Archive for Sunday, December 4, 2005

Slow start cuts harvest of whitetail in Missouri

December 4, 2005

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A disappointing opening weekend left Missouri deer hunters down, but not out.

Taking advantage of good weather, they gained ground and closed the November firearms deer season with the fifth-largest deer harvest in Missouri history.

This year's November firearms harvest total was 205,460. That is 16,869 fewer than last year's record harvest of 222,329, but more than might have been expected following the opening weekend.

"We started out slow," said Lonnie Hansen, state deer biologist. "Opening weekend was just not ideal. It rained, and it blew, and that affected our harvest."

Acorns abundant

Hansen had noted earlier that an abundant acorn crop was likely to make hunting tough, especially in the southern half of the state.

Deer in forested areas rely heavily in acorns for food. In years when acorns are scarce, deer often gather in fields or areas of acorn abundance to forage. This makes them more vulnerable to hunters.

In years of acorn abundance, deer travel less and are scattered, making them less visible.

The November firearms deer season always opens on a Saturday and spans two weekends. In most years, more than half the deer taken during the entire 11-day season fall during the first two days.

This year's opening weekend harvest was down 30,591 (23 percent) from last year's record-setting season opener.

Hansen said he expected this year's total firearms deer harvest to be within the normal range - somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000.

Northwest increased

The only region where the deer harvest increased this year was northwest Missouri. Fourteen out of 19 counties in this area were affected by antler-point restrictions that went into effect last year.

Under that rule, hunters can only shoot antlered deer if they have four or more points on one side.

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