OUTDOORS with Bill Wehrle: Late youth-season hunters set harvest record

BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor

By BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor

Missouri’s age-15-and-under deer hunters enjoyed near-perfect weather during their annual 3-day firearms deer season Nov. 27-29, closely following the November season for all deer hunters.

The late youth hunting was the best it’s ever been for this season, which was added to the list of firearms seasons back in 2008. This year’s 3,899 deer checked in during the three days was far and away more than any previous late youth season. The previous record, set in 2017, was 3,114; last year’s late youth season resulted in only 1,903 deer checked in.

This year’s pleasant fall weather struck a balance between being cool enough to encourage deer movement, but comfortable enough for young hunters to spend long hours afield.

The top three late youth-season harvest counties were Osage with 90, Pike with 87, and Franklin with 72. Area counties were led by Linn with 49, Livingston with 43, and Daviess with 35.

Franklin County and Osage County were also in the top three statewide during the early youth season Oct. 31-Nov. 1, while Linn County was the only one of the above three area counties to place in the top three in the earlier youth season.

Firearms deer seasons specific to young hunters are over now for this year, although youngsters are encouraged to participate in any of the remaining deer seasons, including an archery season open through Jan. 15 and an alternate-methods season Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

Deer hunting becomes more difficult as the weather becomes less comfortable for hunters and the annual rut winds down, slowing deer movement during daylight hours. However, there still are a lot of deer out there and some really big bucks undoubtedly have survived all the previous hunting this fall. With hunting pressure lessening, they might just let down their guard enough to be a little careless in their daily activities.

Area duck hunters got a welcome increase in duck sightings right after Thanksgiving, when what appeared to be a minor migratory “push” brought in some more ducks from up north. It wasn’t a big migration, but at least we saw some small flocks of ducks at local hunting areas.

I hate to say it, but – based on history – this may have been the last migration for this year and, from now on, all we’ll see will be a “trickle down” of ducks moving south. Hope I’m wrong!

I still haven’t seen the large flocks of migratory Canada geese that usually show up in early December, but any day now they might come down the flyway.

We’ve still got quite a few local geese around, so if hunters can find where they’re feeding they should be able to set up for a good field shoot. And a freeze-up of small wetlands doesn’t really cause geese to get excited about moving on, as long as area streams and big lakes stay open. Hunters might want to switch their efforts from ducks to geese to continue to enjoy some exciting hunting.

Don’t forget that quail and rabbit seasons are both open and snow and cold usually make those better. You won’t know if you don’t go!

(Bill Wehrle’s outdoors sports column appears in the Constitution-Tribune each Saturday.)