Results of APR survey coming in March
Lansing — Results of two surveys to guage hunter support for antler point restrictions in the Lower Peninsula are expected to be announced in March.
“We’ve got 50 percent response (from those being surveyed), so there will be a recommendation one way or the other,” said Brent Rudolph, the DNR’s deer and elk program leader. “We don’t know what the results are yet. We’ll probably have a full report written up in March.
“We’re still waiting for more results to come in. Our third (and final) mailing went out Jan. 3.”
A group called the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative is proposing a change to what constitutes a legal buck in the Lower Peninsula. In Zone 2 (the northern Lower Peninsula), LPDMI proposes hunters with a regular buck tag be limited to shooting bucks with at least three points on one side. In Zone 3, LPDMI is proposing hunters with a regular buck tag be limited to shooting any buck with at least four points on one side. Requirements for the restricted buck tag would remain the same – good for bucks with at least four points on one side.
Currently, a legal buck in Michigan in areas without an APR is a deer having at least one antler that extends 3 inches or more above the skull. Under the current regulations, Michigan deer hunters in most of the Lower Peninsula may purchase up to two buck kill tags under a combo license – a regular tag and a restricted tag. The regular tag – which also may be purchased as a single, stand-alone archery or firearms license – allows a hunter to shoot any legal buck. The restricted tag allows hunters to shoot a buck with at least four points on one side.
The LPDMI is a group of 12 to 15 deer hunters who would like to see more 21⁄2-year-old bucks in Michigan’s deer population.
“We have two proposals in front of hunters in Michigan,” said LPDMI’s Tony Smith. “One is for the balance of Zone 2 (excluding the 12 counties in the northwestern Lower that are already under an APR and the TB zone) and the other is for all of Zone 3. Both of the proposals would protect about 70 percent of the year-and-a-half-old bucks.”
Surveys to guage support for the proposed APRs were sent to 3,000 individuals who hunt in Zone 2 and 2,300 who hunt in Zone 3. The surveys were paid for by LPDMI, but are being processed by the DNR.
In order for the process of tabulating the surveys to go forward, at least 50 percent of them must be returned for each proposal. In order for the DNR to recommend a change in legal buck status, at least 66 percent of those surveyed must be in favor of such a change.
“Sample sizes for both surveys were increased a bit …. This was needed because respondents to harvest surveys indicate the county or DMU in which they hunt, but seven counties are split by the Zone 2 and Zone 3 boundary line. Thus, some people that hunt in these counties would fall into Zone 2 and some in Zone 3,” Rudolph said. “To account for the fact that some people would need to indicate on the APR survey that they do not hunt in the proposed APR area, we increased the sample for the Zone 2 area to 3,000, and the sample for the Zone 3 area to 2,300.”
If there is 66 percent or more support for one or both proposals, the DNR would then make a recommendation for a change in the regulation and present it to the Natural Resources Commission for approval. Rudolph said that in case there is a change, the NRC must receive such a proposal by its May 8 meeting. The NRC would then accept public comment for a month and vote on such a proposal at its June 12 meeting.
“We need to meet that timeframe so that if there is a change we have time to get it into the appropriate (hunting) digest,” Rudolph said.
The proposals have been contentious among Michigan deer hunters, with some favoring an APR and others opposed.
Tom Lounsbury is a member of United Sportsmen Alliance, which supports voluntary APRs, but opposes mandatory APRs like those being proposed.
“We’re hoping that a majority of hunters agree with the fact that a quality buck is in the eyes of the beholder,” Lounsbury said. “I would hate to see lost hunting opportunities because you have to count points.”
Rudolph acknowledged that there has been some concern by hunters about nonresidents being included in the survey.
“In our recent hunter surveys, about 2 percent of hunters are from outside the state,” Rudolph said. “With a random survey you’d expect to get some of those people. About 1.4 percent of the hunters in the ongoing survey did reside outside Michigan. We don’t specifically target nonresidents, but sometimes there are nonresidents who receive a survey.”
At 1.4 percent, about 32 nonresidents were surveyed for the Zone 3 proposal and 45 for the Zone 2 proposal.