HARBOR SPRINGS — The Tip of the Mitt branch of the Quality Deer Management Association hosted its final meeting regarding antler point restrictions recently in Harbor Springs and Petoskey.
The two-day event included a leadership summit, comprised of association members from all over the state and a final meeting of the Tip of the Mitt branch.
"We had 30 at the final meeting, which is pretty good, for 4 o'clock on a Saturday on an 80 degree day," said Jim Rummer, president of the Tip of the Mitt branch.
The regulations the group is pursuing would require an antlered deer to have three antler points on one side in order for a hunter to legally take it. The proposal, if put in place, would take effect in 12 counties across Northwest Michigan: Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Missaukee, Mason, Osceola and Wexford.
The measure would reduce the number of 1.5 year-old bucks shot in those counties. It would also, said Kip Adams, director of education and outreach and wildlife biologist for the national Quality Deer Management Association, help balance the age structure of deer herds.
"This proposal is not to get bucks all the way to 5.5 years and fully mature," he said.
Rather, he said, the goal is to protect the majority of 1.5 year old bucks — which will then become wilier 2-year-olds. Some of those 2-year-olds will survive to 3, 4, and 5-year-olds. Hunters, too, may switch to targeting antlerless deer, balancing the sex and numbers of a herd.
"Deer density is a far bigger indicator of spreading disease than if you have older bucks there," said Adams.
Because of the potential for old bucks, not all hunters support the proposal. Jim Sweeney of Traverse City, spokesman for the Concerned Sportsmen of Michigan, argues that point restrictions might advance diseases such as bovine tuberculosis.
"We've spent about $10 million a year to combat bovine tuberculosis, but now we're going to put a policy in place to exacerbate that situation," said Sweeney, also a member of the association.
Bucks typically start dispersing from where they were born at when they are about a year old, becoming, argues Sweeney, vectors for communicable diseases.
Brent Rudolph, Department of Natural Resources deer and elk program leader, says this is possible. But, he says, bucks usually leave their homeland before they develop antlers, and wouldn't be available for hunters to take with antlered deer anyway.
They also aren't as likely to carry communicable diseases "simply because they haven't been around as long to be able to contract the disease," he said.
Deer likely to contract diseases are older bucks. Bucks aged between 2.5 and 4.5 years have two to six times the prevalence rate for both bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease, says Sweeney.
Rudolph doesn't expect many 5.5-year-old deer, though more likely to be sick, to be around — and in many of the 12 counties listed, doesn't expect disease to be a problem.
Hunters can weigh in starting in August. The DNR will start sending surveys to a portion of hunters living in the 12 counties that filled out the yearly hunter survey.
If the restrictions gain 66 percent support from the surveyed hunters, the Natural Resources Commission will enact the regulations for the 2013 hunting season.
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Deer management group hosts final meeting before hunter survey
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