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January 6, 2011

Muzzleloader Hunters Push Firearms Deer Harvest Above 230,000

Hunters with front-loading firearms shot 12,940 deer during Missouri's 11-day muzzleloader season, bringing this year's firearms deer harvest total to more than 230,000 statewide.

The muzzleloader harvest was the third-largest in the season's 23-year history and well above the 10-year average of 11,312. It still did not surpass last season's total of 13,476 deer but points to growing popularity of the sport. Top muzzleloader harvest counties were Oregon with 277 deer killed, Macon with 268 and Franklin with 267.

Scotland County hunters bagged 222 deer during the muzzleloader season, up 95 from last season's total. That ranked third highest in the northeast recording region, trailing just Macon County (268) and Pike County (228).

Snowfall, which makes deer more visible to hunters, may have boosted this year's muzzleloader harvest, according to Lonnie Hansen, a resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

"We had snow on the ground for both weekends of this year's muzzleloader season," said Hansen. "The weather during some of the season was pretty extreme, and that might actually have held down the harvest a little. Overall, though, I think the weather probably was a help to hunters."

The final segment of Missouri's firearms deer season is the late youth portion January 1 and 2. The harvest during last year's late youth hunt was 1,706. Archery season will close on January 15th.

Clark County was one of just two northeast Missouri counties to witness a decreased harvest during muzzleloader season. It was down one deer to 121 in 2010. Ralls County's total dropped 12 deer to 98.

Scotland County had the biggest increase (+95), accounting for nearly 1/3 of the regions upswing (+333) to 2,295 deer for the 15 counties. Adair County hunters tagged 44 more deer to reach 206. Knox County was up 18 deer to 168. Schuyler County was up 8 deer to total 71 while Putnam County hunters turned in 18 more deer to reach 185.

The northeast region's total was comprised of 1,492 does, 384 button bucks and 419 antlered bucks.

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