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Corn, Acorn Crops Could Affect Missouri Deer Harvest

From Missouri Department of Conservation

-- Autumn is all about food and love for white-tailed deer. Love is constant, but Missouri deer hunters would do well to think about deer food when planning strategy for the upcoming firearms deer season.

Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen is responsible for the Missouri Department of Conservation's deer management program. He said the hard freeze that struck most of the Show-Me State in April 2007 virtually eliminated this year's crop of acorns from red oak trees, whose nuts mature the year after they are set. As a result, the availability of acorns will be spotty.

"Acorns are the main dietary staple for deer in southern Missouri," Hansen said. "In years like this, when red oaks produce few or no acorns, deer are much more likely to be found near white oaks. That makes a hunter's job a little easier."

Hansen said he expects an average deer harvest in the Ozarks.

In northern Missouri, wet weather delayed corn planting in many areas this year. As a result, this year's corn harvest has lagged behind its normal schedule. Hansen said that could be bad news for deer hunters.

"Deer numbers should be pretty good in the northern part of the state, but progress of corn harvest has me somewhat concerned," he commented. "I was up in northwest Missouri two weeks ago and there was a tremendous amount of corn still standing. If the farmers don't get it out before the opening of deer season, it could negatively affect harvest because deer will use the corn as escape cover and thus be less vulnerable."

Hansen said he expects a lower-than-average deer harvest in southwestern Missouri, where many counties have lower deer numbers than in recent years. Hunters may only fill one purchased firearms antlerless deer tag in Barry, Barton, Christian, Dade, Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald, Newton, Polk, Stone, Webster and Wright counties this year.

Hansen said Southeastern Missouri's deer harvest also might be off slightly, due to increased incidence of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) there. He said he expects central Missouri's deer harvest to be average.

Hansen predicted an average statewide deer harvest. As always, he said, this depends on favorable weather. Many hunters hesitate to shoot deer in unseasonably warm weather because of spoilage problems. On the other hand, unusually cold or wet weather can keep hunters out of the woods.

Missourians can track county-by-county deer harvest figures at mdc.mo.gov/hunt/harvest/index.php?animal=deer. The same information is available in tabular form at mdc.mo.gov/cgi-bin/maps/deerturkey/totals.cgi. Information at these sites is updated several times an hour.

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