John Winkelman

John Winkelman

Deer hunters waiting for the cooler days of fall, and people still concerned about the wandering young male black bears of spring, all can find dates to mark on their calendars in the warm weather of July.

The state Department of Conservation is planning four presentations this month, including one at Powder Valley Nature Center in the St. Louis region, to provide information on black bear research in Missouri, bear management plans in the state, and how to deal with those sojourners in the spring that become nuisances by getting too close to human populations.

The other open house meetings in the state this month are planned in Springfield, Van Buren, and West Plains. The closest one to home for Jefferson County residents is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 30 at 11715 Cragwold Road in Kirkwood.

While North America is home to three species of bears – grizzlies, polar bears and American black bears – only black bears live in Missouri and almost all of them are in the southern third of the state. During spring, young males may travel into places like Jefferson County and have been tracked as far north as the Iowa border.

A Missouri black bear may weigh up to 500 pounds. One of the state’s largest mammals, they are significantly smaller than grizzlies that can reach 800 pounds, and polar bears, which can get closer to a half ton. Bears were common in the state until they were nearly eliminated in the late 1800s by unregulated killing and habitat destruction.

Bears are currently a protected species in Missouri with an estimated population of about 350. When their numbers reach 500, the state may consider managed hunting opportunities.

Managed deer hunts in the state are planned every year as a population control option and to provide recreational opportunities for hunters. Application is required between July 1 and 31 for hunters hoping to participate in a managed deer hunt in Missouri.

The online process makes application simple and allows hunters increased chances in succeeding years by adding preference points for those who do not get selected. The first step is to identify one hunt that fits your method and schedule. Hunters may only apply for one of more than 100 opportunities statewide each year.

There are no hunts in Jefferson County, and none in nearby St. Francois County, which has hosted a few in the recent past for population control on State Park land. Most of the nearby hunts are in St. Louis County where they are held annually to limit the numbers of deer.

Archery hunters can apply for opportunities at Forest 44 Conservation Area near High Ridge, Rockwoods Reservation near Eureka, Columbia Bottoms in north St. Louis County, and the toughest ticket of all at Powder Valley Nature Center. Only eight will be picked for three days of hunting at Powder Valley and hundreds will apply.  

This year’s application information includes a special notation for the Columbia Bottoms area and other river-bottom properties because flooding through the summer has caused habitat loss and displaced a significant number of the area’s deer herd. Success rates in the area are expected to be limited until the population can rebound.

Hunters equipped with cap-and-ball style or muzzle-loading firearms can choose one of three hunts at Forest 44 or a mid-December outing at Babler State Park. Columbia Bottoms also has a week-long hunt in December for hunters who will use a shotgun with slug ammunition for hunting. 

Modern firearms including center-fire rifles can be used in just 15 managed hunts. The nearest options are at Shaw Nature Reserve in Franklin County where only eight hunters will be selected and at the Shooting Range at Busch Conservation Area in St. Charles County where only three hunters will get a chance. The Weldon Spring area in St. Charles County will allow up to 100 hunters in two different weekend events.

Managed hunts are planned for hunters ages 11 through 15, and 16 more are scheduled for people with disabilities. Only two of the disabilities hunts require the online application process. Most of those hunts can be applied for through a telephone call to the specific site.

After completing the online process, hunters must check back in to the conservation department website after Sept. 1 to find out if they have been selected. Hunters will receive an area map for the locations where they are picked to participate. They also are required to purchase a managed hunting permit after they are selected.

John J. Winkelman is community engagement manager at Mercy Hospital Jefferson. If you have news for the Leader’s Outdoor News page, e-mail ogmjohnw@aol.com and you can follow John on Twitter at @johnjwink99.

 

 

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