This year's drought has posed many problems economically and environmentally.
This year's drought has posed many problems economically and environmentally. One overlooked area of the impact of the lack of rain may have yet to be seen.
As deer season opens to all hunters, many exciting adventures lie ahead. But be warned that the drought has increased the occurrence of hemorrhagic disease and the bluetongue virus in Missouri's deer population.
The owner of a local pawn shop and an avid deer hunter, Daniel Boorom, said he expects the population to have decreased because of the sickness.
"From what I've heard from the Conservation, the deer population has had the bluetongue," Boorom said. "That's hurt the deer herd in certain areas."
The disease is caused by the bite of an infected midge fly, which has a rising population due to the lasting drought effects. When both the colonies of flies and herds of deer flock at the few watering holes, the number of bites increases, which increases the likelihood of a deer contracting the virus.
Both white and black-tailed deer are susceptible to the disease, which can cause excessive salivation, swollen body parts, stunted hoof growth and a decrease in activity, among other symptoms.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a total of 6,119 deer in Missouri were reported to have been associated with the disease in some way. The year's end approaching, and frost beginning to cover the ground, as midge flies will die out but the disease will persist. As of Nov. 7, Pulaski County's numbers show that a low number, 39, have been affected by the disease. That number will certainly increase, but the overall population not be majorly affected.
Humans cannot contract the disease, but the Missouri Department of Conservation advises hunters that "any animal in a poor, diseased condition, regardless of the cause, may be unfit for consumption."
There is still a bounty of deer to be hunted and harvested in the fresh gun season despite hemorrhagic disease.
Missouri's youth hunters, ages 6 to 15, have already tallied nearly 19,300 deer killed in 2012, an 18 percent increase from a year ago. In nearby Osage County – where 313 deer were reported to have had bluetongue – young hunters harvested 400 deer last Saturday and Sunday, second in Missouri to Franklin County (417).
The Conservation Department also expects the number of hunters ages 16 or younger to nearly double from a 2001 report of 40,000 to 70,000 in 2012.
Local high school student Dallas Earnst has aged passed the youth hunter requirements, but said he has participated in youth hunting sessions in past years.
"Growing up in the Ozarks, hunting is in everybody's blood," Earnst said. "If you don't go out and hunt you're out of the loop."
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, an estimated 12.5 million people age 16 or older hunted some variety of animals and created a $23 billion economic impact in 2006, and that number has grown exponentially since.
So far, Pulaski County has harvested a total of 564 deer, including 205 antlered bucks, in 2012 seasons. The number will certainly increase as the season opens today and will last until Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Boorom said there is "definitely" an increase in rifle sales, as well as ammo and leather sling sales, at his pawn shop "especially at this time of year."
As hunting piques local interest this month, many deerstalkers have their special areas to sit and wait.
"Probably the best place [to hunt] is on Fort Leonard Wood," Boorom said. "Certain areas they only open once a year, but there is really good hunting on the base itself."
Fort Leonard Wood offers more than 93 square miles of hunting territory in the Mark Twain National Forest to permitted visitors.
There are several other hunting preserves nearby including Big Game Manager and High Adventure Game Ranch in Cook Station; Free Rides at West Over in Steelville; and Stone Creek Hunting Ranch in Edgar Springs, among others.
Other hunters may choose to hunt on private property, which totals 60 percent of total land in the U.S.
No matter the venue or experience level, the excitement from season to season always carries over.
"The night before you always think you have to go to bed early because you're getting up early, but you still can't sleep because you're excited," Boorom said
Hunting is such a mystical art that most who participate are less interested in the harvest and more focused on the experience.
For both Boorom and Earnst, the "peace and serenity" of experiencing nature in its natural state is the most special part of the hunt.
Firearms deer season lasts until Nov. 20. A day later, antlerless deer season begins in selected areas and lasts until Dec. 2. A Dec. 15 through 25 alternative methods season lasts until the final two-day youth season, which on Dec. 29 and 30.
For more information, check the Conservation website at mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping.
For more information about hunting on post call (573) 596-4223.