Get to the (Antler) Point

March 22, 2013 by  

By Nick Simonson

The law is a repository of the collective human mindset, recorded over time.  It is ever-changing as society progresses.  As thoughts, minds and hearts jump from one side of Lady Justice’s scales to the other – or they decide a matter is important and join a cause – a shift in the public paradigm occurs.  Whatever the issue might be, change usually comes about gradually, but I’m hearing and seeing a lot of recent change in the hearts and minds of outdoors-people regarding one particular hunting topic – Antler Point Restrictions, or APR.

Where mature bucks are

Where mature bucks are hard to come by, management tools like APR may be the key to quality hunting in the future.

APR is a management tool instituted by managing agencies whereby hunters may only shoot bucks with a minimum number of points on one side of their rack – usually four, but in some places three or five.  The theory is that this program will spare many 1.5-year old bucks, and some 2.5-year old bucks, so that they may grow bigger and more mature and provide for more quality hunting in a given area in the years that follow.
Recently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) implemented APR in the southeastern corner of the state in the bluff lands along with Mississippi River, where thick oak bottoms give way to small farming operations.  The chance to grow large deer and increase the number of quality bucks is great in this area, due to abundant cover and food.  But despite the promise of big deer in the future, the plan didn’t go over well with all interested hunters, and many challenged the proposal immediately.
There was a great deal of debate between those who wanted to see the population of large-racked bucks increase, and those who just wanted to hunt.  Through the public meetings, open discussions and dialogue between hunters, wildlife managers and other interested parties, the DNR found a solution to implement.  APR would go into effect, with special exceptions, particularly for young hunters experiencing their first few trips into the field.
Four years later, in the fall of 2013, bluff land bucks were the talk of the state, with 130-class and larger bucks, with big, curling, multi-tined racks being a regular occurrence, where once such deer were considered rare sightings.  APR has worked in the southeast part of the state, raising the bar and the standard for hunting in Minnesota.  And while it may not be applicable to all parts of the state, or necessary in other jurisdictions, APR is an option, and a proven and viable one applicable throughout the farmland region of southern Minnesota.
I deer hunt in the southwest area of the state, which has long been home to the “if its brown, it’s down” mentality, so the debate over APR still remains a hot one, but more so
a debate between generations.  Previously, I’ve described the marching lines of orange clad hunters with slug guns firing shot after shot at a running buck flushed from cover without so much as a thought as to the buck’s size or quality.  But as I’ve talked with those hunters, and particularly the younger generation of hunters who have given up that style of hunting, even in the southwest, it has become clear – deer hunting needs to change throughout southern Minnesota.
Many hunters have foregone the 9-day slug season, or at least don’t pursue it as vigorously, in favor of an autumn in a tree stand with a bow, watching and waiting for the bucks they had seen throughout the summer.  And when firearms season does come around in November, they are more likely to stay in the stand, giving up their spot in the firing line for an opportunity to pick and choose the deer they take from their elevated perch.
Hunters too are getting together, being more selective and taking mature bucks, even if parties on neighboring lands aren’t doing the same.  They make no excuse that they can’t count the tines on the buck’s rack, or that they were taken by buck fever – they know these are bunk, and lame defenses for the old way of hunting. Again, changes come about gradually through pockets of concerned people, but over time those changes and the number of supporters become more widespread, piling up and tipping the scale, and the law will reflect that mentality of the people.
Where I’m originally from in North Dakota, hunting pressure is relatively light, habitat is still strong despite development in the west and drain tiling in the east, and a big buck mindset is well-instilled in the hunting population.  In the badlands and river bottoms, APR isn’t necessary.  Where I hunt now, in the farmland region of Minnesota, it would be a godsend to a population of deer that need a small miracle to make it to 2.5 years.
But APR doesn’t have to be the end-all of deer hunting either, or be a barrier to success as it is implemented in its first three years while those protected bucks mature. Exceptions for youth to tag smaller bucks regardless of tine count, making more doe permits available, or even providing the option for a non-APR buck tag at a higher price would help foster getting new hunters into the field, placate those who hunt solely to fill the freezer and establish the APR program as a priority.
There are a number of options out there to improve the quality of our deer hunting.  It starts first in the hearts and minds of outdoors-people to be more selective about their quarry and focus on the quality of each hunt – a conviction that is rapidly growing.  It then takes shape as a movement: the idea of bettering and preserving quality hunting for the next generation.  Finally, it becomes the law of the land, an embodied idea of the sporting public, written down in black and white and followed to the letter in the field.  It’s time for those letters – APR – to be part of our hunting mantra in areas that need a boost in quality, like the southwest, for this generation and the next…in our outdoors.


One Comment on "Get to the (Antler) Point"

  1. Rick Warburton on Wed, 6th Nov 2013 12:29 pm 

    Let the state of Mt. know about this they don’t listen to me. APR APR APR APR Region 2 mule deer

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