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Missouri firearms harvest up 7,408

From Missouri Department of Conservation

-- Hunters age 6 through 15 checked 2,193 deer during the late youth hunt Jan. 7 and 8, bringing the total harvest for the 2011-2012 firearms deer season to 238,921 compared to last year's total of 231,513.

The harvest total for last year's late youth weekend was 1,292. This year's combined early and late youth season harvests total 18,585 compared to 14,555 last year. Top counties during the late youth hunt were Macon with 52 deer checked, Franklin with 51 and Lincoln with 45.

Of the 238,921 firearms season total, hunters checked 570 deer during the urban portion, 16,392 during the early youth portion, 190,089 during the November portion, 14,439 during the antlerless portion and 15,238 during the muzzleloader portion.

Missouri had a record firearms deer harvest of 280,856 in 2006. The 10-year average firearms deer harvest is 252,029.

Jason Sumners, resource science deer biologist, said the reduction in firearms harvest is indicative of reduced deer numbers in many parts of rural central and northern Missouri that have resulted from increased harvest pressure on does through the liberalization of hunting regulations and implementation of antler point restrictions.

"There are simply fewer does in the population today than there were six or eight years ago," Sumners said. "This means that the doe harvest doesn't need to be as high to manage population numbers as it was several years ago when deer populations in many parts of Missouri where growing rapidly."

He added that MDC has been trying for the better part of a decade to stabilize deer numbers in many parts of Missouri.

"We have been working to bring down deer populations to reduce crop damage, deer-vehicle accidents, and other deer nuisance problems, and we've made good progress in those areas," Sumners said. "Now our challenge is finding ways to fine-tune deer numbers and hunting pressure at the local level, which means that future reductions in the availability of firearms antlerless permits may be necessary."

In contrast to central and northern Missouri, deer numbers in southern Missouri continue to slowly increase and opportunities to harvest antlerless deer are likely to increase over time.

"Regardless of your location in the state, the combination of hunter numbers, hunter access, and regulations drives the size of the local deer population," Sumners said.  "Landowners and hunters throughout the state have a tremendous effect on the deer population and ultimately determine local deer numbers."

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