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Archery hunters have record-breaking year

BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor

OUTDOORS 

By BILL WEHRLE, C-T Outdoors Sports Editor  

With the closing of the archery deer and turkey seasons on Jan. 15, all the 2020-21 deer seasons are now closed until next fall.

Missouri’s archery hunters had a record-breaking year on both deer and turkeys, bringing the totals for these to levels not experienced since the early 2000s, despite the firearms deer seasons producing a harvest not all that large. Archery hunting is no longer a small-time sport in Missouri.

Archery deer hunters checked in nearly 67,000 deer this year, up from last year’s total of 61,206, which was a short-lived record harvest for bow-killed deer.

This year’s archery turkey harvest of more than 4,000 birds eclipses last year’s 1,952, which was the lowest-ever number of bow-killed turkeys for a fall season, and easily beats the previous archery-killed record of 3,300 set back in 2009.

Archery hunters had a heckuva year and set new records that may be pretty hard to beat.

The number of archery-killed turkeys caught many wild turkey enthusiasts by surprise as Missouri’s turkey population is at one of its lowest levels in recent years, due to a series of “poor hatch” springs. With fall archery harvest totals barely exceeding 2,000 birds annually for the last five years, a harvest of more than double that is far above pre-season expectations.

I’m sure trained biologists are studying this year’s above-expectations archery harvests to try to determine the reason. I can only offer layman guesses.

This fall’s weather was more favorable for hunters to be out than it’s been for many years, with almost no extended rainy-day periods and milder temperatures than often experienced in November and December.

The “nice” weather might have caused deer and turkeys to spend more time feeding and out in the open, not huddled up somewhere waiting out a storm. It also may have encouraged bowhunters to spend more time in the woods.

My second guess is the proliferation of the use of crossbows during the archery season.

For many years, crossbows were not legal hunting tools in the archery season, but a Missouri Department of Conservation regulation change a few years back allowed their use, opening the door for many new archery hunters who were unable or not inclined to take the time to perfect hunting skills with compound or traditional longbows.

Crossbows, often fitted with telescopic sights, are as deadly as rifles at short range and have attracted many new archery deer and turkey hunters to Missouri’s longest-running big-game season, open from Sept. 15 through Jan. 15 (except for a brief closure during the November firearms deer season).

I haven’t found any individual statistics for traditional bow or crossbow harvests, but those would be interesting to see.

Now that deer and turkey seasons are closed until spring turkey season in April and upland bird seasons are over until fall, hunters will have to settle for a Canada goose season ending Feb. 6, a Light Goose Conservation Order season after that, furbearer hunting season until Jan. 31, or rabbit and squirrel seasons until Feb. 15.

I guess it’s time to start turkey scouting, shotshell reloading, fishing (icefishing?), or some other outdoor-related activity. It’s only a couple months until turkey season!

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