The Missouri Department of Conservation has dropped their Antler Point Restriction (APR) in a six-county area in the northern part of the state for this fall. Rescinding APR’s is part of the MDC’s response to the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in two hunter-killed whitetails from Macon County last fall.
After those bucks were found, the department killed and tested 657 deer this winter, in a study area near those first CWD-positive harvests. That sampling produced three additional CWD-positive deer. These wild deer were taken in close proximity to captive whitetail/hunting preserves in Macon County, where a total of 11 CWD-positive deer have been found.
So what does CWD have to do with APR’s? I called Missouri state deer biologist Jason Sumners to find out. “APR’s protect yearling males and promote older bucks,” he said. “And bucks, both yearlings and adults, exhibit CWD at much higher rates than yearling and adult females. So reducing the number of male deer can at least help limit the spread of CWD. Dispersing yearling bucks in search of new territory or does to mate is thought to be one of primary means of expanding CWD distribution.”
APRs have been in place in northern Missouri since 2004, when they were implemented in 29 counties. The regulation has been highly successful in reducing yearling buck mortality and focusing more hunter harvest on antlerless deer, which has reduced the population. After a 3-year trial period, 37 additional counties were added to those under the APR regulation in 2008, largely because the regulation was effective in meeting population goals and highly popular with hunters.
However, Sumners doesn’t expect to see a dramatic shift in the pressure on yearling bucks. “APR’s have changed the hunting culture here,” he said. “Even in areas that don’t have APR’s, hunters are voluntarily passing 1-1/2 year old bucks. But having a regulation in place that protects individual animals likely to disperse and spread CWD is counter to our management efforts to stop the disease.” Sumners said that the MDC has also placed a ban on feeding deer and prohibited hunters from using minerals, practices which can concentrate whitetails and increase the chances of disease transmission.