Deer hunting regulations are established for a reason. With a set of rules, all hunters know what is and is not allowed, which helps to maintain control of the deer population, as well as keep hunters safe. Keep in mind that each state has slight different regulations so it is imperative that you learn what the rules are for the state in which you plan to hunt for deer. Additionally, it is common for regulations to change. Therefore, before hunting season opens, you should review state regulations so you have current information.
Another important thing to understand is that regulations for deer hunting could vary based on the time deer are being hunted. Each season is broken down by three sets of dates (that vary by state), which include:
1. Urban – October 9 through 12
2. Early Youth – October 31 through November 1
3. November – November 14 through 24
4. Antlerless – November 25 through December 6
5. Muzzleloader – December 19 through 29
6. Late Youth – January 2 through 3
In addition to regulations varying, sometimes hunting categories change among other things. A great example is that for the 2009 season, dates for antlerless and muzzleloader switched. Other changes that took place included young hunters needing to be a minimum of six years of age to acquire a permit, nonresident landowner permits were not longer required, anyone mentoring a hunter not certified in firearms safety or not hunting on a landowner permit had to be a minimum of 18 years old and possess a hunter education certification. Other changes were made, which carry over into the current year.
However, when looking at regulations specific to deer hunting, three specific things are considered among the most important. These factors are listed below.
1. Four-Point Rule – For several states to include Missouri, a new four-point rule was established, which means that unless the deer has at least four points that measure a minimum of one-inch they cannot be hunted. Typically, deer are close to three years of age before reaching this type of antler growth so the benefit is that bucks are provided more time to reach maturity, thereby growing large antlers. While this is good news for the deer, it also presents a challenge in that the older the buck the more wise they are to hunters, which makes a kill harder.
2. Crossbow Usage – Another regulation that hunters should know about is for some states to include Illinois. This regulation now makes it legal for a crossbow to be used during bow hunting season by hunters age 62 and older. The prior regulation was that only individuals with a confirmed disability could use a crossbow so this makes it easier for older hunters to enjoy the sport in a safe and effective manner.
3. Late Winter Hunting – Permits can now be purchased in many states specific to late winter hunting but typically, this limits the hunter to a single permit. During this hunting season, hunters can also apply for a permit for unfilled firearm, muzzleloader, landowner, and youth firearms.