Missouri's 2009 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Finding Trophy Bucks

Missouri's 2009 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Finding Trophy Bucks

Big bucks show up in all parts of the Show Me State, but some areas are better than others for producing trophy animals. These are some top areas for taking a wallhanger this fall. (November 2009)

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.


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.


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.


Missouri's primary whitetail record-keeping organization, the Show-Me Big Bucks Club, has been recording the state's trophy whitetails since 1968. This record-keeping club keeps track of all whitetail records, including those killed by archery, muzzleloader and modern firearms, as well as whitetail shed antlers.

Any whitetail buck rack that measures 140 inches or more as a typical can be entered, and any non-typical 155 inches or better.

For info on how to have your buck officially measured for the record book, go to www.showmebigbucks. org.

The following are the most up-to-date records of 6,903 trophy white­tails entered and available at press time.


The Central region led the state in total number of trophy bucks with 1,589 entries. The top three counties were Saline with 208 entries, Callaway with 172 and Cooper 150. The rest of the region finished as follows: Osage 114, Boone and Gasconade each with 113, Howard 105, Morgan 102, Camden and Maries with 89 each, Montgomery 85, Miller 81, Moniteau 78, 12 Cole 46 and Audrain 44.

Hunters should note that the top eight counties in this region are among the Top 20 in trophy buck entries in the entire state.


The Northwest region finished second statewide in terms of trophy entries with 1,399. The top three counties are Chariton with 162 entries, Harrison 127 and Nodaway 108. The remaining counties finished in the following order: Daviess 100, Linn 88, Ray 83, Mercer 81, Grundy 75, Carroll 66, Andrew and Holt both with 62, DeKalb 60, Livingston 56, Atchison 53, Caldwell and Gentry both with 51, Clinton 48, Worth 35 and Buchanan 31.

Hunters should note that the top four counties in this region made the state's Top 20 trophy county list.


The Northeast region finished third in numbers of trophy bucks recorded statewide with 1,349 entries. The top three counties were Putnam 173, Adair 147 and Macon 135. The remaining counties finished as follows: Scotland 103, Pike 102, Sullivan 92, Randolph 87, Clark 85, Knox 84, Monroe 80, Shelby 65, Lewis 60, Marion 50, Ralls 44 and Schuyler 42.

Hunters should note that the top six counties in this region made the state's Top 20 county trophy entry list.


The KC region came in fourth place statewide in number of bucks entered into the record book with 727 trophies recorded. The top three counties were Jackson with 94, Pettis 91 and Benton 89. The remaining counties finished as follows: Henry 81, Cass 60, St. Clair 60, Bates 51, Johnson 49, Vernon 45, Clay 39, Platte 37 and Lafayette 31.


The St. Louis region finished fifth statewide in number of trophy buck entries with 574. The top three counties were Franklin with 115 entries, Lincoln 90 and Warren 82. The remaining five counties finished in this order: Crawford 81, St. Charles 71, St. Louis 68, Washington 51 and Jefferson 16.


The Ozark region came in at sixth place statewide in the trophy buck entry category with 510 entries. The top three counties were Phelps and Texas, each with 76 trophy entries, and Shannon 60. The rest of the counties finished in this order: Carter and Dent with 57 apiece, Pulaski 42, Howell 32, Ozark 28, Oregon 26, Ripley and Wright with 21 each and Douglas 14.


This region came in at seventh place in number of trophy bucks entered into the state's record book with 392 trophy racks registered. The top three counties were Cape Girardeau with 53, Ste. Genevieve 52 and Wayne 49. The rest of the counties finished like this: Perry 48, Iron 33, Bollinger 32, Madison and Reynolds both with 29, St. Francois 25, Stoddard 19, Scott 7, Butler 6, Mississippi and New Madrid with 4 apiece and Dunklin 2.


This region came in eighth and last place in number of trophy bucks recorded in the record book with 363 antlered deer registered. The top three counties in this area include Laclede with 62, Hickory 39 and Benton 30. The rest of the counties finished this way: Dallas 29, Jasper 25, Cedar and Greene each with 22, Newton 21, McDonald 20, Polk 19, Barry 16, Christian and Taney each with 11, Stone 10, Dade and Lawrence both with 9 and Webster with 8 entries.


Here's a look at which regions/ counties had the most antlered deer taken in the 2008 seasons combined. These statistics include all antlered bucks that were legal throughout the state last year, but do not include button bucks.

Northwest Region

This 19-county region led the state in total number of antlered bucks taken during the 2008 deer seasons last year with 16,966, which is down 1,029 from 2007. The top three counties were Nodaway with 1,454, Linn 1,421 and Harrison 1,412.

Everyone believes that Iowa is the "promised land" when it comes to hunting trophy whitetails, so let's also take a look at the Iowa border counties in this region. The Iowa border counties in this area are Harrison, Nodaway, Atchison, Worth and Mercer. Nodaway ranked first place in the region with 1,454 antlered deer taken, Harrison with 1,412 was third regionally, Mercer seventh by region with 964, Atchison 10th with 856, and Worth 17th in the region with 528 bucks killed.

Northeast Region

The 15-county Northeast Region finished second in numbers of antlered deer taken in 2008, which is down 3,265 bucks from 2007. The top three counties were Macon 1,820, Sullivan 1,383, and Adair 1,342. This area's four Iowa border counties finished like this: Putnam with 1,286, Scotland 1,018, Clark with 932 and Schuyler with 630 bucks taken.

Southwest Region

This 17-county region came in third statewide in numbers of antlered deer taken in 2008 with 13,511, which is down 890 from the year before. The top three counties and their total buck kill were Laclede 1,200, Taney 1,037 and McDonald 1,000.

Central Region

This 15-county region came in fourth in terms of total number of legal antlered deer taken in last year with 12,952 bucks. This number is down a whopping 5,280 bucks from the 2007 harvest. Top three counties were Boone with 1,278, Callaway with 1,256 and Osage 1,162.

Ozark Region

This 12-county region finished fifth statewide in antlered deer harvest last year with 12,860, which is substantially down 3,773 bucks from the 2007 totals. The top three counties were Texas with 1,852 bucks reported, Howell at 1,530 and Ozark with 1,269.

Southeast Region

This 16-county section finished in sixth place statewide with 10,458 antlered deer taken last year, down some 1,400 from the 2007 harvest. The top three counties were Wayne at 1,393 bucks taken, Bollinger with 1,235, and Ste. Geneviev

e showing only 1,151 bucks killed.

Kansas City Region

This 12-county tract came in at seventh place statewide for antlered deer harvest last year with 10,061, which is down 3,130 bucks from 2007 totals. The top three counties were Benton 1,323, St. Clair 1,006 and Henry 933.

St. Louis Region

This eight-county region finished dead last out of eight regions in Missouri in antlered deer harvest last year with only 8,062 bucks taken. Keep in mind that this is the smallest region of the state, so the total harvest numbers are somewhat skewed. The top three counties were Jefferson with 1,507 bucks killed, Crawford at 1,309 and Franklin with 1,266.


A combination of statistics based on Antler Point Restrictions, record book entries and antlered deer harvest totals should give you an idea of the region or county you should zero in on in order to find your trophy buck this year. We've done the number crunching for you, and now it's up to you to pick that special region/county and start scouting!

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