Current proposal before the DNR:
PROPOSAL TO INSTITUTE APRs IN THE LOWER PENINSULA By the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative, April 1st 2013
This document is a revised proposal to one submitted on August 31, 2012 entitled “Proposal to institute Hunter’s Choice in the Lower Peninsula”
We are a group of dedicated, conservation minded sportsmen with the aim of encouraging the advancement of deer management and to promote wildlife and conservation education. Our group originally formed as the Southern Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative. Because we are widening the scope of this proposal to include the entire Lower Peninsula (LP) we have changed our name to the Lower Peninsula – Deer Management Initiative (LP-DMI), and have added members who reside, hunt, and/or own property in the Northern Lower Peninsula (NLP).
Initially we proposed Hunter’s Choice 3/4 (HC 3/4) for Zone 2 and Hunter’s Choice 4/4 (HC 4/4) for Zone 3, under which hunters would have a choice between two tag systems for buck harvest. Our goal was to propose regulations that would protect more than 50% of yearling bucks from harvest. Subsequent investigations by DNR staff indicated that Hunter’s Choice as initially proposed would not protect 50% of yearlings.
Therefore we are amending the proposal to a full Antler Point Restriction (APR) as has been practiced in Leelanau County since 2003 and as has been proposed for the 12-county northwest region (NW-12).
We propose the institution of APRs throughout the Lower Peninsula.
In zone 2, we propose that any legal first buck be required to have at least 3 points on a side, and any legal second buck must have at least 4 points on a side.
In zone 3 we propose that all legal bucks be required to have 4 points on a side.
These regulations would apply to all hunters except youth hunters during designated youth seasons, and apprentice hunters during any season.
The approach derives directly from the APRs instituted in Leelanau County in 2003. The DNR surveyed hunters and landowners in Leelanau County in 2008, 5 years after implementation of APRs, and found that 72% of hunters and landowners were in favor of APRs. More recently, hunters in 12 adjoining counties were surveyed, and 68.5% were in favor of instituting the same regulations in those counties.
Furthermore, the DNR has surveyed hunters regarding the implementation of Hunter’s Choice APRs in the UP during the years 2008-2011. Among respondents who said they hunted in the UP, the rules were favored by 56%, 53%, 59%, and 56% in each of those years respectively, and opposed by 35%, 37%, 30%, and 33% respectively. About 10% of hunters each year had no opinion. Among those who did give an opinion, 61%, 59%, 66%, and 63% were supporting in each year respectively.
Taken together these survey results indicate that hunters have a strong appetite for instituting regulations that are aimed at protecting yearling bucks. We believe there will be strong support for APRs throughout the Lower Peninsula.
Analysis of check station data from Leelanau County indicates a substantial change in buck age structure after implementation of APRs. Figure 1 shows the change in percentage of yearling bucks from check stations in Leelanau county from 2001 to 2011 (blue line). In the three years prior to APRs (2000-2002), about 65% of check station bucks were yearlings. Within 2 years after implementation, harvest rates decreased to 44%, after which there was a steady decline. During the last 3 years the average has been around 20%. Over time there has also been a decline in both the NLP and SLP, but it is minor compared to that in Leelanau County. The numbers reflect a trend towards more selectivity among hunters across the state, consistent with hunter desires expressed in surveys. However, the change is much more dramatic in Leelanau County due to APRs as well as what is probably an increased rate of voluntary restraint on yearling harvest.
Figure 1. Percentage of yearling bucks brought in to check stations from 2001-11. APRs wereintroduced in 2003. In the three years prior to implementation, Leelanau county averaged 65% yearlings. During the last three years, the average has been 20%. There has been a much more subdued decline in the SLP, from 74% in 2000-02 to 65% in 2009-11. Similarly, in the NLP, there has been a decline from 65% to 55%.
The data lead to the conclusion that regulations initially provided a substantial decrease in the harvest rates of yearlings. However, the harvest rate continued to decline long after it would be expected to plateau if regulations alone were limiting the harvest of yearlings. It appears that after experiencing passing younger bucks for a number of years, hunters may have begun to recognize and pass on yearling bucks even if they were legal. Thus APRs may result in a substantially higher rate of protection of yearlings than would be anticipated when looking at historical check station point distribution alone, without taking cultural shifts into consideration.
Other than the year of implementation, buck harvest success rates have not decreased except for the first year of implementation (2003). Nor have hunter numbers declined in Leelanau County. Although numbers fluctuate from year to year in most DMUs, the trend over the years in Leelanau County has been flat (Figure 2). In contrast, hunter numbers have declined substantially in most of the nearby counties (figure 2). Comparing the 2001-02 seasons to the last two seasons (20010-11), Leelanau county has had an increase of 2% compared to a 27% decline in the 12 -counties currently under consideration for APRs. Among the 13 counties, only two (Leelanau and Emmet) have not had substantial declines in hunter numbers. Emmet county has only lost 5% of hunters comparing the 2001-02 seasons to the 2010-11 seasons. The other 11 counties have lost between 15% (Antrim) and 37% (Kalkaska) of their hunters (average 27%).
Figure 2. Change in hunter numbers in Leelanau county (red) and the 12 nearby counties currently being considered for APRs.
We arrived at a 3/4 APR for the NLP and 4/4 for the SLP through extensive research of MDNR Harvest Reports, meetings with MDNR staff and other well renowned deer biologists and specialists, as well as informal surveys conducted by the LP-DMI team.
We are proposing peninsula-wide regulations in an attempt to reduce the complexity of having a potpourri of regulations for different regions of the Lower Peninsula as is the current trend. We favor regulations that are easily understood, and are readily enforceable. We believe more wide-ranging regulations will foster support within the hunting community and among other stakeholders.
NLP data supporting a 3 on a side regulation. Using MDNR check station data from2007-2011, 58% of the NLP antlered deer harvest was composed of 1.5 year old bucks. Among yearling bucks, 71% had fewer than 5 points. Therefore a 3-point on a side restriction may be sufficient to protect a substantial portion of the yearling bucks. We propose a 3-point on a side restriction in the NLP for the first buck and a 4-point on a side restriction on a second buck.
SLP data supporting a 4 on a side regulation. Using MDNR Check station data from2007-2011, 67% of the SLP antlered deer harvest was composed of 1.5 year old bucks. Among yearling bucks, 41% had fewer than 5 points, and 76% had fewer than 7 points. In order to achieve greater than 50% protection of yearling bucks, a 3-point on a side restriction is not sufficient, therefore we propose a 4-point on a side restriction on all bucks in the SLP.
AIMS OF PROPOSED REGULATION CHANGES
The experiences in Leelanau County suggests that regulations can be used in Michigan to increase hunter education and to improve the hunting experience. A 3 point on a side APR in the NLP and a 4 point on a side APR in the SLP can be expected to protect more than 70% of yearling bucks. Using Leelanau County as a model, we can expect one year of reduced buck harvest, but harvest rates will be expected to return to normal subsequently. This approach will potentially address hunter demands for more and older bucks, as indicated in MDNR surveys.
Hunter numbers have remained stable in Leelanau County in the face of an average 27% decline in 12 nearby counties currently under consideration for APRs. We belive that properly designed APRs directly leads to improved hunter satisfaction, and that APRs could potentially help to stem the decline in hunter numbers that is occurring throughout much of the Lower Peninsula.
Implementation of APRs throughout the LP would aid the MDNR law division with enforcement, and aid the MDNR wildlife division with data collection and uniformity while minimizing hunter confusion.
We hereby request that the MDNR and NRC consider implementing a 3 -point on a side APR for the first buck in Zone 2 and a 4-point on a side APR in Zone 3.
The Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative;
St. Johns, MI
Randy Vander Veen