SIKESTON -- Numbers are up for the number of deer killed by hunters in Missouri this season, and the season hasn't yet ended.
Missouri Department of Conservation announced in December that firearms hunters killed 280,856 deer in 2006 -- beating the record set in 2004 by 5,527 deer. The figures include deer shot during the traditional November season, as well as those killed in special seasons for antlerless deer, hunters using muzzleloaders, youth hunters and people hunting in urban areas. Final numbers will be in after the archery season ends in mid-January.
Department of Conservation agents attribute the record kill to good weather and deer number. "All the stars lined up for us this year," said Mark Reed, a conservation agent in Stoddard County.
Area hunters have contributed 1,860 to that total, with 366 deer shot in Scott County, 187 in Mississippi County, 183 in New Madrid County and 1,124 in Stoddard County, officials at the Cape Girardeau office of the Department of Conservation said.
Ideal weather for deer hunting is between 20 and 40 degrees, said Norman Speelman, conservation agent for Mississippi County. "If it's too warm the deer don't like to move, but if it's too cold they don't like to move, either," he said.
Reed also said the weather is a huge factor in the number of deer killed. "From a hunter's perspective, you really couldn't have gotten much better (than the weather this year)," he said.
Deer numbers were also high. "We went into this year with a very strong deer population, thanks to the lower-than-normal doe harvest last year," said Lonnie Hansen, who supervises Missouri's deer-management program.
Speelman agreed. Each doe has the possibility of having one to three offspring. "You're starting to see more and more triplets and twins that will increase the deer numbers," he said.
A higher kill is normal for a year with an increase in herd, although slight. "Our deer herd is healthy enough to handle it," Reed said. "We know we're not over harvesting because we've got the statistics to show it."
Reed credited the large number deer shot in Stoddard County to a slight increase in the herd as well, due to the large county size and conservation areas.
"We have better deer habitats than most of the other counties," he said. "Our conservation areas are managed for quality deer habitat, providing food, water and cover."
Mississippi county doesn't have a thriving habitat like Stoddard County, however. "Deer like trees and over here you don't have a whole lot of trees," Speelman said. "But, we are starting to see some good programs being initiated for deer and other types of wildlife."
The year's totals will be available after the archery season ends Jan. 15. Across the state, archery usually accounts for about 11 percent of the total deer harvest, Reed said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.