JEFFERSON CITY–Hunters checked 190,089 deer during Missouri’s 11-day November firearms deer hunt, slightly surpassing last year’s figure despite a slow start on opening weekend.
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 1,884 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 3,284. 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 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. “Resident deer hunters and a significant number of hunters from out of state spend approximately $700 million on their sport. That spending generates more than $1 billion in business activity. In all, deer hunting supports 11,000 Missouri jobs. In these economic times, that’s a big boost to the state’s economy.”