The cool weather couldn’t have arrived at a better time for Missouri’s deer hunters.
The firearms season opens Saturday, and the drop in temperatures has whitetails on the move.
In fact, some bow hunters are reporting that rutting activity has increased dramatically in the last week.
That makes the outlook for this weekend’s opener much brighter than a year ago, when temperatures were in the 70s.
Despite that warm weather, hunters still shot 96,131 deer on opening weekend, an increase from the previous year. Look for that total to be even higher this year, with temperatures predicted to be in the 40s and 50s.
Just don’t look for a record season.
The whitetail herd is still recovering from 2012, the year when a severe drought resulted in a large outbreak of hemorrhagic disease.
Deer were concentrated around what little watering holes there were, making them susceptible to the fleas that transmitted the disease.
Missouri lost large numbers of deer the year, particularly in northern Missouri. The herd is slowly coming back, in part, because that disease hasn’t surfaced in large-scale since then, and in part due to more-restrictive hunting regulations.
The Department of Conservation once allowed hunters to get unlimited numbers of doe tags in parts of the state. In response to the dropping deer numbers, wildlife officials reduced the antlerless season from 12 days to 3, and reduced the number of antlerless tags hunters could receive.
The regulation changes to reduce doe harvest appear to be working. Look for that to continue this season. The Ozarks region, which was affected less by the disease outbreak than other parts of the state, should continue to be the top producer. Counties such as Howell, Texas and Oregon have been among the state leaders in harvest the last few years.