If you had trouble hunting deer this November, you can blame Thanksgiving.
Kevyn Wiskirchen, private land deer biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the timing of the hunting season, which is set based on what day Thanksgiving falls, was misaligned with the peak of deer breeding in Missouri. This was the primary reason for a lower number of deer killed so far compared to last year.
The November firearms portion of the deer hunting season lasts 11 days and is set to end the Tuesday before Thanksgiving every year, Wiskirchen said.
This year, Thanksgiving fell later than it had in the past several years; it fell six days later than last year. Because this year’s November portion began Nov. 16, it missed the peak of deer breeding, which Wiskirchen said falls around Nov. 11 or 12.
Wiskirchen said when deer season, in particular the opening weekend of the November portion, aligns with the peak time of deer breeding, the Department of Conservation will see very high numbers of deer killed.
Wiskirchen said this is because of the deer’s behavior.
“During breeding, deer are really active — they’re really focused on breeding and not so much (on) predators and hunters, so they’re a little less wary — but they’re mostly just active,” he said. “They’re up, and they’re moving, and they’re looking for mates, and that makes them really susceptible to hunters.”
Just as with the November firearm portion, there was a drop in the number of deer killed during the later youth portion of hunting season, compared to last year. Wiskirchen said, however, that this is for a different reason. Children between the ages of 6 and 15 had their second chance at deer hunting for the season last weekend.
Of the 1,909 deer killed, 752 were antlered bucks, 200 were button bucks and 957 were does, according to a Department of Conservation news release. The most successful counties were Osage, with 63 deer checked; Lincoln, with 45; and Callaway, with 41.
Last year’s harvest total for the late youth portion was 2,595, showing a roughly 26% decline this year.
Wiskirchen said weather was likely the reason youths killed fewer deer during this year’s late portion. He said poor weather can keep youth from heading out or cause them to head home earlier.
“They’re younger folks, maybe not as willing to stick it out through cold or rain or really heavy winds,” Wiskirchen said. “We kind of had all three of those this past weekend.”
Wiskirchen said higher success during the early youth portion also contributed to lower harvest during the late youth portion as many youths had already “filled their tags” or killed the number of deer they were allowed for the whole season. He said the early youth portion, Nov. 2 and 3, saw a 33% increase from last year.
Looking forward, Wiskirchen said hunting in December will depend on the weather.
The next deer hunting portion will be the firearm, antlerless portion from Dec. 6-8.
Weather permitting, Wiskirchen said he anticipates the number of deer killed in December to be on track with last year, if not a little higher.
“I think because harvest was down during the November firearms portion, some people will try to make up for that in some of these later hunts,” he said. “We might see numbers bump up because they didn’t get their deer earlier in the season.”
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