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.