COLUMBIA — This weekend marked the beginning of Sean Ernst's first firearms deer season as the Missouri Department of Conservation's Boone County agent. Although hunters in Boone County killed 327 more deer than they did opening weekend last year, Ernst said he didn't feel overworked.
Ernst spent most of his time tracking down poachers, watching Telecheck reports and ticketing people who were baiting deer. Overall, he said, it was a good weekend — particularly weatherwise.
Nov. 23 — The regular firearms deer season ends.
Nov. 24 to Dec. 5 — The firearms antlerless deer season.
Nov. 24 to Jan. 15 — The second round of archery deer season.
Dec. 18-28 — The muzzleloader deer season.
Jan. 1-2 — The second youth firearms weekend.
“It’s cooler in the morning and warmer in the afternoon, which is comfortable for hunters,” Ernst said.
The season opened a half-hour before sunset on Saturday. According to a news release from the conservation department, the harvest numbers in the state were up almost 14 percent since last year, with 97,856 deer checked compared to 86,202 in 2009 during the first two days of the season. According to the department's website, 1,057 deer were harvested in Boone County this weekend, compared to the 730 harvested opening weekend last year.
As of 4:45 p.m. Monday, hunters had killed 1,914 deer in Boone County. Last year, they had only killed 923 deer by late afternoon on the fourth day of the season because heavy rain forced many hunters back home.
As of Monday evening, Callaway, Benton, Macon and Howell counties were leading the state in number of deer killed. Callaway reported 2,827 deer taken, while Benton reported 2,783, Macon reported 2,685, and Howell reported 2,530. Those high numbers are a product of many factors, including the landscape, deer populations and number of hunters, Ernst said..
The conservation department reported that there were three self-inflicted injuries, two incidents of tree-stand falls and no hunting-related deaths across the state during opening weekend.
There were no accidents reported in Boone County, but there were several poaching incidents.
One person shot a deer from a passenger car on Coats Lane in southwestern Boone County, Ernst said. A passenger in the vehicle went to retrieve the deer, but hunters scared him off. The person returned later that night, but hunters again were watching.
Ernst sat near the deer for a few hours, but the person never returned. He encourages hunters who witness people shooting at deer from the road to get license plate numbers.
Ernst also ticketed several people for baiting deer.
Before opening weekend, agents used helicopters to patrol northeastern Howard and northwestern Boone counties for locations that looked baited. After confirming those sites baited with corn, Ernst contacted people hunting over corn piles and made the necessary arrests.
The hunters were aware that baiting deer is a violation, Ernst said, but some of them didn't know they were hunting over corn piles.
The conservation department is once again using its Telecheck system to do a form of electronic patrolling. Telecheck allows hunters to check in their deer online or by telephone, which tells the department when and where they killed their deer and whether they killed bucks or does. Agents can watch that data to look for anomalies that tell them whether the registrations are legitimate.
"Telecheck can be a fantastic enforcement tool," Ernst said.
Hunters who haven't bagged a deer yet shouldn't worry, Ernst said.
“Keep your chin up, and get back out there and keep trying," he said. "There’s a lot of time left to harvest deer."