Anderson: Deer management system leads to big bluffland bucks

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2012 - 11:13 PM

A system known as Antler Point Restrictions is in place in southeast Minnesota. The results: Bigger antlers and more satisfied hunters.

hide

Tim Rainey of Dover, Minn., this fall bagged this 130-inch, 10-point buck in Winona County.

Photo: -, Rochester Post-Bulletin

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Assuming the Legislature leaves well enough alone when it convenes early next year, the deer management revolution ongoing in southeast Minnesota's blufflands will continue.

If so, the deer there, and deer hunters, will be better for it.

Now in its third year, Antler Point Restrictions (APR), an experimental deer management system in the southeast, is beginning to show the results its proponents had hoped for.

Meaning a greater number of mature (at least 2 1/2 years of age) bucks are appearing in the region's very healthy whitetail herd, the result of a prohibition against killing bucks with fewer than 4 points on at least one antler (young hunters are exempted from the regulation).

But the benefits of APR -- which also prohibits cross-tagging, or party hunting, for bucks -- extend well beyond the increased number of bragging-size bucks that hunters already are seeing, and killing, in the southeast.

They include:

• A more balanced herd, meaning one with relatively fewer does than historically has been the case, and significantly more older bucks.

• A somewhat smaller, and therefore less intrusive, herd, in a region that long has had its share of crop depredation complaints filed by landowners.

• A safer hunting environment, in which fewer (inherently dangerous) deer drives are conducted, and (probably) fewer "snap shots'' are fired at deer by hunters who don't otherwise take the time to clearly identify their targets.

"After the first year of regulations, I heard a little complaining,'' said Andrew Nielsen of Byron, Minn., who earlier this fall arrowed a 15-point non-typical trophy in the southeast.

"But I don't hear many objections anymore. There are so many does in the region, if someone wants meat to fill the freezer, they can kill one of those. Meanwhile, the number of older bucks keeps growing. APR is doing nothing but good things.''

Seth Hargrove of Houston, Minn., agrees.

"At first I didn't support the antler point restrictions,'' he said. "But after a few years now I'm starting to see the bigger bucks.''

The private land in the southeast that Hargrove hunts has long been managed for larger bucks, with yearlings and other, smaller bucks protected.

But on public lands where that management scheme traditionally hasn't been in effect, hunters legitimately have worried that if they pass up a fork or spike, a hunter in the next 40 would shoot it.

"But with the 4-point rule, that's no longer the case,'' Hargrove said. "And this year there have been some giants taken.''

APR isn't universally supported. Its detractors -- fewer now than in 2010 when the plan was implemented -- argue they should be able to shoot whatever they want.

It's a fair point.

Except that everyone, given a choice, would prefer to shoot a bigger buck than a smaller one. And as time goes on, "everyone'' will have ever-greater chances to kill big bucks come deer season, because mature bucks will make up ever greater percentages of the herd.

The "old'' way of Minnesota deer hunting -- still prevalent throughout most of the state -- in which 60 percent of bucks harvested in a season are yearlings, hardly seems better.

Or more natural.

Example: In an unhunted herd, meaning one (theoretically) unaffected by man, many, if not most, yearling bucks would survive until their second, third or fourth birthdays.

During that time, nature would self-select the survivors through fighting, mishap or miscalculation, to determine which of the herd's bucks would pass on its superior traits to strengthen the herd.

• • •

Whining about the Department of Natural Resources has long been a good way to pass the time in Minnesota. But in fact, the agency did its homework before implementing APR in the southeast.

Not only did wildlife officials survey southeast deer hunters to determine their attitudes about various whitetail management philosophies, it tested APR -- albeit on a small scale -- before implementing it.

All along, wildlife officials knew APR would result in fewer bucks harvested in the program's initial years. And that proved true: The southeast buck harvest in 2010 was down 30 percent.

Additionally, 3 percent of surveyed southeast hunters complained that if APR were implemented, they'd stop hunting, or hunt elsewhere.

In fact, 2 percent didn't show up to hunt in 2010 compared to 2009.

But in 2011, the drop-off was recaptured.

Notwithstanding these successes, the Legislature has insisted the DNR appeal to it in its coming session if the agency wants to extend APR past this season.

To that end, deer experts and wildlife technicians scattered across the southeast last week when the firearms deer season opened.

Their intent was to count and age bucks that were registered, measure their antlers and gather other data that will contribute to a detailed understanding of the effect APR is having on the region's herd.

Jeff Iverson of Mantorville, Minn., who took a giant of a buck this fall in the southeast, is upbeat.

"You can tell by the number of mature bucks that show up on trail cameras,'' he said. "It used to be that I'd see one good buck on the cameras. Now I might see four or five.''

The system isn't perfect, Iverson said. Similar results perhaps could be achieved if the firearms deer season were moved back a couple of weeks, as it is in Wisconsin, away from the peak of the whitetail rut.

But that idea gained even less support among southeast hunters than APR did.

"I think we can make a compelling case to continue APR in the southeast," DNR wildlife research manager Lou Cornicelli said. "It's showing good results that we can document, and it seems more and more hunters approve of it."

In coming weeks, the DNR will again survey southeast hunters to gauge their opinions about APR, and also will hold public meetings throughout the region so hunters can make their cases for or against.

Then, come January, all of the information will be presented to the Legislature, with the hope that APR in the southeast is allowed to continue.

"Talking to hunters at check stations on the opener, a bunch of them said they weren't for APR when it first came out,'' Cornicelli said. "Now they support it. Passing on a fork now, they say, is no big deal.''

danderson@startribune.com

Photos appearing with this column were first published in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, along with reporting by Eric Atherton.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close