the biggest problem with Missouri as far as numbers go is the cheap, over-the-counter tag for out of state people, and then our rifle season falling in the heart of the rut.”
Even though some hunters believe the rifle season needs to be moved, Bradford said he doesn’t believe it will be.
“Missouri has their season during the rut for more opportunity,” Bradford said.
Bradford also said that the MDC conducted a survey asking people in Missouri where they preferred Missouri’s rifle season, and the majority of people who responded said they wanted it to remain the same.
Barbara Keller, who is the cervid (includes any member of the deer family) program supervisor for the MDC, said another reason the Missouri rifle season remains during the rut is tradition. In the past, the rifle season has almost always fallen on the same dates during the rut. Keller also said that hunters like to see the activity that takes place during the rut.
“Hunters really value being able to see rut activity during the time that they’re hunting and seeing the interactions between adult males with other adult males, as well as males with females,” Keller said.
Keller also said one con of having the rifle season in the rut is that it removes a portion of the buck population from reproduction. However, the MDC does conduct studies to make sure the population never drops to harmful levels.
While most believe the new regulations won’t have an effect on population numbers, we’ll have to wait until the end of the season to know for sure.