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Missouri hunters harvest record number of deer

A deer is standing in a field.
Divide By Zero
Missouri's deer hunting season ended January 15.

A record number of deer were harvested in Missouri during the 2023-24 hunting season, the Missouri Department of Conservation reported Wednesday.

Missouri deer hunting season ended Jan. 15, and the MDC estimates that a total of 326,026 deer were harvested, exceeding the previous record set in 2006 of 325,457 deer. In the 2022-23 hunting season, 299,719 deer were killed, 25,000 fewer than this year.

Of the deer harvested this hunting season, 147,705 were antlered bucks, 29,060 were button bucks and 149,261 were does. Franklin County had the largest deer harvest in the state, with 7,395 deer killed. Howell County followed with 6,346 and Texas County with 6,181.

There are about 1.4 million deer in Missouri, and that number has been rising this past decade, according to a 2022 MU report. Hunters play a key role in stabilizing the deer population so it doesn’t exceed what the land and the community can support.

In 2012, local deer populations suffered because of a hemorrhagic disease outbreak, but the population has since recovered. This hunting season, the number of does harvested exceeded the number of antlered bucks harvested for the first time since 2013.

“Now that the deer population has rebounded and regulations have been liberalized, it’s nice to see the much-needed increase in antlerless harvest given our desire to slow the growth of the increasing deer population to maintain deer numbers at socially acceptable levels,” Jason Isabelle, MDC cervid program supervisor, said in the news release.

Hunting also helps control the spread of diseases, Isabelle said. Reducing the number of deer helps to reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease. CWD is a deadly illness that afflicts deer, elk, reindeer and some cervid species, affecting the brain of the animals and causing them to gradually lose control of their bodies, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports.

The disease has been found in some parts of Asia, Europe and North America. According to MDC, it is currently spreading in Missouri.

MDC included 52 counties in the CWD Management Zone, where it requires hunters to help with diagnosing harvested animals through carcass sampling among other measures. Boone County and its neighboring counties are not included in the management zone.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.
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