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With the most popular weekend for most Missouri deer hunters Saturday and Sunday, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says deer numbers look good and reminds hunters of key regulations.
The second weekend in November marks the opening of this year’s November portion of the firearms deer season, which runs Nov. 13-23. According to MDC, the opening weekend of the November portion of firearms deer season is the most popular two days for most deer hunters in Missouri. Hunters typically harvest between a quarter to a third of the state’s total annual deer harvest during those two days. Hunters harvested a total of 297,214 deer during the 2020-’21 deer season. Of that total, 80,744 were taken during opening weekend of the November portion, about 27 percent of the total harvest.
According to MDC, this season’s harvest should be higher than average due to increasing deer numbers across most of the state coupled with increased firearms antlerless permit availability in several counties and an extension of the antlerless portion.
“The deer population is increasing throughout much of the state,” said MDC Cervid Program Supervisor Jason Isabelle. “Deer numbers have been slowly increasing in southern Missouri for many years due to conservative harvest regulations. Populations in most of central and northern Missouri have rebounded from the severe hemorrhagic disease (HD) outbreak that occurred in 2012. In most counties, deer numbers are at desired levels and our surveys indicate that most hunters are satisfied with the numbers of deer they are seeing. An exception would be in far northwestern Missouri where the HD outbreak of 2012 coupled with habitat loss has resulted in populations being below desired levels in some counties.”
HD is a relatively common viral disease of deer that is transmitted by biting midge flies. During most years, MDC receives at least some reports of HD. This year, HD reports were not particularly numerous. However, 2012 was a particularly severe outbreak with more than 10,000 suspected HD cases reported in Missouri. Learn more at mdc.mo.gov/wildlife/wildlife-diseases/hemorrhagic-disease.
Following the severe HD outbreak of 2012, MDC reduced the number of firearms antlerless permits in many counties and reduced the length of the antlerless portion of firearms deer season.
As deer numbers have since rebounded, MDC has increased antlerless-deer-harvest opportunities, including increasing firearms antlerless permits. The antlerless portion of firearms deer season has also been extended from three to nine days this year.
MANAGING POPULATION IS BALANCING ACT
Isabelle explained that managing deer populations is a balancing act.
“We strive to manage the population so that we have enough deer that hunters and wildlife viewers are satisfied, but not so many as to create unsafe driving conditions or overburden farmers,” he said. “Each year, we evaluate the status of the deer population in each county and determine the optimal regulations based on both the population trend and where deer numbers are in relation to levels that are acceptable to our stakeholders.”
He noted the deer harvest total during the early youth portion of firearms season, Oct. 30-31, was similar to last year and about average for the past five years.
He added that a warmer start to the season has resulted in this year’s archery season harvest total running behind last year’s total at this time.
“During the early part of last year’s archery season, we had some unseasonably cool temperatures that resulted in great hunting conditions,” Isabelle said. “The warmer temperatures we had to start the season this year have suppressed harvest a bit compared to last year.”
Missouri’s archery deer and turkey season continues through Nov. 12 and resumes Nov. 24 through Jan. 15. The November portion of firearms deer season runs Nov. 13-23 followed by the late youth portion Nov. 26-28. The antlerless portion of firearms deer season runs Dec. 4-12 followed by the alternative methods portion Dec. 25 through Jan. 4, 2022.
Learn more about deer hunting in Missouri online at mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer.
Get more information on deer hunting and CWD from MDC’s 2021 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where hunting permits are sold and online at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zyy.
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The woods will fill with hunter orange Saturday as the start of the 11-day fall firearms season begins across the state.