For the tenth consecutive year, Jefferson County maintains its reign as the top archery deer harvest county in the state with 1,563 reported to the state’s Telecheck system. The total is below the record-setting 1,645 from last year, but lower numbers were seen statewide.
Last year hunters in 10 counties harvested more than 1,000 deer during the four-month archery season, which runs from Sept. 15 through Jan. 15 each year. This season, only Jefferson, St. Louis, Franklin and Callaway counties reported totals in the four digits. Statewide the archery harvest unofficially reached 60,820, compared to 67,487 in the 2020-21 season.
Jefferson continues No. 1 based on the combination of a large number of hunters and quality deer habitat. St. Louis County gets its boost because archery is its preferred method or, for much of its area, its only permitted method. Franklin and Callaway, meanwhile, are two of the largest counties by area in Missouri.
The archery season success boosted Jefferson County’s total for all segments of the fall deer hunting season above 5,000. The unofficial total of 5,058 ranks fourth behind Franklin, Texas and Callaway counties.
The overall totals include two youth seasons, the anterless portion, an alternative methods season that ran from Dec. 25 through Jan. 4, and the November portion. Young hunters in Jefferson County checked 235 deer in their two segments. The antlerless portion accounted for 225 deer locally. During the alternative methods season 165 deer were reported here, and in the November portion the county total was 2,869.
The online Telecheck tracker reported a statewide harvest total for all portions of 293,656 deer. That is slightly below last year’s 297,214 final official report, but still the second highest overall total in the past five years.
Along with the good news of hunting success comes a significant jump in chronic wasting disease cases in Jefferson County. Six new positive tests were confirmed in deer harvested during the just-concluded season. Those positive samples are among 51 new findings statewide.
All of the new cases of CWD were in counties near where the disease had been found in the past. Post-season targeted culling in Jefferson and other areas will provide additional deer for testing.
All six new cases in Jefferson County were in the vicinity of the positive tests reported in previous years south of Festus and east of De Soto. The local Bermuda triangle of CWD is bounded by the southern county border, Highway 61 to the east and Hwy. 67 to the north and west.
Two other new positive tests were found in deer killed just across the county line in Washington County west of Blackwell and in Ste. Genevieve County south of Hwy. DD. The case near Blackwell is the first confirmed in Washington County.
The situation is more familiar in Ste. Genevieve County, where the positive test from west of Bloomsdale is one of 10 new cases this year and 35 confirmed samples from 2017 to 2020. The majority of positives are concentrated near the border with Perry County.
Other counties with significant numbers of new CWD cases are Macon and Linn in north central Missouri, where seven new positives were identified in each county. The state’s first finding of the disease in a free-ranging deer was in Macon County in 2012. The first documented case of any kind in the state was in a captive deer the year before in Linn County.
Stone County in southwest Missouri found five new positive cases this year.
Jefferson County’s archery harvest total is good news about the herd and hunters in our area, but the discovery and spread of CWD continues to be a cause for concern.
John Winkelman is Marketing Director for Liguori Publications near Barnhart, Mo., and Associate Editor for Outdoor Guide Magazine. If you have story ideas to share for the Leader outdoor news page, e-mail email@example.com, and you can find more outdoor news and updates at johnjwink.com.