November 22, 2007

Missouri’s Opening Weekend Deer Harvest Tops 100,000

Warm weather is one factor being cited by Missouri’s deer expert as contributing to a drop in the number of deer shot by hunters during the opening weekend of the November portion of firearms deer deason.

Hunters checked 100,489 deer during the first two days of the season, which runs from November 10th through 20th. Last year’s figure was 124,324. The record first-weekend harvest of 133,136 took place in 2004.

Top deer harvest counties were Callaway with 1,984, Benton with 1,962 and Texas with 1,817. Antlered deer made up 50 percent of the first-weekend harvest, compared to 48 percent last year.

Scotland County hunters checked in a total of 1,160 deer on opening weekend, down from 1,414 last year.

Pike County edged out Macon County by one deer, 1,662 to 1,661 for top honors in the 15-county northeast reporting region. Clark County hunters checked in 1,288 deer, with Knox County hunters taking 1,312 deer and Schuyler County hunters bagging 776 deer, the lowest total in the region.

The Scotland County totals consisted of 560 antlered bucks, 149 button bucks and 451 does.

Overall the northeast region was down 5,147 deer, with every county except Schuyler down by at least 100 deer.

Lonnie Hansen, a resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said weather likely played a role in limiting this year’s opening-weekend harvest.

“Hunting conditions were not wonderful,” said Hansen. “Saturday morning was okay, but Sunday was windy and warm where I was in north-central Missouri. As a deer hunter myself, I don’t like to hunt when the wind is blowing hard. The wind makes it hard to hear deer coming, so you are more likely to spook them and not get a shot.”

Hansen said that although warm weather encourages some hunters to stay in the woods longer, deer already have their winter coats at this time of year and don’t move around looking for food as much as they do in cold weather. A deer that is bedded down is harder for hunters to find, and it is more likely to detect the presence of hunters than if it is moving around looking for something to eat.

Timing is part of the reason for the weather being warmer than usual during the November firearms deer hunt. The season is set to end before Thanksgiving Day, which falls as early as possible this year.

Hansen said the calendar also might have given hunters a reason to wait one more day before shooting a deer. Veterans’ Day, which is a national and state holiday, fell on the first Monday of this year’s firearms deer season. Some hunters might have passed up shots at deer on Saturday and Sunday, hoping for something better on their extra day off.

Finally, said Hansen, hunters feel less pressure than in the past to shoot the first deer that comes along. The remaining nine days of the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season, the 10 days of the Muzzleloader Portion and another nine days of Antlerless Portion of Firearms Deer season give hunters ample time to harvest a deer. For those who enjoy the experience of deer hunting as much as the venison it can produce, shooting a deer the first weekend of the season would diminish the enjoyment of the following 27 days of hunting.

The Conservation Department recorded one firearms-related hunting accident in the first weekend of the season. Four accidents were reported on opening weekend in 2006.

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