Missouri Muzzleloader Harvest Sets Record

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Favorable weather and an abundance of tags left over from the November portion of Firearms Deer Season enabled Missouri hunters to check a record 13,372 deer during the Muzzleloader Portion Nov. 23 through Dec. 2. The strong showing boosts the running tally of this year's firearms deer harvest into the top five of all time.

Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen said unseasonably warm weather during most of the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season limited deer movement and, therefore, their visibility to hunters.

"I heard from lots of deer hunters who said they didn't see as many deer in November as they usually do," said Hansen. "When the muzzleloader portion rolled around, there were more people out there trying to fill deer tags, simply because they weren't successful in November."

He said deer were more active during the Muzzleloader Portion because the weather turned colder after Thanksgiving. The change in weather showed up in a harvest that topped last year's muzzleloader harvest by 42 percent and bested the muzzleloader harvest record set in 2004 by 12 percent.

The top three muzzleloader harvest counties were Oregon with 405, Osage with 294 and Jefferson with 292.

Regional harvest figures were: Ozark, 2,405; central, 2,239; northeast, 1,702; southeast, 1,647; northwest, 1,469; southwest, 1,442; St. Louis, 1,411; and Kansas City, 1,057.

The number of deer checked by hunters during the opening weekend of the November Portion was down by 32,647 - 25 percent - compared to the record-setting opening weekend of 2004. Hunters picked up the pace in the following nine days, however, checking 214,494 deer by the end of that portion. That was the fourth-largest number of deer ever taken during the November hunt and only 9 percent fewer than the all-time record of 235,409.

Missouri's more than 50,000 muzzleloader hunters further closed the gap between this and previous years' firearms deer kills. The number of deer taken by firearms hunters so far this year stands at 240,687, just 7 percent below last year's record figure.

With the nine-day Antlerless Portion of Firearms Deer Season still ahead, this year's total deer harvest almost certainly will rise at least one more place in all-time standings.

Since the antlerless hunt was moved from January to December five years ago, that portion’s harvest has averaged a little more than 21,500 deer. A modest harvest of 13,681 deer during the Antlerless Portion would be enough to propel this year's firearms harvest to third place.