For some, deer hunting is a sport, or perhaps a way to provide a source of food for their family; for others, it may be a valued family tradition.
For the State of Missouri, it is an estimated $1 billion a year industry.
“I don’t think that most people stop and think about all the ways that hunting feeds money into the state economy, or local economy,” said Wildlife Management Biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation Kent Korthas.
Some of those sources of income include hunter’s permits, meat processing fee and, guns and ammunition, to individuals who stay at area hotels as out-of-town hunters or who buy gas or supplies at area stores and eat at area restaurants.
“Preliminary data from the MDC shows that deer hunters in the state harvested 97,171 deer during opening weekend of the November portion of the fall firearms deer season,” Korthas wrote in an email supplied to the Democrat. “Pettis County hunters brought in 685 deer that weekend.”
Statewide, the season began for firearm hunters Nov. 14 and continues through Nov. 24.
It is estimated that almost a half million people will participate in this year’s deer hunt.
“Right now it is difficult to say how many permits we have sold,” Korthas said. “Some, who got a deer this first weekend, may decide they want to go out again and try for another so they would have to buy an additional tag.”
The cost of those permits varies according to the type of permit and the age of the hunter.
“A basic permit for one antlered or antlerless deer statewide during firearms season for someone 16 and older is $17 if they are a resident,” Korthas said. “For non-residents the cost of the same permit is $225.
“It may be hard to believe, but we have a lot of people from all over the United States who come to Missouri to hunt,” Korthas added. “I know of families from as far away as Pennsylvania and Montana who come to hunt in Missouri.”
Korthas said that for many the trip is a chance to spend time with friends and family doing something they do not have the opportunity to do yearlong.
“We were booked full last weekend and I think most of the other hotels were too,” said Cassie Rapp, desk clerk at Comfort Inn, 3600 W. Broadway Blvd. “I know there were big basketball and cheerleading tournaments in town last weekend so I can’t say how many of our guests were here specifically for hunting.
“We always have a lot of out-of-state guests though, so some of them may have stayed here for that reason,” Rapp added.
If the deer population is any indication, more hunters will be out this weekend as well.
“We usually tend to see half or a little over half of the deer harvested in the first weekend of hunting,” Korthas said. “So many of them look forward to the season as soon as the last one ends and more hunters are out that first weekend.
“We always see a drop during the week because most people have to go back to work,” Korthas added. “The weather for the upcoming weekend may keep some hunters from going out again too since they are calling for rain and colder weather.”
For those hunters who have already bagged their deer, getting the animal to a processor early has benefits.
“We had people waiting in line for two hours to drop their animals off,” Vernon Kempf, of Kempf’s Custom Processing, said. “The first day alone we had 292 deer brought in and another 172 on Monday.”
According to Kempf, hunters who brought their deer in early opening day can expect to have their animal processed generally in two days.
“When we get so many in so quickly, we have to put some of them in the freezer and that can take a couple of weeks before the customer gets their meat,” Kempf said. “We have been a little overwhelmed but that is one good thing about the freezer, it buys us some days.”
The store has seen customers from as far away as St. Louis drop off deer to be processed this season.
An average processing fee is $70 to $100.
“Most people want some specialty products though, which can add to the cost,” Kempf said. “Most people want summer sausage and we do a real popular jalapeno and cheese summer sausage,” he added.
Korthas felt that those things such as favorite ways to process the meat are part of what makes the hunting season meaningful.
“There is a lot of neat stuff that happens out there,” Korthas said. “It’s good to see how hunting grows with the family and becomes generational and grows with the family; that’s what keeps the traditions alive.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484