Deer harvest totals follow recent trends, provide predictable coming seasons

Once the leaves finally fell off of the trees, the deer season took on a look of normalcy. The unofficial numbers from the November portion of firearms season were very similar to recent years. (Actually, it seems there are still a remarkable number of trees still holding tight to their summer wardrobe.)

Conservation agent Cpl. Lexis Wilson with a young hunter at the CWD sampling station in Herculaneum on opening weekend. (Photo from the MDC Facebook page.)

Opening weekend weather included a mix of wind and rain through two days of pretty typical November weather, and hunters responded by taking nearly 90,000 deer. In round numbers it’s pretty easy to predict what to expect throughout the state’s four months of deer hunting.

Opening weekend usually accounts for a quarter to a third of the overall harvest, so a number close to 100,000 has come to be expected. The rest of the November portion can count on just about the same number of deer, as hunters add to their personal totals or use the second weekend and last nine days to make up for missed opportunities.

The other segments, including archery, two youth seasons, antlerless and alternative methods are likely to reach or exceed another 100,000 deer, bringing the annual total to nearly 300,000, which has been a consistent mark.

Other true to form data regards the top harvest counties. Franklin and Texas counties take full advantage of their large geography and strong habitat to lead the way year after year. Jefferson County found its way into the top five this year with about 4,200 deer taken.

When the archery season paused for the November portion, Jefferson County was maintaining its dominance, leading the way for the tenth consecutive year with 1,173 deer checked. Callaway and Franklin counties were the only other locations to top four-digits with 1,031 and 1,034 respectively.

Still to come is an extended antlerless portion beginning Dec. 4. The season that allows hunter to only shoot does or young bucks with antlers less than three inches had been three days long, but this year will stretch through two weekends until Dec. 12.

Only 15 of Missouri’s 114 counties are excluded during the season. Hunters can use their any-deer or antlerless firearms permits. Limits are determined by county. Hunters in Jefferson County may fill two antlerless permits again this year.

The alternative methods season opens on Christmas Day and continues until Jan. 4, 2022. Known mostly as muzzleloader season, hunters can use cap and ball or other muzzle-loading long rifles or pistols that shoot a .40 caliber or larger, single projectile. Also legal are .40-caliber air rifles, centerfire handguns, airbows, long bows, crossbows or atlatls.

Mandatory chronic wasting disease sampling on opening weekend in Jefferson and 33 other counties resulted in collection of lymph node tissue samples from 18,700 hunter-harvested deer for testing.

“We greatly appreciate the participation and support of the many thousands of hunters who presented their deer for CWD sampling during opening weekend,” said Jasmine Batten, state Department of Conservation wildlife health program supervisor. “The high number of samples collected during opening weekend gives MDC scientists a much better understanding of the distribution and prevalence of the disease. It also helps us to find new cases in new areas as early as possible, which is very important.”

Including the recent sampling efforts, the state has collected more than 173,000 tissue samples for testing since the disease was first detected in wild deer in Missouri in early 2012. To date, the state has found 206 confirmed cases of CWD since sampling began.

Hunters are encouraged to take the deer they harvest in other portions of the hunting season to voluntary sampling locations at taxidermists and meat processors throughout the state. The testing is free for hunters and results are available in three to four weeks through the conservation department website. For more information visit mdc.mo.gov/cwd.

Originally published by Leader Publications Dec. 2, 2021.

Published by John J. Winkelman

A freelance outdoor writer for more than 30 years

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