Record 2004 Firearms Deer Harvest Reported

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Plentiful deer, plentiful permits and more days of hunting than ever before combined to produce a record harvest of 273,905 in Missouri's 2004 firearms deer hunting season.

The figure is 19,538 more than the previous record, set last year. Hunters also had one of the safest deer seasons on record, with seven non-fatal firearms-related hunting accidents and one fatality reported. The lone fatality resulted from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This year's firearms deer season consisted of five portions totaling 36 days. Last year's firearms season ran 34 days in five segments. Hunters killed 934 fewer deer during the Antlerless Portion of Firearms Deer Season this year than in 2003. However, record harvests in the other four portions of Firearms Deer Season propelled the 2004 harvest to a record.

The earliest part of this year's season was the Urban Portion, which took place in 11 counties around St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and the Columbia/Jefferson City area. The Urban Portion was four days, two days longer than last year. Hunters checked 1,955 deer during the Urban Portion Oct. 8 through 11, up from 1,864 in 2003. No hunting accidents were reported.

Next came the Youth Portion Nov. 6 and 7. Hunters age 6 through 15 checked 13,466 deer without a reported hunting accident. That was up from 9,054 last year.

The bulk of the deer harvest came during the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season Nov. 13 through 23. Hunters checked 222,329 deer during the 11-day hunt. The previous record of 217,435 was set in 2002. The Conservation Department recorded seven nonfatal hunting accidents during the November Portion of the 2004 Firearms Deer Season.

The Muzzleloader Portion Nov. 26 through Dec. 5 saw another 11,938 deer checked. That was up slightly from 2003, when muzzleloader hunters checked 11,131 deer. This year, the muzzleloader season saw one fatal hunting accident.

The Antlerless Portion Dec. 11-19 closed out the season with 24,217 deer killed, compared to 25,151 last year. No hunting accidents were reported during the antlerless hunt this year.

This year's total of seven nonfatal and one fatality for all five portions of Firearms Deer Season are below the 25-year averages of 11.6 and 1.6, respectively.

Hunter Education Program Coordinator Rick Flint noted that with more than 480,000 permit holders, the state's deer hunting accident rate is .0017 percent, or one accident per 60,000 hunters.

"Deer hunting today has an excellent safety record compared to the past," said Flint. "You can't feel good about any season when someone is hurt or killed, but the long-term trend is very encouraging. Our goal is a season with no accidents."

The fewest firearms hunting accidents ever recorded during Missouri's firearms deer season was in 2000, when two people were injured and two killed. The most ever recorded--25 nonfatal and one fatal--was in 1986.

Flint attributed the improvement in deer hunting safety to hunter education. Every hunter born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, unless hunting on a Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permit, must have completed an approved hunter education program in Missouri or another state and show their hunter education certificate card to buy any firearms hunting permit. Hunter education classes place a strong emphasis on safety, and the decline in deer and other types of hunting accidents parallels the implementation of mandatory hunter education.

Pike County led antlerless season harvest totals with 827 deer checked. Second was Boone County with 816 followed by Macon with 730. Regional harvest totals for the antlerless hunt were: Northeast, 5,064; Northwest, 4,258; Central, 3,726; Kansas City, 2,608; Southwest, 2,225; St. Louis, 1,240; and Ozark, 174. No counties in the Southeast Region were open to hunting during the antlerless portion of the firearms deer season.

Hunters checked 4,922 deer by telephone during the antlerless hunt, using the new Telecheck system. These are included in statewide harvest numbers but not regional totals.