Missouri's 2008 Deer Outlook Part 2: Our Trophy Buck Areas

Your quest for that buck of a lifetime begins here! (November 2008)

The first part of our annual Missouri deer section uncovered where your best bets were regionally to fill your freezer with venison. In this issue we've crunched the numbers a little harder to identify those areas harboring the most antlered deer -- and the most trophy-class bucks as well!

REGION-BY-REGION ROUNDUP
Our study begins with a roster of Show-Me State regions and their counties in which are revealed the ones boasting the most antlered deer taken in all the 2007 seasons. These combined statistics include all antlered bucks that were legal throughout the state last year but exclude button bucks.

Northeast
This 15-county section led the state in total number of antlered bucks taken during the 2007 deer seasons last year with 18,867, down 1,227 deer from the previous year. The top three counties were Pike with 1,789 (8th statewide); Macon with 1,738 (9th); and Monroe with 1,480 (14th).

The Missouri Department of Conservation estimates the Northeast Region is home to 71,362 antlered deer, making it No. 1 statewide. Their studies also indicate that 27 percent of the deer in this region are antlered bucks.

Each of this region's 15 counties now enforces the antler restriction mandating a minimum of 4 points or better on one side. Putnam, Schuyler, Sullivan, Adair, Macon, and Randolph have been in the restrictive zone for four years already, making them prime big-buck counties.

Central
This 15-county region came in a close second in terms of total number of legal antlered deer taken in Missouri last year with 18,232, down 979 from a year ago. The top three counties were Callaway with 2,207 harvested bucks (1st statewide); Camden with 1,839 antlered deer killed (5th); and Morgan with 1,813 (7th).

The Missouri River bisects this region. Three of the top five counties in this section, Camden, Morgan and Osage, are south of the Missouri River, and two, Callaway and Boone, are north of the waterway.

The MDC estimates that this region is home to 67,987 antlered deer, the second most in the state. Their studies also estimate 27 percent of this area's deer population is antlered bucks.

All 15 of the region's counties are now included in the area in which the antler-point restriction defining legal bucks as those with 4 points or better on one side is in force. Having been in the restrictive area for four years, Howard, Boone, Cole, Miller, Osage, Maries and Gasconade could harbor more bucks in older age-classes.

Northwest
This 19-county area came in third in antlered deer harvest in 2007 with 17,995 harvested bucks -- 247 fewer than the previous year. The top three counties were Harrison with 1,375 harvested bucks (22nd statewide); Carroll with 1,373 whitetail bucks killed (23rd); and Linn with 1,355 (25th). The Missouri-Iowa border counties in this region were Harrison 1,375 (1st regionally and 22nd statewide), Nodaway (4th regionally and 28th statewide), Mercer (8th by region and 57th statewide), Atchison (10th regionally and 70th in the state); and Worth (19th regionally and 106th statewide).

MDC studies estimate that this region holds about 57,125 antlered deer, or 3rd-best statewide. Again, 27 percent of the total deer population is estimated to be male, antlered deer.

All 19 counties in this region are now included in the area in which the antler-point restriction defining legal bucks as those with 4 points or better on one side is in force. Atchison, Holt, Nodaway, Andrew, Worth, Gentry, DeKalb, Harrison, Daviess, Mercer, Grundy, Livingston, Linn and Chariton have been under the restriction for four years, making them good bets as places to harbor more adult-class bucks.

Ozark Region
This 12-county region finished 4th statewide in antlered deer harvest last year with 16,633, an increase of 851 from the previous season. The top three counties were Texas with 2,182 harvested bucks (2nd statewide); Howell with 1,911 (4th); and Oregon with 1,688 (10th).

The MDC estimates that this region is home to 41,769 antlered whitetails, or 24 percent of its total deer population. These totals are 6th-best statewide.

Just two counties in this region are included in the antler-point restriction zone -- Pulaski and Phelps. Pulaski has been in the program for four years already.

Southwest
This 17-county region came in 5th across the state in numbers of antlered deer taken in 2007 with 14,401, down 788 from the year before. The top three counties were Laclede with 1,293 bucks killed (35th statewide); Taney with 1,199 (43rd); and Hickory with 1,083 (51st).

The MDC estimates that there are about 45,161 antlered deer living in this region, which is the 5th-best antlered deer population statewide. This number is about 25 percent of the overall deer population in this region.

In this region, Cole and Barton counties now enforce the antler-point restriction defining legal bucks as those with 4 points or better on one side.

Kansas City
This 12-county swath came in 6th place statewide in antlered deer harvest last year with 13,191 bucks killed, down 1,195 from 2006. The top three counties were Benton with 2,047 antlered deer killed (3rd statewide); St. Clair with 1,555 (12th); and Henry with 1,410 (20th).

According to MDC data, this region is home to 45,194 antlered deer, or 27 percent of this area's total whitetail population, making it 4th-best across the state.

Eight of this region's 12 counties -- Bates, Vernon, Lafayette, Johnson, Henry, St. Clair, Pettis and Benton -- begin this year to enforce the antler-point restriction defining legal bucks as those with 4 points or better on one side.

Southeast
This 16-county section finished in 7th place out of eight regions with 11,858 antlered deer taken in 2007, which is up 254 deer from the previous year. The top three counties were Wayne with 1,822 harvested bucks (6th statewide); Bollinger with 1,303 (31st); and Ste. Genevieve with 1,255 (39th).

Data from the MDC indicates that this region finished in last place of the eight regions in terms of the estimated number of antlered deer living within its borders -- 30,357 antlered deer or 24 percent of the herd here.

St. Louis
This eight-county region finished last in antlered deer harvest last year with 9,404 bucks taken. Keep in mind that this is the smallest region of the state, so the total harvest numbers are somew

hat skewed. The top three counties were Crawford with 1,539 harvested bucks (13th statewide); Jefferson with 1,447 (15th); and Franklin with 1,440 (17th).

According to MDC records, this region includes about 33,080 antlered bucks or 26 percent of its entire deer herd. This is the 7th-best antlered deer population in the state.

Three of this area's eight counties are under the antler-point restriction this year: Lincoln and Warren counties are newcomers; Franklin has been under it for four years.

TROPHY BUCK HARVEST
A trophy buck is all in the eyes of the beholder. For some, it could be a fork-horn, while to others it is nothing less than a Boone & Crockett-class buck. For this article, we designated the trophy buck standard to be 140 inches or above, be it a typical or a non-typical.

Missouri's major whitetail record-keeping organization, the Show-Me Big Bucks Club, has been undergoing changes for the past couple of years and updated records are not available. However, the Archery Big Bucks of Missouri has kept their records updated and we've based the following statistics on their data.

Central
The Central Region led the state in total number of trophy buck entries with 132 entries measuring at or above 140 inches. The top three counties were Boone with 33 entries (2nd statewide); Callaway with 25 (3rd); and Howard with 10 (10th, tied with Pike). The rest of the region finished as follows: Cole and Maries with eight entries each; Camden, Cooper, Miller, and Saline each with six entries; Gasconade, Montgomery and Osage with five apiece; Audrain and Moniteau both with four; and Morgan, with just one entry.

This region is home to two of the top-20 trophy-class bucks in this category. Callaway County boasts the 10th-best typical, a 174 4/8-inch 13-pointer taken by Dan Thomas in 2003. Howard County boasts the 3rd-largest non-typical, a 224 4/8-inch 19-pointer taken by Billy Wise in 2005.

Kansas City
The Kansas City Region came in a very impressive second place statewide in number of bucks entered into the record book. The top three counties were Jackson (1st statewide) with an amazing 49 entries; Clay with 12 entries (8th); and Vernon with 9 (11th). The remaining counties finished as follows: Cass with eight; Benton, Henry and Platte each with five; Johnson and Pettis both with four; Lafayette and St. Clair with three apiece; and Bates, with zero.

Hunters in this region can boast that this area is home to eight of the top 20 trophy bucks in this category. Jackson County boasts the 8th-best typical, a 176-inch 12-pointer taken by Michael Hiesberger in 1995; the 9th-best typical, a 174 5/8-inch 12-pointer taken by Jimmy Jones in 2006; the 8th-best non-typical, a 199 6/8-inch 24-pointer taken by Jack Hollingsworth in 1989; and the 10th-biggest non-typical, a 197 1/8-inch 15-pointer taken by Jim Martin in 1984. Clay County boasts the 5th-best non-typical, a 216 3/8-inch 27-pointer taken by Marvin Thomey in 1991. Cass County yielded the 2nd-best typical, a 191-inch 10-pointer taken by John Meyer in 2001. Platte County generated the 5th-best typical, a 180 4/8-inch 13-pointer taken by Jim Martin in 1987; and Johnson County gave up the 7th-best typical, a 176 3/8-inch 11-pointer taken by James Stephens in 1990.

Northwest
The Northwest Region finished third across the state in terms of record book entries. The top three counties are Linn with 13 entries (7th statewide); Chariton with 12 (8th); and Nodaway with 11 (9th). The remaining counties finished in the following order: DeKalb with eight entries; Carroll and Grundy each with six; Mercer, Daviess, Harrison, Holt and Ray all with five; Livingston with four; Andrew, Buchanan and Caldwell with three apiece; Clinton with two; Gentry and Worth both with one; and Atchison with zero.

Three of the state's top-20 bucks were taken in this region. Linn County boasts the 9th-best non-typical -- a 197 2/8-inch 22-pointer taken by Eric Meyer in 2004. Chariton County boasts the 4th-best typical -- a 181 5/8-inch 14-pointer taken by Jerry Calvert in 1991. DeKalb County yielded the 2nd-best non-typical, a 246 2/8-inch 31-pointer taken by Jerald Utt in 2007.

Northeast
The Northeast Region finished 4th across the state in numbers of trophy bucks recorded. The top three counties were Macon with 14 entries (6th statewide); Monroe with 13 (7th); and Scotland with 11 (9th). The remaining counties finished as follows: Pike with 10 entries (10th); Adair with eight; Clark and Knox both with seven; Randolph with six; Putnam with five; Marion and Shelby each with four; Schuyler with three; Sullivan with two; and Lewis and Ralls both with just one apiece.

This region includes five of the top 20 bucks taken in Missouri. Macon County boasts the 3rd-best typical --a 188 4/8-inch 15-pointer taken by Eugene Bausch in 2001; the 6th-best non-typical -- a 209 3/8-inch 14-pointer taken by Bryan Dickbernd in 2002 -- and the 7th-best non-typical -- a 200 4/8-inch 16-pointer taken by Brad Hudelson in 1982. Scotland County boasts the 8th-best typical -- a 176-inch 12-pointer shot by David Smith in 1985 -- and Glen Young's 220 7/8-inch 26-pointer from 1996 is the state's 4th-best non-typical.

St. Louis
The St. Louis Region finished 5th statewide in number of trophy bucks entries. The top three counties were St. Louis with 20 entries (4th statewide); St. Charles with 17 (5th); and Lincoln with 13 (7th). The remaining five counties finished in this order: Franklin with eight entries; Jefferson with seven; Warren with five; and Crawford and Washington both with only one.

St. Louis County boasts the biggest typical on record in Missouri, a 191 4/8-inch 10-pointer taken by Aaron McCauley in 1999.

Southeast
This region came in 6th place in number of trophy bucks entered. The top three counties were Stoddard with nine entries (11th statewide); Wayne with seven (13th); and Madison with four (16th). The rest of the counties finished like this: Cape Girardeau and Perry both with three; Butler, Iron, St. Francois, and Ste. Genevieve each with two; Bollinger and New Madrid each with one; and Dunklin, Mississippi, Pemiscot, Reynolds, and Scott all with zero.

Cape Girardeau County yielded the 6th-best typical, a 180 3/8-inch 13-pointer taken by Nick Panagos in 2000.

Southwest
This region came in 7th in number of trophy bucks recorded. The top three counties in this area include Barton and Laclede, with four each (16th statewide); Cedar, Greene, Jasper, and McDonald all with three apiece (17th statewide); and Lawrence with two entries (18th). The rest of the counties finished this way: Barry, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Hickory, Newton, and Webster all with just one each; and Polk, Stone and Taney with zero.

Ozark
The Ozark Region came in a surprising last place (8th) statewide in the trophy buck category. The top three counties were Carter with five entries (14th statewide); Phelps with four (16th); and Douglas, Howell, Texas and Wright with two apiece (18th). The rest of the counties finished in this order: Oregon, Pulaski, and Shannon with just one entry over 140 inches; and Dent, Oz

ark and Ripley each with none.

ANTLER-POINT RESTRICTIONS
The Conservation Commission of Missouri approved increasing the number of counties under the antler-point restriction defining legal bucks as those with 4 points or better on one side from 29 counties to 65 counties for the 2008 seasons.

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 (northern counties); and Cole, Franklin, Gasconade, Maries, Miller, Osage, Pulaski (central counties) -- were included in the pilot antler-point restriction program for four years. During that period, the antler restriction reduced the harvest of antlered deer in the north and central pilot counties. The north pilot counties' antlered deer reduction ranged from 35 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2007. The central pilot counties' reduction ranged from 37 percent in 2004 to 19 percent in 2007. Sixty-nine percent of the overall reduction consisted of yearling bucks, which did not meet the antler restriction.

The same 29 counties saw a slight decrease in adult bucks (2 1/2 years old or older) in 2004, the first year of the program. However, adult-buck harvest there continued to increase over the next three years. Overall, the number of adult bucks taken in the north pilot counties increased by 55 percent, and by 62 percent in the central counties. It's safe to assume that these 29 counties would already be prime candidates for you to scout when seeking to identify promising sites for trophy buck action this year.

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