Missouri's urban deer harvest down

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JEFFERSON CITY – Hunters checked 587 deer during Missouri’s four-day urban deer season, a decrease of 53 percent from last year. The Missouri Department of Conservation attributes the decrease to unseasonably warm weather.

According to the Midwest Regional Climate Center, the daily high temperature for the period Oct. 8 through 11 at Jefferson City over the past 60 years has been 72.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature for those four days this year – the urban deer season – averaged 83.7 degrees.

The following table shows harvest figures since the urban deer season began, along with average high temperatures at Sandborn Field in Boone County from the University of Missouri’s Historical Agricultural Weather Database.

YearHarvestHigh temp. (degrees F.)

Hunter participation in the urban hunt was very low the first year. This was mostly because the season lasted only two days instead of four, was limited to only the Kansas City and St. Louis areas, and was restricted to historic methods, which meant hunters could not use centerfire rifles. Leaving out 2003, the three years with the highest temperatures also were those with the lowest urban deer harvests. Last year, which had the coolest weather in the urban hunt’s eight-year history, saw an 83-percent jump in harvest from the previous year, when it was 25 degrees warmer. Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen said he does not believe the correlation is coincidental.

“The changes in the urban deer harvest between 2006 and 2007 and from 2008 through 2010 are really striking,” said Hansen. “The number of deer available to hunters certainly didn’t change that drastically from year to year. It seems clear to me that temperature is playing a huge role in determining harvest during the early season.”

Hansen said he also has observed a correlation between temperature and deer harvest on opening weekend of the November firearms deer season. He attributes the phenomenon partly to deer behavior and partly to hunter behavior.

According to Hansen, deer are less active in warm weather because they do not need to eat as much to maintain their body temperature. Moving around in warm weather probably is uncomfortable for deer in October, when they already have grown dense coats to insulate them from winter cold. He said hunters know deer are less active and are less inclined to hunt in warm weather because deer are harder to find.

“Many people just don’t feel like hunting deer in short-sleeve weather,” said Hansen. “It’s a practical matter, too. You don’t want to shoot a deer if you can’t cool it right away. Meat can spoil very quickly when the temperature is in the 70s or 80s. We probably would have better participation in the urban season if the weather was cooler at that time of year.”

Top harvest counties during this year’s urban hunt were Boone with 97 deer checked, St. Charles with 91 and Greene with 86.

Hunters are limited to shooting antlerless deer during the urban hunt. This year’s urban deer harvest consisted of 79 percent does. The idea is to allow hunters to control deer populations around human population centers, where deer-vehicle accidents are most prevalent.

-Jim Low-