The primetime of a lucrative industry in Missouri is quickly approaching.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates the economic ripple effect of hunting on the state is $1.6 billion.  The Missouri Conservation Federation pegs deer hunting’s economic impact alone on the state and local economies at $1 billion.

Allison Drummond with her deer she shot during the early portion of firearms youth deer season (Image courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation)

The archery deer season is underway, with the firearms season less than two weeks away. Conservation Agent Zach Barnes in north-central Missouri’s Macon County is seeing deer and archery hunters in the woods.  “I’ve seen a lot,” said Barnes.  “I was just looking at some of my reports and there’s been a lot of deer killed.  And there’s been a lot more recently with the weather turning cold. I think it’s going to be a good year.  There’s been a lot of deer out and moving.”

Meanwhile, more than 13,500 deer were harvested during the early portion of youth firearms deer season, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  Preliminary data from the agency shows that last weekend hunters between the ages of 6 and 15 harvested 13,560 deer.

MDC Cervid (members of the deer family) Program Supervisor Barb Keller said young hunters battled through less than ideal conditions to collect their haul.  “Warm temperatures and gusty winds this weekend presented much more challenging hunting conditions compared to last year, but Missouri’s youth still pulled off a respectable harvest,” said Keller.

Top counties for the early youth portion were Howell County in southern Missouri with 350, mid-Missouri’s Osage County with 316, and Franklin County in eastern Missouri with 263 deer checked. Last year’s harvest total for the early youth portion was 17,412.

The archery deer season runs until November 9th, with the firearms season beginning the next morning.

During this year’s legislative session, Republican Senator Bill Eigel of Weldon Springs introduced a bill to make the opening day of firearms season a state holiday.  The measure, which would move the holiday to the preceding Friday if it falls on a Saturday, failed to advance.

That scenario was set to play out in the next 10 days.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board worried that, given the dozens of state holidays already in existence, most people would not get the day off, and instead would be irritated that banks and state offices would be closed.

Senator Eigel’s office told Missourinet he does not plan to reintroduce his bill in 2019.

One concern heading into the heart of deer hunting season is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which kills all deer and other cervids it infects.  The most recent case of CWD was reported earlier this month in southern Missouri’s Oregon County.

This new case brings the total number of CWD cases detected in free-ranging deer in Missouri to 76 since 2012.  The Oregon County finding is unusual because it’s the first wild deer found dead – without being hunted – that has tested positive for CWD.

The Missouri Conservation Department is trying to limit the disease in the state as CWD has spread widely in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, western Kansas, and southern Wisconsin.  CWD is not known to affect humans.

Conservation agent Barnes says the agency is always looking for the public’s help to identify violations, and one way to do that is to make a phone call.  “People like to cheat the system,” Barnes said.  “With deer moving, people are going to be out when they’re not supposed to be and doing things they’re not supposed to do, so we rely on the public for a lot of help.”

The portions of deer hunting season broken down:

Archery deer hunting continues through Nov. 9 and again from Nov. 21 through Jan. 15, 2019. Up next for deer hunting in Missouri is the November portion of firearms deer season, which runs Nov. 10-20. That will be followed by the late youth portion of firearms deer season on Nov. 23-25. The antlerless portion of firearms deer season runs Nov. 30-Dec. 2. Lastly, the alternative methods portion will run Dec. 22- Jan. 1, 2019.

(Missourinet media partner KWIX contributed to this report)