November 29, 2007

November Firearms Deer Harvest Tops 214,000

Hunters did not shoot a record number of deer during the November portion of Missouri’s Firearms Deer Season, but they set a record for the fewest firearms-related hunting accidents.

Hunters checked 214,494 deer during the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season November 10 through 20. That is down 20,915, or nine percent from last year’s figure of 235,409, which was a record. This year’s total is the fourth-largest for Missouri’s November firearms deer hunt.

Top counties for the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season were Texas, with 4,043 deer checked, Callaway, with 4,041 and Oregon with 3,995.

Scotland County hunters bagged 2,290 deer in 2007, down 269 deer from last year. This year’s harvest consisted of 982 antlered bucks, 318 button bucks and 990 does.

Clark County hunters checked in 2,251 deer. Other totals included 2,620 deer in Knox County, 1,507 in Schuyler County and 2,548 in Adair County.

The Missouri Department of Conservation recorded three firearms-related hunting accidents during the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season. None was fatal. That is the fewest accidents reported since the Conservation Department began keeping records in 1963.

The previous record for fewest firearms-related hunting accidents was in 2004, when only four were recorded. The most was in 1986, when 25 people were injured and one died in firearms-related deer hunting accidents. Last year’s tally was 10 nonfatal accidents and two fatalities.

Lonnie Hansen is the Conservation Department’s deer-management expert. Before the opening of the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season, he noted that an April freeze had made acorns relatively scarce this year. That, he said, could contribute to a large - perhaps even record - deer harvest.

When the harvest on opening weekend came in nearly 24,000 under the 2006 figure, he noted that weather had been unseasonably warm and often windy. Warm weather makes deer - especially does - less inclined to move around and less visible to hunters. Wind further complicates hunting by making the sounds of deer that are moving around harder to hear.

Another factor that Hansen pointed out is the abundance of deer-hunting opportunities Missourians enjoy today. Thirty years ago, deer season lasted just seven days. Then what we now know as the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season was expanded to nine days, spanning two weekends. Today it runs for 11 days.

At the same time, the Conservation Department has added four new segments to the season to provide added hunting opportunities and keep a lid on deer numbers. Hunters in some counties around St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia get to hunt antlerless deer for four days in October. Hunters under age 16 get two days of their own around the end of October or the first of November. Those who hunt with muzzle-loading firearms get 10 days to hunt right after Thanksgiving, and most of the state’s counties are open to antlerless deer hunting for another nine days in December.

With so many days afield to enjoy, it is no wonder that some hunters choose to delay shooting a deer, hoping for cooler weather - perhaps even a dusting of snow - to make the experience more enjoyable.

“It comes down to this,” said Hansen. “Our deer herd is healthy and fairly stable throughout most of the state. With our deer population at a plateau, we are going to see some years when the harvest is up and some when it’s down, but every year’s harvest is going to be around a certain number.”

Judging from recent years’ harvest totals, the “certain number” for the November firearms deer harvest is a little more than 200,000. Figures for the last eight years have been:

—2000, 201,165

—2001, 205,867

—2002, 217,435

—2003, 207,516

—2004, 222,329

—2005, 205,460

—2006, 235,409

—2007, 214,475

With more than two weeks worth of firearms deer hunting ahead, Missouri hunters have plenty of time to boost the total statewide harvest. In each of the past three years, hunters checked between 45,000 and 53,000 deer during the Muzzleloader and Antlerless portions of Deer Season.

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