Firearms Deer Harvest Up
Missouri's 2003 firearms deer season had some ups and downs, but the final tally shows that hunters bagged 254,367 deer. That is up almost three percent from last year's record harvest of 247,826.
This was the first year for the Urban Portion of Firearms Deer Hunting Season. Hunters bagged 91 deer in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas Oct. 25 and 26.
Missouri's third youth deer hunting season Nov. 1 and 2 yielded a harvest of 9,054, up 1,327 from the previous year's record.
The number of deer taken during the regular firearms deer season just before Thanksgiving each year always dwarfs the combined kill of the other deer season segments. Alternately windy, rainy and unseasonably warm weather hampered hunters' efforts during the 11-day November Portion this year, holding the harvest down to 208,940. That was 8,308 below the record set in 2002.
Armed with extra days and tags, hunters made up some lost ground during the 10-day Muzzleloader Portion of deer season, bagging a record 11,131 deer Nov. 28 through Dec. 7. That was 1,726 more than in 2002.
The nine-day Antlerless-Only Segment Dec. 13 through 21 closed out the season on an upbeat note with a harvest of 25,151 deer. That is 11,738 more than the 2002 figure of 13,446.
The Conservation Department recorded 13 firearms-related accidents during the 2003 Firearms Deer Season. Two of those accidents were fatal. The safest year in Missouri history was 2000, when the Conservation Department recorded only four firearms-related deer hunting accidents. The worst was 1986, with 26.
The number of deer taken by firearms deer hunters this year is approximately one quarter of the state's estimated deer population. Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen said deer hunters perform an invaluable service to the state.
"Without the brake that the deer harvest applies to deer reproduction, one of two things would happen. Either we would see an awful increase in agricultural and property damage and deer-vehicle accidents, or the state would have to spend millions of dollars controlling the herd some other way. Instead, we get millions of hours of outdoor enjoyment and millions of pounds of meat on Missourians' tables."
Hansen noted that hunters aren't the only ones whose tables are enriched by Missouri's deer harvest. Each year, deer hunters donate approximately 40 tons of venison to food banks and charities statewide through the Share the Harvest program.