Weather thwarts early deer harvest

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Missouri's hunters killed 69,653 deer during the first two days of the fall firearms season Saturday and Sunday -- a 22.4 percent decrease from a year ago, when 89,732 deer were killed.

Rain and wind hampered hunters, who have hauled in fewer deer the last two years during opening weekend.

"The harvest is purely weather related," said Missouri Department of Conservation resource scientist Jason Sumners. "The rain on Sunday kept people out of the woods."

Warm, windy conditions also might have kept deer from moving as much as normal, Sumners said, even though Saturday's harvest of 46,000 deer was considered average.

"You just can't shoot 20,000 deer on the opening Sunday and have a high weekend total," he said.

Sumners is not concerned about the low harvest, noting Sunday was "just a bad day.

"It was a one-day anomaly," he said. "We'll catch up pretty quickly."

Hunters already are catching up, as he predicted. On Monday they killed 30,000 deer, in what Sumners called "normal conditions."

Hunters in most local counties bucked the statewide trend, with a better opening weekend harvest than last year.

In the Ozarks Region, hunters tagged 10,730 deer, down from the 11,478 taken a year ago.

Hunters in the Southeast Region killed 7,889 deer, slightly higher than last year's 7,803.

In Butler County, hunters shot 585 deer, a substantial increase from last year's 461.

"Our hunting pressure was average," said Butler County conservation agent John Pratt. "The warm, windy weather may have kept some people out of the woods, and we saw a few less camps than we normally do."

Pratt said he received several reports of hunters shooting at deer after legal shooting hours, as well as shooting in places where they didn't have permission to hunt. Road hunting also was a problem.

"Several people apparently were riding around and shooting from public roadways," he said.

Pratt participated, along with 15 other conservation department staff, in a roadblock along Highway 53 in Dunklin County on Sunday afternoon, when contact was made with 200 people. Fourteen wildlife violations were noted, he said, and four arrests were made.

The roadblocks "keep honest people honest, and overall the compliance was really good, " Pratt said.

Hunters in Stoddard County took home 440 deer, up from 414 in 2011, while those in Dunklin County tagged 69, which was down 12 from last year.

Wayne County hunters led the area with 1,430 deer killed, which was the state's third-highest county total. The harvest also was a large increase from last year's 1,215.

The percentage of bucks in the harvest was high, Sumners said, because of the timing of the rut.

"We're a little early with our season this year, and those few days make a big difference," he said.

Along with Wayne, the counties with the highest totals were Howell with 1,464, and Texas with 1,435.

One nonfatal accident was reported in Osage County.

The forecast for the remainder of the season looks good for hunters, with cold nights and moderate daytime temperatures.

The firearms deer season continues through Nov. 20, and will be followed by an antlerless season in some northern counties Nov. 21 through Dec. 6. A statewide alternative-methods season will run Dec. 15 through 25. The second segment of the youth deer season is set for Dec. 29 through 30.

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