Antler Point Restrictions. APR’s. Many of Michigan hunters know what this is all about, some have heard but don’t know the details, and believe it or not many have never even heard of them! For that reason, here is a quick background to try and bring everyone up to speed.
So where did this all come from? How did we get to where we are today?
First of all, back in 2003, Leelanau County was able to get APR’s implemented for their county. In 2011 a group called the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative (LDPMI) was formed to, “research potential changes to Michigan deer hunting regulations… that could advance Whitetail Deer conservation while improving hunting experiences in Michigan.”
The LDPMI worked with the DNR on several ideas. But one directive was clear via the DNR.
“No change would be implemented unless it protected at least 50% of the yearling bucks”. The LDPMI and NW12 went through the APR procees, and for the 2013 season the DNR granted APR’s of 3 or more points on a side for the NW12 counties that already surrounded Leelanau County for a 5 year trial. At that time the yearling buck made up nearly 70% of all bucks shot during Michigan’s deer season!
Similar to what Leelanau County seen, there was an initial dip in hunter success in the first year or two following the regulation change. But by year 3, those numbers started creeping back up, and as you can see below, by year 5 the numbers are nearly back up to where they were prior to APR’s being implemented. More importantly, you can see in the next chart that yearling harvested has leveled out to just above 20% over the 5 year period.
APR’s have proven to blow the DNR’s directive of saving at least 50% of the yearling bucks. And because of that, year after year, the balance and maturity of the herd is improving. Steadily there are more 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, 5.5 bucks walking around in the woods! That just amplifies because as we all know, a 1.5 year old buck is the easiest one to kill. As they get older, they get wiser. As they get wiser, they survive. But at the same time, the quantity of those age class bucks are making up a larger number of the deer herd! So now instead of seeing nothing but spikes and forkies, you’re starting to see some very nice 6 or 8 points and up. And there are countless testimonials indicating this.
Check out Charlevoix County! 17% or less are 1.5 year old while a whopping 52-64% are 3.5 or older!
Kalkaska is killin it! 15% or less of the harvest are 1.5 year olds!
You can view more individual county results on our "Resource" tab on the Let Em Go Let Em Grow website.
With a more mature and balanced deer herd, people are seeing rut activity and bucks like never before. APR’s for a good portion of Michigan hunters are a stepping stone. Once they start seeing the results it makes it much easier to up your goals beyond just the points. But to be very clear, APR’s are not a trophy program, it is focused on creating a more mature and balanced deer herd. Most people can count to 3 or 4 which makes it a much easier method than inside width or judging by pure age. Many are content to take any 3 on a side, and there is nothing wrong with that. The data shows the results are tremendous even if plenty of hunters stick to straight up APR’s. And with no other regulation or season changes, APR’s on their own have proven extremely effective.
Overall we may have leveled out on what kind of improvements we’ll see by the numbers and harvest percentage of age class. As you can see with Leelanau county, they have been doing this for 15 years. And their data from 2010-2017, have remained steady.
At the end of the 2017 season the APR trial period was over in the NW12. It was now time to find out if hunter approval rates still supported APR’s. And it did! In resounding fashion at 76% approval. Based on the survey results, the sunset was lifted off the APR’s in the NW12 and for now they have permanent APR’s. In addition the DNR conducted 3 separate surveys in 2017, including independent surveys across the entire state to 250,000 hunters, and the results shows approx. 60% approval.
Yes, CWD has put a scare into many people and at this time hasn’t changed any direction for the NW13. As a group, we believe that APR’s are actually a good tool to help control that due to increased doe harvests in the APR areas.
In the meantime, we are still working with the DNR, NRC and other agencies and individuals to make Michigan a great whitetail state again. We’d like to see results like the NW13 across the entire state, and that’s what keeps us driven.
The “Michigan Deer Hunters – Let Em Go Let Em Grow” Facebook group was formed off the LPDMI to aid in garnering support for APR’s. We have seen tremendous growth in members and support over the past few years, and we don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
So spread the word, talk to friends and hunting buddies. Talk to strangers you run into on state land, diners, work, etc.. Share the information. The more people we can make aware of the benefits of APR’s and the results that have been proven, the more that can join the movement. There is strength in numbers and with 30K+ members we’re well on our way!