Missouri hunters took to the woods Saturday, Nov. 13, for fall firearms season. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

JEFFERSON CITY – Torrential rains, snow and sub-zero temperatures failed to deter Missouri hunters from posting the fourth-largest deer harvest ever, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The 2009-2010 deer season closed Jan. 15 with the end of archery hunting. Altogether, hunters checked 299,461 deer.

The firearms deer season got off to a good start as hunters bagged nearly twice as many deer during the four-day urban portion of firearms deer season as they had the previous year. Youths maintained this pace, checking almost 3,000 more deer in the two-day early youth portion than in 2008.

Things slowed down dramatically during opening weekend of the November portion. Torrential rains descended on much of the state on the second day, reducing deer activity and keeping many hunters indoors. With half the weekend washed out, hunters killed only 86,200 deer.

Opening weekend ordinarily accounts for approximately 60 percent of the November portion harvest. In 2008, hunters checked more than 98,000 deer on opening weekend, and that was down considerably from the record of more than 133,000 set in 2004.

Hunters made up some of the opening-weekend deficit of 12,000 deer during the remaining nine days of the November hunt, but still closed that portion with a modest harvest of 193,155.

Ten years ago, a reduced November harvest guaranteed a low end-of-season tally. But with the 12-day antlerless portion still ahead, plus 11 days of muzzleloader hunting and a two-day late youth portion still to come, hunters rallied to catch up.

The antlerless harvest topped the previous year by more than 7,000. Muzzleloader hunters set a new record during their portion of the season, a 55-percent increase from the previous year. Young hunters shot 1,706 deer during the late youth portion, in spite of brutally cold weather. This made the total youth harvest, a 44-percent increase from 2008.

Firearms hunters handed the baton to archers with a comfortable lead of 10,000 deer on the 2008 deer harvest. Bowhunters never looked back, topping the record archery harvest set in 2008 by 7,538. The deer that archers checked made Missouri’s 2009-2010 deer harvest the fourth-largest on record.

The 2009-2010 deer season included 42 days of firearms hunting and 112 days of archery hunting. Seasons and harvest totals were:

*Urban portion Oct. 9-12 – 1,242.

*Early youth portion Oct. 31-Nov. 1 – 13,328.

*November portion Nov. 14-24 – 193,155

*Antlerless portion Nov. 25-Dec. 6 – 22,151.

*Muzzleloader portion Dec. 19-29 – 15,907

*Late youth portion Jan. 2-3 – 1,706.

*Archery season Sept. 15-Nov. 13 and Nov. 25-Jan 15 – 51,972.

The conservation department recorded 10 firearms-related deer hunting incidents, one of which was fatal.

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