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2009 Missouri firearms deer season has ups and downs

From the Missouri Department of Conservation

-- Reports shows the total harvest has dipped from previous years, as rain contributes to lower numbers in the north. Buck numbers are up, and harvest numbers in the Ozarks and southeast are slightly up.

Harvest numbers for Missouri’s 11-day November portion of the firearms deer season dipped by 7,524, or 4 percent, this year from last for a total of 193,155. Missouri’s record November firearms deer harvest was in 2006, with a total of 235,054.

The top harvest counties were Texas, with 4,372 deer checked; Howell with 3,871; and Benton with 3,616. Antlered bucks made up 41 percent of this year’s November firearms deer harvest compared to 37 percent last year.

“This increase in antlered bucks is partly because we are in the second year of the antler restriction in many counties, so more bucks were available,” Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen said.
 
Overall harvest numbers in central and northern Missouri were down, mostly  because of heavy and prolonged rains.
 
“Hunters usually harvest about 60 percent of the total for the season during opening weekend,” said Hansen, who is in charge of the MDC’s deer-management program. “Heavy rain during four of the first five days of the 11-day season was a major factor in lower numbers. Adding to that were weeks of wet weather before the season, which forced farmers to leave a considerable amount of corn standing. This provided a refuge for deer and made them more difficult to find.”
 
He added that the past few years of more liberal harvest regulations in many central and northern Missouri counties also have stabilized or reduced deer numbers in these areas, as was intended.
 
Harvest numbers in the Ozarks and southeastern Missouri were generally higher than last year.  
 
“Harvest numbers were down last year in these areas because of abundant acorns. Deer were more scattered throughout the woods and less likely to concentrate at other food sources such as fields. This made it more difficult to pattern their movements. We did not have that issue this year because of a lighter acorn crop. Also, the rains held out until after opening weekend, so hunters had better weather,” he said.  “Overall, we had a good season and Missouri’s deer population remains healthy and relatively stable.”  

Deer hunters still have opportunities to fill their freezers, and also to help their neighbors through the Share the Harvest program. The antlerless season runs Nov. 25 to Dec. 6. The second round of the archery season runs Nov. 25 to Jan. 15, and muzzleloader season runs Dec. 19-29.
 
The Conservation Department recorded seven firearms-related deer hunting incidents during the November hunt, including one fatal one, plus three additional falls from tree stands. –By Joe Jerek

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