Missouri Department of Conservation reports final deer harvest at record 326,026

Antlered Deer in the forest
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Missouri’s 2023-2024 deer hunting season concluded on Jan. 15 with the Missouri Department of Conservation reporting a preliminary record-setting total deer harvest for the season of 326,026. This year’s harvest surpasses the previous record set in 2006, which was 325,457.

Out of the total deer harvested, 147,705 were antlered bucks, 29,060 were button bucks, and 149,261 were does. The top harvest counties for the overall deer season were Franklin with 7,395, Howell with 6,346, and Texas with 6,181.

The top harvest counties in the Green Hills were Harrison with 3,621, Daviess with 3,011, and Linn with 2,973. Other harvest totals for Green Hills counties were Sullivan with 2,754, Putnam with 2,418, Livingston with 2,153, Mercer with 2,109, Caldwell with 1,919, and Grundy with 1,856.

In comparison, hunters harvested 299,719 deer during the 2022-2023 deer hunting season, with 140,735 being antlered bucks, 27,028 button bucks, and 131,956 does.

The season concluded with the end of the archery season. Preliminary data from the MDC indicated that hunters checked 55,396 deer during the 2023-2024 archery deer season. The leading counties for the archery deer season were Jefferson with 1,440, Franklin with 1,194, and St. Louis with 1,022. The previous archery season in 2022-2023 saw a total of 56,683 deer checked.

Top harvest counties in the Green Hills were Harrison with 753, Putnam with 600, and Sullivan with 596. Other harvest totals for Green Hills counties were Daviess with 555, Linn with 496, Mercer with 413, Livingston with 335, Grundy with 303, and Caldwell with 293.

The MDC attributed the increase in deer numbers and regulatory changes, including a new early antlerless firearms portion, a new chronic wasting disease (CWD) firearms portion, and an increase in the number of firearms antlerless deer hunting permits in most counties, to the record harvest. These changes provided additional hunting opportunities.

Jason Isabelle, MDC Cervid Program Supervisor, stated, “With deer numbers increasing in most counties, additional antlerless deer harvest is needed to slow population growth and help maintain deer numbers at desired levels. It was great to see hunters take advantage of the additional hunting opportunities.”

This year marked the first time since 2013 that more does were harvested than antlered bucks. Isabelle remarked, “Prior to the severe hemorrhagic disease outbreak in 2012 that reduced deer numbers and resulted in regulation changes to reduce antlerless harvest, doe harvest exceeded antlered buck harvest each year for about a decade. 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.”

The MDC also reported that this year’s antlered buck harvest is the highest on record. This increase is primarily attributed to the new CWD portion of firearms deer season that was open in CWD Management Zone counties. “Hunters play a major role in helping to manage CWD and increasing the harvest of both bucks and antlerless deer in the CWD Management Zone will help reduce the spread of the disease,” added Isabelle.

Isabelle also noted that factors such as increasing deer numbers, changes in hunter preferences, and the removal of the antler-point restriction (APR) in counties entering the CWD Management Zone have contributed to an increasing antlered buck harvest trend over the past decade.

For detailed deer harvest totals by season, county, and type of deer, visit the MDC website at this link.

For historical deer harvest summaries, visit this link.

The MDC reported one non-fatal, archery-related deer hunting incident and no firearms-related hunting incidents during the deer season.

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