COLUMBIA — The state’s top deer biologist on Thursday said firearms hunters are on pace to match 2007 numbers before the season ends next week. A year ago, firearms deer season harvested 213,386 deer out of the year's total of 300,915.
“Given the first weekend, we’re down a couple thousand,” Lonnie Hansen of the Missouri Department of Conservation said. “but basically, I think we’ll take about what we took last year.”
At 3 p.m. Thursday, Boone County had checked 680 antlered bucks, 211 button bucks and 753 does for a total of 1,644. Statewide, the total was 140,765.
Saturday’s opening day featured cool weather and scattered flurries, which may have limited the amount of time hunters spent in the field.
“Cool weather is good because it ensures that deer activity will be high,” Hansen said. “The conditions were very good. On the downside, on opening day, hunters probably spent less time in the woods.”
Hansen said that the buck harvest was down 8,000 over opening weekend, and the doe harvest was up 5,000.
“One of the primary reasons for this is because we implemented antler restrictions in 65 counties,” Hansen said. Previously, antler-point restrictions were implemented in 29 counties.
Antler-point restrictions were established in 2004, and an antlered deer must have at least four points on one side to be taken. In the first year, there was a 12 percent increase in the doe harvest and a 1 percent decrease in the buck harvest.
“I tend to think it’s going to be at least as good as last year,” Hansen said of this season’s harvest.
Robyn Raisch, a conservation agent for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the deer are healthy and that the total population has declined.
“I think the numbers of deer are down slightly, which is a positive,” Raisch said. “We are finally accomplishing our goals of managing deer populations.”
The main way of managing deer populations, Raisch said, is through hunting. Opportunities for hunters have increased in the past 20 years.
“There are more than 30 days of firearms deer season in Boone County,” Raisch said. “In the mid-80s, we only had a nine-day deer season.”
Raisch said there have been no injuries reported in Boone County during the firearms season.
The Conservation Department has created an online interactive map that is updated several times each hour from the Telecheck database, which gathers deer and turkey checks by phone and Internet. Telecheck was introduced during spring turkey season in 2005 and was the compulsory way to check deer and turkey by fall of the same year.
“Our goal with the deer harvest map in particular is that we wanted to show a breakdown by county,” Lance Jungmeyer, the Conservation Department's digital communications manager, said. “Hunters are really interested in that sort of thing. They go hunting in a certain county and are always interested to know the tally.”
Jungmeyer said they have had a positive response to the map, which has been turned into a widget for posting on Web sites and blogs. Jungmeyer said he had seen the widget on a blog by a seventh grader from Raymore.
Bill Crane of Crane’s Meat Processing in Ashland said he expects to process 500 deer this season, which is normal. He has seen an increase in at-home processing. People will bring their meat to the Crane’s for further processing, which Crane said can include summer sausage, jerky, breakfast sausage and bratwurst.
“This year’s been cold, and a lot of people have been cutting meat themselves,” Crane said.
Tim Schwennesen, owner of Tune’s Locker Plant in Centralia, said the locker is “probably down 400 deer” this season. “Across the state, all the lockers are in the same position. All are down 50 percent from what they normally do.”
Schwennesen said there were three probable reasons why the number of deer being taken to butchers is lower.
- Tune’s closed earlier for major repairs to a freezer, Schwennesen said, and some might not have known it reopened.
- The economy might also be related.
- The state has expanded antler point restrictions to 65 counties.
“They’re having four-point restrictions, so they’ve either got to hunt a big buck or a doe, and a lot of guys are going for the buck,” Schwennesen said.