This year’s archery deer and turkey hunting season will open this Sunday, Sept. 15. The Missouri Department of Conservation expects a lower than average deer harvest for the 2013 deer seasons.
One of Missouri’s head deer biologists, Emily Flinn, recently stated that the reduced harvest is expected due to two primary factors. Flinn said Missouri’s deer herd was effectively reduced in 2012 due to the combined effects of hunting pressure and hemorrhagic disease (HD). During the 2012 HD outbreak, 10,177 suspected HD related deer deaths were reported to MDC. During this outbreak, Conservation Agent Jeff Crites and I received more than 200 HD related deer death reports in Texas County.
These reports most likely represent a fraction of the true impact that this HD outbreak had on our deer population. The second factor that Flinn stated would affect the 2013 deer harvest is our abundant acorn crop. Abundant acorn years reduce deer movement that often reduces visible deer during the hunting season. For best hunting success during high acorn crop years, I have found that focusing hunting pressure on watering holes and areas where deer are actively feeding is crucial. Therefore, hunters will need to spend more time scouting for fresh deer feeding activity this fall and allow their stand locations to be flexible depending on these active feeding and watering areas.
It is important to note that hemorrhagic disease, which includes the bluetongue virus, should not be confused with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Hemorrhagic disease is most common during severe summer and fall droughts similar to the drought we experienced in 2012. During drought conditions, deer congregate at watering holes where the disease is spread by a small biting midge fly. Disease outbreaks end when cold weather kills the host flies.
Deer generally show symptoms of HD within days of being infected, but not all infected deer die from HD. Missouri deer have been affected by HD type viruses for many years. On the other hand, Chronic Wasting Disease is new to Missouri’s deer herd and was first detected in 2010 and 2011 in captive deer at big-game hunting preserves in Linn and Macon counties. To date, a total of 11 CWD cases have been confirmed in captive deer facilities. Since 2011, CWD has been found in 10 free-ranging deer within two miles of the captive deer facility in Macon County. Fortunately, CWD has not made its way south of the Missouri River in Missouri. CWD is spread both by deer-to-deer contact and from deer contact with infected soil and surfaces. The disease has no vaccine or cure and is 100 percent fatal. If CWD continues to spread in Missouri’s deer herd, it could have a devastating effect on our deer population that will further impact the quality of our deer hunting in Missouri.
For further information regarding CWD, MDC is hosting multiple public meetings to inform the public about Missouri deer and CWD. The closest meeting location for Texas county residents is 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the West Plains Civic Center, 110 St. Louis St.
For information regarding the fall hunting season dates and regulations obtain the 2013 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information pamphlet from local permit vending locations. For further assistance with hunting and other conservation related topics, contact your conservation agents Chris Ely at 417-260-2865 or Jeff Crites at 417-260-2855.