In a state with 1.3 million acres of public hunting ground, finding the best place to bowhunt is easier said than done. We've done some of the homework for you. (August 2008)
Several public areas in Missouri offer managed, archery-only hunts throughout the course of the deer season.
Missouri's archery season offers hunters the first crack at harvesting deer in the Show-Me State each year. The Sept. 15 season opener provides archers a great chance at tagging a whitetail well before any other deer hunters set foot in the woods.
Bowhunters bagged the second largest number of deer ever recorded in Missouri during the 2007-08 archery season by taking 39,866 whitetails statewide. Hunters can expect the same good hunting this archery season.
Deer hunters in Missouri are blessed with an abundant deer population of about 1.3 million whitetails and several million acres of public land on which to chase them. Accordingly, finding the optimal place to hunt can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
We've put together some of the best places for you to begin your quest for bagging a whitetail deer on public land during the 2008-09 archery deer season in Missouri.
BOB BROWN CA
The northwest region's Bob Brown Conservation Area is in Holt County just two and a half miles west of Forest City off of state Route 111.
Bob Brown CA spans 3,302 acres, including about 200 acres of woodland timber, 850 acres of cropland, 800 acres of old fields, 130 acres of grassland, 3 acres of lakes and ponds more than 1,000 acres of wetlands. The area is bounded by the Missouri River for three and a half miles.
"The north end of the area is the upland portion of the Bob Brown Conservation Area and has lots of higher ground," said MDC resource assistant Rex Reynolds. "We plant food plots including a lot of legumes, alfalfa, ladino and red clover, milo and millet in this part of the area."
Hunters will find small timbered patches on the upland portion at Bob Brown, as well as two relatively large wooded areas there. Shrub rows and windbreaks are great travel corridors for deer traversing between sanctuaries.
"We get a lot of deer swimming the Missouri River back and forth from Kansas," Reynolds added. "The deer on this area are very nomadic."
Deer hunting is limited to archery-only methods -- great news for bowhunters. Keep in mind that as a wetland area, some portions of this public tract are closed to deer hunters during the waterfowl season. Make certain you get an area map and understand all rules and regulations regarding this area before hunting or scouting it. For more information, contact the MDC at (816) 271-3100.
TED SHANKS CA
The northeast region's Ted Shanks CA is 17 miles south of Hannibal on state Route 79; then, head east on county Route TT in Pike County.
The 6,705-acre CA includes eight and three-quarters miles of Mississippi River frontage. The area's timber was greatly damaged by the flood of 1993. However, the habitat is recovering and this area offers hunters a great place for using bow and arrow to stick a deer.
"For the past four years we have been doing work on the 2,000-acre lower portion of the area that was damaged by the flood of 1993," said MDC wildlife management biologist Mike Flaspohler. "We've been clearing the dead logs and snags there leftover from the flood and mechanically and chemically disturbing the reed canary grass that had overtaken this portion of the area."
This area's mosaic of habitat includes about 750 acres of bottomland hardwood timber, 2,000 acres of marsh, 1,364 acres of mixed shrub/scrub/emergent wetlands, 1,350 acres of row crops, 575 acres of oxbow lakes and sloughs and 722 acres of old fields, upland woods, levees and roads.
"Row crop farming is done on the northern portion of the area," Flaspohler said. "We also plant 400 acres of food plots like corn, soybeans, millet and wheat."
A great deal of the 400 acres of food plots is planted in the southern portion of the area that is being rehabilitated by the MDC.
"Be versatile when you come here," suggested Flaspohler. "Don't feel like you have to hunt out of a tree to kill a deer here. Many trees on the area were killed by the flood of 1993. Hunters should be prepared to hunt from a ground blind or while hidden in brush."
No roads enter the southern portion of this area; access to it is achieved primarily by boat. Hunters should be aware of restrictions and regulations related to waterfowl hunting on Ted Shanks CA. A map is a must-have before scouting or hunting this area. Deer hunting is allowed with archery methods only. For more information, contact the MDC at (573) 248-2530.
The central region's Reform CA is located in Callaway County, nine miles east of Fulton on state Route O. This area is best known for surrounding the Callaway Nuclear power plant, which can be seen from miles away.
The 6,600-acre CA includes about 2,700 acres of grassland, 1,900 acres of forest, 1,000 acres of old fields, 50 acres of savanna, 15 acres of ponds, 10 acres of glade habitat and 1,369 acres of croplands including corn, beans and wheat. It also includes Logan Creek, a permanent stream that meanders through the area.
"Deer hunting here is good and the habitat is excellent for deer," said MDC wildlife management biologist Jeff Demand. "We have a lot of agricultural crops including corn, beans, milo and wheat."
Permitted farmers who plant the crops and work the land at the Reform area are required to leave a percentage of the crops standing for wildlife. You will find several standing rows of agriculture crops along the edge of the timber here, which are excellent places to set up a stand.
Aside from the cropland, the MDC does a lot of prescribed burning in the timber and also plants food plots with clover and legumes each year at Reform CA. "If you split the area in half from north to south, the (agriculture) production is located in the north half," Demand said. "The south half is mostly timbered and doesn't have the food plots, but it does offer a lot of acorns, which is the No. 1 food source for deer."
Aside from just one managed muzzleloader hunt for antlerless deer, this area limits deer harvests to archery methods only.
This area may be
closed during high (orange) homeland security levels. For more information and an area map, contact the MDC at (573) 884-6861.
EAGLE BLUFFS CA
This 4,430-acre CA is in Boone County south of Columbia. To get there, go south on Providence Road -- or county Route K -- past the town of McBaine. Continue across Perche Creek and turn left on Star School Road.
This area primarily managed as a wetland area includes substantial amounts of woods and other habitat. The habitat breakdown is 1,390 acres of wetlands, 1,128 acres of woodlands, 880 acres of grassland, 650 acres of crops, 40 acres of old fields, 35 acres of savanna and 5 acres of glades.
Much of the agriculture crop is left for waterfowl, but other wildlife, including deer, take advantage of the food source. The deer remain hidden and protected in the wetland area, but once the breeding season kicks in, it's a free-for-all.
"Deer hunting is restricted to outside of the levee pools during waterfowl season," said Demand. "When the rut comes in, these corridors are a great place to ambush a buck."
Eagle Bluff CA is open to deer hunting by archery methods only. Keep in mind that this area is managed primarily for waterfowl. Special restrictions and regulations apply here. Be sure to have an area map, and know the rules before you begin scouting or hunting deer. For more information, contact the MDC at (573) 445-3882.
MANAGED DEER HUNTING
Some of the absolute best deer hunting opportunities in Missouri come in the form of the state's managed deer hunts, which achieve deer management goals in places often not allowing deer hunting at any other time.
The MDC offers about 30 managed hunts in which bowhunters can participate each season. Many of these hunts are held year after year. We've included some of the perennial favorites among Show-Me State bowhunters.
Longview Lake County Park
"The last time we did an aerial deer survey of this area was in 2003," said MDC regional wildlife supervisor Deb Burns. "At that time, there was 116 deer per square mile here."
Hunting is allowed on approximately 3,400 acres of the 4,000-acre area. The habitat here is somewhat open with lots of brush and a few timbered areas.
The first managed archery hunt in 2008 will run from Nov. 1-14, while the second will be Dec. 6-19. Both hunts are limited to a 45-hunter quota. In 2006, hunters enjoyed a whopping 40 percent success rate during the first hunt and a 20 percent success rate during the second hunt here.
Hunters are allowed to take three deer, only one of those antlered. You must take and check in one antlerless deer before taking an antlered deer. Hunters must also attend a mandatory pre-hunt orientation before participating.
"We realize that things happen that can cause hunters not to show up at these managed hunts," Burns said. "However, these hunts are a management tool used to control deer numbers, and we need people out there hunting."
For more info about this hunt, contact the MDC at (573) 751-4115.Columbia Bottom CA
Habitat at the 4,300-acre Columbia Bottom CA, in St. Louis County includes 1,200-1,800 acres in agriculture, 800 acres in timber interspersed with food plots, and substantial wetland habitat. The central and southern portions of the area are composed of the wetlands.
Four managed archery deer hunts are held at the Columbia Bottom area. The only other deer hunting allowed is a Managed Youth Shotgun Hunt and an Adult Managed Shotgun Hunt.
This area has a 40-hunter quota at the first three managed archery hunts and a 45-hunter quota for the last one of the season. Hunters are allowed to take three deer, but only one antlered deer.
Hunt dates for this area were not available at press time but will likely be about the same time last year's hunts took place. Last season, the first managed archery deer hunt was Oct. 1-14; the second was Nov. 3-23; the third hunt was Dec. 3-23; and the final hunt was Dec. 26, 2007 through Jan. 15, 2008. Hunters enjoyed success ranging from 38 percent to 21 percent during these four hunts in 2006-07.
"We did an aerial survey where we flew over the tract while snow was on the ground this winter," said MDC wildlife management biologist Joel Porath. "The conditions for the survey were marginal at best, with lots of snow stuck on tree limbs, which prohibited counters from seeing the forest floor. The results from the survey reflected about 30 deer per square mile here, but I would say that these numbers are underestimating the number of deer that are there."
This area is managed for waterfowl and has certain rules and regulations that must be followed. A map of this area is a must before scouting or hunting here. For more info, contact the MDC at (636) 441-4554.
Managed Deer Hunt FYI
A single Managed Deer Hunting Permit allows each hunter to take the number of deer allowed at the hunt in which he or she is participating. Some of these hunts allow for hunters to shoot one deer, while others allow two, three or even four deer. Another great thing about managed deer hunts is that the deer harvested in them do not count toward your regular archery harvest limit
You must apply for any of the managed archery deer hunts listed below from July 1 through Aug. 15. You can apply by telephone between 4 a.m. and midnight using a touchtone phone at 1-800-829-2956 or online at mdc.mo.gov/hunt/deer . Check the 2008 edition of the Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet provided by the MDC for complete details on managed deer hunts for this year.
TIPS & TACTICS
Focus On Open-Area Food Sources
Early-season bowhunters have the unique advantage of zeroing in on specific trophy-class bucks. Whitetail bucks are most vulnerable to patterning at this time of year, and savvy archers will focus on hunting over food plots and crop fields.
Scout from a distance and watch as the bucks, often still in bachelor groups in September, enter these open area food sources in the evening hours. You can often set your watch to the times these behemoth bucks enter these fields during this portion of the season. Find out which trails the deer are entering the food source from and set your stand or blind within your shooting range of their entry place.
The best bet for this tactic is during the first two weeks of archery deer season. Be extra careful while approaching your stand. Use prevailing wind directions on your approach and in your stand setup.
It's relatively easy for anyone who's spent a reasonable amount of time practicing at the archery range to consistently hit the target. However, practicing on the range is relatively effortless
compared to shooting accurately when pressured by the difficult conditions associated with hunting.
I've seen it time and again: a bowhunter places his arrows side by side in a bale at the indoor range, but when it comes to shooting a deer in the real world, they don't have the shooting skills necessary to close the deal.
Archery deer hunters who hunt from tree stands should practice shooting from tree stands. Whether you know it or not, your arrow will hit higher than where you aim when you shoot from an elevated position. If you're practicing only from ground level, what do you think will happen when it's crunch time and that trophy buck is below your stand?
Archers who bowhunt from inside ground blinds should practice shooting from inside one. More than likely, you will be sitting on a bucket or stool or kneeling when you shoot. Practice shooting your bow the same way.
Shooting in 3D archery leagues is another good way to get ready for the archery season. Learning to shoot through small openings and judging distances in these leagues will help you a great deal during the hunting season.
Practice like you hunt and hunt like you practice: This extreme method of practicing your shooting skills will be a new, exciting challenge to many hunters. This method of practice will boost your confidence and allow you to make those difficult shots in the woods.
We've done the homework for you. It's now up to you to obtain a map for these areas, become familiar with each of the area's rules and regulations and plan your archery deer hunt for this fall. Good hunting!