With hunter OK, APR plan sent to the NRC

Lansing — A proposal that would raise antler point minimums for bucks in 12 more northern Lower Peninsula counties, aimed at boosting the number of mature bucks, is headed for the Natural Resources Commission.

Two-thirds of hunters responding to a DNR-administered survey supported the proposal, clearing the hurdle set by the commission that oversees DNR policies and programs.

Frameworks established during a proposal moratorium called for surveys of hunter support, with a minimum standard of at least 66-percent support and at least 50-percent response.

DNR deer specialist Brent Rudolph told Michigan Outdoor News that the proposal submitted by the Northwest Michigan Quality Deer Management Association was the first since the commission resumed consideration of such plans.
Rudolph said the proposal drew 68.5-percent support, and responses from 80 percent of those surveyed.

“I thought it would be pretty close to the (mandated) 66-percent margin,” he said. “I figured it would be just there, or a little over or a little under.”

Rudolph said that surveys conducted in 2005-06 found that while “hunters continue to want to see increased numbers and ages of bucks on the landscape, and support us taking measures to do that, when it comes to specific measures, there’s less agreement.”

Some favor antler point restrictions; others a one-buck rule, a quiet period between seasons, or other measures, he said.

If implemented, the proposal for northwest Lower Michigan would define a legal buck as one having at least three points on at least one side for a hunter’s “regular” license, and at least four points on at least one side for a “restricted” tag.

That’s been the rule for Leelanau County for nearly a decade. The QDM proposal would expand it to Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Osceola, and Wexford counties as well.

The Lower Peninsula’s current general rule? Bucks must have at least one antler at least three inches long for the regular license, and at least one of at least four points for the restricted license.

Wildlife Division staff may oppose proposals at any stage if detrimental biological effects seem likely. “We have no such concerns, so we expect to recommend implementation of this (antler point restriction proposal) based on the results of the survey of support,” Rudolph said.

The goal, he said, is to protect from harvest 50 percent of the area’s yearling (1½-year-old) bucks. Some older bucks with smaller racks might be protected by the rule, he said, and some younger ones with effective 6-point racks taken.

Overall, though, harvest surveys and other data indicate the framework would have the desired result, he said.

Before the survey was conducted, the QDM group organized and covered the costs of public meetings throughout the area, explaining to attendees what it proposed and what results it expected. DNR staffers were present to answer questions at all but one of the meetings, Rudolph said. The QDM branch also paid the costs of administering the survey.

The DNR sped up its survey timeline, conducting its QDM canvas in late summer instead of immediately after the hunting season, “so we didn’t run right up against the timeline” for presenting the proposal and drafting regulations, Rudolph said.

The NRC will see the proposal as a “for-information-only” item at its May 9 meeting at the DNR’s Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center at Higgins Lake, and may act on it at its June 13 meeting at MSU’s Diagnostic Center in Lansing.

If approved, the rule change would take effect this fall and run for five years, after which the hunter-support survey would be repeated.

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