Effects of an antler point restriction on harvest of white-tailed deer in Missouri

Lonnie P. Hansen, Emily B. Flinn, Jason A. Sumners, Xiaoming Gao, Joshua J. Millspaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Missouri Department of Conservation implemented an antler point restriction (APR) for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) hunting in 29 Missouri, USA, counties in 2004. The APR required antlered deer to have a minimum of 4 antler points on ≥1 side to be harvested during all but the youth portions of the deer hunting seasons. We quantified effects of the APR on the composition of deer harvested during firearms hunting seasons in an experimental period (2004–2007) in APR and non-APR counties in central and northern Missouri. Monitoring (without non-APR counties for comparison) occurred 2008–2013 in 36 counties added under the APR in 2008 and 2012–2013 in 6 counties removed from the APR in 2012. Regulations required hunters to report all harvested deer, which were recorded as antlered male, button buck, or female. We collected ages from a subset of harvested deer at check stations and commercial deer processors. Antlered male harvest during the experimental period in northern (NAPR) and central (CAPR) APR counties was 35% and 36%, respectively, lower than expected the first year when compared with the antlered male harvest in the northern and central non-APR counties. Antlered male harvest recovered over time, but was still 17% and 18% lower than expected in the NAPR and CAPR, respectively, by the fourth year. During the experimental period, female harvest in the NAPR was slightly lower than expected (range = 1–5%), but greater than expected in the CAPR (range = 12–18%). During the experimental period, harvest of 1.5-year-old males decreased by 49–56% in NAPR and 44–63% in CAPR. More 2.5-, 3.5-, and ≥4.5-year-old males were harvested in the NAPR and CAPR than expected. Harvest and age structure of deer taken in counties where the APR was implemented in 2008 corroborated results from the experimental period with decreases in the total antlered male harvest, decreases in yearling male harvest, and increases in adult male harvest. We recommend that agencies considering an APR should evaluate current hunter harvest opportunities, deer population management objectives, hunter selectivity, and hunter interests because these will determine program success and acceptability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-522
Number of pages7
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2017

Keywords

  • Missouri
  • Odocoileus virginianus
  • antler point restriction
  • hunter harvest composition
  • white-tailed deer

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