Muzzleloader Deer Harvest Follows Downward Trend

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Missouri’s muzzleloader deer hunting season saw 15 percent fewer deer checked than last year. The decreased muzzleloader harvest follows the trend set in the three preceding portions of firearms deer season.

Hunters checked 10,115 deer during the muzzleloader season Nov. 25 through Dec. 4. That is down 1,823 from last year’s record mark of 11,938, but still the third-largest number since the muzzleloader season began in 1988.

All three preceding portions of the 2005 firearms deer season also have shown harvest decreases. The urban firearms deer hunt Oct. 7 through 10 saw a 12 percent decrease. The harvest during the youth deer hunt Oct. 29 and 30 decreased 19 percent. The deer kill during the regular firearms deer season Nov. 12 through 22, when most deer are taken, was down 7.6 percent.

"I am not surprised to learn the muzzleloader harvest was down, too,' said Lonnie Hansen, a resource scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "Hunters I have talked with say they saw fewer deer during the November hunt. I would expect that to continue into muzzleloader season and the antlerless season."

Hansen and other Conservation Department biologists cite the unusual abundance of acorns as the main factor contributing to the dip in this year’s deer harvest. Deer do not move around as much when acorns are plentiful. This makes them less visible to hunters.

Top muzzleloader harvest counties were Oregon with 226, Pike with 211 and Boone with 200 deer checked. County-by-county deer harvest information from the Conservation Department’s Telecheck system is available online at http://www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/.

The Conservation Department recorded no firearms-related hunting accidents during the muzzleloader season.