Survey says no to more of APR

Roscommon, Mich. — The survey results are in, and efforts to implement antler point restrictions across most of the Lower Peninsula fell short of the 66-percent support required for the DNR to propose a regulation change. For now, there will be no changes in what constitutes a legal buck in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

The Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative last summer held a series of meetings across the Lower Peninsula in  hopes of gaining support from hunters on changing deer-hunting regulations. LPDMI wanted to get more year-and-a-half-old bucks to the next year-class by implementing restrictions on which bucks would be viewed as legal to kill.

Currently across most of the Lower Peninsula, a legal buck is any buck with at least one antler measuring at least 3 inches in length. LPDMI wanted to change that legal definition to a buck with at least three points on one side in the counties of the northern Lower Peninsula (Zone 2) that are not already under an APR, and to a buck with at least four points on one side in the southern Lower (Zone 3).

According to guidelines recommended by an Antler Point Restriction Work Group and approved by the state Natural Resources Commission, to implement an APR, hunters in that area must be surveyed to guage support for a change. At least 50 percent of those surveyed must respond to the survey, and at least 66 percent of returned surveys must offer support for the change.

LPDMI provided the funding for the surveys. The DNR sent surveys to a randomly selected sample of hunters in both regions and tallied the results.

According to Brian Frawley, a research biologist with the Michigan DNR who presented the survey results to the Natural Resources Commission earlier this month, 72 percent (2,167) of those surveyed in the northern Lower Peninsula and 74 percent (1,700) surveyed in the southern Lower Peninsula returned the surveys. Support for the 3-point APR in the NLP was 61.7 percent, and support for a 4-point APR in the SLP was 54.9 percent, both short of the required 66 percent.

“Support from hunters was insufficient to recommend implementation of antler point restrictions in either of the areas,” Frawley said.

Tony Smith, president of the LPDMI, was disappointed with the results.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed. We knew that a 4-point restriction in the southern Lower Peninsula was like pushing a boulder uphill, but that’s all the DNR would let us propose,” Smith said. “They said that’s what was needed down here to advance 50 percent of yearling bucks to the next age class. We thought we would do better in the north-central Lower after getting support in the northwest 12. We did have more support, but still not enough.”

Brent Rudolph, the DNR’s deer and elk program leader, said the results were about what he expected.

“When you look at all of Zone 3, we have done antler surveys (as part of the annual survey of deer hunters) and that’s pretty much what we have seen in the past,” Rudolph said. “When we looked at all of the northern Lower Peninsula in broader surveys, again we have not seen that 66-percent support, so I’m not really surprised.”

Tom Lounsbury, president of  the United Sportsmen’s Alliance, said his group supports voluntary antler point restrictions, but opposes mandatory APR.

“For those in opposition of the mandatory APR, there was a feeling of relief that regulations wouldn’t be passed to determine what a hunter can or cannot shoot as a ‘quality’ buck,” he said. “However, the NRC has yet to make a final determination.”

Smith is holding out hope the NRC might step in and make a change.

“As soon as Mr. Frawley’s report was complete, the conversation turned to, ‘What can we do now,’ ” Smith said. “The chatter seemed to turn to the hunter choice option, like they have in the Upper Peninsula.”

In the U.P., hunters may choose to purchase a combo license or a single deer license that is good for either the archery or firearms season. The combo license allows hunters to shoot two bucks, but the first must have at least three points on one side and the second must have at least four points on one side. Single license purchasers may shoot any buck with at least one antler measuring a minimum of 3 inches. Single license holders are restricted to shooting just one buck and may only purchase one license.

“It’s just talk right now, because the NRC instructed Russ Mason (DNR Wildlife Division chief) and Brent Rudolph to do an independent study of APRs in other states. They asked that it be completed by April 1 of next year,” Smith said. “So, barring a miracle, nothing will happen this year.”

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