Surveys show strong support for APR

St. Paul — Hunters in the southeastern part of the state are more supportive than they have been in the past of regulations that require them to shoot only bucks that have at least four antler points on one side, according to preliminary results of a survey sent to 4,000 people who hunt the 3A and 3B seasons.

Overall support for the antler-point restrictions was 61 percent. Support for continuing the regulations was highest – 68 percent – among 3A hunters. Support among 3B hunters stood at 56 percent.

About 25,000 adults hunt the 3A season, and about 14,000 hunt the 3B season.

The antler-point restrictions have been in place since 2010, but the DNR needs legislative approval if it intends to keep the regulations this year.

“Setting the politics aside – and we haven’t decided what we are going to do – the antler-point restrictions work,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “There is really no other way to describe it.”

And while there has been a gradual shift in the number of hunters who hunt the 3A and 3B seasons, the overall number of hunters has been steady. Hunters started moving to the 3A season in about 2003, and last year, about 65 percent of hunters hunted the 3A season.

Some people were concerned before the regulations were put in place that they would result in hunters not going afield, or that too many hunters would hunt the 3A season.

“The regulations worked, and we didn’t lose hunter numbers,” Cornicelli said. “We lost more hunters in 2002 because Wisconsin scared them (when chronic wasting disease was discovered) than we lost from antler-point restrictions.”

There were widespread reports during the 2012 deer season that hunters in the southeast were seeing and shooting more mature bucks than in the past. And some hunters who were opposed to the regulations when they began were enthusiastic supporters by the time last season ended.

But not everyone likes them.

Of 3A hunters, 31 percent oppose the regulation. Opposition is higher – 42 percent – among 3B hunters.

“There’s going to be opposition no matter what you do,” Cornicelli said. “You might argue that if we don’t continue the antler-point restrictions that we are going to upset two-thirds of our hunters.”

It’s important to note, he said, that even though one-third of the hunters surveyed don’t like the regulations, they’re still hunting.

Officials expected support for the regulations to be low early on, and then grow. That was the experience in Missouri, and also what was seen when regulations were in place at Itasca State Park in Minnesota.

The survey results so far are preliminary because the DNR recently sent out another round of surveys to hunters who had not responded to the first two mailings. But officials don’t expect the results to change much.

Other survey results:

  • 88 percent of 3A hunters supported continuing the current nine-day season; 45 percent of 3B hunters supported the nine-day season.
  • 46 percent of respondents supported continuation of the ban on cross-tagging; 33 percent opposed continuing it; and 21 percent didn’t care.
  • 71 percent of respondents supported the exemption for youth, which allowed hunters from age 10 to 17 to shoot any antlered deer.

Still, the DNR isn’t making a recommendation on continuing the Zone 3 regulations until it collects additional public input at the following two meetings, which will run from 7 to 9 p.m.:

Monday, Feb. 25 at the Cannon Falls High School auditorium
Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Tandeski Center at Winona Southeast Technical College.

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