March 19, 2018

The Case Against the Case For Antler Point Restrictions

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In the January/February issue of SAM (Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine) News, Vol. 41, No. 1, author Mike Look presents his argument for Antler Point Restrictions (APR) as they may pertain to whitetail deer management. In essence this was a counterpoint to the case made by Gerry Lavigne against APRs.

Personally, I do not favor APRs for the simple reason that the entire proposal most closely resembles the cries by selfish hunters to grower bigger trophy deer for trophy hunting. It’s easy to say most hunters want this but the only data that I have seen in this case shows that the clear majority of Maine deer hunters want meat for their freezers, and if, while searching for that meat, they are “lucky” enough to bag a “trophy” (a value weighted perspective), then they’ll gladly accept the bonus.

Bearing that in mind, if real science showed that, in Maine, APRs, different from the “Any-Deer Permit” system the state now employs, became necessary to improve and/or protect the deer herd, then I would support some kind of APR. Is Maine trying to grow the number of deer or the age of the deer?

I’m not exactly writing today to support or refute APRs…not exactly. However, I wanted readers to understand my personal perspective on APRs.

In addition to this, the article Mike Look wrote contains what he describes as three questions Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) must have answered before they would consider implementation of an APR program. Here are the three questions exactly as Look presented them in his article.

1. “Will the APR protect at least 50% of the yearlings? (i.e. make the program biologically sound).”

2. “Is the APR supported by a majority of hunters and landowners?”

3. “Will APR results be objectively monitored to determine success or failure?”

There is little need to spend time attempting to answer each of these three questions in detail because any answer can only be answered as honestly and objectively as the questions themselves. In the first question, are we hunters to assume that because an APR program would “protect at least 50% of the yearlings,” that it makes such a program “biologically sound?”

The author uses results from a recent polling/survey company to make claims that the majority of hunters support APRs. The problem with these surveys, and Responsive Management is included, is the results are only the product of the manipulation of questions to get answers that are desirable. Deny this fact all you want but it is a proven fact. To ask those taking the survey if they would approve an APR of three point to a side, has no qualifying information such that the survey taker can make an honest answer. Neither is there such information available from those promoting APRs.

Maine is a unique place in which to manage deer…as is “Anyplace,” United States. All management decisions for deer have to be uniquely considered. This is one reason that wildlife management has evolved into Wildlife Management Districts (WMD). The process of wildlife management evolved to a point that managers realized that it was a better and more responsible way to care for wildlife, if decisions made could be done within smaller areas. I don’t think I need to give examples of this benefit.

Perhaps if APRs could be somehow, relatively easily, implemented within WMDs that would biologically benefit deer, I could support the decision.

The third question is a killer. It asks if the program is going to be “objectively monitored.” How can this possibly be? Objectivity, regardless of what you have been told, is always based upon somebody’s values. It appears to me that if, say, Quality Deer Management Association, worked with Maine to employ an APR, then what QDMA says is the holy grail. By implementing their rules of conduct and what constitutes winning and losing, then perhaps Maine could “objectively monitor” comparing results with what QDMA considers winning and losing and then we can all hold hands and be winners – we’d get trophies too? (I mean the shiny pins and ribbons.) Success in this instance, appears to be bigger deer, not necessarily a better deer herd.

Age structure is one very important aspect in managing for a healthy, sustained whitetail deer population. Putting in place an APR limiting harvest to only bucks with at least 3 points on one side of the set of antlers, could alter that age structure detrimentally. There certainly are lots more important elements to deer management.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has not supported APRs in the past and I think for very good reasons. In this, I support their decision. With the exception of some central and southern regions of the state, Maine has a more serious management program than making decisions that seem to be pushed by “trophy” hunters.

If QDMA uses these three questions to decide whether to push for an APR program, I would have to question whether their reasons are sound. Responsible deer management must consider much more than protecting 50% of yearlings, (like finding ways to protect at least 30% of fawns in order to become a yearling), whether hunters and landowners want bigger deer and if the results will be assessed according to QDMA standards of success.

I haven’t seen but one or two deer in the woods while hunting in Maine over the past 5 years. To hell with bigger bucks. How about we get to work and figure out how to protect deer beyond Spring fawning?