Hunters hoping for positive deer population ahead of season

DONIPHAN, MO (KAIT) – With the start of rifle season only a few days away, deer hunters in southeast Missouri addressed concerns with the deer population in Ripley County.

According to officials with the Missouri Conservation Department, an estimated 60% of all archery compliance checks indicate people are hunting illegally. Also, officials indicated more people have been hunting out of season.

"The biggest problem we deal with this time of year is going to be road hunting. Road hunting incorporates a lot of different things into that," said Agent Jason Langston.

Langston, who has been working in Ripley County for 11 years, said Thursday that several individuals have been arrested for hunting from the road, spotlighting and deer dogging.

"Basically guys are driving around in their trucks. They're going to be looking out from the roadway into an open field or possibly wood lines. A lot of times this has happened on private property," said Langston. "They'll stop their trucks once they see a deer in the field. They'll shoot from the roadway, which is an illegal thing to do and they have absolutely no idea who is in those fields, what's in the background or anything else."

Langston said some hunters use dogs to chase deer from the woods until deer cross roadways.

"A group of guys, they're going to turn loose usually beagle type dogs, smaller running dogs and they're going to pursue deer with these dogs. The main way of getting shots at these deer is to drive around the roadways," said Langston. "They're shooting from the roadway into the woods, and part of the time, they're shooting up and down the roads."

Langston said he's worked an estimated 20 cases of illegal deer hunting in Ripley County over the last month. He said the problem is also prevalent in nearby counties.

"With all these activities, basically these guys are stealing opportunities from legal hunters," said Langston. "As you can see sitting here in front of me, these are just an example of some of the deer killed in this county that have been illegally harvested."

Langston said one of the problems agents in Missouri face is that of time management. There are only two conservation agents in Ripley County, but hundreds of hunters shoot and kill deer during the season.  He said there's no easy way to verify the validity of a hunter's claim.

"We do telecheck here. You call them in, so no one ever sees them," said Langston. "Some people, they go deer hunting because they like deer, and that's all they're interested in. they don't care if they harvest a doe or a buck. Other hunters, of course, are going to be antler hunters. They want to kill a nice buck, something that could be mounted."

"I'm liable to walk right out my door and see a deer standing in the yard," said Terry Slayton, who has hunted in Ripley County for 30 years. "It's not only the pleasure of getting out and being with Mother Nature, God's creation, but it is also the camaraderie that you have with some of your fellow hunters."

Slayton said he's hopeful the upcoming rifle season is beneficial for himself and his friends.

"You're doing something that puts the rest of the hunters, if all the good bucks are taken before season, then what are we going to see during November?" said Slayton. "It all amounts to how justified is it? To blatantly drop a deer in the middle of summer just to see it fall in the field from a roadway, that's, I can't say that there's anything right about that."

"Up in Iron County, there was a deer dogging situation that occurred and a gentleman got shot and killed," said Langston.

Langston said residents are urged to report illegal activity when it comes to deer or other game. To report an incident, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation at 1-800-329-1111.

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