The return of crisp air, colorful foliage and long nights means more than fall.
It also means the return of hunting season for thousands of outdoors enthusiasts on both sides of the state line.
Hunters have already ventured out in search of their next trophy.
Here’s a glimpse of what to expect as hunting seasons get into full swing.
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SEASON DATES: Archery: Sept. 15-Nov. 11; then Nov. 23-Jan. 15. Youth firearm: Oct. 29-30; then Nov. 25-27. Firearm: Nov. 12-22. Firearm (antlerless): Dec. 2-4. Firearm (alternative methods): Dec. 24-Jan. 3.
OUTLOOK: Chances look better down south.
Barbara McKeller, cervid program supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the statewide deer harvest was down three percent overall in 2015-16. However, the deer population in southern Missouri has been on the rise, for a few reasons — conservative harvest restrictions and mild disease outbreaks.
A higher population naturally leads to more chances — including older bucks.
“Hunters who are seeking older, larger bucks, would be best served to hunt in any of our counties where the 4-point-antler restriction is in place,” McKeller said. “Those counties can be found in our 2016 Fall Deer and Turkey Handbook.”
SEASON DATES: Youth: Oct. 29-30; Nov. 1-Jan. 15.
OUTLOOK: Things are looking up, especially with quail.
Harvest and hunter participation has declined in recent years, according to David Hoover, small game coordinator at the Missouri Department of Conservation. But the harvest went up in 2015, when spring rains made many fields impossible to plant — leading to increased habitat.
“Quail populations over the past 3 years have experienced small but steady increases on a statewide basis. In areas where focused efforts to improve habitat conditions have taken place, both on public and private lands, quail populations have responded very well,” Hoover said. “I expect the 2016 season to be similar to 2015, and in areas where habitat improvement efforts have been sustained, possibly even better.”
Hoover said the best places to hunt this season will be northern and southwest portions of Missouri.
SEASON DATES: Youth (North Zone), Youth (Middle Zone): Oct. 22-23. Youth (South Zone) Nov. 19-20. North Zone: Oct. 29-Dec. 27. Middle Zone: Nov. 5-Jan. 3. South Zone: Nov. 24-Jan. 22.
OUTLOOK: An ideal summer should lead to a great duck season.
The weather this summer should nicely set up duck season, according to Doreen Mengel, wetland and waterfowl ecologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“The pattern of wet, rainy conditions followed by periods of hot, dry conditions was perfect for moist soil plants and seed production meaning lots of food for migrating ducks.”
Hunting should be good in wetlands across the state and should improve more if typical weather patterns return this winter.
SEASON DATES: Archery: Sept. 12-Dec. 31. Extended archery (antlerless): Jan. 16-Jan. 31. Firearm (antlerless): Jan. 1-15 (Units 10A, 15, 19 only); Jan. 1-2 (Units 6, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17 only); Jan. 1-8 (Units 1-5, 7, 11-14). Regular firearm: Nov. 30-Dec. 11.
OUTLOOK: Get ready for a great season.
Lloyd Fox, big game program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, didn’t mince words.
“Last year was a good year and I anticipate an excellent year for deer this year,” Fox said.
The catch is that the wet spring and summer will leave a lot more cover for deer. Fox said that skilled and patient hunters will have plenty of opportunities.
SEASON DATES: Regular season: Nov. 12-Jan. 31. Youth: Nov. 5-6
OUTLOOK: Things are looking up.
Harvest totals for pheasants and quail have been on the rise the past few years following the drought conditions in 2012-13 that took a toll on their populations. Jeffrey Prendergast, small game specialist with the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, is expecting good hunting for both this season.
“Quail populations are good in all regions compared to 10- and 15-year trends. The best hunting opportunities will be North Central and South Central Kansas,” Prendergast said. “Pheasant hunting should be about the same to slightly improved from last year. Pheasant hunters should expect an average to slightly above-average season with the best dances in the Southwest region of the state.”
SEASON DATES: Low Plains Early Zone: Oct. 8-Dec. 4. High Plains Unit: Oct. 8-Jan. 1. Low Plains Late Zone: Oct. 29-Jan. 1. Low Plains Southeast Zone: Nov. 12-Jan. 1.
OUTLOOK: Expect a good, though challenging, season.
Continental duck populations have been at or near record numbers for the past 10 years, according to Tom Bidrowski, migratory game bird biologist with the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
A higher population portends a good-to-excellent harvest. Hunters will still have their work cut out for them, however.
“As waterfowl hunters know, weather plays an important factor in determining overall success. Ample rains this year in Kansas will have birds spread out and will challenge Kansas hunters to do a little more scouting and refine/adjust their hunting tactics,” Bidrowski said. “The best bet this year, hunters may want to consider exploring some of Kansas’ eastern and north-central reservoirs.”