The Missouri Department of Conservation is expecting a slight decline in the statewide deer harvest during the upcoming fall hunting season compared to the harvest total from last year.
Kevyn Wiskirchen, private lands deer biologist, said there were approximately 290,000 deer harvested statewide during the 2018 and 2019 season marking a five-year high.
He said this year the opening weekend of the November firearms portion will not align as closely with the peak of the breeding season which will result in less movement of deer across the landscape. The firearms season will run from Nov. 16 to Nov. 26 this year which is six days later than last year.
“One of the reasons the deer harvest has been high the last couple of years is because opening weekend has aligned very closely with peak breeding of deer in Missouri,” Wiskirchen said. “Some of the bucks might be a little harder for hunters to come in contact with, so we expect overall harvest to be down a little bit.”
He said the November firearms portion typically opens on the Saturday 12 days before Thanksgiving.
In addition, the department has enacted two regulation changes this year that may result in a lower statewide harvest.
He said 22 counties across the state have been taken out of the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) management zone and more restrictions have been placed on harvesting a whitetail in some of the counties. Some counties that are no longer in the CWD management zone will have the antler point restriction put in place this year which means a hunter can only harvest an antlered buck that has at least four points on one side. This restriction does not apply to youth hunters that are participating in the youth seasons.
The counties of Grundy, Livingston and Carroll will be included in the antler point restriction.
Whiskirchen said the overall deer population is stable to slightly increasing in the state.
“There was a hemorrhagic disease outbreak in 2012 that resulted in a decline in the deer population in 2013,” Wiskirchen said. “Since that time, the statewide deer population has been on an increasing trend.”
He said Northwest Missouri was one of the regions impacted the most by the hemorrhagic disease outbreak and has since been slow to recover.
“While Northwest Missouri has been slow to rebuild, I am expecting a higher deer harvest this year in the region compared with last year,” Wiskirchen said.
The counties of Atchison, Holt, Andrew and Nodaway were removed from the three-day antlerless season two years ago. This year, those same counties will have the number of antlerless permits for landowners with 75 acres or more reduced from two to one.
The deer archery season begins on September 15.
The archery season has slightly increased the last two years with an archery state record of 51,991 deer last season.
Wiskirchen said over the last 15 years the archery harvest has hovered right around 50,000 deer a year but there has been a slight bump in the trend the last two years.
Results from a 2017 hunter survey showed compound bow hunters had a similar success rate and wounding rate compared to crossbow hunters. Successful archers who used a crossbow increased 5 percent from 2016 to 2017.