Hunters check 14,000 deer during antlerless season

JEFFERSON CITY–Hunters checked 14,439 deer during Missouri’s antlerless deer season Nov. 23 through Dec. 4.

This year’s antlerless harvest is 789 fewer than last year. Top harvest counties for the 12-day antlerless season were Benton with 394 deer checked, Pike with 390 and Macon with 378.

So far this year, firearms deer hunters have killed 221,490 deer. That is up 4,209 from the same time last year.

Two portions of Missouri’s firearms deer season remain. The muzzleloader portion runs from Dec. 17 through 27, and the late youth portion is Jan. 7 and 8.

Besides increasing hunting opportunities, the antlerless season gives landowners a way of regulating local deer numbers by allowing hunters to remove female deer from the population.

Missouri’s estimated population of 1.4 million whitetails enable hunters to shoot more than 250,000 deer each year. That yields approximately 10 million pounds of venison. Hunters consume most of this meat. However, hunters donate more than 250,000 pounds of venison annually to local food banks and other charities through the Share the Harvest program.

Wild venison has less fat than organic, free range beef, which sells for anywhere from $7 a pound for ground meat, to $30 for steaks. That puts the food value of Missouri’s white-tailed deer resource in the neighborhood of $200 million per year. Missouri’s deer resource also supports 11,000-plus jobs and generates more than $1 billion in business activity annually.

Economic value aside, deer hunting is a cherished tradition that draws thousands of Missouri natives back home to share healthful outdoor recreation with family and friends.

-Jim Low-