This Saturday, Nov.14, more than 400,000 orange clad deer hunters will start off the 2009 firearm season looking for that trophy buck or a nice sized doe and many will be rewarded as opening day and weekend results in a sizable harvest in the 11-day season.
The warm weather recently made it feel more like time for fishing instead of deer hunting, but the deer are out there. The state's deer herd numbers between 800,000 and a million deer, giving hunters plenty of targets. Counting landowner permits, there were more than 400,000 permits in hunters hands prior to opening day last year and there will be even more this November. A successful early youth hunt shows there are a lot of deer in the Missouri woods.
Charles Jackson, Bolivar, said he has seem more deer this fall than he can remember prior to the opening of the season. Jackson, 72, said, "I am very careful while driving early in the morning and around sunset. I have had several close run-ins with deer crossing the road ahead of me. I counted four deer that had been hit by vehicles along a stretch of Highway 13 this past several weeks.
"I had a neighbor have his truck nearly totaled when a big buck came out of nowhere and hit the front of his truck. Even in the city you can't be too careful. My daughter, who lives in Independence, said almost every night she sees deer helping themselves to her flowers in he subdivision where she lives. You really need to be alert when driving in the evening this time of year."
Prior to the opening of the firearm season, Missouri archers report seeing lots of deer while in their tree stands the past month. Jerry Reed, Springfield, said, "I have seen more deer last month than I ever have while in my stand. However, the only ones I could have shot were small does and although I have seen several nice bucks, they stayed too far out to risk a shot. Its a long season so I have plenty of time to hunt.
"It's been an interesting fall while in my stand. I have seen bobcats, turkeys and lots of other small game close to me. That's another reason I like to bowhunt deer."
Harry Harrison, Blue Springs, took his grandson deer hunting for the first time during the early youth hunt and said, "We had a great hunt and saw lots of deer and turkey, it was a joy to see my grandson's eyes light up when we saw the wildlife up close. It made me feel good knowing there is a special hunt for the youngsters."
By the time the deer season ends, this could be another record season. When the Youth Hunt, archery, muzzleloading, urban, anterless season plus the late firearm youth portion and the regular November firearm season totals are added up, the number of deer taken will be well over the 200,000 mark, which was unthinkable back in the 1940s when the first modern day hunt started.
There will be more than 60 counties in which the antler point restriction will be in effect this year. A map in the 2009 Fall Deer and Turkey booklet shows those counties and information about other regulations.
For successful hunters that would like to share their harvest this season, an effective program appropriately called "Share the Harvest" allows hunters to donate deer meat to families in need. The charitable program that started in 1992, lets hunters to legally donate venison to people need food.
Since this season hunters might take more deer than ever before, donated venison should be much higher. In past seasons, hunters have donated almost 2 million pounds of venison through the program.
To learn more about the program and how to go about donating deer meat, check the Fall Deer Hunting Guide available at any vendors that handle permits or be contacting the Missouri Conservation Department.