Mule Deer Antler Point Regs (APRs)

Blacktail Slayer

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Mule Deer Antler Point Regs (APRs) Don’t Work

https://wgfd.wyo.gov/WGFD/media/content/PDF/Habitat/Mule Deer Initiative/MULEDEER_ANTLERPOINTREGS_REVIE0006790.pdf

All APR strategies resulted in a short term gain in the proportion of males in the population. However, male:female ratios eventually returned to pre-APR levels after varying lengths of time, regardless whether the APR was continued. Most western states have concluded that sustainable improvements in buck:doe ratios and the number of mature bucks can only be realized by reducing harvest through: 1) a limited quota license system that decreases the total buck harvest while allowing some level of doe harvest (Bender 2011); or by setting a very short hunting season.

Further, increases in buck:doe ratios have never been shown empirically to improve either herd production or population size (deVos et al. 2003; Bishop et al. 2005).

Several observations from our analysis of APR use in Wyoming and throughout the west are summarized below:

• APRs DO increase total buck:doe ratios; however results vary and are usually temporary.

• APRs are very popular with the hunting public. However public understanding of the pros and cons appears to be limited, and is complicated by popular literature concerning APRs.

• Most benefits occur in ≤ 3 years; use of APRs beyond this often appear to result in negative impacts to both total buck ratios and mature buck ratios. Continued long term use of APRs (≥3-4 years) may result in lower total male:female ratios.

• No APR strategy produced a long-term increase in adult (mature) male:female ratios, or an increase in the number of adult bucks, except in a handful of cases where hunter participation declined significantly, coupled with good fawn production.

Temporary APRs are most effective following a year of high fawn production and recruitment or when doe harvest is increased.

• Managers have found most effective way to recover from chronically low buck:doe ratios is through a dramatic reduction in harvest pressure on males ≥2 years of age (through a conservative limited quota season or very short season length). Available data also tends to support this.

• APRs have been shown to reduce the number and potentially the quality of mature bucks over time.

• Long-term use of APRs may target legal bucks that have not realized their full antler growth potential while protecting bucks with low antler growth potential (i.e., hunters select against legal bucks with smaller antlers). Although not validated by research, this is a concern among wildlife professionals and the public.

• APRs may dramatically reduce hunter participation, harvest success, and total harvest.

• APRs increase the number of deer shot and illegally left in the field; this can be significant and has been documented in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Montana.

• APRS do not increase fawn production or population size. Even in herds with singledigit buck:doe ratios, pregnancy rates are well over 90%. Large increases in buck ratios result in relatively few additional fawns (White et al. 2001). The extent to which relative proportions of yearling and mature bucks influence timing of conception and fawn recruitment/survival needs further evaluation.

• Some APRs displace hunting pressure to the oldest age classes of bucks, gradually eroding that segment of the population. Others reduce recruitment to older age classes by displacing harvest pressure to yearling males.

• APRs may decrease interest of hunters whose primary motivation is to obtain meat.

• APRs may discourage beginning and young hunters by increasing the difficulty of locating and identifying legal deer.

• Long-term use of APRs in areas with limited security/escape habitat potentially impedes maintenance of publically acceptable total and mature buck:doe ratios.

• Empirical studies of APR regulations have not been conducted. We recommend this become a priority research topic for the WAFWA.

• APRs should be viewed as a legitimate management tool in areas with chronically low male:female ratios provided they are applied on a time-limited basis. Managers and the public are cautioned that available data and experience suggest APRs result in no long term increase in either the proportion or number of mature bucks, or the total deer population.
 


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