December 1, 2011

Firearms Deer Season Harvest Surpasses 2010 Numbers With Strong Finish

Kyle Aldridge, age 11, harvested his first deer, this nine-point buck at 3:30 p.m. on November 20th while hunting northeast of Memphis. Kyle was hunting with his dad, who captured the entire hunt on video, including the one shot that dropped the trophy deer in its tracks.

After a slow start on opening weekend, Missouri deer hunters rebounded over the next nine days to surpass last season's harvest total when the final numbers were tabulated at the completion of the 2011 firearms season on November 22nd.

A total of 190,086 deer were harvested in Missouri, up from 188,205 in 2010 but well below the state record of 235,054 deer set in 2006.

Extremely windy weather, combined with reduced deer populations in some areas, dropped the opening-weekend harvest 10,000 below the 2010 figure. Hunters persevered, however, and more than made up lost ground in the following nine days of the November hunt. In the end, they harvested 1,881 more than last year, a 1-percent increase.

Top harvest counties were Howell with 3,483 deer checked, Macon with 3,393 and Texas with 3,283.

Macon topped the 15-county Northeast region, followed by Pike County (2,975) and Adair County (2,518).

The northeast region was tops in the state with 33,163 deer taken. The central region bagged 29,198 deer followed by the northwest region with 27,759 deer.

Scotland County hunters harvested 2,373 deer, a 265 deer increase from 2010. Of that total, 879 antlered bucks were checked in along with 387 button bucks and 1,107 does.

Clark County hunters checked in 1,962 deer (118 more than last year) and Schuyler County hunters bagged 1,465 deer (+113). Knox County numbers were down to 2,300 deer in 2011 (-53).

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recorded six firearms-related deer-hunting accidents during the November hunt, down from nine last year.

MDC Resource Scientist Jason Sumners said changes to hunting regulations over the past 20 years are responsible for producing more large-antlered deer.

Sumners noted that in 2003, antlered deer made up 37 percent of the November firearms deer harvest. Last year, 40 percent of the harvest consisted of antlered deer. This year, the figure was 43 percent. This narrowing of the gap between doe and buck harvest began with implementation of the four-point rule for antlered deer in 2004.

Missouri's four-point rule, now in effect in all or parts of 69 counties, allows hunters to shoot an antlered buck only if it has at least four points measuring 1 inch or longer on at least one side. The antler-point restriction allows more bucks to grow trophy antlers while providing effective control of deer numbers.

Sumners said that before implementation of antler-point restrictions, 1.5-year-old bucks made up 40 to 50 percent of the total buck harvest. Today in counties with the antler-point restriction, 1.5-year-old bucks make up 10 to 15 percent of the total buck harvest. After more than four years under antler-point restrictions, 30 to 40 percent of the bucks harvested are 3.5 years and older. That means hunters are seeing and harvesting more larger-antlered adult bucks.

"It's no wonder the four-point rule has become very popular with hunters," he said.

MDC has been working for the better part of a decade to balance hunting opportunities against crop damage, deer-vehicle accidents and other problems associated with overabundant deer. The agency's current challenge is to maintain a healthy, stable deer herd while working with landowners and hunters to fine-tune harvest at the local level.

MDC Director Bob Ziehmer hailed this year's deer harvest numbers as good news for all Missourians.

"A robust firearms deer harvest is proof of a healthy deer herd that benefits all Missourians, whether they hunt or not," said Ziehmer.

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