Lessons in Wildlife Management
Initially, wildlife management in Missouri was skewed toward protection. In the early 1900s, for example, very few white-tailed deer were left in Missouri. The management of the white-tailed deer called first for protecting what we had left. This allowed the deer population to increase; and through live trapping and moving, the population began to grow. This growth led to surpluses.
- In 1944, the first deer season was held in 20 southern Missouri counties—7,537 hunters harvested 583 deer during a two-day bucks-only season.
- Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Missouri had short, any-deer seasons. As hunting pressure increased, this type of management became outdated because harvest of does could not be controlled.
- Quota management is now in place; and today, the firearms deer hunting season is composed of different portions that help ensure that Missouri’s deer herd remains healthy and strong.
While Missouri was learning the best way to manage its deer population, other states in the U.S. also were learning how to maintain healthy wildlife populations. At the turn of the 20th century, wildlife managers attempted to preserve a mule deer herd in the remote Kaibab Plateau of Arizona.
- Hunting was banned, and predators were destroyed. The result was severe overpopulation, habitat destruction, and mass starvation.
- The Kaibab Plateau was opened to hunting in 1929, which brought the population into balance with the habitat. Today, a large, healthy herd of mule deer inhabits the area.
From these hard lessons, wildlife managers learned that there is more to conservation than just protecting wildlife. They discovered that nature overproduces its game resources and that good wildlife management yields a surplus that can be harvested by hunters.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
In the first two decades of the 20th century, sportsmen from the United States and Canada developed a set of guiding principles for managing wildlife resources. Called the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, these seven principles provide the foundation for the success of fish and wildlife conservation in North America.
- Wildlife is public property. The government holds wildlife in trust for the benefit of all people.
- Wildlife cannot be slaughtered for commercial use. This policy eliminates trafficking in dead game animals.
- Wildlife is allocated by law. Every citizen in good standing—regardless of wealth, social standing, or land ownership—is allowed to participate in the harvest of fish and wildlife within guidelines set by lawmakers.
- Wildlife shall be taken by legal and ethical means, in the spirit of "fair chase," and with good cause. Animals can be killed only for legitimate purposes—for food and fur, in self-defense, or for protection of property.
- Wildlife is an international resource. As such, hunting and fishing shall be managed cooperatively across state and province boundaries.
- Wildlife management, use, and conservation shall be based on sound scientific knowledge and principles.
- Hunting, fishing, and trapping shall be democratic. This gives all persons—rich and poor alike—the opportunity to participate.