Alternative methods deer harvest far below normal

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Missouriís alternative methods season deer hunters look to be having a tough go of it. At least thatís what the harvest numbers are saying.

At around the mid-point in the season, hunters statewide have taken only 2,692 deer as of Wednesday morning. Thatís well less than half the 5,950 they had killed at the same point in last yearís season, and if they are going to match the 2020 season total of 14,555 deer, something drastic is going to have to happen soon.

Yeah, itís been warm, and yeah, acorns are abundant, but this fall just seems weird. Nearly every county in our area has seen harvest drops for every deer seer season, including the youth firearms, regular firearms, alternative methods and archery seasons.

Iím not talking about minor drops in the harvest, either. Some have dropped 40% or more, and some this season are far worse. Thereís definitely a pattern.

Anyway, as of Wednesday morning, alternative methods season hunters in Butler County had taken 11 deer so far, compared to 38 last year.

In Carter County, the current tally is 23, down from 55 a year ago.

Dunklin County hunters have tagged nine deer, down from 20.

In Reynolds County, 33 deer have been taken in this season, exactly half of the 66 killed at this point last year.

Ripley County hunters have taken 20 deer, which is only slightly better than 25% of the 78 taken last year.

Stoddard County hunters have killed 26 deer compared to 60 last year.

The most alarming statistic comes out of Wayne County, which typically is the regionís hot spot. Only 13 deer have been taken there in the alternative methods season, an enormous drop from last yearís 98.

The Saturday forecast doesnít look especially good for deer hunters, with rain and southwest winds predicted. Sunday, however, looks much better, with high pressure, sunny skies and a little less wind. The temperature also will be much colder and should provoke deer to get on their feet and move.

The season closes Tuesday, wrapping up firearms deer hunting in the state for this fall and winter.

Stagnated

Just like the alternative methods deer harvest, the archery harvest in Missouri has stagnated, with barely a few deer being taken here and there.

In Butler County, bowhunters have tagged 353 deer. In Carter County, theyíve taken 549.

Bowhunters in Dunklin County have arrowed 87 deer, and in Reynolds County, theyíve taken 568.

Ripley County bowhunters have tagged 455 deer, and the tally in Stoddard County is 561.

Wayne County bowhunters have killed 747 deer so far.

The archery season will wrap up Jan. 15, so thereís not a lot of time left to get things done.

Tough Going

After the November firearms deer season, a lot of folks will switch over to duck hunting for more action. Unfortunately, duck numbers have been far below average at all managed wetlands in Southeast Missouri (and Northeast Arkansas for that matter), making things tough for hunters.

Unless youíre hunting Pool 7 or Pool 8 at Mingo/Duck Creek, the action has been pretty mediocre.

I drove around Mingo last Thursday morning and the flooded timber pools were definitely where the ducks were found, and I could hear plenty of shooting. In the open units, there was hardly a duck to be found.

Duck Creek Conservation Area staff are reporting just 4,500 ducks this week, with a five-day bird-per-hunter average of 0.87. That doesnít include Pool 7 and Pool 8, which are counted on Mingoís weekly survey. Duck Creek biologist Nicky Walker previously said the bird-per-hunter average in those two units alone was well above 3.0.

Even duck hunters at the Otter Slough Conservation Area, which is reporting a little less than 19,000 ducks this week, have been struggling.

The five-day bird-per-hunter average at Otter Slough has hovered around 1.14, which, for a marquee managed area, is not good at all.

Staff at Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area have not updated the duck count there in a while, but suffice to say, itís likely low, just like everywhere else.

One more option for duck hunters would be the flooded timber unit, Pool 8, at the Coon Island Conservation Area.

Thereís a major cold front coming this weekend, and the temperature is supposed to drop significantly Saturday night. A couple biologists told me theyíre expecting a push of new birds to ride into the area on the leading edge of that front, meaning Sunday could prove to be pretty good for hunting.

Missouriís North Zone has closed, but the Middle Zone continues through Jan. 9. Those hunting in the South Zone have until Jan. 31 before the season closes.

Arkansasí third and final duck season segment is open now and will run through Jan. 31 as well.

Lake Dropping

Crappie fishing remains spotty at Wappapello Lake.

I donít think many folks have been out fishing over the last week, and I only heard from one angler, who said he caught several small fish but few keepers.

The lake was a bit high, but has fallen about 4 feet over the last few days. Once it stabilizes, fishing should improve.

The best bet would be fishing around submerged structure along the river channel from the mid-lake region northward.

Fur Buyer

I reached out to fur buyer Marc Romine to see if he was planning to visit the Poplar Bluff sale Barn this winter, and he told me has was not.

ďDue to the low markets, I will not be buying at the Sale Barn this year,Ē Romine said.

If trappers have skinned raccoons, beavers or other pelts, Romine suggests they sell them to Groenwold Furs, which will be in Cairo, Illinois, at 8 a.m. March 5 at the truck plaza.

Romine will buy a few whole foxes, bobcats and others from trappers, to be used for taxidermy mounts, but nothing skinned.

If you have something you think he might want, give him a call at 573-714-5277.

Happy New Year

Friday marks the end of 2021, and I can smile as I reflect back over the last year and plan for the next.

The last year has seen a lot of ups and downs in the outdoors for me, and because of work commitments, weather and other factors, I never made it out hunting and fishing nearly as much as I wanted to (who really ever does?).

As far as fishing goes, it just didnít happen much for me. Every time I had a day off, it was either raining or the water was high and muddy.

My hunting exploits were a bit better, starting with a spring turkey archery kill in another state followed by an opening-day silent gobbler in Missouri.

I had full intentions to go squirrel hunting over the summer, but that never happened.

I finally made it to the woods again in early October and passed on a couple good 8-point bucks while bowhunting. Looking back, those were some boneheaded decisions. I did, however, zip an arrow through a doe in early October.

The rut was mostly a bust for me, but I redeemed myself with a big 10-point buck on opening day of the firearms season. Iíve bowhunted a couple times since then and have seen deer, but nothing close enough to draw on.

I never went duck hunting, and at this point, probably wonít. Given how poor things have been the last few years, it may become a bygone thing for me anyway. Anyone need some decoys? Plus, I firmly believe the ďDuck DynastyĒ generation, as I call it, has been detrimental to duck hunting as a whole.

Anyway, Iím looking forward to 2022 and Iím crossing my fingers that I can get outdoors more than Iíve been able to lately. Hopefully, you can do the same. Happy New Year!

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