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Do antler restrictions work?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Instead of reading opinions and hearsay, in the other regional papers or no coverage at all, here are the FACTS about antler restrictions, which you won't read without someone doing research and letting the FACTS talk for themselves.

RESULTS IN MICHIGAN

The results from this study provide strong evidence that state-regulated antler restrictions can produce positive outcomes in whitetail herds, and in a relatively short period of time.

At least in this example, it appears that the three primary objectives of this antler restriction -- increased antlerless harvest, decreased button buck harvest, and increased harvest of older bucks -- are being achieved.

The increased antlerless harvest has apparently reduced deer density, which provides obvious benefits to landowners, agricultural producers and insurance companies.

The decreased button buck harvest demonstrates that hunter education and commitment to a quality deer management-type program are determining factors to hunter selectivity.

The increased number of older bucks has resulted in a more balanced adult sex ratio and an increased number of older, larger-antlered bucks available for harvest. The increased presence of older bucks also increases the intensity of rutting activities and provides opportunities for hunters to incorporate rattling and calling techniques into their hunting strategies. Basically a visible rut is now present.

As expected, the protection of yearling bucks resulted in an increased harvest of older bucks.

BEFORE ANTLER RESTRICTION: For example, the 3-year base averages for 2 1/2- year-old bucks 21 percent, 3 1/2- year-old bucks 7 percent, and 4 1/

2+-year-old bucks were 1 percent.

AFTER ANTLER RESTRICTION: In contrast, the 4-year averages for these age classes following the restriction were 2 1/2- year-old buck 49 percent, 3 1/

2-year-old bucks 23 percent, and 4 1/2+-year-old bucks were 4 percent.

This translates to of 133 percent increase in 2-year-old bucks, 229 percent increase in 3-year-old bucks, and 300 percent in 4 1/2+-year-olds.

While the data show a drastic improvement, the regulations were a hit with many hunters in the area.

Regardless, the results of this study reveal that the combination of proper doe harvest and protection of yearling bucks can produce positive outcomes for deer herds, deer habitats, and deer hunters.

RESULTS IN PENNSYLVANIA

Beginning in 2002, antler restrictions were implemented in most areas of the state (restrictions went statewide in 2003) to increase buck survival, and they have provided bucks an increased measure of protection that has helped them reach older ages and add to their numbers in deer populations in many areas of the state.

Based on winter deer captures, the number of yearling and older bucks surviving the hunting seasons has increased substantially since antler restrictions were started.

The proportion of yearling and adult bucks captured climbed from less than 10 percent of all males to 33 percent.

Prior to antler restrictions, most antlered bucks were removed from our deer populations by the conclusion of the state's deer hunting seasons.

Our fieldwork now indicates that about half of all our yearling bucks are being protected by antler restrictions. Through the first two years of this study, 10 percent of captured yearling bucks were lost to illegal kills, but none of the captured adult bucks were killed illegally.

Based on this research, we believe about 90 percent of the state's yearling and adult bucks that successfully elude hunters or are protected by antler restrictions through our hunting seasons, will be available to hunters the following fall.

Antler restrictions are achieving their intended goal of protecting young bucks, and those deer are moving up into older age classes.

RESULTS NORTHERN MISSOURI

Hunters killed a larger percentage of does and more deer with 8-point or bigger racks than last year.

After the second year of restrictions on the harvest of antlered deer in some counties, Missouri's top deer expert says the experiment is working as planned. The change doesn't seem to be cutting into the number of deer taken, either.

Northern Missouri saw an increase in antlerless deer harvest in some of the experimental counties in 2004. Also a large decrease in the number of 1-

year-old bucks harvested throughout the area where the antler restrictions have been in effect

2005 is the first year when the experimental regulation's effect on buck numbers and size could be seen.

The number of antlered deer taken in the experimental area was up 13 percent this year.

The number of antlered deer taken in surrounding counties designated as "controls" in the ongoing study was down 3 percent.

The number of 2.5-year-old bucks taken in the pilot area increased 20 percent, compared to a 6 percent increase in control counties.

The gain of some 2.5 year olds as expected, caused an overall increase in buck harvest in the antler-restriction counties.

This suggests that, as hoped, there were more 2.5-year-old-plus bucks this year. At least some of the bucks protected last year survived and were harvested this year.

The experimental antler restrictions do not appear to be affecting the number of deer killed in the trial area. The total harvest in that area was down about 3 percent compared to the previous year, while the harvest in adjacent counties was down 7 percent. The statewide firearms deer harvest was down approximately 9 percent. The Conservation Department attributed the smaller statewide deer harvest to abundant acorns, which made deer less active and less available to hunters.

CONCLUSION

It is simple, you read the facts about the three different states, which all have one thing in common great white-tail deer habitat. Antler restriction are not a magic bullet; it also takes great habitat and time.

No you can decide if they work or not.

Thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Pennsylvania Game Commission for the facts.

Hope to see you in the woods or on the water. Horntagger.