Missouri’s Deer Season Outlook Part I revealed our state’s hotspots for filling your freezer with venison. In Part 2 of this series we’ll uncover which areas are your best bets for taking a big Missouri buck!
Perhaps the most influential factor affecting trophy whitetail hunting in Missouri now and in the future is mandatory and self-appointed antler point restrictions.
In 2004, the Missouri Department of Conservation implemented a mandatory “4-point or better on one side” antler point restriction in 29 counties. The original 29 counties — Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Boone, Chariton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Howard, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Mercer, Nodaway, Putnam, Randolph, Schuyler, Sullivan and Worth in the north, and Cole, Franklin, Gasconade, Maries, Miller, Osage and Pulaski in the central part of the state — have now been in the APR for five full years.
Throughout the first four years, the MDC carefully monitored deer harvest in the original 29 APR counties. They collected data at check stations in 2003 and meat processors from 2004 to 2007 to help determine how the APR was working. The MDC collected samples of teeth from deer to age them and measured the number of points at least an inch long on each beam, the length of the right beam, and the circumference of the right beam 1 inch above the base.
The results of the four-year study indicate that the APR reduced antler buck harvest from 35 percent the first year of the restriction to 14 percent in 2007 in the northern counties and 37 percent to 19 percent in the central counties. The study also showed that the harvest of adult bucks was slightly lower in APR counties in 2004 but increased in all the following years. By 2007, the number of adult bucks harvested in northern APR counties increased by 55 percent and in central counties by 62 percent!
“We can attribute about 36 percent of that increase directly to the antler point restrictions,” said MDC Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen.
The APR was working well enough to have the MDC increase the number of counties in the APR by 36 in 2008, bringing the total number of counties in the restricted antler zone to 65, more than half of the state’s 114 counties.
Those 36 new APR counties took a big hit in antlered deer harvest last year because the restriction primarily protects the 1 1/2-year-old bucks from being killed. However, based on the previous four-year study in the original 29 APR counties, adult buck harvest should increase this year and in subsequent years in these zones.
“The first year is really tough, but hunters will start seeing a benefit in the second year and progressively better each year after,” Hansen said. “It’s not rocket science to produce nice bucks in Missouri, we just have to let them grow old and a 3.5- and 4.5-year-old Missouri buck is awfully nice.”
You might be surprised to know that the world-record non-typical whitetail found dead in St. Louis County in 1981 was scientifically aged at 5 1/2 years. The buck, known as the Missouri Monarch, featured 44 points and netted a B&C score of 333 7/8!
Keep in mind that in counties in the APR a buck must have at least 4 antler points on one side of his rack to be a legally harvested buck. A deer of this caliber in Missouri is a trophy in many hunters’ eyes.
All 19 counties in this region are now included in the 4-point or better on one side APR. Fourteen of the 19 counties there have been under the restriction for five years. These original APR counties include Atchison, Holt, Nodaway, Andrew, Worth, Gentry, DeKalb, Harrison, Daviess, Mercer, Grundy, Livingston, Linn and Chariton. Of these original APR counties, Nodaway, Linn, Harrison, Chariton and Daviess were the top 5 in this region in antlered deer harvest last season.
Counties that have been in the APR for five years enjoyed a total harvest increase of 295 antlered deer in 2008. The counties that were new to the APR in 2008 experienced a combined 1,324 decrease in antlered deer harvest.
All of this region’s 15 counties are now included in the 4-point APR. Six of the 15 counties — Putnam, Schuyler, Sullivan, Adair, Macon and Randolph — have been under the rule for five years. It’s not surprising that Macon, Sullivan, Adair and Putnam were the top antlered deer producers in the region last season.
The original APR counties in the region had a combined 176 antlered deer harvest increase from 2007 to 2008. Counties in their first year of the APR suffered a joint 3,441 antlered deer harvest decrease.
All 15 of this region’s counties are now included in the 4-point APR. Howard, Boone, Cole, Miller, Osage, Maries and Gasconade have been in the APR for five years. Boone, Osage and Howard counties were in the top of this region’s antlered deer harvest last year.
Counties originally in the APR incurred a 989 decrease in antlered deer harvest last year from the previous season. Counties new to the APR experienced a 4,291 antlered deer harvest decrease.
Just two counties in this region are included in the APR zone, Pulaski and Phelps. Pulaski has been in the APR for five years now but amazingly finished dead last in antlered deer harvest last season with 532 bucks, only 125 less than in 2007. An overabundance of acorns probably had a negative impact on this county’s buck harvest last year. On the other hand, Phelps County’s buck harvest decreased by nearly half from 2007, with hunters taking only 732 deer. That’s a prime example of how the APR affects antlered deer harvest during the first year it’s implemented.
KANSAS CITY REGION
Eight of this region’s 12 counties were new to the APR last year. Those counties are Bates, Vernon, Lafayette, Johnson, Henry, St. Clair, Pettis and Benton. The combined antlered deer harvest was down 3,307 from 2007 in those counties.
ST. LOUIS REGION
Three of this area’s eight counties were in the APR last year. Lincoln and Warren counties are newcomers to that rule, while Franklin has been under the APR for five years. Franklin finished second in the region in antlered deer kill last year with a 174 decrease from 2007. The two new counties in the APR jointly incurred an 889 antlered deer harvest decrease.
Barton, Cedar and Hickory counties in this region were new to the APR last year and
their harvest numbers reflected it with a combined decline of 1,032 antlered deer harvested in 2008 compared with 2007.
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