November Firearms Deer Harvest Tops 220,000

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Hunters shot a record 222,329 deer during the November Segment of Missouri's 2004 Firearms Deer Season Nov. 13 through 23. The new record topped the previous high mark by 4,894.

Favorable weather both weekends during the November hunt probably was a key factor in the record-setting deer harvest.

"The season got off to a record-setting pace," said Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen. "The weather was cool but not cold, and there was no rain. The next weekend was a little warmer, but still excellent hunting weather. Hunters responded by staying in the woods and harvesting lots of deer."

Hunters set a blistering pace on the opening weekend, bringing 133,136 deer to check stations in just two days. That was 5,885 more than the previous opening-weekend record, set in 2002. The pace slowed to normal after that.

Last year's November firearms deer harvest was 207,516. The previous record, set in 2002, was 217,435.

The Conservation Department recorded seven firearms-related deer hunting accidents during the November hunt. None was fatal. That is an improvement from last year, when 10 people were injured and two killed in deer-hunting accidents. At least five of this year's firearms deer hunting injuries were self-inflicted.

All three of the state's top deer harvest counties topped the 4,000 mark for the first time this year. Those counties are Howell, with 4,401 deer checked during the November hunt, Callaway with 4,107 and Texas with 4,072.

This year's November deer harvest was down in some of the 29 counties where antler restrictions are being tested. In those counties, antlered deer must have at least four points on one side to be legal.

In northwest Missouri, where 13 of 18 counties had the antler restriction this year, the harvest was 31,507. Last year, hunters there checked 34,884.

The antler restriction did not cause harvest decreases in every county, however. Franklin County, which led the St. Louis region last year with 3,552 deer taken, posted an increase this year and came in first in regional totals again with 3,693.

Hansen said a slight decrease in the total number of deer taken in some counties is not necessarily a setback for the goal of controlling deer numbers.

"You can harvest fewer deer and still get better population control if antlerless deer make up a larger share of the harvest," said Hansen. "Does are the key to controlling deer numbers."

Hansen said that with the harvest from the ongoing muzzleloader and antlerless segments of firearms deer season still to be tallied, the harvest in the 29 test counties could finally measure up to 2002, with a substantial increase in does taken.

The number of firearms deer permits issued so far this year is 133,385 more than last year's total firearms deer permit sales. Permits will continue to be sold through the Muzzleloader Segment of Firearms Deer season Nov. 26 through Dec. 5 and the Antlerless Segment of Firearms Deer Season Dec. 11 through 19.

So far, firearms deer permit sales total $8.9 million. Nonresident permits account for 3 percent of the permits and 25 percent of the revenue from permit sales.