Things to know before heading afield this fall
From the Bootheel to the Loess Hills, fall finds plenty of Missourians heading to tree stands, blinds and deer camps for their favorite season. Whether you’re mentoring a new hunter during youth firearms season or a veteran of stalking bucks with a bow, here are some resources to help improve the experience for everyone.
Share your harvest
For 30 years, Missouri deer hunters have lent a helping hand not only to controlling the state’s deer population but also feeding those in need. Share The Harvest — administered by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Conservation Federation of Missouri — allows hunters to donate their venison, which is distributed across the Show-Me State through food banks. In addition, post-season targeted culling performed by the MDC to help control Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) results in extra meat used for shelf-stable snack sticks, which are distributed statewide through school backpack programs.
“CFM pays $75 for every whole deer donated, and there are typically around 6,000 deer donated every year,” says Darren Haverstick, chairman of CFM’s Share the Harvest Committee. “And you can’t beat the meat: It’s free-range, red protein.”
Currently, 96 processors are part of the program, but Darren says more are welcome to join the effort. Hunters also can choose to donate a portion of their deer to Share The Harvest, but must cover the entire processing fee. Nonhunters also may donate funds for the program.
“Something to keep in mind is that the past two or three years have been rough in a lot of ways for just about everybody, especially financially,” Darren says. “Missourians are proud people, and you may not know that your next-door neighbor is hurting or their kids are missing some meals just so the family can keep a roof over their heads. If you like to hunt, here’s an opportunity to do what you enjoy, keep the deer population in check and, hopefully, you’re helping a neighbor.”
For more information on Share The Harvest, visit confedmo.org/share-the-harvest. To find a participating processor near you, visit tinyurl.com/2cj587kb.
Have your deer tested for CWD
In an effort to improve deer hunting management, the MDC continues to monitor the distribution and prevalence of CWD in the state’s deer population.
Hunters who take a deer in the CWD Management Zone during the opening weekend of fall firearms season — Nov. 12 and 13 — must take the deer or head to a CWD testing station the day of harvest. Stations are open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Check the links below to see if your county falls within the management zone.
Any hunter who harvests a deer may have voluntary CWD sampling performed through Jan. 15. Voluntary testing locations include some MDC offices, freezer drop-off locations and partner taxidermists and meat processors, so hunters are encouraged to call ahead for operating hours.
Any hunter seeking CWD sampling should field-dress and telecheck their deer before arrival. The hunter who harvested the deer must be present, provide their conservation number and point out the harvesting location on a map. Positioning the deer inside the vehicle with the head and neck easily accessible is advised.
A map of mandatory CWD testing stations is available at tinyurl.com/bd9upbxt. Voluntary sampling locations are available at tinyurl.com/2s4x988u.
Report poaching violations
Established in 1983, Operation Game Thief is a hotline information and monetary reward program which allows citizens to anonymously report violations of the state’s wildlife code. The program is a joint effort between MDC and a committee of CFM members. Calls resulting in successful citations or arrests may result in a reward. During the past 20 years, the Operation Game Thief board has issued more than 1,000 rewards totaling $200,000.
“OGT sometimes hears from the MDC agents that the anonymous people calling in don’t want to be considered for a reward — they say they’re just doing the right thing,” says CFM Executive Director Tyler Schwartze, noting calls to the hotline dropped to recent lows of 22 in 2020 and 19 in 2021.
Tyler reminds hunters that, as of the passage of House Bill 369 in 2021, Operation Game Thief’s scope includes violations relating to feral swine. Under the law, anyone who recklessly or knowingly releases any swine to live in a wild or feral state may be sentenced to pay a fine of up to $2,000. Additionally, anyone who takes or kills a feral swine on public or private land without landowner consent or with the use of artificial light or thermal imagery is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
“Poaching is stealing from all citizens,” Tyler says. “Our precious natural resources are for all of us to use and enjoy, so when they are selfishly taken illegally, Missourians are being deprived of those valued resources.”
You may contact Operation Game Thief by calling 1-800-392-1111, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information, visit confedmo.org/operation-game-thief.