December 18, 2017

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?

  • Ian

    APR’s can help balance sex ratios for the rut….leading to more does being bred …..producing more fawns in the Spring

    If there are enough bucks, 100% of the does will be bred. If you are harvesting 70-80% of the yearling bucks then you’ll most likely have heavily skewed sex ratios come the rut. Scientists will tell you 1 buck can breed a lot of does but the important question is, what is the breeding success? Are there does not being bred?

    If only 80% of your does are being bred then you are losing 20% of your fetus/fawns right from the get go

    If APR’s bump breeding success to 100% and If you assume no compensatory mortality then you will also have increased fawn survival rates in the spring (there are more fawns….predators take the same number….therefore survival rates go up). Lets say 10% more fawns survive the spring

    100% breeding yield say 2.0 fetus/doe…. 60% survival in Spring yield a fall recruitment of 1.2 fawn/doe

    80% breeding yields 1.6 fetus/doe….. 50% survival in spring yield a fall recruitment of 0.8 fawns/doe

    1.2 fawns/ doe is 50% more than 0.8 fawn/doe….. a 50% increase in fawns overall…….and you only asked for 30% increase

    You are right in that responsible deer management must consider much more than protecting 50% of yearlings…….Similar to any resource, deer need to be valuable and the trophies are the most valuable, without trophies, deer will be worthless and considered a nuisance

    • TRemington

      The possibilities might possibly exist that would meet with what you are saying. I have listened to many a hunter over the years exclaim how skewed the buck to doe ratios are in Maine – some even claiming as many as 100 does to 1 buck. Biologically it is extremely difficult to skew buck to doe rations beyond perhaps 5 to 1. The only way that can happen is by a deliberate altering of the ratios.

      The formula is quite simple but understanding what is required to meet the standards of this formula is not. To maintain a herd population, total recruitment must equal total mortality. To manipulate that dynamic up or down requires to either increase or lower recruitment or increase or lower total mortality.

      The theory may be correct about does getting bred if there exists a lack of bucks to do the job. In that I repeat that this scenario is very unlikely unless deliberate manipulation has skewed the ratios beyond sustainable levels.

      It’s not beyond the similarity about the claim that killing off the older bucks spoils the gene pool. This comes from a lack of understanding about genetics. Genes are genes. Those genes do not change according to age. What some might be thinking about is whether or not a deer lives long enough to be smart enough to “teach” offspring the tricks of the trade. That has been argued for decades but it has nothing to do with genes.

      Having said all that, the management manipulation must be based on what is needed to grow, shrink or stabilize a deer herd, and of those needs what is within the reach of man’s manipulation.

      As I stated in the article, if science proves that under the right circumstances, using APRs to manipulate the age structure needed to protect, perhaps grow or shrink numbers, I would not be opposed to APRs.

      • Dennis Thomson

        if you had a 3 point rule you would see more deer and meat hunters would get more meat, 3 point ar is not to make trophy deer it is to fix ratios and create more competition in bucks which will give hunters a better experience in the woods ,more opportunities and more meat, it also gets doe bred sooner and can end the rut sooner so there is less fawn mortality , it also would make the need to take more doe to adjust for the extra buck on the landscape so again meat hunters would have another way to get more meat , that being said much of maine already has a natural 3 point rule what i like to call it age protection , because of the big thick woods and lower hunter per square mile density the deer have places to escape the hunting pressures , the 3 point rule i feel should be used in only the high density hunter areas where deer dont have this natural protection and the hunters are shooting the largest portion of deer 3 years and under.

  • Ian

    Your 5:1 sex ratios are from Spring, you cant skew spring ratios further due to the fact that recruited fawns are in a 1:1 ratio and “reset” the ratio in the spring. Most hunters prefer a buck over a doe so as the hunting season progresses and bucks are harvested your ratios become skewed, 100:1 is definitely a possibility in the fall when the rut is on.

    I’ll assume for a minute that you meant spring ratios, you say they can’t be higher without deliberate manipulation…….Yes they can. What happens when you get a bad winter and no fawns are recruited? The ratios don’t “reset” they stay skewed if fawns aren’t being recruited. A common condition in the north as fawns are the first to die off in a severe winter.

    QDMA fails to consider breeding success, With 50:1 ratios do all the does get bred? Potentially their recruitment could be higher

    The one dynamic you probably aren’t considering is pressure/effort…….close the hunting season and I can almost guarantee
    recruitment>mortality….unless poaching is crazy high

    The formula to manipulate the population is simple, there is a direct relationship with pressure/effort and population size

    2007 MDIFW whitetail deer management system and database is great reading

    We are 2 or 3 years in now. Our season now starts in early Sept for bow xbow ML…..used to be mid Oct and bow only. Our season got earlier, longer and weapons became more effective. At the same time we went from 1 tag to 2…….we blew hunting pressure through the roof, but everyone wanted it. Different story now. 2015 was our lowest harvest in history.

    • TRemington

      Do the math. If Maine has an estimated deer population pre harvest of 200,000 deer and the harvest reduces that number by approx 10%, which is what it has been running the last 10 yearsish, the estimated population drops to 180,000. Deer biologists at MDIFW have told me that at no time in modern deer management history, has buck to doe ratios been more than 1:1.5 pre rut, post rut, pre harvest post harvest…..

      In 2015, of the 20,000 deer harvested, just under 15,000 were bucks. If the buck to doe ratio pre harvest was 1:1, post harvest would be 1:1.1 maybe.

      If fawn recruitment is 30% (ideal for Maine I am told to sustain) then there might be anywhere from 0 to 40 – 50,000 new fawns, of which approx. one half are male and one half are female.

      I would have to seriously disagree with you that a 1:100 buck to doe ratio is and does occur some or any. If it were so, what a mess we would have on our hands. You have been reading too many ignorant hunter writers and that includes QDMA that wants to sell a product.

      Call and talk with a well-educated, long-term deer biologist and ask them how buck to doe ratios reach 1:100

      I will stand by my statement that it is near biological impossibilities to reach buck to doe ratios, AT ANY TIME, that even approaches 1:100 unless some fish and game department is deliberately trying to destroy a deer herd.

  • Ian

    I don’t know what to say…..not the respose i expected from you. Unless you are a comedian.The hunters and hunter writers i listen to are ignorant….but the “scientist” you listen to are not. Lol

    Not that it means much but my mentor is the founder of QDMA in Canada. He was a long standing deer biologist in NB that was fired by the Irvings.

    We are years ahead of you. The irvings are just getting started in Maine. You are right about the mess we have. Maine is next

    As for your herd estimate…perhaps you should seek a second opinion. But dont go look!!! Lol
    How are they doing it?

    If you are doing Pgi counts for a herd estimate… are you getting sex ratios. Is there a way to differentiate buck from doe pooh?

    Maybe you are counting from a helicopter….how do you differentiate does from fawns to get your sex ratios?

    Are you counting the over wintering population? How do you differentiate buck from does to get sex ratios?

    How exactly are you getting sex ratios?

    • TRemington

      There is nothing exact about deer management…or any other wildlife management, short of somehow magically capture every animal etc. etc. Everything is done by estimation. You know that and I know that. To think otherwise is fool’s play. The same with determining sex ratios. It’s guess work based on algorithms, i.e. educated guess work.

      I don’t know if NB is ahead or behind Maine and I don’t even know what that means. That’s a value weighted perception. I have communicated at length with some of the most highly recognized biologists and ecologist and some who have dedicated their lives to deer studies. I am not supporting or refuting anyone’s deer management policies. I’m repeating what I’ve been told that it is near biological impossibility to skew sex ratios toward 1:100

      But Don’t Go Look!! LOLBAY

  • Ian

    I dont know that everything is done through estimation….its not what i have learned.

    Quite the opposite actually. It is an exact science… i said earlier its about pressure/ effort…..nothing else needs to be considered

    F$#k the numbers, if you reduce pressure….the population has to increase

    Consider deer utopia of zero pressure….deer are plentiful but theres no hunting season. Add hunting season…pressure….the population will be smaller….add more pressure in longer season, more tags, more efficient weapons, more technology,more skill ….your population size will definetly be reduced, foolish to believe otherwise

    Did i forget to mention the pressure predators put on herd?

    If you reduce pressure predators put on the herd by exterminating them all…’d be a fool to not think the deer population will be larger

    It is that easy

    What i meant by Maine being behind,is that here in NS, deer have been labelled a nuissance they arent valued. Because of this there are very few deer and really not worth putting forth the required effort to successfully harvest. Moose on the other hand are valued and have been labelled endangered. We dont even get the opportunity to hunt

    If I’m not mistaken,isnt this where Maine is? Choosing between moose or deer?
    Choose wisely.

    • TRemington

      There is much scuttlebutt about making a decision to NOT expend any effort to “manage” deer in Northern Maine – manage for moose instead.

      I understand completely and then some about “pressure.” But it is NOT just that simple. There are so many factors that have effect on deer herds, some we haven’t and don’t want to think about and consider.

      I will agree that some of biggest mistakes made is to allow hunting because they need the money. I am not one to bitch and complain if hunting seasons were closed or limited if for the purpose of protecting and growing the herd for “surplus harvest.” Consumptive use of natural resource is mostly forbidden these days in our Totalitarian world we live in.

      There is little hope in any of this. Biologists are interested in one thing only – their retirement pensions.

      In Maine, one huge mistake, in my opinion, is the Muzzleloader hunting season that runs into mid-December. It has been scientifically shown, at least to a point where I consider the findings worthy of consideration, that the longer the harassment of bucks beyond the rutting season, exponentially drives the mortality rate of bucks up.

      Maine is all “wee-weed up” as Barack Obama would say, about antler restrictions in order that the “trophy” prostitutes can shoot bigger bucks but yet they continue to allow hunters to chase the shit out of them through mid-December.

      All the pretend deer biologists in Maine do is to tell us what NB is doing.

      And to clarify, the science of deer biology is exact, by the standards of best available science. What is NOT exact is anything that has to do with herd numbers, even when flying to achieve counts, it’s still guess work. If you don’t know exact numbers, all else, i.e. ratios, age structure, etc., is but guess work.

  • reality22

    I believe in QDM but don’t believe that the state should be forcing it upon the hunter. We do it on our property, successfully so, have for years. I have shot some nice deer over the years because of it. We still have a few neighbors that have no interest BUT to each his own. This year, mid week I had a nice 2 1/2 year old buck take a path towards me then swung east to where I could see a neighbor was hunting (one that had never practiced QDM (but his son did). Because of the open low land I could see it getting closer to him about 1/4 mile from me. I was expecting a blast from the rifle……but Nothing! I eventually lost sight of the buck as it made its way towards some of the farmland fields (where QDM is practiced). A call to the neighbors son confirmed ….. Dad is finally in. So be it.

  • Ian

    I bet many don’t even realize Maine is already under antler restrictions. Regulations state that a legal buck must have at least one antler 3″….. that is an antler restriction. All you would be doing is modifying the restriction to include points and or spread….really no different than adjusting doe quotas

    I used to have a great APR article but I cant see to find it. It went through a few scenarios of different forms of APR’s in different WMU’s. One part I remember was what I’ll call North Maine, they also did comparisons of agriculture but in the big woods they showed how the yearling generally had less points as compared to agriculture, most yearlings were 4pts or less wheras around agriculture yearlings were 4pts or more. If you put say a 4pt rule in the north woods you end up protecting 95% of the yearlings, something like 60% of the 2.5 year old and 10% of the 3.5 year olds. They showed that a very small % of the bucks were even available to harvest.

    Don’t think that’s what hunters would want but I suggest Mainers get shit together for this whole deer vs moose idea, otherwise the north woods is gonna end up as trophy moose lodges for the totalitarians.

    Check out MDIFW 2007 whitetail deer management system and data base. Read on pressure…..effort….and success and the “trends” they model. It deals with deer but I would think the concept also applies to moose

    Pressure is basically the effort that a group of hunters or WMU puts out as a whole, but effort is what YOU have to put out and if YOU havn’t seen a deer in 5 years so I wanna see you more successful. Check out effort vs all cause mortality. They broke all cause into hunter harvest and “others” and showed when effort was low, the % of all cause attributed to hunters was at its lowest and the % by “others” at its highest. As effort increases so does the % attributed to hunters. When effort is at its highest the % attributed to hunters is highest and % attributed to “others” is lowest

    One last thing to consider in deer vs moose. Deer are the dominant species. See brainworm. You’d be working against mother nature if you manage moose over deer. Never mind the fact that you are trading 1000’s of deer for a few moose

  • Ian