Hunters up in arms over proposed buck limits
By Pat Maurer
An informational meeting for deer hunters June 27 became “heated” but not violent as some had predicted.
About 90 attended the informational meeting at Clare Middle School, where members of the Lower Penninsula Deer Management Initiative outlined their proposal to require three antler points on one side on the bucks harvested during hunting season in 2014.
The meeting in Clare was the ninth of 14 meetings in the affected counties in Zone 3 to explain the five-year proposal, which outlined a plan geared toward lowering the harvest of “yearling bucks,” a move the organization says would increase the harvest of more mature, larger bucks. To meet DNR regulations, the proposal had to “limit the annual harvest of yearling bucks to 50 percent or less of the total harvest.
The LPDMI was formed in 2011 to, “research potential changes to Michigan deer hunting regulations… that could advance Whitetail Deer conservation while improving hunting experiences in Michigan.”
The meeting introduction was by LPDMI president Tony Smith. Before the meeting Smith said, “Deer hunters are passionate people. We are expecting both barrels tonight – we are ready for it.”
Following a 20-minute presentation by featured speaker Jim Brauker, a member of the LPDMI group and with a BA and Masters Degree in Biology and a PHD from Michigan State, the public had their chance to speak.
Some couldn’t wait. One man interrupted Brauker’s presentation almost immediately, shouting that his information was “a lie.” He was asked to sit back down and wait for the end of the presentation by a police officer who was at the meeting.
Brauker said that Michigan kills more yearling bucks than any other Midwestern state. He said the LPDMI proposal “would protect 70 percent of yearlings.” Other proposals the LPDMI made including a “Hunter’s Choice” option were rejected by the DNR because it would not protect more than 50 percent of yearlings, he said. In this area the annual harvest of yearlings is 58 percent. In the Southern area (Zone 2) the annual harvest of yearlings is 67 percent.
He cited results in Leelanau County which implemented a three point on a side antler restriction in 2003. “In the first year hunter success went down, but by the second year the harvest was back up,” he said. He said record deer are now being taken in Leelanau County.
If approved by 66 percent of Department of Natural Resources polled hunters and then subsequently approved by the DNR, hunters in this area in 2014 would be allowed to shoot only bucks with three points on a side, which are generally 2 ½ years old or older. Brauker said beginning in August, 2000 surveys would be sent to hunters who had responded to the DNR’s 2012 survey.
After the presentation, many in the audience objected, some heatedly, to the LPDMI proposal to change hunting regulations next year, initiating the “Antler Point Restriction,” (APR) limiting first bucks to three points on a side and second bucks to 4 points on a side.
Mark Lightfoot, owner of the Swiss Inn in Lake George said, “I disagree with the survey results. You are using tainted data. More restrictions means less business for me.”
LPDMI President Jim Smith said, “You make a great point, but we only have the data from the DNR surveys.”
Jim Lature of Osceola County said, “We are already losing the public land hunters. These restrictions will mean we will lose even more.” He added, “Nobody I know got one of these surveys.”
Mike kShaver said, “If it’s all about the trophy, any deer can be a trophy.”
Jay McKenzie, a property owner in Roscommon County . Those 2,000 surveys sent out, what percentage of the hunters is that?”
Smith said, “Statistically it is a large sample.”
Audience member Richard King asked if the survey could be filled out online. After being told that it could, he said, “Anybody can go online.”
Shouts from the audience disagreed. “Some of us don’t have computers!”
Henry Boyd said “I don’t want to wait 20 years to shoot a buck!” He said the information in the presentation was a lie.
Max Schunk asked about the number of check points in Leelanau County compared to other counties. He was told the main checkpoint for Leelanau was in Traverse City.
Ron Shaver said, “This will have a very negative impact on the economy and retention.”
LPDMI President Smith disagreed. “I believe we will have more hunters, or if not, the small numbers will spend just as much or more money here. And they will promote hunting for youth.”
Jack Batcke said, “Every hunter should have a vote. We are here and you have ours.”
Smith said, “Less than 90 people cared to come down to this meeting from four counties. Are you sure you want every hunter to have a voice? We didn’t have the option to do the survey [ourselves]. We don’t disagree with you.”
Jeff Eibling of Isabella County said he believes more effort should go into improving the habitat. He said he has spent years building the habitat on his property. We don’t have an APR in Isabella County and there was a 1 ½ year old eight point buck shot on my property.”
Dave Cooper of the Mid Michigan Sportsman’s Alliance said there will be an increase in the cost of licenses this year. “It is estimated to drop the license sales by seven percent. You’re shifting all of the hunting pressure to the big bucks – deleting the gene pool.”
Smith said the proposal “doesn’t hurt genetics, but will shift the age structure of the herd. More larger deer will be harvested.”
Gerald Haines said, “How will this help me. I would rather put a spikehorn in my freezer.”
Marc Yenkel said admidst numerous catcalls and boos, “I am a part of this thing. I think it is a great proposal and you are doing a good job.”
Bob Hartgrove said he didn’t think the restrictions would make a difference. “I’ve been hunting for five years under restrictions. I didn’t see any difference in antlers.”
Doug Reinke questioned, “What is the penalty for shooting a smaller deer? What’s the fine? He also asked, “Does the DNR Wildlife Biologist support the APR?”
Ashley Autenrieth, Deer Program Biologist for the Northern Lower and Upper Penninsula Regions said, “We are neutral, but nothing shows that it will change the biological herd.
A LPDMI website says Antler Point Restrictions (APRs) have been implemented in the UP of Michigan DMU 122 since 2001, and in DMU 045, Leelanau County in the Northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan since 2003. They say both programs have been remarkably effective in protecting yearling bucks, and increasing the harvest of bigger and older bucks without a reduction in hunter success rates.
A handout authored by Lynn Gould said, “Mandatory APR does not work. Harvesting the best and leaving the rest allows the scrubs to keep ling, breeding and producitng genetically poor quality offspring.” He also wrote, “APR created real hardships on landowner, hunters and our deer herd.”
In 1999 the east portion of Clare County was set up as a five-year plan as a demonstration area, Gould wrote. “Hunters were restricted to harvest a buck only if it had three or more points on one side. Five years later (2004), it was voted down.”
Most audience members at the meeting in Clare agreed.
According to the Tri-County Citizen in Chesaning, twelve other northwestern Lower Peninsula counties will have to “count antler points” this fall because the Natural Resources Commission enacted antler point restrictions last month in Lansing. The regulation says “antlered deer must have at least one antler with a minimum of three points. The DNR survey of hunters in that area showed that 69 percent approved the regulation.
According to the DNR website, “The first proposal of the LPDMI calls for implementing a minimum three-point APR for a portion of the northern Lower Peninsula. This proposal area includes Cheboygan, Otsego, Crawford, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Clare, Gladwin and Oceana counties and those portions of Muskegon, Newaygo, Mecosta, Isabella, Midland, Bay and Arenac counties within Hunting and Trapping Zone 2. The APR would not apply to individuals hunting with an apprentice hunting license or mentored youth hunting license or youth hunters during a designated youth season. For all other hunters, antlered deer would be required to have at least three antler points on one side.”
“The second proposal of the LPDMI,” the DNR website said, “calls for implementing a four-point APR for all of Hunting and Trapping Zone 3 in southern Michigan. Zone 3 includes portions of Muskegon, Newaygo, Mecosta, Isabella, Midland, Bay, and Arenac counties and all other counties to the south.”