Special Report: Antler Point Restrictions

Some hunters have to be mindful of antler point restrictions that cover several areas of Northern Michigan.

These 13 counties are the only ones that have APRs.

That means you must shoot a buck that has at least three points on a side.

9&10’s Cody Boyer continues our opening day coverage with a special report on APRs, how they work and their purpose.

"As far as what we used to say, if it’s brown it’s down, we no longer say that," says Tim Liponoga.

It’s an old practice that many still follow.

In most of Northern Michigan, though, they no longer can.

Tim, from the Quality Deer Management Association says that’s why he’s been following a certain kind of rule for 25 years.

"I was really tired of letting the little spikes go by and hearing the neighbor shoot them," explains Tim. "I’ve been doing APRs here on my property for plus-20 years and I do see the benefit of letting deer go and the larger bucks able to come in."

A hunter can only take a buck with three points or more on a side.

It’s seems like a simple concept.

"They want to see older bucks on the landscape. It’s exciting. You tend to see much more dramatic behavior from them in terms of they are going to be sparring more, fighting more for females. It’s a better experience," says Ashley Autenreith.

Tim says, "These were implemented to give a chance to allow the year-and-a-half old deer to further their selves up to two-and-a-half year old deer."

Just ask hunter, Ryan Schultz.

While simple, APRs have changed hunting quite a bit.

"The APRs do affect the hunt because we are aware of it. We know what Michigan, as a state, is trying to do and so we try to follow through with the same rules and regulations the rest of the state is following," explains Ryan.

Ryan Hunts in Mecosta County, which does not require APRs by law.

He still says they play an important role.

"It’s about looking at the age of the deer and understanding your deer herd, understanding the different sizes of deer," says Ryan.

Now, with these antler point restrictions, you might not know what you are looking at.

"When you start seeing your year-and-a-half compared to a two-and-a-half year old deer, the body size is very apparent. That same jump happens from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half," explains Ryan. "Most three-and-a-half deer, when you see him coming through the woods, it’s almost like a cow coming through.”

In footage caught by one of our GoPro cameras, a deer chases a bunch of does, and even seems to pose for our camera.

This is a deer that, according to APRs, would be illegal to shoot.

"What we are looking at here is a two-point, or what would be called by others as a fork horn. This is two-points on a side. In the 12 counties, this is not legal," says Ashley.

Some photos taken by Ryan’s trail cam show a deer you cannot shoot. Then you have a big guy that’s perfectly legal.

"You always want to try and have a herd that is in balance with the habitat that is available. So that’s constantly what we are looking for. We are looking at deer trends of what the population is doing," says Ashley.

The concern to hunters comes down to something you might not expect out of going out and hunting deer: genetics.

"It is a concern to hunters, and hunters have obviously tried to control genetics in the herd. If you take out a spike, you have to realize that spike is a year-and-a-half year old deer and it has not even reached potential of its antler mass," explains Tim.

Ashley says, "We look at what winters have done the last few years, deer-vehicle collisions, when is harvest done, what has occurred with crop damage, and we look to see does it look like populations are increasing? Decreasing? Relatively stable? And based on that information, we set antler-less quotas to say looking at all of this information, these indicators, where do we want the population to go from here?"

Apr could change next year when the DNR does another survey.

"You are still going to have the same traditions, you are still going to have the same people out there with you. You are still going to have a great time," says Ryan.

Old practices or not, the DNR says the hunt is the same, and the true purpose of hunting remains.

"I’ve actually had five bucks come up a week ago and they actually sparred right in me. It was just one of the coolest things I have ever seen. If I had been a ‘brown it’s down’ type of guy, I would never have seen that," says Tim. “It’s just a great feeling as those deer walk by to sit and enjoy them."