Antler Point Restrictions
Just mentioning Antler Point Restrictions around hunters is sure to yield more than a few differing opinions. Antler point restrictions are common on intensively managed game lands and some individually owned properties. An example of an APR is that in order for a buck to be harvestable his antlers must be at least 16 inches wide and/or possess four points to a side. Others include antlers that must be at least as wide as his ears and have a total of 6 points, or something along those lines.
APRs are a great way of protecting yearling bucks from being harvested. If a hunter feels that they aren’t the best at aging deer on the hoof, estimating an accurate age by determining the buck’s bodily characteristics, this is the way to go. Many landowners and clubs successfully grow respectable deer under this type of restriction. While this is the most commonly used restriction, it may not always be the best management practice.
Critics of APRs are quick to point out that many times a buck can reach maturity and have a less-than-ideal set of antlers. For example, I was a member of a hunt club and an APR of no less than 8 points had been established. I observed that there were three mature six point bucks commonly spotted on and near our land. I estimated the youngest buck to be a mature 3.5 year old. While these buck were trophies in their own right, their antlers yielded them a free pass to all hunting club members. During this time, multiple 2.5 year old bucks with great potential were harvested with antlers that barely met the restrictions.
There are many variables to consider when it comes to APRs. Not all of the deer we saw or harvested were residing on our land. Also, a couple of mature bucks were harvested and the APR seemed to work well for managing them. So my advice for anyone who is active in clubs or shares their property with other hunters is to learn how to age deer on the hoof. The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is on the forefront of educating hunters to age deer and they have many valuable resources to aid in honing your skills. I urge landowners to set harvest goals by age and not antler points. A mature buck is a trophy in his own right, regardless of his headgear.
Each piece of land has its own set of circumstances to consider when implementing harvest restrictions. APRs can be effective under the right circumstances, but I prefer to base harvest requirements off a deer’s age. Regardless of how you chose to manage your property don’t forget that the primary goal is to enjoy the outdoors and have fun more, not harvesting big bucks.
For information on how to establish a cooperative and manage multiple hunters seeking mature whitetails, check out my article Like-Minded Success in Mossy Oak Gamekeepers Spring 2014 Issue.
~ Andrew Walters. Mossy Oak Properties
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