COLUMBIA — Hunters killed 204,668 deer in Missouri during the 11-day firearms season that ended Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Conservation reported. That number is up 7.7 percent from last year and the highest number in five years.
The department attributed much of the increase to success among hunters in southern Missouri, where a poor acorn crop caused in part by severe drought had deer moving out of the forests and into more concentrated feeding areas such as crop fields and food plots.
Hunters in Boone County killed 1,779 deer during the season, which began Nov. 10. That number was down from the 2,104 taken in Boone County during the same season in 2011.
Excellent hunting weather over the past weekend helped hunters recover from a dismal opening weekend, when warmth and wind followed by cold and rain presented challenging weather conditions.
Eight of the 10 counties with the highest numbers of deer killed were south of the Missouri River. Howell County ranked first with 4,037 deer taken. Texas County was second at 3,916, and Benton third with 3,756. Boone County ranked 46th among Missouri's 114 counties.
In Boone County, the total number of deer taken thus far is 2,698. That includes numbers from the first part of the archery season from Sept. 15 through Nov. 9, from the youth season Nov. 3 and 4 and from the urban season Oct. 6 to 9.
Hunters in Boone County have killed 1,290 does, 1,050 antlered bucks and 358 button bucks thus far this autumn. Button bucks are young male deer that have not yet developed antlers.
Hunting success in southern Missouri matched the forecast issued by the Conservation Department before the season began. Although the effect of a poor acorn mast was present across much of the state, the concentration of woodlands in the south exacerbated the impact.
Jason Sumners, a resource scientist for the Conservation Department, said in a news release that the southeast region of Missouri reported the largest increase in numbers of deer killed over last year at 30 percent. The Ozark region saw an increase of 24 percent, the St. Louis region 18 percent, the southwest region 17 percent and the central region 10 percent.
The Kansas City and northeast regions saw decreases of 6 percent, while the northwest region saw a 9 percent decline. Sumners said that's no surprise, given declining numbers of deer in those areas and the management strategies employed by the department in recent years.
Forty-four percent of the deer killed during the recent firearms season were does.
"The increase in doe harvest is somewhat indicative of growing deer numbers in southern Missouri," Sumners said in the release. "However, it is concerning if doe harvest increased in counties hit hard by hemorrhagic diseases. This could significantly set back deer populations in some areas to the point where it might take some time to recover."
Deer hunters have weeks of opportunities remaining in Missouri.
The "any-deer" season that ended Tuesday allowed hunters to kill one buck along with multiple anterless deer, although some counties remained under antler restrictions designed to allow young bucks to mature and grow larger racks.
From Wednesday through Dec. 2, hunters can use firearms to take only antlerless deer, which includes does and button bucks. The archery season also resumed Wednesday and will continue through Jan. 15.
An alternative methods season, which allows hunters to use muzzleloaders, centerfire pistols or revolvers, crossbows and atlatls, runs from Dec. 15 through 25.
Complete statistics on the deer kill are available on the Conservation Department's website.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.