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Shoot Me Down: I Like Antler-Point Restrictions

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December 21, 2012

Shoot Me Down: I Like Antler-Point Restrictions

By Scott Bestul

I live in southeastern Minnesota and do most of my deer hunting here. For the last three seasons, hunters in this corner of the state have been under an Antler-Point Restriction (APR) that requires us to identify four points on one side of a buck’s rack before shooting that buck. I was initially skeptical of APRs, but after living with them for three years I’ve come to like them and hope they continue. Here’s why:

First, APRs have made for a safer hunt during the firearms seasons. I do at least half of my deer hunting on state wildlife areas, and most of the farms that I hunt are adjacent to nearby public ground. We have two nine-day shotgun seasons in this region, and some groups still drive deer. In the pre-APR era, the shooting could get quite hot and heavy in the neighborhood. Now that hunters are forced to identify a legal animal before shooting, there’s simply less lead flying. I think this makes for less wounding of deer and a safer experience for hunters.

Second, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the increase in buck numbers and size in only three seasons. This has resulted in a more intense rut, better buck sign, and more buck sightings than ever before. Hunters—even many who’d claimed they were not interested in shooting big deer—are seeing more bucks and having more fun. It might be a coincidence my dad (who is certainly not a trophy hunter) arrowed the biggest buck of his life (shown above) in the 3rd year of an APR trial. But I doubt it.

Finally, and most important, I feel like these improvements have come with a minimum of sacrifice from hunters.  There are many other regulation changes that can increase buck survival (earn-a-buck, restricted/lottery buck tags, delaying gun seasons until long after the rut, etc.), but all of these involve fairly major changes that can be tough for hunters to stomach. Our version of the APR doesn’t ask hunters to give up much. Youth hunters are exempt from the regulation. Research proves that at least 50 percent of 1-1/2 year-old bucks in this area are legal game, so the rule doesn’t—as some critics claim—“force everyone to be a trophy hunter.” And, there are does enough around to provide plenty of venison and hunting opportunities.

I know APRs aren’t perfect, but I consider myself a convert. So there you have it: I like APR. Stand with me or shoot me down. 

Comments (39)

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from firedawg wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I agree 100% with you. We have had the exact same antler restrictions in my home county in Georgia for about 12 years, and the positive influence it has had has by far exceeded my wildest expectations. We used to see a few small bucks, and hardly ever anything of any size. But now I expect to see at least 1 legal buck everytime that I hunt, and I am rarely disappointed. Everyone I know is now killing bucks that a few years ago, would have been considered "monsters" that the whole town would have talked about for years.

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from CL3 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

They appear to work. Here in PA it's mostly 3 points on one side. Some areas require 3 points on one side NOT including the brow tine. I had some good ones on my cams... of course, didn't end up with any of them though.

That being said, I'm seeing people taking some massive bucks. One guy I know went to Missouri to hunt, struck out, and ended up joking about not having to go anymore because of the massive bucks coming out of PA now!

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

As another PA hunter, I'm with CL3. I was never really against, but what has happened has been that you now see bucks like you'd never have seen in the woods here on a regular basis. Used to be on a good day you saw a small 6 and people would stop to find out where. Now it takes a big 8 to get attention. I think the suprise, though it might seem to be common sense, is that in year 1, there was definitely a loss in shooting opportunities. By year 3 there's class sizes of 2 and 3 year old dear that would never have made it before that rival their younger cousins in numbers. It all seems to be working as far as I can see.

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Hi..

Yes, we have antler restrictions here in NY also. I have no statistics on same, but I believe that we, too, will see positive results.

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from 357 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

i wish our state would make it so a buck had to have 3 points. i hate to see young forks get put down before they have a chance to get big.

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from jjas wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Indiana uses a one buck rule.

It works and there is just about a zero chance of someone killing a buck that doesn't measure up and left to rot in the woods.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I cannot shoot you down completely, but I can somewhat. I did a very similar guest blog back in July about antler restrictions. There are scenarios where ARs are not recommended. Specifically, these areas are big woods areas where antlerless harvest is not allowed or extremely limited. If hunters cannot fill their freezers with an antlerless deer, and they cannot fill their freezer with a young buck, then they are forced to hunt a much smarter and harder to kill older buck, and that's really not a fair scenario to be forced into. For ARs to be appropriate, antlerless harvest must be allowed so that the hunter can fill their freezer with something. So although I am a strong advocate of ARs, I do understand that they should NOT be implemented everywhere.

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from steve182 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I live with them at home in NJ and in PA. I'm cool with them though i understand those who are against them. This year i could've shot a mature buck that didn't fit into the APR guidelines, but was clearly mature. I think there should be exceptions for that type of situation. Our's are 3pt or better to a side so the only bucks that get a pass are spikes and forkies. I's pass on them in most circumstances anyway.

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from TM wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I'll shoot you down.

1. APR reinforces and institutionalizes in State law the obsession with horns that many hunters now embrace.

2. Young deer are tasty.

3. There are too many deer now (i know this is controversial, but it's true), and a broader cull is a good thing.

4. All states already have APR. By that I mean they differentiate between antlered and non-antlered deer (usually doe). Population management of bucks/does makes sense, but it serves no legitimate wildlife management purpose to encourage big-racked bucks.

5. I believe APRs make hunting less safe. Opening day already sounds like Afghanistan in my state. The last thing I want to encourage is longer shots by some yahoo who adopts a "now or never" attitude.

6. There are those of us who enjoy being out in quiet woods in the late season. APRs likely will mean that the woods are crowded well beyond opening day as it is harder and harder to fill a tag.

7. There will be more demand for doe tags and added pressure on does. There are many hunters who only can afford (especially in terms of time) a few days in the woods each fall. I suspect that APRs will encourage many hunters to try for does rather than the more restricted bucks. This may be a good thing in overpopulated areas, but in others it may hurt the overall deer population.

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from Ncarl wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I do too!!!

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from riverrunner wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

There is one major downfall to APRs. They do not select for older bucks to be harvested, simply those that have produced larger antlers. The problem is that young bucks with large antlers can be shot and old buck that don't produce don't get shot. Assuming that part of antler growth is due to genetics this takes the genetically inclined out of the population and through time creates a population that is genetically shifted toward slower antler growth. This then reduces the average antler size at any given age class.

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from Pray- hunt-work wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I would love to see an APR here in Maine. I've heard and understand both side of the argument, but I still thinks it's ridiculous to see all of these 1 1/2 yr old spikes and crotch horns shot every year. I don't have any statistics on hand, but all you have to do is sit at a tagging station in Maine if you don't believe me. We need it!

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from Northeastsportsman wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Here in Vermont we have a 3 point total, antler restriction. In 2005 Vermont put this law into effect and I think that this rule is helping. Everyone has to abide by this law except for the youth deer season were anyone 15 and younger can shoot a doe or buck(first weekend in November). Vermont bucks are starting to have larger antlers, but like riverrunner said, genetics plays a part in it. In Vermont a three pointer is considered a big buck and people will shoot anything with legal antlers. People in Vermont judge deer by there weight. A nice buck is a buck weighting 175 lbs+. I believe that antler restrictions are helping Vermont bucks grow older and have bigger antlers.

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from Longrifle wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I am all for restrictions. Bucks only is a remnant from the days when the deer herds needed to be restored. I would not mind having to draw a buck tag as is common for big game, especially out west. Shoot does for meat, and to keep the population in check.And learn how to differentiate a button buck from his mother. Many areas are filled with hunters who believe it is a God given right to waddle(or worse, drive an atv) into the woods stinking of cigar smoke and breakfast, and kill some juvenile deer with bone on it's head. Deer become quite challenging to hunt once they have several seasons experience being chased. Yearling bucks are about as savvy as puppies as they skip through the woods. I cannot fault the young or new hunter, or the hunter in a land of few deer if they kill small bucks. If you kill a small buck regularly you are the reason there are no big bucks in your hunting grounds.As the great Lanny Benoit has said, "Are you a sportsman, or just a killer?" Let them grow.

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from jmrcexplorer wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

From the comments, it sounds like this may be a good management tool. I wonder if it increases the gene pool and improves the herd health if there are more breeding males.

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from woodsdog wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I live and hunt in Western New York State and I'll get to my opinion on AR's but first of all, I have to address some of the comments some have made regarding "lead flying" and you "feel like you're in Afghanistan" etc... I mean REALLY!!!!!!! Do those who have made these comments actually really get out and hunt during a firearms season??? Quotes like these absolutely do not portray the seasons I experience and I live in a high hunter density state. Hunting is statistically one of the safest sports going and its getting safer every year. Too make comments like that is really quite shortsighted. If you really feel like you're in a war zone when out hunting, you may want reconsider your hobbies. Do me a favor and get castrated while you're at it too. Anyway, as far as Antler Restrictions, although we do not have them in my part of the state, NY has begun to impose them in some areas of the state, mostly in the more central and eastern sections. Our state has "Wildife Management Units" and the DEC imposes them in very few of thesee WMU's statewide. I think as of this writing, perhaps only 3-5 WMU's have AR's. The state only imposed them after considerable hunter input and to my understanding, hunter requests. Anyway, the concept of letting smaller bucks walk has been a direct byproduct of AR's and many hunters are now imposing it upon themselves and their hunting parties. We have all witnessed the benefits, whether legislated or not. The age structure of bucks taken this year is the highest I've ever seen in my area. Several bucks are being taken in the 3+ year range and I atribute this totally due to the greater understanding and awareness of the importance of an older age class structure in herds. However,I think it should only be legislated in areas where they are having problems increasing the overall age class of the bucks in their areas. In other words, most hunters now "get it" anyway and that is reflected in the older buck take that I'm witnessing.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

TM - I'm going to go down your list and provide an alternative outlook. I'm not trying to attack you, rather provide a different perspective. If you don't agree, that's fine.

1. Is there something wrong with an antler obsession? I think there is something wrong with an obsession to fill a buck tag just for the sake of saying "I killed a buck this year." I'm a meat hunter, and being such, I fill my freezer with does. I choose not to shoot young bucks because I think I'm a better hunter than that. Young bucks are about the dumbest deer in the woods. I like to challenge myself when hunting bucks, and I'm sorry, but it is a rare occasion that a yearling buck provides much of a challenge.

2. I agree. Young deer are delicious...so are does.

3. Killing young bucks does nothing to prevent herd growth. In deer herds, it's the doe harvest that limits herd growth. This is in all deer management text books. So you're wrong. A more targeted cull on adult females is a good thing to reduce herd numbers.

4. I disagree. APRs take some pressure off the buck harvest allowing more bucks to survive into older age classes. This helps to balance sex ratios and increase the age structure of bucks, thus creating a more natural herd structure and social dynamic. Not to mention a more enjoyable hunting experience. Even hunters who do not kill big bucks get the opportunity to at least see some bigger bucks, see rubs on trees the size of telephone poles, etc..if that doesn't get your blood boiling as a deer hunter, then I don't know what will.

5. I disagree. The requirement to count at least 3 legal points on one side prevents a lot of shots that would have normally been taken under a "deer, buck, BOOM!" type scenario.

6. Doubtful...does are deer too and they fill a freezer just fine.

7. I agree. Under APRs, the hunter needs to take on a more active role as a deer manager rather than just a deer consumer. Monitoring the doe harvest on the local level is not the state's job. They monitor herds at the statewide and management unit level. What happens at a smaller scale needs to be managed by the individual hunters because they are the ones pulling the triggers. We are just now learning this reality, and educating the public is about the only way to spread the message.

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from economicrefugee wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

First, It is definitely a coincidence that your dad arrowed the biggest buck of his life in the third year of antler restriction.

Your insistence that is not a coincidence is typical of how these arguments are manipulated.

Ooh.... I saw more bucks that ever before..It must be working.

Completely unscientific and serves only supports the trophy mentality to the detriment of the rest of us..

Antler point restrictions, like the current anti-gun movement, are based on false assumptions.

A purely antler restricted plan will ultimately result in the decline of the herd.
All scientifically based management research has shown that.

In large areas of NY we have a serious whitetail overpopulation problem but we cannot get enough of these testosterone laden trophy junkies to kill the does.

The DEC here in NY refused to implement antler restrictions because it is not a valid management technique when your deer herd is too large and you have too many does.

These restrictions have been forced down our throats here in NY using the same well funded misleading deception we have come to expect from all the well funded selfish special interests in this country.
The legislature overrode the DEC expertise at the behest of a well funded private effort.

APRs are only useful for the trophy hunting crowd to increase their egos and testosterone levels at the expense of my hunting rights and privileges.
Ooops, is also another way for the manufacturers to hype more of their junk products.

Until we have a group of "sportsman" who are willing to do their part the situation will only deteriorate.

Management of antler restriction regulations takes money from the effort to manage all our game animals effectively.

This article is another example of uninformed, propaganda designed to convince people that antler restrictions are a valid deer management technique. While continuing to ignore the overwhelming amount of information that we have that refutes the anecdotal nature of the information presented.

It seems no aspect of my life is free from this sort of manipulative self interest at the expense ones fellow citizens.

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from ray cummings wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I`m have to shoot you down.What happens to the 3,4,5,or even 6 year old bucks that never grow a "legal" rack? They stay in the gene pool and breed more of their kind.Then they die of old age which is a terrible way to die. Also, I find it very hard to believe that 50% of the 1 1/2 year olds are now legal (8 point) bucks. This would mean that the genetics are out of sight in your area. It doesn`t seem like this area needs any kind of restrictions.

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from mmoser wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I hunt in a Missouri county that was suspected of CWD. One of the theories that the conservation department has is that the young buck bachelor groups that spend most of the spring, summer and early fall together are spreading the disease faster. I guess they think these groups easily spread the disease between themselves and then there are more infected deer that can infect other deer. As opposed to a lone doe that is infected is more likely to die alone and not spread the disease as easily to other deer. The point restriction has been removed in these counties along with the use of man made salt licks in an effort to eliminate the disease.

I agree the point restrictions lead to bigger bucks. However, if the theory is right it also means it could lead to the more rapid spread of diseases in the entire deer population which could lead to fewer deer overall. I also don't think any natural predators, which are what hunters have replaced, would make such selections. They would most likely go after the sick, old and injured animals which would keep the population healthy.

APRs make for better hunting right now, but I hope they don't lead to the overall decline of the population through disease.

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from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

TM,

Your statements are erroneous.

Bioguy,

thank you for taking the time to rebut TM's illogical statements. Your answers are factual and logical.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Economicrefugee - I lived in NY for several years and am quite familiar with their deer management strategy. NY only allows ARs where it has overwhelming public support. It is a valid management technique, and is becoming more wide-spread, but DEC wants to avoid the headaches of having to pretty much go on a political campaign and sell ARs to rooms full of emotion filled hunters who don't know anything about how ARs actually work. Rather they would prefer that ARs be a choice with majority support. There is no question that ARs do work...that's not even in dispute anymore and it is clearly written into deer management text books. If you believe that APRs are not a valid management technique, then you have not opened any recently published deer management text books.

Sportsmen were given a similar choice with fish several years ago. Today this choice is common practice and is spread far and wide throughout the fishing community It's called "catch and release." I'm sure you have heard of it, and you have probably even practiced it. The same concept applies to deer. Let the little ones go so they can grow bigger for another day. If you need meat in the freezer, then do your part to control the deer herd and kill a doe. It's the same meat, the deer just doesn't have antlers.

Nobody needs to implement laws when sportsmen take it upon themselves to make changes for the betterment of the future of hunting and fishing. And yes, APRs do make hunting a more enjoyable experience. It's fun knowing that you actually have a chance at killing a big buck on your property. It's fun seeing rubs on trees the size of telephone poles, seeing more scrapes in the woods than you've ever seen before, and seeing trail camera pictures of big bucks. It's fun seeing kids, spouses, and friends harvest big deer. It's fun when half the deer you see are bucks. And it's especially fun when you actually get to see some of these big deer yourself. If you've been shooting 1.5 year old deer for years, a 2.5 year old looks like a trophy, and a 3.5 year old looks like something from the legend books. Wait until you see what happens when they reach 4.5-6.5 years old!

Ray Cummings - It's a very rare occasion that a buck will have such poor antler genetics. Most bucks will grow an 8 point rack or better by 2.5 years of age. By the time a deer reaches 5 years of age, they generally start growing what we call "junk", which refers to stickers & kickers, and other additional points. A 3 point on one side restriction only protects spike horns (1 or 2 spikes), 3-pointers (spike on one side fork on the other), and fork horns. Everything else is legal. Have you ever seen a 3.5 year old 4 pointer? How about a 4.5 year old spike horn? I'm not saying they don't exist, but they are very rare.

Also, half the genetics for antler growth come from the doe, so even if the male has poor antler growing genetics, the female portion of the equation can make up the difference. Further, yearling deer disperse, so even if a buck sired several young, the likelihood that they stay on your property is relatively low.

mmoser - I have worked on numerous deer projects the past few years. The idea behind getting rid of ARs in CWD areas is that we know that bucks ranging from 1.0 to 1.5 years-old will disperse, and it is dispersing males that have the most potential to spread the disease far and wide. The average dispersal is about 5-6 miles, but I have personally recorded yearling dispersals of up to 40 miles! If 1.5 year-old deer are protected in a CWD area, the potential to spread the disease into new areas is higher than if 1.5 year-olds were not protected. Will it stop the spread of the disease? No, but it might slow it down a little if hunters revert back to shooting yearling bucks.

You have likely seen the benefits of ARs first hand...how difficult is it to take a step backwards? CWD sucks!

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from TM wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

APRs are very popular with hunters, but the data don't bear out their success. In short, they don't accomplish what they purport to advance, except that they do lead to larger antlers. Again, I acknowledge that I may be in the minority here, but I don't think that it is a proper function of state wildlife management policy to encourage antler hunting.

The NY DEC did a comparative study between WMUs that employed ARs and ones that didn't. Here were the findings:

The pilot AR program substantially reduced the proportion of yearling bucks in the harvest, and
harvest composition shifted to older bucks.

The number of 2.5+ year old bucks in the harvest has increased since implementation of ARs.
However, the increase has not fully compensated for the reduction in yearling harvest, and total
buck take has generally remained >20% below pre-AR levels. WMU 3H was the only unit where
total buck take has returned to the level immediately prior to AR.

A shift in sex ratios of deer observed in the pilot AR units was apparent, though a similar shift
was observed in neighboring units without ARs.

ARs had no effect on hunter participation for the majority of hunters, but overall participation
by non-local hunters appeared to decline because of AR.

The impact of ARs on hunter satisfaction was mixed. Satisfaction with buck-hunting was
generally higher in the pilot AR units than the surrounding region, but similar increases in buckhunting satisfaction were observed in the surrounding region as occurred within the pilot area.

More hunters in the pilot AR area reported being satisfied than dissatisfied with the level of
protection afforded to young bucks and with the level of safety they felt in the pilot area.

However, a majority of hunters reported being dissatisfied with (1) the number of antlered
bucks compared to antlerless deer seen, (2) the number of older, larger-antlered bucks seen, (3)
their opportunity to shoot larger-antlered bucks, and (4) the number of older bucks compared
to the number of young bucks seen. NYS Pilot Antler Restriction Program Page 12

Hunter expectations for the pilot AR program were largely unmet.

A majority of hunters in the pilot AR units prefer that the program continue. It appears that
participants’ belief that the AR program will eventually result in their desired outcomes has
stronger influence than unmet expectations and mixed satisfaction levels on their willingness to
have the program continue.

Deer management population indices were compromised by ARs. DEC must develop additional
methods for monitoring deer populations to manage effectively with ARs.

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from TM wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

So the recently published wildlife studies indicate that, overall, hunter expectations and the purported goals of APRs are not met by APRs.

Yet despite the fact that they don't work, they remain incredibly popular.

I will say this for APRs, they probably do increase antler size on average, and readers of F&S who are likely a biased sample of more "serious" hunters than casual hunters likely reap the benefit of APRs to the extent that such F&S readers like to harvest bucks with larger antlers. The typical F&S reader is probably a better hunter, and a more dedicated hunter, than a casual hunter. (After all, you're taking time to learn about hunting, F&S reader).

My criticism and points have more to do with the goals and role of the state, similar to the points raised by economicrefugee. Is it proper for the DEC or other agencies to engage in wildlife engineering to encourage antler size? I contend that it is not. (The DEC found zero basis for the population/social norm dynamics asserted -- i.e. improvement in the herd b/c of a higher concentration of large bucks. Instead, they found that even in apr zones, much of the breeding was done by 1.5 year old bucks).

I don't like the focus on hunting for antler size. I mean, I'm all for it if that's your thing and if you spend a ton of time in the woods to do so. But I have a problem with the State's regulatory authority being used to institutionalize that horn preference when it serves no legitimate wildlife goal.

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from Stilly wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

riverrunner and Ray Cummings, I don't mean to attack you guys, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But arguing that APRs will be a problem because it will exclude some older deer is kind of silly. Yes, it will exclude some old deer, but the percentage of older deer it would exclude would be so low that it wouldn't make a difference to the deer herd. Especially saying that it would over time shape the genetics of the deer herd is ridiculous and totally unfounded by any actual genetic research. It is so much harder to kill an older buck (4.5, 5.5, 6.5 yrs old) that so many more of them survive just because they are smarter and more cautious. Not being able to kill a few older bucks that don't meet the requirements would make zero difference on the population and certainly wouldn't change the genetic make-up of the population.

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from amoor983 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Respectfully, I disagree. Since when is it the state’s job to make quantitative and qualitative judgments about hunters personal perceptions of “success” or a “trophy”? The states job is to provide stewardship over resources, not grow deer with large antlers. APR restricts a hunter’s freedom. There is no ecological, safety or ethical concern in play. I believe a majority of hunters participate for a myriad of reasons other than harvesting trophy antlers, and would rather harvest a deer of any size than not harvest a deer. Not every area has a high density doe population allowing hunters the opportunity to fill the freezer. APR does have a place, and it is on private land where hunters impose their own limits and manage their own deer herds for antlers. This may not make me popular on this post, and no offense, but I think the audience here is highly biased toward trophy antler harvest.

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from scratchgolf72 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

not shooting you down here. ive seen what these APR's do first hand. i do a decent amount of hunting in PA where they have restrictions. ive killed nice 8 points on public land, and i have seen some absolute monsters as well while scouting before season and one while dragging a buck i had shot out of the woods. yes the hunting would be crappy the first 2-3 years of the restrictions, but after that expect lots of big bucks to be taken down.

im looking at it from more of an antler size perspective, but agree with bioguy that it is also beneficial to the overall qaulity of the deer herd. rumor has it the MI DNR is beginning to seriously look at APR's here in the lower peninsula.

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from WATCHINDEER247365 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I stand with you.
Missouri implemented APR in my county 4 years ago, WHAT A VAST IMPROVEMENT!!!!
Too many hunters here would pass a big doe for a 4 point, wrongly thinking there was more meat. Now they've realized otherwise. The population is under better control, allowing the meat hunters (as myself) to get the meat, but also allow the trophy hunters to see more bucks, SOOOO MANY MORE BUCKS!! Allowing even me, whose not necessarily looking for big antlers, to get some VERY nice bucks! Big 8, now a big 12. Plus now we're seeing all the "action" of the rut that all the magazines and books talk about. MOST ALL the hunters around here have big praises about the APR. The ones that are complaining are the ones that complain about any little change about ANYTHING and are NEVER pleased with anything unless its their idea. Which they couldn't come up with a better idea for the situation, so they do the only thing they know how to do - complain!
Love the APR.

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I had this conversation with Bioguy back when we were commenting on his guest blog. Like he said, APRs are fine for certain areas with higher deer densities and good genetics, but a bad idea in big woods areas. This is why I cringe a little bit every time I see someone write “they work fine in PA, we should have them here in Maine!” Adding APR’s there is only going to add further frustration to an already frustrating experience.
As I understand it, part of the allure for selectively harvesting bigger bucks is to introduce the challenge back into deer hunting. Apparently, there are areas were killing a spike takes about two hours worth of your time. The reason I say “apparently” is because I have no experience with this concept. I hunted for the better part of a month and a half. How many bucks of any type did I see? Let me see here…zero. I personally saw no bucks of any type during the season (though before the season and on the cameras there were plenty, and I did see seven does.). Out of the six people in our hunting group, we saw a total of three bucks, and only one was better than a forkie (my dad saw it and it’s currently in our freezer). My point is that something tells me APR’s are not appropriate for this deer hunting situation, and I hardly think we are alone in this.
I’m not saying APR’s are bad. I do believe that in many areas they are useful and appropriate. What I’m saying is that they should not be applied liberally to vast swathes or entire states.

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from WATCHINDEER247365 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

NEHUNTER92
Your hunting situation sounds like (if not a little better than) what we had here before APR! I would go years without seeing a buck and it was usually a spike or a 4-point. Yea, the first year was a little difficult(buy a GOOD set of binoculars), but the results are completely AMAZING!!!! I now see bucks on a regular basis. I think states thinking about it should do it for a trial period for a few years and if hunters still don't like it then go back. Its awful difficult to say it won't work in an area if it hasn't been tried. I've personally seen the vast improvements it makes. Its made me a believer!

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

WATCHINDEER247365
I appreciate the suggestion, but to be honest we generally consider binoculars around here as dead weight. They are decent scouting tools, but once the season stars you leave them at home. The reason is twofold, and has to do with the areas, and the deer, that we hunt. Primarily, we hunt in areas were visibility is 50 yards or less. The longest shot anyone of us has ever taken on a deer was 65 yards (that would be the aforementioned 6 pointer). In this scenario, binoculars are a liability because a) the deer is close enough to you that the need for the bingos is somewhat lessened and generating that much more movement closer to the deer easily tips it off. This leads me into my next point. Bioguy disagrees with me on this, but I maintain that due to the heavy pressure they receive on a relatively scarce deer herd, New England big woods deer are smarter and spookier than most other deer out there. Using binoculars generates movement, which you simply cannot do.
It’s also worth mentioning that we are in fact, primarily meat hunters. Unlike most meat hunters however, we are faced with a particular limitation. As a primarily firearm hunter in NH (I have been trying to move to bow for years, but don’t have the money), I get a grand total of one deer tag a year. Does can only be harvested for three days at the beginning of the muzzleloader season, and for two days at the beginning of the rifle season where I hunt. Generally, I don’t get a “doe for the freezer “and a “buck for the wall.” Doe season around here is limited, and that’s good thing, because New England deer herds have no business harvesting large amounts of does. It was only recently that I began seeing so many does, and that was after fish and game practically eliminated the doe harvest. Within this one deer a year scenario, success rates are about 20% in a good year. Now ask yourself. Do you really think APR’s would add to the enjoyment of this deer hunting experience, or any add frustration?

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from WATCHINDEER247365 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

nehunter92
I'm truly sorry that you feel that an invaluable tool as binoculars are "dead weight". 90% of all the deer I've kill have been within 65 yards as well, the closest within 10 yards as I was sitting on the ground. Here we hunt the hardwoods and the brush is thick and the deer seem skittish (except for early bow season). Many times I don't spot the deer standing still in the thick stuff till I scan the brush w\ binoculars. I could only imagine how many deer I was not seeing in the past when I didn't have my binoculars. I used to feel the same way about movement, but have been proven wrong too many times by an older hunting buddy of mine who had been hunting for over 60 years. He taught me slow steady movements, I've seen him kill deer on a regular basis that knew he was there, standing there stomping and snorting at him and with slow steady movements he was putting them in his freezer.
I've also bow hunted for the passed 12 years and have realized you end up having to move alot more than you ever thought you would and slow and steady has packed many a deer in my freezer. So the movement it takes to bring binoculars up the 12 inches from chest to eyes has never spooked a deer, as long as its done slow and steady.
I myself and the others I hunt with are ALL "Meat hunters", the only other meat my family eats are chicken and turkey. I'm NOT a trophy hunter, but I won't let a nice buck pass. Yes, APR has increased the enjoyment of our hunting. If there are really that few of deer in the area you live maybe they should think about going "buck only" for a while to increase the numbers in the herds. It worked here years back, then APR could do the same for you as it has for us.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

WATCHINDEER247365 - Big woods, low density northern herds need to be managed differently than most deer herds throughout the US. In such herds, severe winters control the deer populations, not hunters. In these areas there is often a "buck only" harvest. In such cases, ARs remove too much opportunity from hunters to fill their freezers. Will ARs do what they are intended to do? Absolutely. Deer will grow to be bigger and older, but those older deer will ultimately be harder to hunt. ARs are not for everywhere, and there are no "one size fits all" solutions to deer management.

TM - I have read AR reports from several states, including NY, PA, KY, GA, and TX, as well as numerous books on deer management strategies. Can a deer herd function with mostly yearling deer? Of course it can...it has for the past 50+ years, but there are other options that may draw more support from the sporting community and are ultimately better options for the deer herd. This may be a difficult pill to swallow, but there are plenty of biological reasons to implement ARs, most of which are outlined in the book "Quality Whitetails" by Miller and Marchington. This book is a series of essays written and co-authored by the leading authorities in deer management today. It's a good read, and I highly recommend it.

NY's ARs in the Catskills is the perfect example of how hunter perception can be manipulated to create a scenario that's not biologically possible. The pressure on the buck harvest only shifted the harvest by 1 year (i.e. the pressure on the buck harvest is so intense that all ARs do is protect some yearling bucks to reach 2.5 years of age...expectations of deer reaching 4.5+ years old is still a long shot) That said, ARs in many areas of NY would be a great idea, but they should be avoided in the Tug Hill Plateau, the ADKs, and the Catskills.

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

WATCHINDEER247365
I was not saying that binoculars in general are to be considered dead weight; I was only saying that in my particular experience, they have not aided us as much as they hinder us. Part of the reason our ranges are so short is not only because of thick vegetation, but the ripped up topography of New England. This is a certain kind of hilly terrain where there is a small hill approximately every 50 yards, sometimes even less. It also has to do with the behavior of the deer. I am well aware of the discipline of moving slowly with up close deer (my first deer was 15 yards from me at one point). It was also a risk reward thing, with the deer popping up 20 yards from me, what use would the binoculars have been.

As for going bucks only, that’s pretty much what the regulations around here have forced us to do. The last time any of us killed a doe was 10 years ago. About half of NH is Bucks only in the firearm season by law. The winters up here can be brutal, and the only reason we have been having decent success (the type of season I described to you was unheard of until a year ago) is because the last winter was practically non-existent. This area simply cannot hold that many deer. Farms are few and far between, and the local browse does not give us much high energy food to work with.

This also relates to the effectiveness of APR’s. As Bioguy and many others have said, the “antler equation” has three parts, age, genetics, and nutrition. APR’s are designed mostly to allow for a strong possibility in the age department, and doing so works in most areas. Our area actually has a pretty solid age structure. On the cameras this year we picked up on an even split of spikes, forks, sixes and eights (there were about two of each type). NH may lag behind in the genetics department, but it’s tough to tell with year to year survival being so tough. Where NH definitely lags behind is nutrition. As the puritans found out the hard way when they landed here, the soil in New England sucks. It’s incredibly rocky, and has neither the nutrients needed for large racks, nor the fertility to grow good deer browse. APR’s would definitely lead to more mature bucks, that much is true, but the results would not be much to write home about. All this has to be considered with the fact that that most hunters around here don’t care about antlers as much as they do weight.

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from dkoboldt wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Missouri recently implemented APRs in most counties and has seen great success. This has had a direct impact on my own hunting -- at least one time in recent memory I've had a shooting opportunity at a good buck while bowhunting, but wasn't able to take it because I couldn't be certain it met the APR. Even so, because I think I understand how this will improve the herd overall and let more bucks reach maturity, I've made my peace with it. As most hunters seem to do.

Dan Koboldt, @ISOwhitetails

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from mike0714 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

AR's work out east where there are a lot of deer and they are the right subspecies to grow 3 points. Sitka, Carmon Mountain, and Coues deer can be mature with out having 3 points on a side and if you don't count eye guards then good luck. My coues deer this year was 4 1/2 years old and taped out at 70 3/8 in. With good mass but was only a 2x2 with eye guards. Under some AR laws he would not have been legal but he was mature and showed no signs of growing another point just more mass and length. Given we did see deer with 3 point but could not get in range of them or I did not like the shot. (I shoot a lot and will take broad side shots out to 500 or 600 depending on conditions) Some deer species and subspecies just don't get big enough often enough or don't have the number's for AR's but out east AR's can be beneficial conservation tools.

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from GrantHarland wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Agree... Wish Oklahoma would trial this, but with one small speculation, allowing forks and 6 pts to be taken in youth seasons.

There are does for days around here. I shot 4 this year w/ bow and passed on many young bucks waiting for older deer. Don't measure a deer by its antlers but by its age. Go buy some veal if you want baby meat.

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from yanzi wrote 1 year 15 weeks ago

Time never stay, stay only memories.-www.lilydating.com

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from TopperFanLuke wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

The term "meat hunter" frustrates me to no end. There are more ways than shooting a spike buck to fill your freezer. For one, does taste great, and two, if you can't shoot at least a 6 pointer, you aren't trying very hard in my opinion. There are seasons where I don't get to hunt very often, I understand that sometimes time is limited for people, but I promise, if you are more patient and continue to hunt late on into the season, you will be able to fill your freezer with at least a 6 pointer or a doe. If you don't see a doe or decent sized buck all season long then I would suggest finding a better hunting location or trying some new techniques the next season.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

TM - I'm going to go down your list and provide an alternative outlook. I'm not trying to attack you, rather provide a different perspective. If you don't agree, that's fine.

1. Is there something wrong with an antler obsession? I think there is something wrong with an obsession to fill a buck tag just for the sake of saying "I killed a buck this year." I'm a meat hunter, and being such, I fill my freezer with does. I choose not to shoot young bucks because I think I'm a better hunter than that. Young bucks are about the dumbest deer in the woods. I like to challenge myself when hunting bucks, and I'm sorry, but it is a rare occasion that a yearling buck provides much of a challenge.

2. I agree. Young deer are delicious...so are does.

3. Killing young bucks does nothing to prevent herd growth. In deer herds, it's the doe harvest that limits herd growth. This is in all deer management text books. So you're wrong. A more targeted cull on adult females is a good thing to reduce herd numbers.

4. I disagree. APRs take some pressure off the buck harvest allowing more bucks to survive into older age classes. This helps to balance sex ratios and increase the age structure of bucks, thus creating a more natural herd structure and social dynamic. Not to mention a more enjoyable hunting experience. Even hunters who do not kill big bucks get the opportunity to at least see some bigger bucks, see rubs on trees the size of telephone poles, etc..if that doesn't get your blood boiling as a deer hunter, then I don't know what will.

5. I disagree. The requirement to count at least 3 legal points on one side prevents a lot of shots that would have normally been taken under a "deer, buck, BOOM!" type scenario.

6. Doubtful...does are deer too and they fill a freezer just fine.

7. I agree. Under APRs, the hunter needs to take on a more active role as a deer manager rather than just a deer consumer. Monitoring the doe harvest on the local level is not the state's job. They monitor herds at the statewide and management unit level. What happens at a smaller scale needs to be managed by the individual hunters because they are the ones pulling the triggers. We are just now learning this reality, and educating the public is about the only way to spread the message.

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from Gtbigsky wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

TM,

Your statements are erroneous.

Bioguy,

thank you for taking the time to rebut TM's illogical statements. Your answers are factual and logical.

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from TM wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I'll shoot you down.

1. APR reinforces and institutionalizes in State law the obsession with horns that many hunters now embrace.

2. Young deer are tasty.

3. There are too many deer now (i know this is controversial, but it's true), and a broader cull is a good thing.

4. All states already have APR. By that I mean they differentiate between antlered and non-antlered deer (usually doe). Population management of bucks/does makes sense, but it serves no legitimate wildlife management purpose to encourage big-racked bucks.

5. I believe APRs make hunting less safe. Opening day already sounds like Afghanistan in my state. The last thing I want to encourage is longer shots by some yahoo who adopts a "now or never" attitude.

6. There are those of us who enjoy being out in quiet woods in the late season. APRs likely will mean that the woods are crowded well beyond opening day as it is harder and harder to fill a tag.

7. There will be more demand for doe tags and added pressure on does. There are many hunters who only can afford (especially in terms of time) a few days in the woods each fall. I suspect that APRs will encourage many hunters to try for does rather than the more restricted bucks. This may be a good thing in overpopulated areas, but in others it may hurt the overall deer population.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Economicrefugee - I lived in NY for several years and am quite familiar with their deer management strategy. NY only allows ARs where it has overwhelming public support. It is a valid management technique, and is becoming more wide-spread, but DEC wants to avoid the headaches of having to pretty much go on a political campaign and sell ARs to rooms full of emotion filled hunters who don't know anything about how ARs actually work. Rather they would prefer that ARs be a choice with majority support. There is no question that ARs do work...that's not even in dispute anymore and it is clearly written into deer management text books. If you believe that APRs are not a valid management technique, then you have not opened any recently published deer management text books.

Sportsmen were given a similar choice with fish several years ago. Today this choice is common practice and is spread far and wide throughout the fishing community It's called "catch and release." I'm sure you have heard of it, and you have probably even practiced it. The same concept applies to deer. Let the little ones go so they can grow bigger for another day. If you need meat in the freezer, then do your part to control the deer herd and kill a doe. It's the same meat, the deer just doesn't have antlers.

Nobody needs to implement laws when sportsmen take it upon themselves to make changes for the betterment of the future of hunting and fishing. And yes, APRs do make hunting a more enjoyable experience. It's fun knowing that you actually have a chance at killing a big buck on your property. It's fun seeing rubs on trees the size of telephone poles, seeing more scrapes in the woods than you've ever seen before, and seeing trail camera pictures of big bucks. It's fun seeing kids, spouses, and friends harvest big deer. It's fun when half the deer you see are bucks. And it's especially fun when you actually get to see some of these big deer yourself. If you've been shooting 1.5 year old deer for years, a 2.5 year old looks like a trophy, and a 3.5 year old looks like something from the legend books. Wait until you see what happens when they reach 4.5-6.5 years old!

Ray Cummings - It's a very rare occasion that a buck will have such poor antler genetics. Most bucks will grow an 8 point rack or better by 2.5 years of age. By the time a deer reaches 5 years of age, they generally start growing what we call "junk", which refers to stickers & kickers, and other additional points. A 3 point on one side restriction only protects spike horns (1 or 2 spikes), 3-pointers (spike on one side fork on the other), and fork horns. Everything else is legal. Have you ever seen a 3.5 year old 4 pointer? How about a 4.5 year old spike horn? I'm not saying they don't exist, but they are very rare.

Also, half the genetics for antler growth come from the doe, so even if the male has poor antler growing genetics, the female portion of the equation can make up the difference. Further, yearling deer disperse, so even if a buck sired several young, the likelihood that they stay on your property is relatively low.

mmoser - I have worked on numerous deer projects the past few years. The idea behind getting rid of ARs in CWD areas is that we know that bucks ranging from 1.0 to 1.5 years-old will disperse, and it is dispersing males that have the most potential to spread the disease far and wide. The average dispersal is about 5-6 miles, but I have personally recorded yearling dispersals of up to 40 miles! If 1.5 year-old deer are protected in a CWD area, the potential to spread the disease into new areas is higher than if 1.5 year-olds were not protected. Will it stop the spread of the disease? No, but it might slow it down a little if hunters revert back to shooting yearling bucks.

You have likely seen the benefits of ARs first hand...how difficult is it to take a step backwards? CWD sucks!

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Hi..

Yes, we have antler restrictions here in NY also. I have no statistics on same, but I believe that we, too, will see positive results.

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from 357 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

i wish our state would make it so a buck had to have 3 points. i hate to see young forks get put down before they have a chance to get big.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I cannot shoot you down completely, but I can somewhat. I did a very similar guest blog back in July about antler restrictions. There are scenarios where ARs are not recommended. Specifically, these areas are big woods areas where antlerless harvest is not allowed or extremely limited. If hunters cannot fill their freezers with an antlerless deer, and they cannot fill their freezer with a young buck, then they are forced to hunt a much smarter and harder to kill older buck, and that's really not a fair scenario to be forced into. For ARs to be appropriate, antlerless harvest must be allowed so that the hunter can fill their freezer with something. So although I am a strong advocate of ARs, I do understand that they should NOT be implemented everywhere.

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from Northeastsportsman wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Here in Vermont we have a 3 point total, antler restriction. In 2005 Vermont put this law into effect and I think that this rule is helping. Everyone has to abide by this law except for the youth deer season were anyone 15 and younger can shoot a doe or buck(first weekend in November). Vermont bucks are starting to have larger antlers, but like riverrunner said, genetics plays a part in it. In Vermont a three pointer is considered a big buck and people will shoot anything with legal antlers. People in Vermont judge deer by there weight. A nice buck is a buck weighting 175 lbs+. I believe that antler restrictions are helping Vermont bucks grow older and have bigger antlers.

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from Longrifle wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I am all for restrictions. Bucks only is a remnant from the days when the deer herds needed to be restored. I would not mind having to draw a buck tag as is common for big game, especially out west. Shoot does for meat, and to keep the population in check.And learn how to differentiate a button buck from his mother. Many areas are filled with hunters who believe it is a God given right to waddle(or worse, drive an atv) into the woods stinking of cigar smoke and breakfast, and kill some juvenile deer with bone on it's head. Deer become quite challenging to hunt once they have several seasons experience being chased. Yearling bucks are about as savvy as puppies as they skip through the woods. I cannot fault the young or new hunter, or the hunter in a land of few deer if they kill small bucks. If you kill a small buck regularly you are the reason there are no big bucks in your hunting grounds.As the great Lanny Benoit has said, "Are you a sportsman, or just a killer?" Let them grow.

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from TM wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

So the recently published wildlife studies indicate that, overall, hunter expectations and the purported goals of APRs are not met by APRs.

Yet despite the fact that they don't work, they remain incredibly popular.

I will say this for APRs, they probably do increase antler size on average, and readers of F&S who are likely a biased sample of more "serious" hunters than casual hunters likely reap the benefit of APRs to the extent that such F&S readers like to harvest bucks with larger antlers. The typical F&S reader is probably a better hunter, and a more dedicated hunter, than a casual hunter. (After all, you're taking time to learn about hunting, F&S reader).

My criticism and points have more to do with the goals and role of the state, similar to the points raised by economicrefugee. Is it proper for the DEC or other agencies to engage in wildlife engineering to encourage antler size? I contend that it is not. (The DEC found zero basis for the population/social norm dynamics asserted -- i.e. improvement in the herd b/c of a higher concentration of large bucks. Instead, they found that even in apr zones, much of the breeding was done by 1.5 year old bucks).

I don't like the focus on hunting for antler size. I mean, I'm all for it if that's your thing and if you spend a ton of time in the woods to do so. But I have a problem with the State's regulatory authority being used to institutionalize that horn preference when it serves no legitimate wildlife goal.

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from WATCHINDEER247365 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I stand with you.
Missouri implemented APR in my county 4 years ago, WHAT A VAST IMPROVEMENT!!!!
Too many hunters here would pass a big doe for a 4 point, wrongly thinking there was more meat. Now they've realized otherwise. The population is under better control, allowing the meat hunters (as myself) to get the meat, but also allow the trophy hunters to see more bucks, SOOOO MANY MORE BUCKS!! Allowing even me, whose not necessarily looking for big antlers, to get some VERY nice bucks! Big 8, now a big 12. Plus now we're seeing all the "action" of the rut that all the magazines and books talk about. MOST ALL the hunters around here have big praises about the APR. The ones that are complaining are the ones that complain about any little change about ANYTHING and are NEVER pleased with anything unless its their idea. Which they couldn't come up with a better idea for the situation, so they do the only thing they know how to do - complain!
Love the APR.

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

WATCHINDEER247365
I appreciate the suggestion, but to be honest we generally consider binoculars around here as dead weight. They are decent scouting tools, but once the season stars you leave them at home. The reason is twofold, and has to do with the areas, and the deer, that we hunt. Primarily, we hunt in areas were visibility is 50 yards or less. The longest shot anyone of us has ever taken on a deer was 65 yards (that would be the aforementioned 6 pointer). In this scenario, binoculars are a liability because a) the deer is close enough to you that the need for the bingos is somewhat lessened and generating that much more movement closer to the deer easily tips it off. This leads me into my next point. Bioguy disagrees with me on this, but I maintain that due to the heavy pressure they receive on a relatively scarce deer herd, New England big woods deer are smarter and spookier than most other deer out there. Using binoculars generates movement, which you simply cannot do.
It’s also worth mentioning that we are in fact, primarily meat hunters. Unlike most meat hunters however, we are faced with a particular limitation. As a primarily firearm hunter in NH (I have been trying to move to bow for years, but don’t have the money), I get a grand total of one deer tag a year. Does can only be harvested for three days at the beginning of the muzzleloader season, and for two days at the beginning of the rifle season where I hunt. Generally, I don’t get a “doe for the freezer “and a “buck for the wall.” Doe season around here is limited, and that’s good thing, because New England deer herds have no business harvesting large amounts of does. It was only recently that I began seeing so many does, and that was after fish and game practically eliminated the doe harvest. Within this one deer a year scenario, success rates are about 20% in a good year. Now ask yourself. Do you really think APR’s would add to the enjoyment of this deer hunting experience, or any add frustration?

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from WATCHINDEER247365 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

nehunter92
I'm truly sorry that you feel that an invaluable tool as binoculars are "dead weight". 90% of all the deer I've kill have been within 65 yards as well, the closest within 10 yards as I was sitting on the ground. Here we hunt the hardwoods and the brush is thick and the deer seem skittish (except for early bow season). Many times I don't spot the deer standing still in the thick stuff till I scan the brush w\ binoculars. I could only imagine how many deer I was not seeing in the past when I didn't have my binoculars. I used to feel the same way about movement, but have been proven wrong too many times by an older hunting buddy of mine who had been hunting for over 60 years. He taught me slow steady movements, I've seen him kill deer on a regular basis that knew he was there, standing there stomping and snorting at him and with slow steady movements he was putting them in his freezer.
I've also bow hunted for the passed 12 years and have realized you end up having to move alot more than you ever thought you would and slow and steady has packed many a deer in my freezer. So the movement it takes to bring binoculars up the 12 inches from chest to eyes has never spooked a deer, as long as its done slow and steady.
I myself and the others I hunt with are ALL "Meat hunters", the only other meat my family eats are chicken and turkey. I'm NOT a trophy hunter, but I won't let a nice buck pass. Yes, APR has increased the enjoyment of our hunting. If there are really that few of deer in the area you live maybe they should think about going "buck only" for a while to increase the numbers in the herds. It worked here years back, then APR could do the same for you as it has for us.

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from firedawg wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I agree 100% with you. We have had the exact same antler restrictions in my home county in Georgia for about 12 years, and the positive influence it has had has by far exceeded my wildest expectations. We used to see a few small bucks, and hardly ever anything of any size. But now I expect to see at least 1 legal buck everytime that I hunt, and I am rarely disappointed. Everyone I know is now killing bucks that a few years ago, would have been considered "monsters" that the whole town would have talked about for years.

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from CL3 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

They appear to work. Here in PA it's mostly 3 points on one side. Some areas require 3 points on one side NOT including the brow tine. I had some good ones on my cams... of course, didn't end up with any of them though.

That being said, I'm seeing people taking some massive bucks. One guy I know went to Missouri to hunt, struck out, and ended up joking about not having to go anymore because of the massive bucks coming out of PA now!

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

As another PA hunter, I'm with CL3. I was never really against, but what has happened has been that you now see bucks like you'd never have seen in the woods here on a regular basis. Used to be on a good day you saw a small 6 and people would stop to find out where. Now it takes a big 8 to get attention. I think the suprise, though it might seem to be common sense, is that in year 1, there was definitely a loss in shooting opportunities. By year 3 there's class sizes of 2 and 3 year old dear that would never have made it before that rival their younger cousins in numbers. It all seems to be working as far as I can see.

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from jjas wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Indiana uses a one buck rule.

It works and there is just about a zero chance of someone killing a buck that doesn't measure up and left to rot in the woods.

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from steve182 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I live with them at home in NJ and in PA. I'm cool with them though i understand those who are against them. This year i could've shot a mature buck that didn't fit into the APR guidelines, but was clearly mature. I think there should be exceptions for that type of situation. Our's are 3pt or better to a side so the only bucks that get a pass are spikes and forkies. I's pass on them in most circumstances anyway.

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from Ncarl wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I do too!!!

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from riverrunner wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

There is one major downfall to APRs. They do not select for older bucks to be harvested, simply those that have produced larger antlers. The problem is that young bucks with large antlers can be shot and old buck that don't produce don't get shot. Assuming that part of antler growth is due to genetics this takes the genetically inclined out of the population and through time creates a population that is genetically shifted toward slower antler growth. This then reduces the average antler size at any given age class.

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from Pray- hunt-work wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I would love to see an APR here in Maine. I've heard and understand both side of the argument, but I still thinks it's ridiculous to see all of these 1 1/2 yr old spikes and crotch horns shot every year. I don't have any statistics on hand, but all you have to do is sit at a tagging station in Maine if you don't believe me. We need it!

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from jmrcexplorer wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

From the comments, it sounds like this may be a good management tool. I wonder if it increases the gene pool and improves the herd health if there are more breeding males.

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from ray cummings wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I`m have to shoot you down.What happens to the 3,4,5,or even 6 year old bucks that never grow a "legal" rack? They stay in the gene pool and breed more of their kind.Then they die of old age which is a terrible way to die. Also, I find it very hard to believe that 50% of the 1 1/2 year olds are now legal (8 point) bucks. This would mean that the genetics are out of sight in your area. It doesn`t seem like this area needs any kind of restrictions.

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from mmoser wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I hunt in a Missouri county that was suspected of CWD. One of the theories that the conservation department has is that the young buck bachelor groups that spend most of the spring, summer and early fall together are spreading the disease faster. I guess they think these groups easily spread the disease between themselves and then there are more infected deer that can infect other deer. As opposed to a lone doe that is infected is more likely to die alone and not spread the disease as easily to other deer. The point restriction has been removed in these counties along with the use of man made salt licks in an effort to eliminate the disease.

I agree the point restrictions lead to bigger bucks. However, if the theory is right it also means it could lead to the more rapid spread of diseases in the entire deer population which could lead to fewer deer overall. I also don't think any natural predators, which are what hunters have replaced, would make such selections. They would most likely go after the sick, old and injured animals which would keep the population healthy.

APRs make for better hunting right now, but I hope they don't lead to the overall decline of the population through disease.

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from TM wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

APRs are very popular with hunters, but the data don't bear out their success. In short, they don't accomplish what they purport to advance, except that they do lead to larger antlers. Again, I acknowledge that I may be in the minority here, but I don't think that it is a proper function of state wildlife management policy to encourage antler hunting.

The NY DEC did a comparative study between WMUs that employed ARs and ones that didn't. Here were the findings:

The pilot AR program substantially reduced the proportion of yearling bucks in the harvest, and
harvest composition shifted to older bucks.

The number of 2.5+ year old bucks in the harvest has increased since implementation of ARs.
However, the increase has not fully compensated for the reduction in yearling harvest, and total
buck take has generally remained >20% below pre-AR levels. WMU 3H was the only unit where
total buck take has returned to the level immediately prior to AR.

A shift in sex ratios of deer observed in the pilot AR units was apparent, though a similar shift
was observed in neighboring units without ARs.

ARs had no effect on hunter participation for the majority of hunters, but overall participation
by non-local hunters appeared to decline because of AR.

The impact of ARs on hunter satisfaction was mixed. Satisfaction with buck-hunting was
generally higher in the pilot AR units than the surrounding region, but similar increases in buckhunting satisfaction were observed in the surrounding region as occurred within the pilot area.

More hunters in the pilot AR area reported being satisfied than dissatisfied with the level of
protection afforded to young bucks and with the level of safety they felt in the pilot area.

However, a majority of hunters reported being dissatisfied with (1) the number of antlered
bucks compared to antlerless deer seen, (2) the number of older, larger-antlered bucks seen, (3)
their opportunity to shoot larger-antlered bucks, and (4) the number of older bucks compared
to the number of young bucks seen. NYS Pilot Antler Restriction Program Page 12

Hunter expectations for the pilot AR program were largely unmet.

A majority of hunters in the pilot AR units prefer that the program continue. It appears that
participants’ belief that the AR program will eventually result in their desired outcomes has
stronger influence than unmet expectations and mixed satisfaction levels on their willingness to
have the program continue.

Deer management population indices were compromised by ARs. DEC must develop additional
methods for monitoring deer populations to manage effectively with ARs.

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from Stilly wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

riverrunner and Ray Cummings, I don't mean to attack you guys, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But arguing that APRs will be a problem because it will exclude some older deer is kind of silly. Yes, it will exclude some old deer, but the percentage of older deer it would exclude would be so low that it wouldn't make a difference to the deer herd. Especially saying that it would over time shape the genetics of the deer herd is ridiculous and totally unfounded by any actual genetic research. It is so much harder to kill an older buck (4.5, 5.5, 6.5 yrs old) that so many more of them survive just because they are smarter and more cautious. Not being able to kill a few older bucks that don't meet the requirements would make zero difference on the population and certainly wouldn't change the genetic make-up of the population.

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from amoor983 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Respectfully, I disagree. Since when is it the state’s job to make quantitative and qualitative judgments about hunters personal perceptions of “success” or a “trophy”? The states job is to provide stewardship over resources, not grow deer with large antlers. APR restricts a hunter’s freedom. There is no ecological, safety or ethical concern in play. I believe a majority of hunters participate for a myriad of reasons other than harvesting trophy antlers, and would rather harvest a deer of any size than not harvest a deer. Not every area has a high density doe population allowing hunters the opportunity to fill the freezer. APR does have a place, and it is on private land where hunters impose their own limits and manage their own deer herds for antlers. This may not make me popular on this post, and no offense, but I think the audience here is highly biased toward trophy antler harvest.

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from scratchgolf72 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

not shooting you down here. ive seen what these APR's do first hand. i do a decent amount of hunting in PA where they have restrictions. ive killed nice 8 points on public land, and i have seen some absolute monsters as well while scouting before season and one while dragging a buck i had shot out of the woods. yes the hunting would be crappy the first 2-3 years of the restrictions, but after that expect lots of big bucks to be taken down.

im looking at it from more of an antler size perspective, but agree with bioguy that it is also beneficial to the overall qaulity of the deer herd. rumor has it the MI DNR is beginning to seriously look at APR's here in the lower peninsula.

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I had this conversation with Bioguy back when we were commenting on his guest blog. Like he said, APRs are fine for certain areas with higher deer densities and good genetics, but a bad idea in big woods areas. This is why I cringe a little bit every time I see someone write “they work fine in PA, we should have them here in Maine!” Adding APR’s there is only going to add further frustration to an already frustrating experience.
As I understand it, part of the allure for selectively harvesting bigger bucks is to introduce the challenge back into deer hunting. Apparently, there are areas were killing a spike takes about two hours worth of your time. The reason I say “apparently” is because I have no experience with this concept. I hunted for the better part of a month and a half. How many bucks of any type did I see? Let me see here…zero. I personally saw no bucks of any type during the season (though before the season and on the cameras there were plenty, and I did see seven does.). Out of the six people in our hunting group, we saw a total of three bucks, and only one was better than a forkie (my dad saw it and it’s currently in our freezer). My point is that something tells me APR’s are not appropriate for this deer hunting situation, and I hardly think we are alone in this.
I’m not saying APR’s are bad. I do believe that in many areas they are useful and appropriate. What I’m saying is that they should not be applied liberally to vast swathes or entire states.

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from WATCHINDEER247365 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

NEHUNTER92
Your hunting situation sounds like (if not a little better than) what we had here before APR! I would go years without seeing a buck and it was usually a spike or a 4-point. Yea, the first year was a little difficult(buy a GOOD set of binoculars), but the results are completely AMAZING!!!! I now see bucks on a regular basis. I think states thinking about it should do it for a trial period for a few years and if hunters still don't like it then go back. Its awful difficult to say it won't work in an area if it hasn't been tried. I've personally seen the vast improvements it makes. Its made me a believer!

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

WATCHINDEER247365 - Big woods, low density northern herds need to be managed differently than most deer herds throughout the US. In such herds, severe winters control the deer populations, not hunters. In these areas there is often a "buck only" harvest. In such cases, ARs remove too much opportunity from hunters to fill their freezers. Will ARs do what they are intended to do? Absolutely. Deer will grow to be bigger and older, but those older deer will ultimately be harder to hunt. ARs are not for everywhere, and there are no "one size fits all" solutions to deer management.

TM - I have read AR reports from several states, including NY, PA, KY, GA, and TX, as well as numerous books on deer management strategies. Can a deer herd function with mostly yearling deer? Of course it can...it has for the past 50+ years, but there are other options that may draw more support from the sporting community and are ultimately better options for the deer herd. This may be a difficult pill to swallow, but there are plenty of biological reasons to implement ARs, most of which are outlined in the book "Quality Whitetails" by Miller and Marchington. This book is a series of essays written and co-authored by the leading authorities in deer management today. It's a good read, and I highly recommend it.

NY's ARs in the Catskills is the perfect example of how hunter perception can be manipulated to create a scenario that's not biologically possible. The pressure on the buck harvest only shifted the harvest by 1 year (i.e. the pressure on the buck harvest is so intense that all ARs do is protect some yearling bucks to reach 2.5 years of age...expectations of deer reaching 4.5+ years old is still a long shot) That said, ARs in many areas of NY would be a great idea, but they should be avoided in the Tug Hill Plateau, the ADKs, and the Catskills.

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

WATCHINDEER247365
I was not saying that binoculars in general are to be considered dead weight; I was only saying that in my particular experience, they have not aided us as much as they hinder us. Part of the reason our ranges are so short is not only because of thick vegetation, but the ripped up topography of New England. This is a certain kind of hilly terrain where there is a small hill approximately every 50 yards, sometimes even less. It also has to do with the behavior of the deer. I am well aware of the discipline of moving slowly with up close deer (my first deer was 15 yards from me at one point). It was also a risk reward thing, with the deer popping up 20 yards from me, what use would the binoculars have been.

As for going bucks only, that’s pretty much what the regulations around here have forced us to do. The last time any of us killed a doe was 10 years ago. About half of NH is Bucks only in the firearm season by law. The winters up here can be brutal, and the only reason we have been having decent success (the type of season I described to you was unheard of until a year ago) is because the last winter was practically non-existent. This area simply cannot hold that many deer. Farms are few and far between, and the local browse does not give us much high energy food to work with.

This also relates to the effectiveness of APR’s. As Bioguy and many others have said, the “antler equation” has three parts, age, genetics, and nutrition. APR’s are designed mostly to allow for a strong possibility in the age department, and doing so works in most areas. Our area actually has a pretty solid age structure. On the cameras this year we picked up on an even split of spikes, forks, sixes and eights (there were about two of each type). NH may lag behind in the genetics department, but it’s tough to tell with year to year survival being so tough. Where NH definitely lags behind is nutrition. As the puritans found out the hard way when they landed here, the soil in New England sucks. It’s incredibly rocky, and has neither the nutrients needed for large racks, nor the fertility to grow good deer browse. APR’s would definitely lead to more mature bucks, that much is true, but the results would not be much to write home about. All this has to be considered with the fact that that most hunters around here don’t care about antlers as much as they do weight.

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from dkoboldt wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Missouri recently implemented APRs in most counties and has seen great success. This has had a direct impact on my own hunting -- at least one time in recent memory I've had a shooting opportunity at a good buck while bowhunting, but wasn't able to take it because I couldn't be certain it met the APR. Even so, because I think I understand how this will improve the herd overall and let more bucks reach maturity, I've made my peace with it. As most hunters seem to do.

Dan Koboldt, @ISOwhitetails

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from mike0714 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

AR's work out east where there are a lot of deer and they are the right subspecies to grow 3 points. Sitka, Carmon Mountain, and Coues deer can be mature with out having 3 points on a side and if you don't count eye guards then good luck. My coues deer this year was 4 1/2 years old and taped out at 70 3/8 in. With good mass but was only a 2x2 with eye guards. Under some AR laws he would not have been legal but he was mature and showed no signs of growing another point just more mass and length. Given we did see deer with 3 point but could not get in range of them or I did not like the shot. (I shoot a lot and will take broad side shots out to 500 or 600 depending on conditions) Some deer species and subspecies just don't get big enough often enough or don't have the number's for AR's but out east AR's can be beneficial conservation tools.

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from GrantHarland wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Agree... Wish Oklahoma would trial this, but with one small speculation, allowing forks and 6 pts to be taken in youth seasons.

There are does for days around here. I shot 4 this year w/ bow and passed on many young bucks waiting for older deer. Don't measure a deer by its antlers but by its age. Go buy some veal if you want baby meat.

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from yanzi wrote 1 year 15 weeks ago

Time never stay, stay only memories.-www.lilydating.com

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from TopperFanLuke wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

The term "meat hunter" frustrates me to no end. There are more ways than shooting a spike buck to fill your freezer. For one, does taste great, and two, if you can't shoot at least a 6 pointer, you aren't trying very hard in my opinion. There are seasons where I don't get to hunt very often, I understand that sometimes time is limited for people, but I promise, if you are more patient and continue to hunt late on into the season, you will be able to fill your freezer with at least a 6 pointer or a doe. If you don't see a doe or decent sized buck all season long then I would suggest finding a better hunting location or trying some new techniques the next season.

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from economicrefugee wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

First, It is definitely a coincidence that your dad arrowed the biggest buck of his life in the third year of antler restriction.

Your insistence that is not a coincidence is typical of how these arguments are manipulated.

Ooh.... I saw more bucks that ever before..It must be working.

Completely unscientific and serves only supports the trophy mentality to the detriment of the rest of us..

Antler point restrictions, like the current anti-gun movement, are based on false assumptions.

A purely antler restricted plan will ultimately result in the decline of the herd.
All scientifically based management research has shown that.

In large areas of NY we have a serious whitetail overpopulation problem but we cannot get enough of these testosterone laden trophy junkies to kill the does.

The DEC here in NY refused to implement antler restrictions because it is not a valid management technique when your deer herd is too large and you have too many does.

These restrictions have been forced down our throats here in NY using the same well funded misleading deception we have come to expect from all the well funded selfish special interests in this country.
The legislature overrode the DEC expertise at the behest of a well funded private effort.

APRs are only useful for the trophy hunting crowd to increase their egos and testosterone levels at the expense of my hunting rights and privileges.
Ooops, is also another way for the manufacturers to hype more of their junk products.

Until we have a group of "sportsman" who are willing to do their part the situation will only deteriorate.

Management of antler restriction regulations takes money from the effort to manage all our game animals effectively.

This article is another example of uninformed, propaganda designed to convince people that antler restrictions are a valid deer management technique. While continuing to ignore the overwhelming amount of information that we have that refutes the anecdotal nature of the information presented.

It seems no aspect of my life is free from this sort of manipulative self interest at the expense ones fellow citizens.

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from woodsdog wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I live and hunt in Western New York State and I'll get to my opinion on AR's but first of all, I have to address some of the comments some have made regarding "lead flying" and you "feel like you're in Afghanistan" etc... I mean REALLY!!!!!!! Do those who have made these comments actually really get out and hunt during a firearms season??? Quotes like these absolutely do not portray the seasons I experience and I live in a high hunter density state. Hunting is statistically one of the safest sports going and its getting safer every year. Too make comments like that is really quite shortsighted. If you really feel like you're in a war zone when out hunting, you may want reconsider your hobbies. Do me a favor and get castrated while you're at it too. Anyway, as far as Antler Restrictions, although we do not have them in my part of the state, NY has begun to impose them in some areas of the state, mostly in the more central and eastern sections. Our state has "Wildife Management Units" and the DEC imposes them in very few of thesee WMU's statewide. I think as of this writing, perhaps only 3-5 WMU's have AR's. The state only imposed them after considerable hunter input and to my understanding, hunter requests. Anyway, the concept of letting smaller bucks walk has been a direct byproduct of AR's and many hunters are now imposing it upon themselves and their hunting parties. We have all witnessed the benefits, whether legislated or not. The age structure of bucks taken this year is the highest I've ever seen in my area. Several bucks are being taken in the 3+ year range and I atribute this totally due to the greater understanding and awareness of the importance of an older age class structure in herds. However,I think it should only be legislated in areas where they are having problems increasing the overall age class of the bucks in their areas. In other words, most hunters now "get it" anyway and that is reflected in the older buck take that I'm witnessing.

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