The Missouri Department of Conservation has announced that hunters in Missouri harvested a near-record number of deer during the November portion of the fall firearms season.
Barbara Keller, deer biologist, said there was a three percent increase in the statewide deer harvest during the November firearm season this year compared to last year.
Harvest data shows that hunters in Missouri harvested 199,427 deer between Nov. 10 and Nov. 20. Of the 199,427 deer harvested, 102,930 were antlered bucks, 19,924 were button bucks and 76,573 were does.
Last year, hunters checked 192,797 deer during the 2017 November portion of firearms deer season. There were 100,161 antlered bucks, 20,267 button bucks and 72,369 does harvested.
The recent-record season was 2012 with a total of 204,668 deer harvested,
Keller said the uptick in harvest this year is likely due to a combination of favorable weather and the continued recovery of deer populations in some areas hit hard by an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease during the drought in 2012. The disease is transmitted to deer by biting midge flies.
The timing of the season may have also resulted in a higher harvest. The closer the start of the season is to the rut, the more antlered bucks that are harvested.
“As the November firearms portion moves one day earlier each year as it follows the season dates formula, it tends to coincide with more deer in rut which results in higher hunter success,” Keller said. “This year the season started the earliest it could, but next year it will start the latest date the November portion can open.”
She said the timing of the season next year will likely result in a decrease in the antlered buck harvest since the rut is when bucks are the most vulnerable to harvest.
Keller said the department has seen an increase in antlered bucks that are harvested in recent years partly because hunters are becoming more selective in the deer they choose to harvest.
In addition, she said the department has purposely allowed for the legalized hunting of antlered buck populations as part of their effort to reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer.
“We’ve removed the antler-point restriction in Grundy and Mercer counties this year,” Keller said. “We’ve been doing this over the last few years as we add new counties to the CWD management zone.”
She said the harvest in Northwest Missouri was lower than in the other regions of the state and has been one of the lowest harvest areas for a few seasons.
“The deer population was hit hard by the hemorrhagic disease outbreak in 2012,” Keller said. “There was also sustained liberal antlerless harvest regulations before there was a regulation change in 2014. The combination of both resulted in a big impact to deer populations.”
This year, the antlerless season was closed in Andrew, Holt, Atchison and Nodaway countries to encourage deer populations to continue to recover.
Top harvest counties in Missouri were Franklin with 4,021 deer checked, Howell with 3,858 and Callaway with 3,695.
“They are usually the counties with the highest harvest totals because they are large counties with a lot of hunters,” Keller said.
In Northwest Missouri, there were 1,405 deer harvested in Nodaway County, 975 deer harvested in Andrew County and 804 deer harvested in Holt County.
The late youth portion of the 2018 deer hunting season was held from Nov. 23 to Nov. 25. Young hunters ages 6 through 15 harvested 2,556 deer.
Last year’s harvest total for the late youth portion was 3,115.
The department said blizzard and snowy conditions in the state over the weekend likely resulted in lower deer harvest.
The conservation department reported eight firearms-related hunting incidents during the November portion of firearms deer season that included three fatalities. Two of the fatalities occurred while at hunting camps and one self-inflicted incident happened while in the field. Of the five non-fatal incidents, four were self-inflicted and the fifth occurred when the shooter struck a victim while swinging on game.
Deer hunting in Missouri continues with the archery season which runs until Jan. 15, 2019. The antlerless portion of the firearms deer season runs until Dec. 2. Lastly, the alternative methods portion will run from Dec. 22 through Jan. 1, 2019.