the Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
The Outdoor Journal
Black Bear Season III
Two years ago, (as I write this,) I was checking the campfire to make sure it was pretty well burned out, then crawling into my sleeping bag in Taney County. It was a clear, moonless fall night with a canopy of stars overhead. The howl of a coyote echoed across the creek and down the valley as I turned off the light in my tent. I was camped in a hay field on private property, surrounded by rugged Ozark hills and big timber. The next day was the opening day of Missouri’s first Black bear season.
When I primed the lock and checked the flint on my rifle in the dim pre -dawn the next morning, it finally started to seem real. I was actually in the woods, with a bear tag, in Missouri. Three days later I was still in the woods with a bear tag, having not seen a bear, but the experience was one I won’t forget. The first bear killed in modern times in the state was taken just a few miles from where I was hunting, so they were around. The folks that had helped provided my camping spot had sent me a trail camera photo or two, through the summer, of bears in that area. It was fun to have been a part of that first day of the first season, no matter if a killed a bear.
This year’s bear season is set up exactly like the first two have been. Hunters have to draw a tag in a lottery, then call an 800 number everyday prior to hunting to make sure the season is still open. The season closes automatically if the quota for that black bear management zone, ( BMZ ) is reached. The director of the department of Conservation can close the season anytime if the kill reaches 80% of the quota in a BMZ too quickly. None of the three bear BMZs have been close to reaching their quotas in each of the first two seasons.
The season is open in all counties south of the Missouri River, Oct 16-23. Missouri is home to approximately 800 black bears. Missouri’s bear population is part of a much larger population of about 8,000 bears in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
The Conservation Department’s website says they have, “determined that the state’s bear population can sustain a limited and highly regulated harvest. This provides an opportunity for Missourians to participate in the sustainable harvest of a valuable natural resource, while also allowing for the bear population to continue to grow. Additionally, as bear numbers continue to increase, hunting will serve as an essential component of black bear population management.”
Long live the black bear.