OUTDOORS with Bill Wehrle: Record deer harvest in antlerless season

BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor

By BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor

Missouri’s 2020 Dec. 4-6 antlerless deer season recorded 15,425 deer checked in, the largest number taken since this season was reduced from 12 days to just three in 2016.

Last year, 10,565 deer were taken during this season and, prior to that, the 3-day season had produced only 6,000-7,000 deer each year. The total this year was actually larger than the number taken in the previous 12-day seasons going back to 2008.

This year’s antlerless firearms deer season hunters enjoyed great hunting weather and deer populations recovering nicely since the 2012 EHD outbreak reduced their numbers by more than 25%.

This season’s harvest brought Missouri’s firearms deer seasons total harvest to date to 171,599, with one more firearms season – the alternate methods season Dec. 26-Jan. 5 – remaining. Archery deer season won’t end until Jan. 15.

Last year’s alternate methods season recorded 11,989 deer taken, so, if this year’s alternate season produces approximately the same result, the overall firearms total this year would be very close to last year’s 221,660 deer taken in all five portions of Missouri’s firearms deer seasons.

Top harvest counties for the 2020 antlerless deer season were Callaway with 438, Morgan with 377, and Osage with 352. The top three area counties were Carroll with 195, Linn with168, and Daviess with 164. Livingston County recorded 131 deer checked in.

The completed-seasons harvest totals show last year’s early youth season recording more deer taken than this year’s, this year’s late youth season exceeding last year’s, last year’s November season exceeding this year’s, and this year’s antlerless season exceeding last year’s.

It’s pretty obvious Missouri’s deer population has pretty much recovered from the decline caused by the 2012 EHD outbreak, and there’s plenty of deer out there.

I don’t have reports on duck hunter success throughout our local area, but I can tell you for sure that, in the area I hunt, just west of Fountain Grove and close to the Grand River, ducks are few and far between. In my last three hunts, I never shot my gun even one time, and saw almost no ducks.

The last counts I received from Swan Lake and Fountain Grove reflect many fewer ducks at those locations than they had counted last year. I’ve been told that cold and snow north of Missouri has driven all the ducks in those areas “south,” but they sure didn’t end up here.

My son, Brett, who works on five refuges in southern Louisiana, tells me they have more ducks in residence there than ever before this early (their season just started). Just one of these refuges (a smaller one) already has over 100,000 ducks! Maybe “our” ducks slipped right on by us earlier than usual.

I sure wish we still had quail numbers in this area like we did in the ’60s and ’70s when I was quail hunting, instead of duck hunting. One of those 10-covey days like we used to enjoy would really get my hunting blood stirring again.

Right now, I don’t even know where there is one covey and I’ve only seen one or two quail this year.

No ducks, no quail? What next?

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