New 2023 firearms deer hunting opportunities to increase antlerless deer harvests

With only the alternative methods portion of firearms deer hunting left for 2022, hunters in Jefferson County and in many other areas of the state have a few new chances to say “wait till next year.”

The new “2023 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information” booklet will outline several changes meant to increase antlerless deer harvest.

At its Dec. 2 meeting, the state Conservation Commission approved dates and new regulations for next season. The primary schedule stays the same for fall deer and turkey hunting in 2023, but two new firearms portions have been added, and the number of anterless permits available for most of the state, including Jefferson County, will get significant liberalization.

A new early antlerless deer hunting season and a CWD portion combine to provide eight more days of firearms hunting in specific locations. Those two regulations were among proposals that hunters and the general public were asked for public comments about earlier this year, so they come as little surprise.

The increase of available antlerless permits from two to four in 82 of the 114 counties in Missouri seems more significant. How many hunters will take advantage of those additional opportunities remains in question. What is answered by the changes is the need to harvest additional does in the state to moderate a healthy and growing population.

“The changes to deer hunting regulations for the 2023-2024 deer season were motivated by increasing deer numbers throughout much of Missouri and in response to changes in the distribution of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the state,” said Jason Isabelle, cervid program supervisor with the state Department of Conservation. “With a growing deer population in most Missouri counties, we’re increasing opportunities for hunters to harvest deer both within and outside of the CWD Management Zone next year.”

Jefferson County has been in a CWD management zone since the disease was detected in Franklin County in 2015. The following year, a deer that was harvested near the Meert Tree Farm south of Festus revealed a positive test result. Since then, pending this year’s numbers, 21 cases have been identified in an isolated area of the county south of Festus and east of De Soto.

The new CWD segment of the fall firearms season will immediately follow the November portion, which is most commonly known simply as deer season. It includes the 11 days that begin on the Saturday two weekends prior to Thanksgiving. The new CWD season will run from the Wednesday prior to the holiday and continue through the weekend.

The late youth portion three-day weekend, which has been the Friday through Sunday after Thanksgiving will coincide with the new CWD portion in 38 counties. During the new season, hunters may take deer based on the number of unfilled tags they have remaining.

“When looking for the best time to provide hunters with more opportunity in CWD Management Zone counties, we considered a number of factors including the potential for good deer movement, level of hunter interest, and potential conflict with other hunters,” Isabelle said. “The late November time frame avoids peak archery hunting weeks and occurs during a time when deer movement is generally good, and when hunters are eager to be in the woods.”

The new early antlerless season is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, Oct. 6-8, 2023. It will be open in the same 100 counties where the antlerless season is currently available.

“The early antlerless portion will help to increase antlerless deer harvest prior to the November portion of firearms season when the focus of many hunters is on harvesting a buck,” Isabelle said. “The timing of the early antlerless portion was designed to occur when weather conditions are generally comfortable and during a time that will minimize conflict with archery hunters, who spend the most time hunting during late October and early November as the rut approaches.”

The 2022 fall deer hunting seasons still include one more segment for firearms hunters with the alternative methods season (mostly muzzleloaders) from Dec. 24 through Jan. 3, 2023. Archery hunting season runs concurrently with all firearms hunts, except the November portion, and ends on Jan. 15, 2023.

For more information on the changes for the 2023-24 hunting season, visit mdc.mo.gov.

Originally published by Leader Publications of Jefferson County on Dec. 8, 2022.

Published by John J. Winkelman

A freelance outdoor writer for more than 30 years

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