If you are an antler fanatic — that is a hunter whose goal it is to shoot a trophy buck each year — then this article has just the information you are looking for. We’ll review three key factors that will put you on the right track to a real trophy buck: Antler Point Restrictions, last year’s buck harvest, and historical statewide whitetail record book data.
The most influential factor affecting trophy deer hunting in Missouri now and in the future is both mandatory and self-appointed antler point restrictions. Allowing bucks to grow to maturity is the single most influential factor affecting antler growth in whitetails in Missouri. It also happens to be the easiest facet of antler growth potential to manage.
“Age is by far the most important element in growing trophy bucks,” said MDC Resource Scientist, Lonnie Hansen. “Next in importance would be deer nutrition and then whitetail genetics.”
By now you know that Hansen is the wildlife biologist who oversees the state’s white-tailed deer herd. Not only is he a nationally respected scientist, but also an avid deer hunter.
In 2004, the MDC implemented a mandatory “4-point or better on one side” APR in 29 counties. By 2008, the APR were working so well that the MDC increased the number of counties under the restrictions to 68, well over half of our 114 counties.
“In terms of buck production, the Antler Point Restrictions have put more bucks in the 2.5-, 3.5- and 4.5-year-old age classes into the population and the harvest,” Hansen said. “A 2.5-year-old buck can be an outstanding deer and a 4.5-year-old buck can reach Boone and Crockett status in Missouri.”
If you want to improve your chances of taking a mature whitetail, focus on the 68 counties under APR. Take an extra-hard look at one of the original 29 counties in the APR zone. By now the full effects of antler management are strong in those counties.
ANTLERED DEER HARVEST
Reviewing which regions and counties had the most antlered deer taken in the 2009 seasons can help us identify trends in buck harvest. These statistics include all antlered bucks that were legal throughout the state last year, not including button bucks. Keep in mind that many of the counties throughout the eight different regions are now under APR and bucks must have at least 4 points on one side of their rack to be legal.
We’ll break down harvest details in depth later. Guide your search toward specific counties that have high antlered buck harvest in your quest for a trophy buck. Take your scouting one step further by noting which high buck harvest counties are in the state’s antler management program.
TROPHY BUCK HARVEST
Missouri’s primary whitetail record-keeping organization, The Missouri Show Me Big Bucks Club, has been recording the state’s trophy whitetails since 1968. Any whitetail rack that measures 140 inches or more as a typical can be entered; any non-typical 155 inches or better can qualify. The records provided were the most up-to-date available at press time.
“When hunters realize that by passing young bucks, they will actually see more deer and get second and third opportunities, many people are passing even legal deer for even greater opportunities,” said MSMBBC Coordinating Officer, Larry Luekenhoff. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see many of the long-standing record-class bucks fall out of the Top 10 categories.”
Looking at the record books, you don’t have to be a wildlife biologist to recognize which regions and counties have produced the most trophy whitetails. Don’t sell yourself short. Focus on scouting out new hunting areas in those counties.
All 19 counties in the region are now included in the 4-point or better on one side APR. Fourteen of the 19 counties have been under the regulation for six years. These original APR counties include Andrew, Atchison, Chariton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Linn, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway and Worth. Those would be the best choices for seeking a record book buck.
The five counties that were new to the APR in 2008 are Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Clinton, and Ray.
Hunters reported taking 15,926 antlered deer in the region last year. That figure is down 1,040 from the previous season. The decline is probably due to the five counties recently added to the APR and the fact there was much standing corn left in farmers’ fields last deer season for deer to use as sanctuary.
Top buck producers in the region were Nodaway with 1,337 killed; Harrison 1,360, and Linn 1,276.
The Northwest region came in third place statewide in the average number of trophy whitetails recorded in the record book per county with 74. It finished second statewide in terms of total trophy entries with 1,399. The top three counties in record book entries are Chariton with 162 entries (4th statewide); Harrison 127 (8th); and Nodaway 108 (12th).
All of this region’s 15 counties are now included in the 4-point or better on one side APR. Six of the area’s 15 counties have been under the rule for six years. Those counties are Adair, Macon, Putnam, Randolph, Schuyler and Sullivan. They are your best bets for bagging a record class buck.
The nine counties in their second year of the APR are Clark, Knox, Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Ralls, Scotland and Shelby.
Collectively, all counties in this region showed hunters taking a total of 15,162 antlered deer last year, down 440 bucks from the previous season. More than likely, that was because of the nine new counties in the APR, plus the standing corn factor. Top buck producing counties in the entire region were Macon 1,568; Sullivan 1,317; and Putnam 1,303.
The Northeast region finished second in terms of average number of trophies entered into the record book with 90 per county. It finished third in numbers of trophy bucks recorded statewide with 1,349 entries. The top three counties in record book entries are Putnam at 173 (second statewide); Adair 147 (6th); and Macon 135 (7th).
All 15 of this region’s counties are now included in the 4-point or better on
one side antler point restriction area. Boone, Cole, Gasconade, Howard, Maries, Miller, and Osage, have been under APR for six years. Those counties are your top picks for hunting a record book buck.
The eight counties in their second year of the APR program are Audrain, Callaway, Camden, Cooper, Moniteau, Montgomery, Morgan, and Saline.
All counties combined reported hunters taking 15,058 antlered deer last year. This figure is up 2,106 from the previous year’s tally. Top buck-producing counties in this region were Osage with 1,498; Camden 1,417; and Callaway 1,399.
The Central region led the state with the highest average number of trophies recorded per county with 106 entries per county in the record book. It also led in total number of trophy bucks recorded with 1,589 entries.
The top three counties in record book entries are Saline Boone with 208 entries (first statewide); Callaway 172 (third); and Cooper 150 (fifth).
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