Bowhunters posted increases in both deer and turkey harvests during Missouri’s 2011-12 archery deer and turkey hunting seasons, topping the previous year’s figures by more than one-third.
Hunters checked 52,671 deer during the four-month archery season. That is an increase of 10,299 (24 percent) from the previous year. Archers checked 2,923 turkeys, an increase of 739 (33.8 percent) from the 2010-2011 season.
Jason Isabelle, a resource scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), said two factors probably contributed to the increased archery turkey harvest.
“I attribute the increase in harvest to the good hatch that we had last year in most of the state and to increased archery permit sales,” said Isabelle. “There were both more turkeys and more archers in the woods in 2011 than in 2010.”
MDC sold 110,647 archery hunting permits and issued another 82,486 no-cost landowner archer’s permits last year. The total of 190,133 archery permits is a record and continues a long-term trend of increasing interest in archery hunting.
“More people discover the enjoyment of archery season every year,” said Isabelle. “The challenge of bowhunting appeals to many hunters who start with firearms. For others, the attraction is a huge increase in hunting opportunity. For quite a few hunters, opening day of deer season can’t come soon enough and closing day comes too soon. Taking up the bow and arrow allows them to pursue their outdoor passion all fall and into winter.”
MDC Resource Scientist Jason Sumners said the reason for this year’s increased archery deer harvest is harder to nail down.
“Over the past decade we have seen a steady increase in the number of archery hunters and a resulting increase in archery harvest,” said Sumners. “However, that doesn’t explain the fluctuations we see in archery harvest from year to year. There are likely other factors at work that create annual variation in hunter effort or success. We had very mild weather last fall, and that might have caused hunters to spend more time pursuing deer. But there is still a lot we don’t know about the relationship between weather and hunter behavior and other factors that affect archery harvest.”
Sumners said he hopes to explore those factors in the future to gain a better understanding of what causes sizeable archery harvest fluctuations like those that have occurred over the last four years. For example, the deer archery harvest increased from 44,434 in 2008 to a record 51,972 in 2009 and went back down to 43,281 in 2010.
Missouri’s 2011-2012 archery and firearms deer harvests total 291,592. That is up 6 percent from the previous year. The 2011-2012 firearms and archery turkey harvests total 52,226, down 3.8 percent from the previous year.
The top archery deer-harvest counties were Jefferson with 1,092 deer checked, Franklin with 1,088 and Jackson with 1,040. Top archery turkey-harvest counties were Callaway with 76 turkeys checked, Franklin with 67 and Jefferson with 58.
All of the top counties for archery deer and turkey harvest were in or near metropolitan areas. Isabelle and Sumners agree this probably is largely because all four counties are within easy driving distance of large numbers of hunters. Also, Callaway and Franklin counties are larger than average, and both have excellent deer and turkey habitat.
“Those four counties are natural choices for folks who live in nearby cities,” said Isabelle. “Franklin and Callaway counties are between the St. Louis and Columbia-Jefferson City areas and have some of the best turkey habitat in the state. Jefferson and Jackson counties are right at the edge of the state’s two largest metropolitan areas, so it’s not surprising that lots of archers would spend time hunting there.”
MDC recorded eight firearms-related deer-hunting incidents during the 2011-2012 hunting season. One was fatal.