Alternative methods deer harvest lowest since 2006

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Missouri’s alternative methods deer season, the final firearms season of the fall/winter of 2021-22, wrapped up Tuesday.

Statewide, hunters managed to bring home 9,965 deer, which is roughly a third less than the 14,623 (adjusted total in the off-season) they took during the same season a year ago.

For reference, the harvest total was the lowest since 2006, six years before the season changed from muzzleloaders only to alternative methods. Of course, back then, the season dates were much different, so it’s probably not a completely fair comparison.

The top counties were Osage with 223 deer taken, Franklin with 211 and Callaway with 201.

The 11-day season started slow and never really got going strong, and poor weather conditions over the final weekend certainly didn’t help hunters any.

Locally, every county harvest was down from last year, some significantly more than others.

In Butler County, hunters took home 47 alternative methods season deer. That’s right at about half the 95 they took last year.

In Carter County, hunters tagged 56 deer, down from 119 a year ago.

Percentage-wise, Dunklin County hunters fared a little better than their neighbors, taking 25 deer this year compared to 33 last year.

In Reynolds County, hunters killed 136 deer, down from 155.

Ripley County hunters finished the season with 92 deer taken, barely 50% of last year’s 177.

Stoddard County hunters killed 110 deer, which was relatively close to last year’s 136.

Wayne County, usually the top deer county in our reader area, saw the largest decrease in harvest with 71 deer taken. That’s compared to 214 last year, which admittedly was a high year.

I’ve looked back over the last five years’ harvest data from Wayne County, not including this season, and the numbers range between 102 and 214. Obviously, there’s a lot of variability, and weather conditions probably are the biggest factor in success, with acorn availability running second. Still, 71 deer this year is a bit concerning, especially when you consider the county was down significantly in the November season and, with one week to go, remains far below last year’s archery harvest as well.

With the closure of the alternative methods season, the only opportunity to take another deer this winter will be for bowhunters, and time is running short. The archery season closes in just more than a week, on Jan. 15.

Some Improvement

Duck hunting across the region has been nothing to brag about this winter, but it does look like it has improved a little bit after last weekend’s big storm front pushed through.

Unfortunately for Middle Zone hunters, there’s not much time left to get afield, with the season closing there Sunday.

The Duck Creek Conservation Area saw a bump of birds this week and is reporting almost 15,000 ducks. The five-day bird-per-hunter average also increased from 0.87 last week to 1.33 now. That doesn’t include pools 7 and 8, which should be much higher.

At the Otter Slough Conservation Area, there are a reported 14,500 ducks this week. The five-day bird-per-hunter average also has notched up slightly, going from 1.14 last week to 1.79 now.

Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area is reporting a little over 18,000 ducks this week, which actually is a little lower than previous weeks. However, the bird-per-hunter average has jumped significantly there. Over the last few weeks, it was a measly 1.0 or lower, but this week it has improved to 2.24.

South Zone hunters have until Jan. 31 before their season closes.

‘A Lot to be Desired’

After last weekend’s rains, Wappapello Lake topped out Monday evening at around 361.1 feet, which is about 6 feet above normal for this time of year. It now is falling slowly, and is sitting around 360.5.

Fishing has been a bit hit-or-miss.

“The catching sure had a lot to be desired,” one angler told me. “We fished all day up river along the channel and even tried a few places in the shallows and caught a total of nine fish, all too small.”

Still, you’ve got to be there to catch them, and the upper lake remains the best winter fishing location.

Paul Davis is the outdoor editor for the Daily American Republic and can be reached at pdavis.dar@gmail.com.

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