Hunters shot 204,668 deer during the November portion of Missouri’s firearms season, topping statewide harvest numbers recorded over the past four years.
However, eight of the 10 top harvest counties were south of the Missouri River, and a ninth, Callaway, borders the river and contains large tracts of woodland. Only Macon County in northeast Missouri bucked the trend of generally lower deer-kill numbers in the northern part of the state.
Nodaway County followed the trend of significantly lower numbers of deer taken across northwest Missouri, a decline tied to unseasonably warm weather, which kept animals from moving around, and a cold, rainy Sunday on opening weekend.
Local hunters tagged 1,739 animals during the 2012 November firearms season, which lasted Nov. 10-20. That was 550 fewer than the 2,289 deer killed in 2011 for a decline of 24 percent.
The Nodaway hunt breakdown included 761 antlered bucks, 223 button bucks and 755 does. That compares to to 1,118 bucks killed during firearms season in 2011, a harvest that also included 227 button bucks and 944 does.
Statewide the harvest rose 7.7 percent over last year and was only 1.3 percent below the previous 10-year average. Top harvest counties were Howell with 4,037, followed by Texas with 3,916 and Benton with 3,756.
The season was unusually deadly in terms of gun-related accidents, with MDC recording five nonfatal and three fatal hunting incidents during the 11-day period.
High harvest totals in the Ozarks and southeast Missouri confirm MDC forecasts based on a poor acorn crop, which created a food scarcity and forced deer to move from woodlands into more open areas, where they were easier for hunters bring down.
The southeast region reported the largest harvest increase at 30 percent, followed by the Ozark region, with a 24-percent increase. Other regional increases were reported in the St. Louis area, 18 percent; southwest Missouri, 17 percent; and central Missouri, 10 percent.
MDC recorded harvest decreases of 6 percent in the Kansas City and northeast regions and a 9-percent decrease in the northwest Region.
Conservation officials say the decline in north Missouri’s deer harvest continues a 10-year trend that has been reinforced by MDC efforts to improve hunting in some parts of the state while limiting damage to property and crops and reducing the number of deer/vehicle collisions.
Approximately 44 percent of the November deer harvest consisted of does, a 10-percent increase from last year, which the department said is indicative of growing deer numbers in southern Missouri.
However, the higher doe county could indicate increased incidence of hemorrhagic diseases that "could significantly set back deer populations in some areas to the point where it might take some time to recover."