Missouri deer harvest

The Missouri Department of Conservation reports a decline in the statewide deer harvest for opening weekend compared to last year.

Hunters in Missouri harvested 88,843 deer last Saturday and Sunday during the opening weekend of the November portion of fall firearms deer season.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reports of the deer killed, 51,086 were antlered bucks, 29,642 were does and 8,115 were button bucks.

The opening weekend’s tally was lower than last year, when hunters checked 99,470 deer during the initial days of the 2018 November portion of firearms deer season.

Joe Jerek, news coordinator, said there were more hunters afield on Saturday than Sunday due to better weather conditions across the state.

“The season dates this year also correlate less with the peak of the rut or deer breeding season,” Jerek said. “This may have resulted in less deer movement across the landscape and a lower statewide harvest.”

In addition, the department has enacted regulation changes this year that may have resulted in a lower statewide harvest.

He said 22 counties across the state have been taken out of the chronic wasting disease 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 chronic wasting disease 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.

“The results show that we have some nice antlered bucks in the state and there are plenty of deer on the landscape,” Jerek said. “The four-point rule is in place to allow those young bucks to mature. This isn’t just for the hunting aspect of deer management, but it keeps them in the breeding population which helps promote a good genetic diversity.”

This restriction did not apply to youth hunters who participated in the early youth season on Nov. 2 and 3.

Jerek said the statewide deer harvest during the early youth portion of the season was higher than last year. Preliminary data from the conservation department shows that young hunters ages 6 through 15 harvested around 18,158 deer during Missouri’s early youth portion. Last year’s harvest total for the early youth portion was 13,645.

“We had great weekend weather for deer hunting during the early youth portion,” Jerek said. “It was chilly, but not freezing, which is good for deer movement.”

Hunters had the most success in Franklin County, with 2,078 deer checked in. Texas County was second, with 1,931 deer, and Callaway was third with 1,735 deer harvested.

In Northwest Missouri, the deer harvest for opening weekend in Andrew County was 338, Holt County bagged 245 deer and Buchanan County had a harvest of 223.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the modern deer hunting season in the state.

In 1944, the newly created Missouri Department of Conservation held the first modern deer season with 7,757 hunters harvesting 519 bucks during a two-day, bucks-only season in 20 counties.

Ongoing conservation efforts in partnership with landowners and hunters have brought deer numbers back. Missouri now has more than a million deer throughout the state with about a half-million deer hunters harvesting hundreds-of-thousands of deer each year.

The November portion of fall firearms deer seasons continues through Nov. 26. Archery deer season opens again Nov. 27 through Jan. 15, 2020. The late youth portion runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. The antlerless portion runs Dec. 6 through Dec. 8. The alternative methods portion runs Dec. 28 through Jan. 7, 2020.

Margaret Slayton can be reached

at margaret.slayton@newspressnow.com.