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Changes to waterfowl reservations arrive in time for fall hunting

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The Missouri Department of Conservation has announced changes to its reservation system for managed waterfowl hunts starting this hunting season.

Duck Hunting

The Missouri Department of Conservation has announced changes to waterfowl reservations for fall hunting.

Changes include offering 50% of daily hunting positions for the managed-hunt areas through online reservations, MDC said via a news release. Of the 50% of spots through online reservations, half will be for preseason applications, and half will be allocated during a weekly in-season application period. 

The remaining 50% of spots will be held for hunters who participate in the daily morning drawing, called the “poor line,” the release said.

“Under the changes to the reservation system, if an area offers 20 daily hunting positions, five will be allocated through preseason reservations and five through in-season reservations,” Lauren Hildreth, who coordinates managed waterfowl hunts for MDC, explained in the release. “The remaining 10 positions will be allocated to hunters from the poor line the morning of each hunt.”

The preseason reservation period will run Sept. 1-18 with results posted Oct. 1. 

The in-season weekly drawings will take place on Monday afternoons with a seven-day application period that opens the Tuesday before and closes the Monday of the draw at 3 p.m. Successful hunters will be notified via email or text message after the draw with their hunt date, location and pill assignment. 

“Pills” designate the order hunting parties select hunting locations on the area. The lower the number, the sooner hunting parties get to select a hunting location.

The release said another change is that all applicants for waterfowl reservations must have their required permits to apply and their Federal Duck Stamp to hunt.

Missouri residents and qualifying non-residents can apply online for a reservation to guarantee them an opportunity to hunt on a specific day on a specific area. Residents and nonresidents can also arrive at a managed waterfowl hunting area the morning they wish to hunt and wait in line for the possibility of getting a hunting spot through the poor line, the release said.

Residents and nonresidents can hunt with a reservation holder and hunting parties are limited to a maximum of four people.

Previously, the release said, the reservation holders and individuals participating in the poor line had to draw a number the morning of the hunt to determine their place in line to select a hunting position.  Reservation holders were guaranteed an opportunity to hunt and poor line participants had to draw a low enough number to claim a spot to have an opportunity to hunt. 

Now, successful preseason and in-season reservation applicants will be notified of their pill numbers after the weekly in-season draw for their hunt date. This change will allow reservation holders to know before they leave their home if their randomly generated number will enable them to be one of the first, middle or last parties to pick their hunting location, the release explained.

One major change to the morning draw system is that only one member from each hunting party will be allowed to draw a number. In the past, several areas allowed each member of the party to draw a number. This approach favored larger parties and resulted in more hunter trips but was unpopular with most hunters. 

“Every-member draw was one of the most contentious elements of Missouri’s waterfowl hunt program,” Hildreth noted. “This change will better accommodate hunter preferences and also cut down the amount of time it takes to complete the morning drawing at some of our most popular areas.”

MDC also notes that hunters with disabilities will now need to apply to use ADA hunting blinds through the online reservation system during the same timeframe as the preseason application period.

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