Young hunters brought home more than 10,000 deer during Missouri's two-day youth firearms deer season, the second-largest kill in the season's five-year history.
Hunters ages 6 through 15 checked 10,860 deer Oct. 29 and 30, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. That is a 19 percent decrease from 2004.
This is the first year that the harvest has declined since the youth season began in 2001. Previous youth harvests were: 2001; 6,277; 2002, 7,580; 2003, 9,054; 2004, 13,466.
This year's top 10 harvest counties were: Osage, 264; Callaway, 234; Macon, 222; Franklin, 219; Pike, 218; Howell, 199; Ripley, 193; Oregon, 189; Lincoln, 188; Boone, 184.
Conservation Department Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen said hunters have more difficulty finding deer in years when acorns are abundant. He said this year's acorn crop is the largest he has ever seen, and this could account for the decreased youth deer harvest.
This year's youth deer harvest included 6,346 (58 percent) antlered deer, 1,389 (13 percent) button bucks and 3,144 (29 percent) does.
The youth deer harvest makes up approximately 4 percent of Missouri's annual deer harvest. More than 71 percent (approximately 270,000) of the deer taken in Missouri each year are killed during the 11-day November portion of firearms deer season. The remaining harvest comes from archery deer season and the muzzleloader and antlerless firearms deer seasons.
Hunters age 6 through 15 can participate in the youth portion of firearms deer season. If they do not have hunter education certification and are using a youth deer and turkey hunting permit, they must hunt in the immediate presence of a properly licensed adult hunter who has a valid hunter education certification card. Landowner youth age 15 and younger hunting on their own property are exempt from these requirements.
This is the second year when nonresidents could participate in the youth portion of the firearms deer season. The number of youngsters who actually took part in the youth hunt is impossible to calculate, because the same permit is used during spring turkey season and the other segments of firearms deer season. The permit is good for one deer and one turkey.
"This youth season is one of several opportunities Missouri offers to encourage youngsters to take up the sport," said Hansen. "It allows adults to teach kids about safety, hunting ethics and woodcraft without the distraction of hunting themselves. It is part of the reason Missouri leads the nation in hunter recruitment."
This year's youth deer season saw the first reported firearms-related hunting accident in the youth hunt's five-year history. A 13-year-old hunter shot himself in the hand when picking up his rifle.