COLUMBIA – The antlerless-only firearm deer season ended Sunday, and the Missouri Department of Conservation reported a 23 percent decrease in the number of deer checked in by hunters.
Boone County conservation agent Robyn Raisch said the explanation for the decrease is easy. “All you have to do is look at the weather.”
The total: 15,036 deer killed statewide during the nine-day anterless-only season, which allows hunters to kill only does or young button bucks that have not yet formed antlers. But high winds, ice and below-zero wind chills caused some folks to opt out of hunting.
The antlerless deer season began Dec. 13. Boone County is one of 67 counties — mostly in north, central and western Missouri — that are included in the season, which represents an extra effort to control the deer population. Permits may be purchased specifically for antlerless deer, or hunters can use permits they did not fill during previous 2008 firearm seasons.
“The season offers an additional opportunity to reduce the deer herd,” said Brian Canaday, regional supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
In the big picture, this year's deer kill isn't as far behind last year as the anterless season alone was. All totaled, Missouri hunters during firearms seasons in 2008 have taken 237,047 deer. That's down 9 percent from the 260,162 deer killed in 2007.
There are five different portions of the firearm season. Hunters in Missouri killed 678 deer during the urban counties season, 10,400 during the youth season in November, 10,254 during the muzzleloader season earlier this month and 200,679 during the regular 11-day firearm season in November, when both bucks that meet antler-point restrictions and antlerless deer are legal.
Boone County is included in all those seasons, and this year saw an increase of 75 more deer checked this year, or a total of 2,371.
Raisch said deer management is important in urban areas such as Columbia because it helps reduce deer-related accidents and nuisances in town.
Another reason for the reduced deer kill this year is the liberalization of bag limits. Twenty years ago, many hunters were allowed to kill only a single buck. Over time, however, the conservation department has allowed hunters to take more deer — especially does — in an attempt to control and manage the herd. In recent years, for example, hunters in most counties are able to kill as many anterless deer as they want, provided they buy a permit for each one.
“We are finally starting to reach a point where deer are more stable,” Raisch. “It’s important to find a happy medium between land owners and deer.”