2002 Firearms Deer Harvest Sets Another Record

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The numbers are in, and they show that Missouri had another record-setting deer hunt in 2002, bringing 247,792 deer to check stations during 26 days of firearms deer hunting.

The 2002 firearms deer season included four segments. Youngsters killed 7,580 deer during the youth-only segment Nov. 2 and 3. Far and away the largest number of deer - 217,435 - were taken during the regular firearms segment, Nov. 16 through 26. The muzzleloader segment, Dec. 7 through 15 added 9,364 deer to the tally. The antlerless-only segment Dec. 19 through 22, closed out the 2002 firearms deer hunting season with another 13,413 deer checked.

Working with the same number of hunting days as last year, hunters increased the annual harvest by 12,318. Segment totals from last year were: youth, 6,277; regular, 205,867; muzzleloader, 8,662; antlerless only, 14,668.

The Conservation Department recorded eight non-fatal firearms-related accidents during the November segment and one during the antlerless-only segment. No fatal deer hunting accidents were reported, and the youth and muzzleloader seasons went by without reported mishaps.

The number of deer taken by firearms deer hunters in all four segments of the 2003 firearms deer season amount to approximately one quarter of the state's deer herd. Hansen said this level of harvest not only is sustainable, it's necessary.

"With 800,000 to a million deer in Missouri, it takes a significant annual harvest to control their reproductive potential," said Hansen. "Deer hunters provide this service at no cost to taxpayers, and in the process they put thousands of tons of lean, red meat on their tables."

Hansen noted that Missouri hunters donated more than 38 tons of venison to needy families last year through the Share the Harvest program.

Keeping the state's deer herd at acceptable levels also helps prevent deer-vehicle accidents, which cause millions of dollars worth of property damage annually and can prove fatal to motorists. In addition, maintaining the herd at the desired size minimizes damage to agricultural crops, commercial nurseries and residential landscaping.

"Ultimately, deer population also is an ecological issue," said Hansen. "In areas where deer numbers grow unchecked, their foraging decimates plant diversity."