Vantage Point

Rules and Regulations

Ever wanted to feed an alligator, hunt from a windmill or go tinker hunting? Missouri doesn't regulate those activities, but other states and countries do. History, local customs, and special circumstances directly influence hunting and fishing regulations.

For example, several southern states prohibit feeding alligators, or luring or enticing them with food (not that I ever wanted to hand-feed an alligator). In Saskatchewan it's illegal to hunt from a windmill without landowner permission. Newfoundland and Labrador residents can legally hunt turrs but not tinkers.

In case you are wondering, turrs and tinkers are short-necked diving seabirds. Turr hunting is a long-established tradition among native peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Many early American settlers came from Europe, where kings and royalty often held claim to all the wildlife. Only the privileged and those they favored could hunt and fish. In America, however, wildlife resources belong to all the people. This does not mean that the taking of wildlife shouldn't be regulated. Before we had wildlife management agencies like the Conservation Department in each state, fish and wildlife populations in Missouri and most of the nation were in very poor shape due in part to overharvest.

Since the Conservation Department was formed in 1937, Missouri's Conservation Commission, the governing body of the Department of Conservation, has enacted Wildlife Code rules and regulations. The Commission acts on recommendations made following an annual review of Missouri's Wildlife Code by the Department's Regulations Committee. This system guarantees that wildlife regulations are based on science and research, and that wildlife populations are properly managed and protected.

Wildlife Code regulations can be divided roughly into three categories that often overlap. The first conserve and protect wildlife resources and the environment. Geography and habitat dictate which species of fish and wildlife are present in Missouri, and in what numbers, as well as the makeup of the our forests. Scientific knowledge and research helps us to determine harvest levels, seasons and management strategies that will best protect and allow for wise use of these natural resources.

Another category of laws provides equal harvest opportunity for everyone. These include daily and possession limits, and regulations dealing with "fair chase." The third category is laws for the protection of people, such as requiring hunters to wear orange during certain seasons.

In Missouri, our regulatory process is flexible enough to change depending on current wildlife populations and management needs. For example, we've been able to greatly liberalize deer season regulations as deer numbers have rebounded from less than 400 in 1925 to about 1 million today. We have moved from closed seasons in the early years to a multitude of deer seasons that begin in mid-September and run into January. Turkey, waterfowl and other seasons also are adjusted based on the most recent population data.

The Conservation Department constantly challenges itself to keep regulations simple and understandable. This is a difficult task in the face of complex natural communities and competing needs from many sectors. However, the Conservation Commission and the Regulations Committee are dedicated to enacting rules and regulations to conserve our wildlife, protect wildlife habitat and make it safe and practical for people to enjoy our many natural resources.

Dennis Steward, Protection Division Administrator