Opening day of rifle season is a time to enjoy traditions while controlling deer population

On the second Saturday of November, gunfire can be heard across the once peaceful, quiet countryside. 

For those who hadn’t been paying attention, they realize that Saturday is the opening weekend of deer season. For many Missourians, the season is like another holiday. People from all over the state suit up in camouflage and safety orange and head for the woods. 

This year 99,567 deer were harvested on opening morning of rifle season alone, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. This number is likely to be higher than last year’s total. 

Although bow season lasts for almost two months and the rifle season lasts 10 days, the majority of the deer are harvested over opening weekend. Men and women can be spotted wearing their camo with prize animals in the back of their vehicle as they head to the meat locker. 

“It’s something that has always appealed to me as an outdoor challenge and as an experience in nature, along with the Share the Harvest program I recently discovered,” said Joe Ege, a first-time hunter.

Many people choose to hunt for meat, while others donate it to Share the Harvest. Share the Harvest is a program that gives hunter’s excess meat to people in need. Ege said that while he has always been interested in hunting, he never had the opportunity to go until this year. He looks forward to the challenge of hunting and the opportunity to give back through Share the Harvest. He is also eager to help manage the deer population. 

Some annual hunters look forward to passing the tradition on to others.

“I just really enjoy how deer season brings people together every year,” said Brent Sheets, a long-time hunter. 

Sheets said his family and friends get together to catch up, eat good meals and tell stories during each deer season.

During the 2017 and 2018 season, according to the MDC, 136,127 deer were harvested. There are eight days of rifle season remaining, a short alternative season, and the second portion of archery season that will last until Jan. 15.