Missouri's 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Finding Our Trophy Bucks

Missouri's 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Finding Our Trophy Bucks

You've seen the rest, now hunt the best! (November 2007)

Photo by Mike Lambeth.

Last month, in Part 1 of Missouri's 2007 Deer Outlook, we uncovered which regions and counties had the highest deer harvest numbers overall last year. These figures included all types of whitetails in Missouri, including button bucks, does and antlered deer. In this article, we will narrow down the number crunching to reveal which areas harbor the most bucks, and the biggest bucks, too!

Let's start our study by revealing which regions and counties had the most antlered deer taken in the 2006 seasons combined. These statistics include all antlered bucks that were legal throughout the state last year. These numbers do not include button bucks. Of course, that means different sized deer in different places in the Show-Me State, but this will give you a good idea of which particular areas are turning up the most numbers of antlered deer.

TOTAL ANTLERED DEER HARVEST REGIONS/COUNTIES

Northeast Region

The 15-county Northeast Region led the state in total number of antlered bucks taken during the deer seasons last year with 20,094. This area included three counties in the top 20 in the state in terms of numbers of antlered deer harvested. These three counties were Pike with 2,112 (third statewide), Macon 1,816 (sixth) and Monroe 1,692 (11th). The bottom three counties in this region were Marion with 1,079 (55th), Randolph 1,038 (58th) and Schuyler (94th).

The surprising finding in these numbers is that the four fringe counties on the Missouri/Iowa border in this region did not fare as well as the more interior Show-Me State counties. The four northernmost counties in this region were Schuyler, which finished in last in this area with 689 deer taken (94th statewide); Putnam came in 11th out of 15 counties with 1,203 (47th); Scotland 1,270, ninth in the region (37th); and Clark finished eighth regionally with 1,288 (34th). Keep in mind that these numbers are all legal antlered bucks. Perhaps the hunters in those northernmost counties shot less bucks because they were holding out for trophies.

Central Region

The 15-county Central Region came in a close second in terms of total number of legal antlered deer taken in Missouri last year with 19,211. This region included five of the top 20 counties in antlered deer harvest. These five counties were Callaway with 2,393 (first statewide), Camden 1,806 (seventh), Morgan 1,766 (ninth), Osage 1,684 (12th) and Boone 1,526 (20th). The bottom three counties were Maries 840 (81st statewide), Moniteau 684 (97th) and Cole 522 (105th).

The Missouri River cuts this region in half. It is interesting to note that out of those top five counties in the region, three were from south of the Missouri River and two were from north of the waterway. In fact, the counties south of the famous river led this region with 11,708 antlered deer, compared with the 7,503 from their northern county cousins. Again, keep in mind that these are all legally antlered bucks in Missouri. We will examine the trophy buck numbers later.

Northwest Region

The 19-county Northwest Region came in third in antlered deer harvest in 2006 with 18,241 whitetails. This region had just one county in the top 20 statewide -- Carroll with 1,583 (17th). The bottom three counties were Clinton 699 (93rd statewide), Dekalb 528 (104th) and Worth 491 (107th). The Missouri/Iowa fringe counties fared better in this region with Nodaway coming in second place in the region with 1,415 (24th); and Harrison third in the region with 1,324 (29th). Although Worth, another Iowa border county, finished dead last with 491 (107th), Atchison 11th with 912 (73rd) and Mercer ninth with 923 (70th).

Ozark Region

The Ozark Region finished fourth statewide in antlered deer harvest last year with 15,782. This region had three counties in the top 20. The top three counties were Texas 2,064 (fourth statewide), Howell 1,858 (fifth) and Oregon 1,571 (19th). The bottom three counties in this area were Carter 998 (64th statewide), Wright 928 (68th) and Pulaski 614 (100th).

Perhaps the most interesting thing to note about this region is that despite its southern position in Missouri, it had two counties in the top five across the state.

Southwest Region

The 17-county Southwest Region came in fifth across the state in numbers of antlered deer taken in 2006 with 15,189. This territory had no counties in the top 20. The top three counties here were Laclede 1,314 (30th statewide), Hickory 1,279 (36th) and Cedar 1,215 (44th). A noteworthy fact is that this region did have five counties in the bottom 20 statewide. These five counties were Greene 688 (96th statewide), Lawrence 614 (100th), Dade 599 (102nd), Christian 582 (103rd) and Stone 508 (106th).

Kansas City Region

The 12-county KC Region came in sixth place statewide in antlered deer harvest last year with 14,386. This region had three counties in the top 20. These counties were Benton 2,228 (second statewide), St. Clair 1,743 (10th) and Henry 1,576 (18th). The bottom three counties included Lafayette 735 (88th), Platte 689 (95th) and Clay 644 (98th). Platte and Clay finished in the bottom 20.

Southeast Region

The 16-county Southeast Region finished in seventh place out of eight regions with 11,604 antlered deer taken last year. Wayne County finished in the state's top 20 with 1,633 (16th). This region's bottom six counties finished in the bottom 20 statewide. These counties were Iron 631 (99th), Scott 243 (108th), New Madrid 167 (109th), Dunklin 164 (110th), Mississippi 163 (111th) and Pemiscot 86 (112th). All of the bottom six, except Iron, are located in the Bootheel of Missouri.

St. Louis Region

This eight-county region finished in eighth and last place in antlered deer harvest last year. Keep in mind that this is the smallest region of the state, so the total harvest numbers are somewhat skewed. Despite its small size, the St. Louis region had half of its counties finish in the top 20 statewide! These top four counties were Lincoln 1,772 (eighth statewide), Jefferson 1,662 (13th), Franklin 1,654 (14th) and Crawford 1,634 (15th). The bottom county in the region was St. Louis with 744 (87th).

TOP TROPHY BUCK HARVEST REGIONS/COUNTIES

A trophy buck is really whatever a hunter wants it to be. It could be a spike or it may be a Booner. However, for this article, we designated the trophy buck standard to be 140 inches of antler or above. We also went back five years to give you the most up-to-date trends in trophy harvest numbers.

Die-hard trophy deer aficionados in the Show-Me State know that Missouri's major deer record-keeping club, the Show-Me Big Bucks Club, is experiencing difficulties at this time. The records were not current at press time, and it may be some ti

me before they are updated. The bad news is that we were unable to use any current trophy buck firearms data from that club in this article. The good news is, that the Archery Big Bucks of Missouri has kept their records updated and that's what we are basing the statistics below on. Although the trophy archery data base is much smaller than the overall database that the other club offers, I am confident that the trends will be the same, just on a smaller scale.

Central Region

The Central Region led the state in total number of trophy buck entries 140 inches and over, during the past five years with 44. This region also boasts the top three counties in trophy buck entries statewide! The top counties were Callaway 11 (first statewide), Boone with none (tied for second) and Howard with seven (third). The rest of the region finished as follows: Audrain with three, Cole, Maries, Miller, Montgomery, Osage, and Saline each with two, and Camden and Gasconade each with one.

Twelve of the 15 counties in this region had trophy bucks entered into the record book that scored 140 inches or above. Of these 12 counties, seven of them are in the state's pilot antler point restriction program, which limits hunters to shooting bucks with 4 points or better on one side of their rack. These seven counties were Boone, Howard, Cole, Gasconade, Maries, Miller and Osage.

It might be noteworthy that Callaway County led this region in number of trophy buck entries over the past five years even though it is not in the antler point restriction program. However, it is bordered by three counties that are in the pilot antler restriction program.

Northwest Region

This region makes for a good argument that the antler point restriction program is working wonders. The Northwest Region finished in second place in terms of trophy buck entries over the past five years with 31. Thirteen of the region's 19 counties had big-buck entries. What is most noteworthy is the fact that of those 13 counties, 10 of them are in the antler point restriction program!

The top counties are Linn with nine (tied for second statewide), while Chariton, Livingston, Mercer and Carroll each had three entries. All of these counties except Carroll are in the antler point restriction program. The rest of the counties finished as follows: Daviess and Nodaway with two entries each, and Dekalb, Harrison, Holt, Worth, Buchanan and Caldwell, each with one. Note that Caldwell and Buchanan are not in the antler point program.

Kansas City Region

The 12-county KC Region had eight of its counties register trophy bucks of 140-plus inches over the last five years, bringing it to third place statewide with 27 trophy buck entries. Jackson finished first in this region with nine entries (tied for second statewide), followed by Clay with six, Vernon at four, St. Clair at three, Lafayette with two and Pettis and Cass each with one. None of these counties is in the antler point restriction program, but Jackson and Clay are in the immediate metropolitan/suburban area of Kansas City where hunting opportunities are limited and bucks have a chance to live and grow into older age-classes.

Northeast Region

Nine of the 15 counties in this region entered a total of 18 trophy bucks that met our standard over the past five years making it fourth place statewide. The top three counties were Monroe with four, Macon and Knox each with three, and Pike and Scotland each with two. Adair, Marion, Putnam and Schuyler each had one entry. Keep in mind that Macon, Adair, Putnam and Schuyler are all in the antler point restriction program.

St. Louis Region

Like its Kansas City cousin, the St. Louis Region has many areas that limit hunters' access to deer. This makes it hard on hunters but allows for the deer to grow big racks. This region finished fifth statewide in number of trophy buck entries in the past five years. Six of this region's eight counties had a total of 11 trophy bucks entered into the record book over the past five years. The top counties were St. Charles and St. Louis each with three, Franklin with two and Jefferson, Lincoln and Warren all with one entry. Franklin County is the only area in the antler point restriction program.

Southwest Region

Not surprisingly, just seven of this region's 17 counties had trophy buck entries over the past five years making it sixth place regionally. These counties were Barton and McDonald each with two, and Barry, Cedar, Christian, Dallas and Greene with one apiece, for a regional total of nine big-buck entries.

Southeast Region

Six of the 16 counties in this region had trophy buck entries that met this article's standard over the past five years, making it seventh place out of eight regions statewide. Top counties were Wayne and Perry each with two entries, and Bollinger, Madison, Stoddard and Ste. Genevieve each with one for a regional total of eight.

Ozark Region

Somewhat surprising is that the Ozark Region finished in dead last, below the Southeast and Southwest regions in terms of trophy buck entries. This region had a total of seven trophy bucks entered into the record book. Top counties were Texas and Phelps, each with two and Douglas, Oregon and Wright with one apiece.

EXPERT OPINION

Lonnie Hansen is well respected and known nationally for his knowledge of whitetail biology. He currently works for the Missouri Department of Conservation as a resource scientist who is primarily in charge of the state's entire deer herd. Hansen was kind enough to take a full morning and share his views and opinions on trophy deer hunting in Missouri.

"Every county in Missouri has trophy buck potential," Hansen proclaimed. "But everything is dependent on hunting pressure and how it is distributed."

In layman's terms, Hansen explained that no matter what county or region you hunt in Missouri, you need to find a place where the buck hunting pressure is very limited if you want to shoot a record-book whitetail.

"We shoot our bucks at a high rate in Missouri," Hansen said. "To be really successful at killing a trophy buck, you have to find a place where the buck hunting pressure is limited in a two- to four-square-mile area."

Now before you go looking for your bottle of Prozac, consider that the 29 counties in the state's pilot antler point restriction program offers just the sort of large area that Hansen referred to.

Missouri is in its fourth and final year of the pilot antler point restriction study and the MDC and the Conservation Commission will make a determination early next year as to whether or not to continue with the program. Their decision will be based on harvest data collected over the past four years, and additional hunter/ landowner opinions.

"The pilot antler point restriction program seems to be having an effect on the number of adult bucks (2.5 years old and older) taken by hunters in those restriction counties," Hansen said. "The harvest of adult bucks has increased by 13 percent in the northern pilot counties, and by 21 percent in the central pilot counties."

That's good news for everyone interested in shooting older age-class bucks.

Long before the MDC initiated the pilot antler point restriction program, it implemented a program for growing older age-class bucks at Whetstone Creek Conservation Area in Callaway County. Don't forget that Callaway County is ranked in first place in both numbers of antlered deer harvested statewide (2,393) and number of trophy buck entries over the past five years (11).

"Whetstone Creek has been specifically designated as a public area managed for older age-class bucks for the past 10 years," Hansen said. "Hunters write us all the time telling us how much they enjoy hunting this area."

Whetstone Creek is open to deer hunting only under specially managed deer-hunting seasons and regulations. Check with the 2007 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information for details.

Hansen mentioned the Busch Wildlife CA in St. Charles County, and the Peck Ranch CA primarily located in Carter County, as public places that also offer good chances for trophy bucks on a managed deer hunt basis.

SUMMARY

Missouri ranks eighth in the U.S in terms of the number of bucks entered into the Boone and Crockett Club's record book. The seven areas ranked higher than Missouri are Iowa (first), Minnesota (second), Illinois (third), Wisconsin (fourth), Saskatchewan (fifth), Alberta (sixth), Kansas (seventh) and finally Missouri. That's some pretty prestigious trophy whitetail company to be in!

So, when choosing a trophy buck hunting area this fall, look for one that has limited buck-hunting pressure. However, history has shown that you never know when or where one of these record-book bucks will show up.

Find more about Missouri fishing and hunting at: MissouriGameandFish.com

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