If Missouri’s elk population grows enough, state conservation officials will allow hunters to apply for permits to hunt elk next year.
The Missouri Department of Conservation expects the state’s elk herd to grow from 175 to 200 by early 2020. The department released plans last Friday for a elk hunting season to take place in Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties the following fall and winter.
Although the elk population will still be low, male elk are starting to become more abundant, said Aaron Hildreth, a deer and elk biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“We have the opportunity to harvest some of those bull elk and not slow the population growth of elk in Missouri,” Hildreth said.
Elk are native to Missouri. But they became extinct in the late 1800s due to hunting. The Conservation Department conducted a three-year program, beginning in 2011, that reintroduced elk from Kentucky to southeast Missouri. State officials brought elk to the Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
The department’s plans would open a nine-day archery season from Oct. 17 to 25 and a nine-day firearms season from Dec. 12 to 20. Only Missouri hunters who are at least 11 years old and received a hunter education certificate, or were born before 1967, will be eligible to enter a random lottery for a $50 permit. The department will determine early next year how many permits to give out if the herd increases as expected.
Restricting the season to Missouri residents would allow in-state hunters a less-expensive option than traveling to western states, said Bill Myers, president of the Missouri Bowhunters Association.
“If I have an opportunity here to hunt elk, yeah, that would be nice instead of paying $500, $600 out in Colorado,” Myers said. “That doesn’t include the cost of getting there.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation is taking comments on its plan until Aug. 31. Hunters would be able to hunt on public lands and private lands that belong to owners that have given permission for hunting. They are not allowed to hunt in the refuge in the Peck Conservation Area, which could interfere with the driving tours that allow visitors to observe wildlife.
Conservation officials want the state’s elk herd to grow to 500 in the next few years. They have been doing research recently to determine pregnancy rates among cows, or female elk, and calf survival.
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