July 25, 2012
Guest Shoot Me Down: Antler Restrictions are Good for Meat Hunters, Too
By Dave Hurteau
In the last SMD, I went on about why I think big-woods food plots are butt-ugly. Bioguy01 disagrees and did a fine job of saying so. Not quite fine enough to change my mind incidentally (I’m okay with improving big-woods habitat for deer, but I’d rather it be done in a way that’s in keeping with the land’s character—do some cutting, plant some native soft-mast trees and brush, etc.—but that is neither here nor there. What is here and now is that Bioguy01 is my guest today, free to go on about anything he wants to. And he wants to go on about antler restrictions.
(But first a quick note: When I post an SMD, it’s typically a rant, prone to generalizations, overstatements, and points purposely exaggerated for effect to spark a passionate, but fun, discussion. I expect strong disagreement and don’t mind being called an idiot. But kindly go a little easy on my guests. Rip their argument to shreds, by all means. But be nice about it.)
And now, here’s Bioguy01:
I’m a huge fan of antler restrictions (ARs)! Now before everyone starts accusing me of being a “trophy-crazed maniac,” hear me out. I am first and foremost a meat hunter, not a trophy hunter. As long as my freezer has venison in it by the end of the season, I’m happy. Buck, doe, big, small, it doesn’t matter, meat is meat and I love venison. As such, I don’t believe antler restrictions are a good idea everywhere.
Mandatory ARs designed to protect 1.5-year-old bucks ultimately change the age structure of bucks in the herd, allowing for increased opportunity to encounter bigger, older bucks. Fishermen adopted this concept years ago—catch a small fish and release it to grow bigger for another day. The concept has only just started to catch on in the deer hunting community, and I can’t understand why anybody would be opposed to it. Meat hunter or trophy hunter, bigger, older bucks satisfy both parties in the form of antlers on the wall and more meat in the freezer. However, bucks don’t get big if you don’t let them grow! I do support a hunter’s right to choose which buck he harvests, but I have a hard time believing that if a 100-pound yearling spike buck and a 150-pound 2.5-year-old 8 point buck were standing side-by-side that a majority of hunters would shoot the spike buck. Mandatory ARs facilitate that same choice without a side-by-side comparison.
That said, deer densities must be high enough to allow hunters multiple opportunities to harvest a buck for ARs to work in this manner. Therefore, ARs do not belong in areas that have low deer densities with little or no opportunity to harvest does. Where hunters are limited to buck-only regs, ARs would dramatically limit the harvest opportunities because they render an entire age class of bucks off-limits. As a meat hunter, I’m dead-set against that. For ARs to work, deer densities must be high enough to allow hunters plenty of opportunities to fill their freezers.
So those are my feelings on the subject of ARs. Stand with me, or shoot me down!