Minn. could see antler-point restrictions in 2010

Rochester, Minn. (AP) – In the future, when bluff land deer
hunters see a buck, they might need to take a deep breath and count
to four.

It’s possible they will have to make sure the buck has at least
four one-inch tines on one side before they can shoot. That
management method became the de facto focus of a late March
deer-hunting round-table in Rochester.

Bluffland Whitetails Association organized the gathering of top
Department of Natural Resources wildlife managers, deer-hunter
groups and experts from three other states. BWA and several other
groups say they are seeing too few big bucks and want a better
chance to shoot one someday. Just knowing more big bucks are in the
woods would make the hunt more enjoyable, and maybe keep more
people hunting.

The question is how to get that balance. The answer that
appeared most viable: point restrictions.

Lonnie Hansen of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is
in the middle of leading such a change, and he said that although
hunters objected at first, they began seeing more big bucks and
changed their minds in fairly short order. Some counties now have
70 percent acceptance rates for that change, he said. The state is
expanding the management technique into a majority of the state’s
counties.

After a few years, the number of yearling bucks shot in Missouri
fell 66 percent, he said. But the harvest of 2.5-year-olds rose 20
percent, 3.5-year-olds was up 62 percent and older ones rose 200
percent. Keep in mind, that the 200 percent rise really means a
relatively small number because there weren’t that many in the
first place.

But it was striking how Hansen said the initial hesitancy fell
away when hunters got used to it and started seeing more big
bucks.

That was a theme other speakers used. Even in Minnesota, where
some experimental limits on bucks have been tried in state parks,
the concept grew more popular each year. Hunters tried it, and they
liked it.

The Minnesota DNR indicated it’s very receptive to antler point
restrictions, and it’s likely that the southeast region would be
the site of major experimental regulations. The DNR estimates that
roughly half the yearling bucks wouldn’t meet the four-point
standard and thus would be protected.

Another example cited of a place where it worked was
Pennsylvania. It had the worst-managed deer herd in the country
because of the tradition of killing most of the yearling bucks and
not taking enough does, said Marrett Grund, a Minnesota DNR
whitetail expert who once worked there.

With the restrictions, buck harvest fell from 203,000 to about
125,000 a year, he said. Hunters were happy because they now might
see two or three bucks a day; before, seeing a buck was rare after
the first day of the season, he said. The days of shoot-all-bucks
are gone.

Point restrictions were able to “break the back of that
tradition,” he said.

In Minnesota, buck harvest statewide with antler-point
restrictions would fall from about 110,000 to about 65,000, Grund
said. But it could also mean more does would be shot, because in
areas where the DNR wants to cull the herd by offering many
antlerless permits, 84 percent of hunters only take one deer, he
said. If they can’t take a yearling, they might take a doe.

Kip Adams, a biologist with the Quality Deer Management
Association, said about 60 percent of its bucks harvested in
Minnesota are yearlings, which is among the highest in the country.
Having too few older bucks means more yearlings will breed. That
means they go into winter in poorer shape, he said.

The meeting, however, was just the beginning, said Dave Schad,
director of the Minnesota DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. The
DNR plans to do an intensive survey of hunters in this region, then
hold public meetings about possible changes. The earliest any big
change will come would be 2010, he said.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

But two other top managers added a huge note of optimism that
change is coming.

People at the meeting showed off some cutting-edge ideas, said
Lou Cornicelli, big-game program coordinator. “I’m encouraged that
we can begin doing all of this stuff.”

Added Dennis Simon, wildlife section chief, “I think we are on
the verge of doing something.”

Categories: News Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *