The Missouri Department of Conservation is proposing duck hunting regulation changes in the state for the 2021 through 2025 seasons.
Andrew Raedeke, waterfowl biologist, said the changes were formulated after the agency collected hunter opinion surveys earlier this year and held workshops across the state.
The agency is proposing changes to hunting in the North Zone of the state, which includes Northwest Missouri.
He said for the last five years, the duck season in the North Zone opened the first Saturday in November with no split. The department is proposing opening the North Zone on the Saturday nearest Oct. 31 with no split from 2021 through 2025.
In addition, there are two North Zone map boundary changes. The map will place a great portion of St. Charles County in the North Zone and will return the portions of the Missouri River, Chariton River and Grand River floodplains east of Miami, Missouri, to the North Zone.
Raedeke said at the workshops, 18 out of the 27 small groups focused on the North Zone indicated they wanted the season to open the last weekend in October or earlier.
However, when they analyzed the survey results, they discovered around 29% of the 3,217 North Zone respondents wanted the season to open the last Saturday in October.
“We are offering a compromise that is slightly earlier than the current season date formula by opening the season the Saturday closest to Oct. 31 beginning in the 2021 season,” Raedeke said. “We’re hopeful this change will accommodate the 40% of hunters who desired a season slightly earlier or the same as it is now. We recognize that it will not be early enough for 29% of North Zone hunters and not late enough for 30% of hunters.”
He said this change will result in earlier seasons three out of the five years from 2021 to 2025 and will ensure the season is open during the entire first week of November.
From 2011 to 2016, the first week of November accounted for 13% of the harvest and was the fourth highest harvest week of the season. In contrast, the fourth week of December accounted for 7% of the harvest, which was the lowest of any week during the season.
“Our primary objective when establishing zone boundaries and season date formulas is to best accommodate hunter preferences,” Raedeke said. “The challenge is that hunters have very diverse preferences based on where they like to hunt and the species they target.”
Raedeke said regulation changes are also being proposed in the middle zone.
For the last five years, the zone opened the Saturday nearest to Nov. 6 for seven days, it was closed five days and reopened for the remaining 53 days.
The new proposal would open the season the first Saturday in November for nine days, close it for five days and reopen it for the remaining 51 days.
In the South Zone, the department is not proposing changes. The season will open on Thanksgiving Day for four days, close and reopen from Dec. 7 until Jan. 31. This is the latest the federal framework allows.
He said when asked about specific season date formulas, 67% of survey respondents and 65% of workshop participants indicated they would like to maintain the current South Zone formula.