Categorized | Opinion

Whitetail Deer near Extinction in Missouri

By Josh Gowan

Josh Gowan poses with a Mississippi River bottoms buck killed during muzzleloeader season.

Josh Gowan poses with a Mississippi River bottoms buck killed during muzzleloeader season.

I’m just kidding, I thought I’d give sensationalism a try. Apparently it’s taught in journalism school and is quite popular now. I was a creative writing major and never learned the technique, possibly because I spent the majority of my time fishing and hunting while the other creative writing majors were in class.
I’m used to seeing sensationalism in the news, and we all know the weather-folks will trump up a story, but I thought the outdoors world was sacred. Sure, we will occasionally stretch the length and weight of a fish, maybe take a picture of a deer with the buck’s nose nearly touching the camera lens and the proud hunter leaning back as if he’s in the finals of a limbo contest, but the art of great wildlife photography is not what’s under fire here. In one of my favorite newspapers, right next to my column, was a story about Missouri’s deer population, and the bleak forecast.
I’m going to quote the opening passage “(Missouri hunters) remember days when they could pick and choose the deer they wanted to shoot. Now, they’re lucky just to see deer. Any deer, let alone a big buck.” This irritated me to the point that I did the unthinkable, research! Let me lay some real numbers on you. First of all, the numbers for archery are not in yet, so it’s really too early to say much of anything, but the two most important seasons outside of archery are youth and firearms. Everyone who is writing their first ever article on wildlife is comparing this year’s totals to last year’s. The problem with that is last year was a banner year for deer hunting, and I, as well as many other people knew and wrote about the fact that it was going to be a banner year because of the statewide drought and the poorest acorn crop in a decade. This meant that deer would constantly be on the move searching for food, as they do not store food like their tree-dwelling accomplices the squirrels, which in turn meant that us hunters would see and have the opportunity to shoot a lot of deer, and we did.
This year’s firearm season was pummeled with some of the worst weather we’ve seen in years, namely ridiculously high, sustained winds for both weekends, along with massive thunderstorms that spanned the entire state on the second day, when the grand majority of hunters are in the woods. Deer do not move in such weather unless they’re forced to. Due to this weather, the total number of deer harvested in the 11-day firearms portion was 157,272, down from the 5-year average of 186,677. The early youth portion’s numbers were 18,676, well above the 5-year average of 16,188. We still have a few more days before the archery totals will be in.
There is no doubt that we have some issues with CWD and EHD, predominately in central and northwest Missouri where they’ve experienced two years of summertime drought, but people must remember that Missouri is a big state, with very different geographic areas, and what may seem like a tidal wave in one county or corner, may not even make a wake in another. I spent a week in northeast Missouri and saw deer on every hunt, and have mostly erased the 10,000 or so game camera pics of deer from my computer. I also spent a week in the Ozarks of southern Missouri and again, deer were plentiful. Finally, my season concluded with a week in southeast Missouri, the region with the lowest (albeit growing) deer population in the state, and guess what, I saw a lot of deer. So just because your uncle didn’t get a deer, and he always gets a deer, doesn’t mean our 1,000,000+ deer population have either died from disease or swam the Mississippi for Illinois! We have a heck of a conservation department and I assure you they are watching things closely.
Enough ranting, January 23-26 marks the biggest fishing show in our area, and the biggest crappie fishing show in the country. Grizzly Jig Company in Caruthersville, Mo. (my day job) will be hosting the 11th Annual Spring Tackle Show, bringing in the best crappie fishermen from all over the country, who will be giving free seminars every hour for the 4-day event. There will also be representatives from Humminbird depthfinders that will be giving seminars on using your electronics, this is one of the most popular seminars in the fishing world. There will be a ton of close-out fishing equipment and boat seats, and you get $5 off for every $30 you spend just for walking in the door. This is an awesome event, so come on down (or up Tennessee) and see us! I’ll be there all four days and will probably be doing some seminars on Sunday.
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com

  • sevans

    Thanks for the info & “heads-up”. I’ll be sure to pray for rain during next year’s kill season-I didn’t realize it made such a difference! Very grateful to hear that all this harsh weather has done some good somewhere.

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