Elk hunting in Missouri may expand, public comments requested

Antlerless Elk Final Photo courtesy MDC
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After several successful seasons of antlered-elk hunting for Missouri residents, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is contemplating the introduction of a limited antlerless-elk hunting season and is seeking public feedback.

MDC reintroduced wild elk in parts of Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties in the Missouri Ozarks nearly a decade ago. According to MDC Elk and Deer Biologist Aaron Hildreth, these elk populations have been growing steadily and may soon support the harvesting of a small number of antlerless elk.

“Since the completion of the elk reintroduction, we have observed a steady increase in elk numbers,” Hildreth stated. “We are nearing a point where we can include a limited number of antlerless elk in our hunting season alongside the already established antlered elk season.”

Hildreth noted that MDC aims to maintain the elk population in Missouri at around 500 animals, using hunting as a tool to manage herd size and restrict their presence to Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties. He mentioned that the current estimate of the herd is about 320 animals before the start of this year’s calving season.

Season Details

To simplify elk-hunting regulations, MDC proposes that the guidelines for antlerless-elk hunting mirror those of antlered-elk hunting, which began in 2020.

Like antlered-elk hunting, antlerless-elk hunting would be restricted to Missouri residents aged 11 or older on the first day of the hunt for which they are applying. The application fee is $10 and the permit cost is $50, the same for both antlerless and antlered elk. All permits would be distributed through a random drawing and would be valid in Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties, except for the refuge area of Peck Ranch Conservation Area. Permits would apply to both an archery portion and a firearms portion. Season dates, landowner opportunities, methods of take, and other details would remain consistent with antlered elk hunting.

MDC has yet to determine the number of permits to be issued or confirm a starting year. The recommended permit numbers will be based on annual staff surveys of elk populations to monitor growth. Currently, MDC issues five hunting permits for antlered elk.

Watch a video on potential future antlerless-elk harvest at this link on YouTube.

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MDC is soliciting feedback on potential antlerless-elk hunting opportunities and encourages public comments at this link through April 28. Those who have applied for antlered-elk permits in the past will receive a survey via email and do not need to comment through the website.

“Feedback gathered during the comment period will assist MDC staff in finalizing the proposed antlerless-elk hunting framework to be presented to the Conservation Commission on September 6 for consideration,” Hildreth explained. “The Commission must first approve the hunting framework before any permit quota recommendations can be made. Subsequently, we will make recommendations on elk permit numbers for the upcoming fall season early next year.”

Elk were once widespread across Missouri but disappeared from the state approximately 150 years ago due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss. MDC reintroduced elk to Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties around 10 years ago.

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