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Landowner Wildlife Permits

Written by Dr. Rachel Owen and Dr. Elena Bickell
Published on February 22, 2021
Research Highlights

Currently, the Missouri Department of Conservation provides resident landowners with up to six no-cost deer permits and up to three no-cost turkey permits each year to be used during the statewide deer and turkey hunting seasons.

  • Based on the most recent MDC reports, deer and turkey populations are stable or increasing in most Missouri counties. Hunters and landowners report about the right amount of deer in most of the state based on social perceptions.
  • A biologically sustainable deer density in Missouri is approximately 1 deer per 18 to 25 acres. Studies in other states have found that deer densities increase in exurban areas with smaller land parcels (5-10 acres) and less hunting pressure.
  • Most U.S. states offer landowner permits in some capacity as an incentive to support habitat conservation on privately owned lands. Surrounding states (IL, KS, IA) provide no-cost landowner permits based on contiguous acres.

Executive Summary

Currently, the Missouri Department of Conservation provides resident landowners with up to six no-cost deer permits and up to three no-cost turkey permits each year to be used during the statewide deer and turkey hunting seasons. Landowners are also required to register their land in order to obtain landowner permits.1 HB 1694 proposes a removal of the registry of land as a requirement and the reduction of the minimum land requirement from 20 acres to 5 acres for a landowner to be eligible for landowner permits.


  • Because the landowner permit acreage change in Missouri went into effect in 2020, there is no information available to describe any potential impacts on harvest or hunter satisfaction.

Research Background

Deer and Turkey Populations in Missouri

Missouri white-tailed deer and wild turkey populations are reported annually by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Population status can be defined based on the total number of individuals (with models accounting for age and sex) or based on biologically sustainable and socially acceptable populations. For deer and turkey, the population model used by MDC takes into account survival, reproductive rates, and harvest data reported by hunters, and is further refined with ongoing research projects to monitor population dynamics.2 Additionally, MDC surveys landowners and hunters each year to determine the social carrying capacity.

In 2019, Missouri’s total deer population was stable or increasing across most of the state (Figure 1). Based on survey responses from hunters and landowners, there were about the right amount of deer statewide except in a few counties, where stakeholders reported too few or too many deer. During the last decade, deer numbers have generally been increasing in most MIssouri counties. Between 2000 and 2019, harvested deer (archery and firearms combined) trends were relatively stable with northern Missouri regions declining slightly and southern Missouri regions increasing slightly. Deer harvested are consistently lower than the total number of permits purchased and given at no-cost to landowners. During the 2019-2020 deer season, 31% of total permits were issued as landowner permits.3

Missouri’s turkey population peaked in the 1990s and 2000s and has since declined to a stable level based on biological carrying capacity across the state. Turkey populations tend to vary more than deer populations from year-to-year due to nest and poult (young turkeys) survival successes or failures that may occur for a variety of reasons, including predation and environmental factors.4 Similar to deer, turkey populations are estimated based on stakeholder surveys, telecheck data, and ongoing research to refine models. Each year, approximately 10% of the total turkey population is harvested during the spring hunting seasons.2,5

Habitat Requirements and Ranges

Deer require a diversity of landscape features to provide adequate food, cover, and water throughout the year. Ideal deer habitat will contain a mix of forests, woodlands, pastures, croplands, and open areas. If certain habitat elements are not adequate, deer populations and their geographic range may be diminished.6,7 Healthy deer densities, based on biological carrying capacity in Missouri, range from 18 to 25 acres per deer.2,8

Agricultural productivity (e.g., crop yields) may be directly related to deer population sizes in the Midwest due to an increased food supply for deer on the landscape. However, deer feeding on crops may also lead to more agricultural damage and negative social interactions of deer and landowners.9 Studies have also found that deer density tends to increase on exurban landscapes where there are smaller parcels of land and less hunting opportunities.10

Turkey populations are dependent upon hen survival, nest success, and poultry survival which are all influenced by habitat quality and quantity. Annual hen survival is only around 60% in Missouri.11 Nest success requires adequate cover in April and May to protect the nests from predators (e.g., coyotes, raccoons, foxes, etc.) and other disturbances. In order for poults to survive, turkeys must have access to adequate food and cover through a combination of tall grass, trees, or shrubs and open spaces.11

Landowner Permits by State

Most U.S. states have some form of landowner permits for harvesting wildlife. Similar to Missouri, several states allow landowners to obtain permits at a free or reduced rate based on the number of contiguous acres on their property (Table 1). Other states allot landowner permits through a lottery system, where a certain percentage of all hunting tags will be given to landowners by random selection from the landowner pool (e.g., CO). Many states do not allow non-resident landowners to obtain permits at a discounted or free rate. Like Missouri, most states limit landowner permits to individuals in the same household as the landowner (e.g., IL, KS, WY), however, some states allow landowners to sell or give away their permits to other individuals (e.g., UT, CO, NM). In a 2016 survey, MDC found that 35% of landowner permits distributed in Missouri were used improperly.2


Minimum Acres (for no-cost permits)

Other Notes



Eligible for landowners and tenants



Eligible for landowners and tenants, must register properties



Landowners must purchase big game permits



Eligible for landowners and tenants

Table 1. Midwestern states with Landowner Permits Based on the Number of Acres.


  1. Missouri Department of Conservation, Landowner Permits,https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/permits/qualifications-landowner-permits
  2. Jason Isabelle, MDC, personal communication, February 19, 2021.
  1. Isabelle, J., J. Batten, K. Wiskirchen, A. Hildreth, and A. Burke. 2019. Missouri Deer Season Summary & Population Status Report. MDC. Jefferson City, MO. https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/2019DeerPopStatusReport.pdf
  2. Tyl, R. 2020. 2020 Missouri Wild Turkey Brood Survey Results. MDC. Jefferson City, MO.https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/2020TurkeyBroodSurvey.pdf
  3. Resource Science Division. 2019. Missouri Wild Turkey Harvest and Population Status Report 2019. MDC. Jefferson City, MO. https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/2019TurkeyStatusReport.pdf
  4. Walter, W.D., K.C. VerCauteren, H. Campa, et al. 2009. Regional assessment on influence of landscape configuration and connectivity on range size of white-tailed deer. Landscape Ecology 24, 1405-1420.
  5. Pierce, R.A., E. Flinn, B. Mormann. 2013. Enhancing White-Tailed Deer Habitats on Your Property: Evaluating Habitat. University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO. https://extension.missouri.edu/media/wysiwyg/Extensiondata/Pub/pdf/agguides/wildlife/ g09492.pdf
  6. Ristau, T.E., A.A. Royo, S.L. Stout, S.H. Stoleson, M.B. Adams, and W.K. Moser. 2012. Deer Can Be Too Many, Too Few, or Just Enough for Healthy Forests. U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Review No. 16. Newtown Square, PA. https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/news/review/review-vol16.pdf
  7. Roseberry, J.L. and A. Woolf. 1998. Habitat-Population Density Relationships for White-tailed Deer in Illinois. Wildlife Society Bulletin 26 (2), 252-258.
  8. Lovely,K.R.,W.J.Mschea,N.W.Lafon,andD.E.Carr.2013.Landparcelizationanddeer population densities in a rural county of Virginia. Wildlife Society Bulletin 37 (2), 360-367.
  9. Pierce,R.A.andJ.L.Isabelle.2017.WildTurkeyBiologyandHabitatManagementinMissouri. University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO. https://extension.missouri.edu/g9526
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