It wasn’t that long ago that wildlife biologists were scrambling for ways to reduce deer numbers in northern Missouri.

At one point less than 10 years ago, hunters could take an unlimited number of does – a regulation that I found a bit excessive.

My, how things have changed. After a severe outbreak of hemorrhagic disease took a heavy toll on deer in 2012, biologists are searching for ways to build whitetail populations in northern Missouri. And again, they are turning to regulations to affect a change.

Deer hunters will see the changes this fall.

  • The firearms antlerless season has been reduced from 12 days to 3.
  • The urban firearms season, which allowed hunters to take deer in rural parts of metro areas, has been eliminated.
  • The limit for antlered deer has been reduced from three to two in the combined firearms and archery seasons.
  • Staff with the Department of Conservation proposed reducing the popular November firearms season by two days. But the Conservation Commission voted to retain the traditional framework of 11 days.

The seasons will run Sept. 15-Nov. 11 and Nov. 23-Jan. 15 for archery, Nov. 12-22 for firearms; Oct. 29-30 and Nov. 25-27 for firearms youth; Dec. 2-4 for antlerless; and Dec. 24-Jan. 3 for alternative methods (including muzzleloader).

So what can hunters expect? About the same as last year, when hunters took 274,566 deer in the combined seasons. That was a 7 percent increase from the year before. But with less opportunities this season, don’t look for that total to be topped.

“A lot of that increase in harvest from 2014 to 2015 was carried by the Ozark region,” said Barb Keller, cervid program coordinator for the Department of Conservation. “Deer numbers have been slowly but steadily increasing there.

“The population in northern Missouri is stable and improving a bit in places. But it will take some time.”

The bottom line? Missouri still has plenty of deer, but not nearly as many as it did 10 years ago.