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2010 Firearms Deer Season Now in the Books

Dec 11, 2010

The 2010 deer season is over, and it is a good time to see how it went; statewide the total harvest was 188,205 deer. This is about 10 percent below last year’s harvest of 193,155 deer. In the three counties of the Current River DCT, Carter checked a total of 1004 deer, Ripley checked 2005 and Shannon checked 1564. These totals are down 24 percent, 15 percent and 21 percent, respectively, from the previous five-year averages for each county. This is certainly not any surprise to local conservation agents, who heard from many people they checked during the season, “We’re just not seeing the deer like we usually do.”

An Abundance of Acorns This Year

Most of us understand that in the Ozarks acorns are the preferred food for whitetailed deer. When we have an abundance of acorns deer tend to congregate on the food source and do not move around much. This means the bucks are less likely to be roaming in search of breeding does and may, in fact, stay put when a “hot” doe is encountered. All this means hunters are far less likely to see deer, particularly if hunting over a food plot. This translates into a decrease in the deer harvest for that particular year.

There is a Positive Side

While this situation can be disappointing to local hunters, it is not all bad. Hunters who did manage to kill a deer likely found it to be in excellent shape and carrying a lot of fat. Those deer remaining after season will also be in excellent shape for the coming hard months of winter, and will also be in better shape for gestation and fawning come May and June. Another positive is that many more antlered bucks survived the season and will grow another year--next year’s harvest of antlered buck will no doubt include some of these that have had time to grow quite impressive “head gear."

Bigger and Better Next Year

Consider that the previous five-year average harvest of antlered bucks for Carter, Ripley and Shannon counties is 635, 860 and 808, respectively, for a total of 2,303. When you subtract the antlered deer taken in these counties this year (1,894) from that total, there are roughly 409 mature, antlered bucks left in the Current River DCT population. Of those 409 bucks only a few will die between now and next firearms season--the rest will be here and “bigger and better.” Furthermore, they will be joined by many of the roughly 149 “extra” button bucks that lived through this season to also become “antlered deer” for next season.

Expect a Better Harvest Next Year

Minor fluctuations in the annual harvest of whitetailed deer are to be expected. They may be caused by weather events, disease outbreaks, availability of various food sources and even the economy. An “increase” in one year’s harvest may result in a “decrease” in the next--then again, it may not. A decrease like we’ve seen in this year’s harvest, however, will almost certainly result in an increase not only in the size of the harvest next year but also likely in the quality of the individuals harvested. Just hang on and wait.


In Missouri, a person may protect themselves and their property from harm from wildlife. There are still rules that must be followed however. While deer damage to crops is a concern to farmers, it is not as big a problem in our area. When deer are a problem, the landowner must contact the county conservation agent to discuss possible solutions before they are given permission to dispatch the animals causing the damage. We ask that citizens make an effort to solve the problem prior to seeking permission to dispatch any deer. If you are looking for ideas on how to discourage deer, you may call the local MDC office in Eminence at 573-226-3021  or Twin Pines Conservation Education Center in Winona at 573-325-1381.  Notice discourage is the word chosen here.  Not deer proof.  If you know of someone who is illegally dispatching deer, MDC encourages citizens to call Operation Game Thief or the local county agent.  Poaching is stealing opportunities from law abiding citizens and shouldn't be tolerated.  Thanks for the comments. 

There seems to be several posts on deer meat going to waste.  Many folks in our area do depend on the meat harvested each year to help feed their families, my family included.  Hunters are ethically and legally obligated to make every effort to recover game.  Even if they do not want the meat themselves, hunters can donate deer to Share the Harvest.  This program, supported by the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation as well as other donors, provides meat for Missouri families. Sportsman go through stages as we discuss in the Hunter Education classes.  Some hunters like the taste of a nice deer burger or deer chili while others really want that trophy buck.  Whatever your reason for getting out and hunting in the deer woods, we want everyone to have a safe hunt and if you are lucky enough to have a successful hunt, make sure that the meat is put to good use as well.  Thanks for all the interest in the Pine Needle.

It is called a full moon phase. While some decrease due to an abundance of acorns, is acceptable as a reason, it would not work state wide. Not all areas of the state have a bumper crop of acorns at the same time, and in the north, west, and east areas of the state, crops are a major food source, and in many areas, they were even out early this year, due to good harvest conditions. Deer just move more at night with a full moon, espectially after a day or two of hunting pressure.

Thanks for the comment. There are of course many factors that will enter into the number of deer harvests each year.  The acorn crop was a big factor in our area (Carter, Shannon, and Ripley Counties) along with the full moon and the weather.  We understand that the mast crop wasn't as big a factor in other areas.  There were a lucky few that did get a nice harvest but overall the numbers in our area were down.  Let's hope for a good turkey harvest to hold us over.

Why not do some changing in the seasons this next year or two? Why not make a early muzzle loader season like in the end of Sept and start bow season on Oct. 1st or something like that. The weather would be better and it would get more in the woods. And why make the youth season so late when the weather is so cold and bad? Wouldn't more kids hit the field if it was better weather? And the early youth season is always on Halloween, what kid is going to go hunt when they could go get free candy. And I will say I am a meat hunter I prefer a full freezer to a mount on the wall. I think the antler restriction should be removed. I, as a MO resident, don't care if out of state people come hunt here. I know it is all about the money in these hard times but to many people have forgotten about what hunting is,it is putting food on your table, being a sportsman is all about putting a mount on the wall. Many MO residents use the hunting seasons for food not for anything else.

Very good article.

I would like to comment on your blog regarding the 2010 deer harvest. Although you talk about the different seasons such as rifle, muzzleloader, archery and urban hunting results, you fail to mention all the deer that are harvested as nuissance deer by farmers. There are many hunters who would love the opportunity to help farmers with their problems and do it legally. There is too much killing and the meat goes to waste.

Maybe it is time to reconsider the doe harvest. I hunt in north Missouri and so does my family. Not seeing many does, one uncle saw 10 deer one evening during muzzleloader season in Macon County, eight were antlered bucks, not eating acorns, I think it"s time time to end some of the doe harvest.

This hunting season I saw an exceptional amount of deer and had the opportunity to harvest a wonderful 145 inch mature buck in Dent county this year. With 1 additional doe that was my first bow kill but now I see why there weren't as many deer as there were in previous seasons. I was thinking that we might have spooked them because we put out a lot of stand this year. Oh, and yes the deer were a lot bigger this year.

Glad to hear that you had a a good year, special congratulations on your first success with a bow. 

Muzzleloarder season starts today. What's up with the dates being so late and through the holidays. This will be the first season I've missed since it started. Just not right.

Our staff considers many things when establishing seasons. The estimated population and the mast or acorn crop are just two. We do try to get the information out in time for everyone to make plans.  Sorry it didn't work out for you this year but we hope you did have a good season after you were able to get into the wood.  I will pass along your comments.

Love all the available info on the various hunting seasons. Keep up the good work !

Do you not consider muzzleloader season part of the firearms season?

Would it be better to have a early muzzleloader season? I think some of the other states have a great idea in a earlier season. Make muzzleloader season the third week of September rather than in December when the weather is at its worst. With all the efforts to get more interest in hunting, this seems to be a way to do just that, a great way to boost our sales. Someone who might be young or older or has not been hunting a lot would be more likely to hunt with better weather instead of the freezing cold in Dec.

Thanks for the comments.  MDC staff are always looking to help make our hunting heritage stronger, including changing up seasons.  We feel it is important to have not only people hunting but having a good experience as well.  While the weather may be better for the hunter in September, the hunting may not be.  Hunting seems to be better when the weather is cooler.  And then there are the ticks and such.  A deer harvested in September will undoubledly have a tick problem. I will certainly pass your comments along to the proper folks and thanks so much for taking time to comment on the blog.  We genuinely appreciate it.

Deer harvest is down. Too many does have been harvested.

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