The Missouri firearms deer season opened with a bang over the weekend.

Aided by near-perfect hunting conditions – cool mornings and mild afternoons — hunters shot 96,823 deer Saturday and Sunday. That was the highest opening-weekend harvest in the last six years and another sign that the Missouri deer herd is coming back.

As recently as 2013, hunters took only 61,446 deer during an opening weekend in an era when the deer herd was ravaged by disease.  But hunters reporting seeing more – and shooting more – deer than they have in some time over the weekend.

Franklin County led the state, with 2,052 deer checked in. Howell was second with 1,958, Texas third with 1,944, Wayne fourth with 1,871 and Benton fifth with 1,648.

The firearms season will continue through Nov. 22.