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Warm weather keeps MO urban deer harvest similar to 2010

From Missouri Department of Conservation

-- Missouri hunters checked 570 deer during the urban portion of firearms deer season Oct. 7 through 10, virtually identical to last year's figure and approximately half the long-term average.

The Department of Conservation attributes the small harvest to lower deer activity and hunter effort related to unseasonably warm weather.

The urban hunt was instituted in 2003 to provide better control of deer numbers in and around St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and the Columbia-Jefferson City area. Hunters in all or parts of 12 counties are allowed to take only antlerless deer during the four-day hunt.

Greene County led the urban deer harvest with 109 deer checked. Boone County was second with 89, followed by St. Charles County, where hunters checked 83 deer. Other county harvest totals were: Clay, 45; Franklin, 43; Jefferson and St. Louis, 41 each; Cass, 40; Cole, 33; Jackson, 23, Platte, 16; and Christian, 7. Eighty-three percent of deer checked during the urban hunt were does.

"The harvest of 470 does (female deer) doesn't sound like a lot," said resource scientist Jason Sumners, "but every doe taken during the urban hunt translates into something like two to three fewer deer next year. It is significant, especially when added to the harvest during the rest of the firearms deer season and the archery deer season."

The smallest harvest of 129 deer occurred in 2003, the first year of the urban hunt. Few hunters participated that year. The largest, 2,077, came the following year. Since then, the largest urban deer harvests have occurred in years when temperatures were lowest.

Sumners said this is partly because deer are more active in cool weather. He said hunter behavior figures into the equation, too.

"Deer are less active on warm fall and winter days, as their winter coat doesn't allow them to dissipate heat as easily," Sumners said. "At the same time, deer hunters may hesitate to shoot a deer if they are worried about spoilage due to high temperature."

Sumners said some hunters simply don't feel like hunting deer if they break a sweat getting to their stand. That also cuts into participation.

Missouri's firearms deer season consists of six portions, comprising 40 days of hunting. Upcoming portions include the early youth portion Nov. 5-6, the regular November portion Nov. 12-22, the antlerless portion Nov. 23-Dec. 4; the muzzleloader portion Dec. 17-27 and the late youth portion Jan. 7-8.

Missouri's archery deer season runs from Sept. 15 through Nov. 11 and Nov. 23 through Jan. 15. Details of deer-hunting regulations are contained in the 2011 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, which is available from permit vendors and MDC offices statewide. The booklet also is available at mdc.mo.gov/node/3656/.

Missouri's deer herd is estimated at 1.4 million. Deer numbers are stable in most of the state, but have decreased in some areas - particularly parts of northern, central and western Missouri - as a result of increased bag limits and regulation changes that encourage hunters to take more does.

The incidence of deer-vehicle accidents and nuisance-deer complaints has decreased along with deer numbers in those areas. For more information about deer management in Missouri, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3347/.  

-By Jim Low

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