Hunters set a new record with 15,907 deer killed during the muzzleloader portion of Missouri's 2009 firearms deer season, Dec. 19-29. This year's record topped the previous one set in 2007 by 2,535. It topped the 2008 harvest by 5,653.
Top counties for this year's muzzleloader portion were Osage with 403 deer checked, Oregon with 386 and Howell with 336. Howell also made the top-county list in 2008 with 217 and Oregon in 2008 and 2007 with 198 and 405 respectively.
Good weather during the muzzleloader portion helped increase the harvest, and made up for bad weather during the November firearms portion, explained Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen.
"We generally had great deer-hunting weather for the muzzleloader portion, with snow, but not too much to keep hunters from the field, and temperatures that weren't too cold," Hansen said. "Lower harvests during the November portion of the firearms season may have also drawn more hunters back out for the muzzleloader portion."
Hansen, who is in charge of the MDC's deer-management program, explained that heavy rain during four of the first five days of the 11-day November portion of the firearms season was a major factor in those lower harvest numbers.
"Adding to that were weeks of wet weather before the firearms portion, which forced farmers to leave a considerable amount of corn standing." he said. "This provided a refuge for deer and made them more difficult to find."
The muzzleloader harvest accounts for about 5 percent of Missouri's overall annual deer harvest.
Harvest opportunities continue for archery hunters, who have until the season closes Jan. 15, and for youths during a youth hunt Jan. 2-3.