The Experimental Antler Point Restriction
the APR counties in 2004, but increased in all of the following years. By 2007, the number of adult bucks harvested in the northern APR counties increased by 55 percent, and in the central pilot counties by 62 percent. Because the number of adult bucks taken in the northern and central control counties also increased, the adjusted change was to 16 percent and 32 percent in the northern and central APR counties, respectively.
The increase in the number of adult bucks taken in the control counties might have been a result of an increasing number of hunters deciding not to shoot young bucks even though doing so was legal. We suspect the APR regulation might have prompted and accelerated this voluntarily restrictive harvest, producing higher adult buck harvests.
Total harvest declines in the northern APR counties ranged from 14 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2007, and from 3 percent in 2004 to no change in the central APR counties. Continuation of the APR likely will result in 5–10 percent fewer deer harvested annually in the northern APR counties and will have no effect in the central APR counties. That’s because the increased harvest of does and adult bucks in the northern counties did not offset the decrease in the yearling buck harvest, as it did in the southern counties.
The Antler Point Restriction was popular in both the northern and central APR counties. The restriction became increasingly favored in the APR counties during the course of the study, but there was no change in acceptance of it in the control counties.
Although popular overall, acceptance of the APR varied throughout the state. The percentage of surveyed deer hunters in favor of the APR was greatest in northern Missouri. We found much less support for the restriction in the south, particularly the southeast part of the state.
Although we did not achieve all of our biological objectives, the APR increased the harvest of adult bucks, increased doe harvest in central APR counties and was generally popular and well supported where implemented. In other words, we consider the APR a helpful management tool.
For 2008 the Antler Point Restriction will be expanded to include 65 counties, mostly in northern and central Missouri. Some counties in southwestern Missouri were excluded because of concerns about deer population declines that have occurred there over the last few years, even though there was public support for the APR. We also excluded urban counties in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas because of the need to harvest as many deer as possible—bucks and does—to reduce conflicts with human activities.
Deer populations in southeastern Missouri are low. We do not need to increase doe harvests there, and a restriction that prohibits hunters from taking a yearling buck would significantly reduce harvest opportunities for some hunters.
We will annually review the results of the APR and may add or remove counties depending on biological issues and public interest. Missouri deer hunters can expect that we will continue to strive to manage deer populations in a way that ensures a healthy deer herd in line with the desires of hunters, landowners and the general public.