Deer Hunting on Long Branch Lake in Missouri

by Bethany Wieman

Missouri's dedicated conservation efforts have created many areas that are ideal for game animals. Deer hunters benefit by making use of almost 5,000 acres around Long Branch Lake during whitetail season. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Missouri Department of Conservation jointly manage the Long Branch area, which is located in northeast Missouri near the town of Macon. Missouri generally offers deer hunting opportunities from mid-September through January, catering to those who enjoy archery, crossbow, modern firearms or even muzzleloading.

Whitetailed Deer

Whitetailed deer are incredibly adaptable animals with an expansive range. These ungulates can be found from southern Canada to South America. Deer spend their summers grazing in meadows and fields and move towards forested areas in the fall and winter. The area around Long Branch Lake has fields, meadows and forest that makes it an ideal habitat for many types of Missouri wildlife. Male deer are sought after for their prominent set of antlers, which are grown each year and shed off in the winter. A full-grown deer weighs anywhere from 110 to 300 lbs.

History of Missouri Deer Hunting

Missouri's deer population was hit hard by European settlement in the late 1800s. In 1925, the state's deer herd was estimated at a scant 400 animals. Alarmed by this finding, the Missouri State Legislature closed deer hunting season and deer from Michigan were released into the Ozarks in an effort to boost the population. The Conservation Commission, formed in 1937, intensified the deer recovery effort. The effort was successful and around 15,000 deer populated the state in 1944. Hunting was once again allowed on a limited basis and hunters harvested 583 deer that year.

Missouri's Deer Management Strategy

Today, half a million hunters harvest more than 300,000 deer annually. The Missouri Conservation Department continues to strive for ideal balance: having enough deer for wildlife enthusiasts and hunters while minimizing car/deer accidents and damage to crops. Currently, the state's management strategy is focused on maintaining a stable population. The state has shifted the hunting pressure from bucks to does in some areas by issuing "antlerless only" deer permits. The Conservation Department has also extended the hunting season, allowing hunters ample opportunity to pursue this exciting game animal.

Hunting Opportunities Around Long Branch Lake

Long Branch Lake and the Atlanta Wildlife Management Area are managed as one parcel known as the Atlanta/Long Branch Conservation Area. The abundant wildlife in this area consistently puts Macon County in the top three Missouri counties for deer and turkey hunting. Hunters harvested 4,855 deer from Macon County in the most recent hunting season. Gently rolling hills, oak and hickory forests, three marshes and several natural oxbow lakes make this conservation area an ideal habitat for trophy whitetail deer. The Conservation Department's management practices include prescribed burns, some farming and limited timber harvest. Hunters can make use of primitive campsites in the Atlanta conservation area. Firearms enthusiasts can also hone their skills on an unmanned shooting range, with a shooting distance of 80 yards. The conservation area is open to the public a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Hunting permit applications can be obtained on the Missouri Department of Conservation's website.

Licenses and Hunting Dates

Deer hunters can apply for one managed hunt per year. The application process takes place from July 1 through August 15. The Missouri Department of Conservation encourages hunters to buy their permits online. Missouri offers a variety of managed hunts. Archery season generally begins in mid-September and continues through the first third of November. A ten-day firearms season follows in mid-November. The antlerless deer firearms season occurs at the end of November and continues into the first week of December. Finally, a managed muzzleloading hunt takes place during the second half of December. Missouri also offers two weekends of youth-only deer hunting--in November and another in January. Check with the Missouri Department of Conversation for specific dates, as they can change from year to year.

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