State officials expect hefty deer harvest
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November 8, 2001

State officials expect hefty deer harvest

This year's harvest probably will be slightly smaller than last year's, but with average weather, the November firearms kill should be near 200,000.

With the statewide deer population hovering near 1 million and a modest acorn crop, Missouri hunters are looking at another excellent hunting season. State officials say they expect hunters to kill approximately 200,000 deer during the November firearms deer season.

Missouri's fall firearms deer season consists of three segments. The most popular is the November segment, which runs from Nov. 10 through Nov. 20 this year. This 11-day season accounts for about 90 percent of the annual deer kill. Missouri also has a nine-day segment from Dec. 1 through Dec. 9 for hunters using muzzle-loading firearms, and a four-day segment Jan. 5 through Jan. 8 in parts of northern Missouri.

Young hunters got a season of their own on Oct. 27 and 28 for the first time this year. This segment, open to hunters 15 and younger, isn't expected to significantly affect the overall deer harvest.

DEER HUNTING PROSPECTS BRIGHT

Lonnie Hansen, a wildlife research biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says deer numbers are stable or increasing slightly in the central, east-central and Ozark regions. The deer herd is stable in north-central and northeastern Missouri and stable to slightly shrinking in northwestern and southwestern parts of the state. Overall, the size of the state's deer herd is stable.

The availability of acorns also affects deer-hunting success. Hansen says early reports indicate that this year's acorn crop is modest.

An abundant acorn crop makes hunting tougher. That's because deer can find their favorite food anywhere, and are spread throughout the state's forests. A sparse acorn crop forces deer to concentrate around pockets of good acorn production or seek alternative foods in more open areas, where they are easier to locate.

Acorn production is most significant to hunting success in the Ozarks, where forest covers most of the landscape and deer rely heavily on acorns for sustenance. It's less of a factor in the northern half of the state, where the landscape is more open and deer have agricultural crops to supplement their diets.

The biggest factor in determining annual deer harvest is weather. Fair weather encourages hunters to spend more time in the field, increasing the chances they will cross paths with deer. Cool weather prompts deer to move around more, further increasing hunter's chances of encountering their quarry. Weather conditions that are unseasonably warm, uncomfortably cold or rainy generally decrease deer harvest.

"Last year's conditions were exceptional," said Hansen. "Everything fell together perfectly, and we had a record harvest of more than 200,000 deer during the November firearms deer season. We could come near that figure again this year with favorable weather, but chances are we will see a slightly smaller harvest than last year."

SOME REGULATION CHANGES

Hansen urged deer hunters to buy deer permits at least a week or two before the season and study the 2001 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information booklet before the season. He said most of this year's regulations, including the area open during the January Extension, are the same as last year. But he said there are significant changes this year.

The most conspicuous change is in deer permits. In recent years, these were printed on thin paper and were separate from the self-adhesive tags placed on deer in the field. This year's permits are more substantial, and come with transportation tags attached.

"It's important for hunters to know that they have to leave the transportation tags attached to the permits until they kill a deer," Hansen said. "Removing the tag invalidates the permit."

Hansen said it also is important to leave the protective backing on the permit after the tag is removed and placed on a deer. Check station personnel will remove the backing and stick the permit on the check sheet when they record each deer.

Unlike some recent years, when permit sales ended a week before the season opener, hunters will be able to buy permits right up to the last minute. Hansen said that isn't a good idea, however.

"To begin with, you're likely to end up standing in line to get your permit," he said. "Any questions or problems are more difficult for the Conservation Department to address when the start of the season is only hours away and hunters are in a hurry to get to their deer camps.

Buying permits early also gives you time to look through the deer hunting brochure and get familiar with the regulations."

One change in this year's deer hunting regulation changes gives hunters more flexibility in where they hunt. For the first time this year, you can buy an any-deer permit and bonus, antlerless-only permits for different deer-management units.

As of last year, muzzleloader permits no longer are available. Firearms deer permits are good for all three segments.

Rules for the January Extension are the same as last year, too. A hunter with an unfilled any-deer or bonus deer tag for any unit may hunt during the January Extension in any open unit. This segment is for antlerless deer only.

No hunter, including landowners, can legally take more than a total of three deer during all three segments of the firearms deer season. However, deer taken on Managed Deer Hunting Permits or archery permits do not count toward the firearms deer season total.


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