Urban Deer Harvest Dips Slightly in Third Year
Hunters checked 1,838 deer during the urban portion of Missouri's firearms deer season, providing relief from dented fenders and overgrazed gardens.
This year's urban deer season harvest fell 239 short of last year's record.
Boone County led harvest totals with 427 deer checked during the season Oct. 7-10. Webster County was second with 220, followed by St. Charles County with 191. Other county totals were: Christian, 174; Greene, 171; Cass and Cole, 144; Clay, 105; St. Louis, 93; Jackson, 86; and Platte, 83.
The Conservation Department instituted the urban season to help control deer numbers in the state's most populous areas. The first such hunt took place in 2003 with a two-day urban season in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.
Counties included in the urban deer season are those whose high human and deer population densities lead to greater frequency of deer-vehicle accidents and nuisance deer complaints. The first year's urban deer season harvest was 129 deer. Last year hunters shot 2,077 deer during the urban hunt, a 16-fold increase. Even though the number of deer taken in the urban season dipped slightly this year, the harvest still is encouraging to Lonnie Hansen, the Conservation Department's deer-management specialist.
"New seasons tend to follow a predictable pattern," said Hansen. "There is rapid growth in participation at first as people learn about the opportunity, find places to take advantage of it and establish traditions. At some point, the growth tapers off. While we may not see the exponential growth in this season that took place between 2003 and 2004, I expect the urban season harvest to increase in the future."
Hansen said the urban season is Missouri's newest tool for addressing deer management challenges in and around human population centers. Deer in these areas have not drawn much attention from hunters in the past. The urban hunt provides an incentive for hunters to focus on such areas, where human-deer conflicts are on the rise. The four-day hunt is a practical, economical way for landowners and municipalities to reduce deer problems.
"It may be several years before this season takes hold fully and we know how big a part of the solution it will be," said Hansen. "That depends partly on how landowners and municipalities make use of it. Hunters can't thin deer numbers where they aren't allowed to hunt."