As the 2013 deer season kicks off for another year, the majority of hunters in southeast Minnesota (Zone 3) will be happy to know that antler point restrictions (APR’s) are here to stay.
It’s been a hot topic since 2009 when the DNR began to seek public input from those who hunt the area. This process had been in the works for over a decade as several groups of deer hunters worked closely with the Minnesota DNR in the evaluation of alternative management strategies that could result in a larger proportion of larger antlered and more mature bucks.
As part of the extensive evaluation process, the DNR held public input meetings and also introduced a survey to determine what would be the most preferred way to manage the deer herd in Zone 3. The majority of hunters in Minnesota wanted to see a restriction put in place that resulted in a greater portion of larger antlered bucks and of the options presented APR’s were the preferred method of doing so.
After getting support from the public, the DNR was given a green light to begin a three-year APR trial in 2010. That program was a success. Spend a day talking with people who hunt in Zone 3 and you’ll hear it first hand. There is still some opposition but with a majority in favor, APR’s will continue.
Once the trial period was finished the DNR once again held a round of public input meetings and sent out another survey to find out how area hunters felt about APR’s. The conclusion after the three-year trial was that 64% of hunters in Zone 3 wanted to see APR’s continue.
With public support, in spring of 2013, the DNR introduced a bill before the legislature that would give the DNR the ability to make its decision on APR’s without legislative action. That bill passed unanimously. The hurdle to continue has been political in the past, with a loud minority controlling the situation. Many argue that there are groups in Minnesota making an attempt to make deer hunting a political issue when it really should come down to what the hunters in the state want.
The numbers don’t lie.
After looking over some stats from the past few years I found one stat that speaks volumes to hunters on both sides of the fence. From 2005-2009 the average percent of yearling bucks harvested in Zone 3 was 42 percent. That number dropped to 22 percent in 2010 during the first year of the APR trial. In both 2011 and 2012 that number dropped even lower to 19 percent. While the current APR of at least 4 points on one side only protects 50-75 percent of all yearling bucks, it is a great compromise between those that want to see larger bucks and those who don’t favor APR. Many more yearling bucks are going to be around to have a chance to mature enough to show off their potential.
The current regulation in Zone 3 is that for a buck to be legal, it must have at least 4 points on one side. Youth 17 and younger are exempt.