Prospects are bright for Missouri's 1996 deer season. Deer are plentiful. Hunters are getting a record number of any-deer and bonus permits.
And if weather during the extended deer season is pleasant enough to induce Missourians to use those permits, there's no reason why 1996 can't be the third record-setting firearms deer season in a row.
Missouri Department of Conservation Wildlife Research Biologist Lonnie Hansen says that with reasonably good weather, Missouri hunters are likely to set a new deer harvest record this year. "I wouldn't be surprised to see 200,000 deer killed by firearms deer hunters," said Hansen, "though the actual number could be substantially lower if we get really rotten weather." Missouri hunters set deer harvest records last year for the opening weekend, for the full firearms hunting season and for the annual harvest by all methods. Hunters checked 110,191 deer during the first two days of the firearms deer season. The deer kill during the 11-day firearms deer season last November totaled 183,151. By the end of archery deer season Jan. 15 they had bagged 208,917 deer with modern firearms, muzzle-loading firearms and bows and arrows. Several factors besides the record number of any-deer and bonus permits lead Hansen to predict a new record this year. One is the addition of two days when hunters will be allowed to use modern firearms to hunt antlerless deer in much of north Missouri. For years, Missouri's firearms deer season ran for nine days in late November. Last year the MDC increased that season to 11 days. This year, in addition to firearms deer season Nov. 16-26, hunters who have unfilled any-deer or bonus deer permits for Deer Management Units 1 through 17, 22, 58 or 59 will be able to use modern firearms to hunt antlerless deer in those units Jan. 4 and 5. Also, for the second year in a row, archery deer hunters will be able to hunt through Jan. 15. Until last year, the archery deer hunting season ended Dec. 31. Finally, the MDC has designated two new urban deer management zones. Because of necessary restrictions on hunting in those areas, the annual deer harvest has not been as effective as the MDC would like in controlling deer numbers around St. Louis and Kansas City. In an attempt to remedy this, the agency is allowing firearms deer hunting in those areas during the two extra hunting dates in January and is allowing archers to purchase as many as five additional permits for hunting antlerless deer in Units 58 and 59 for $5 per permit. "I don't expect the availability of extra archery deer permits to make a big difference in how many deer are taken from the urban management units," said Hansen. "But we will be watching this closely as another possible tool to help meet suburban landowners's demands for help with nuisance deer problems." Hansen estimates Missouri's deer herd at 800,000, which he says is well within the biological capacity of Missouri's forests, fields and streams to support. …