I admit it, I’m a cranky individual. I don’t walk around with a smile all the time. My truck doesn’t have witty bumper stickers (by the way I’m not interested in where your kid and your money attend college, how smart your dog is, that you would rather be driving a Titlist, or who your favorite football team is) and I’ve yelled at kids to get off my yard more than once. However, I try not to be too ornery in my articles or blogs, except for once a year and this is it. This is the one time per year where I get to gripe about something.
I’m not going to gripe about the obvious social issues going on today like Occupy Wall Street (although if you really want to occupy something for months on end try occupying a job. Yes, there are some out there, no you won’t like them. Suck it up Buttercup and do it. I know many folks who work multiple jobs, or jobs they hate, or jobs thousands of miles away from home to support families. It’s called being an adult). I won’t talk about the idiocy of Black Friday, Christmas sales that start in September, the way smart phones make everyone look really stupid, or why anyone would eat reduced fat peanut butter. Nope, I’m ranting about the 13 inch antler restriction for whitetail bucks.
For most of us in Texas antler restrictions (AR) are a new concept but to the rest of the hunting community they’re old hat. As best as I can determine one of the first states to implement antler restrictions was California back in 1937. Don’t you feel dumb now thinking that we’re 70 years behind the times? Colorado and many other western states also used point restrictions for mule deer, white-tail, and elk in the 70’s. Today, there isn’t a single western state that has state-wide restrictions. Why? Simply, because they do not work. Period. End of sentence. Feel free to send hate mail my way.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand why they won’t work but I can prove my point by looking at other states and giving their history as examples of where we’re heading. In Colorado where the AR’s were used in the 70’s, one of the reason’s they were stopped was due to the amount of bull elk that were killed and left to rot due to being illegal. If you think that same thing isn’t happening in AR counties in Texas right now then you have your head buried in the sand (or a body orifice). This is taking a large toll on the buck population that is not being taken into account by those who give the estimates on annual buck harvest. In simple terms, licensed hunters are killing more bucks than are being reported which really screws up statistical data.
The second reason the western states dropped AR’s is because they don’t make bigger racks on the few remaining bucks either. I’m basing this on facts instead of the presumption by many that older bucks equal larger antlered bucks. We’ll go to Mississippi for this example. In 1995 Mississippi implemented AR’s stating that a buck must have at least four points on one side. While the average age of the bucks taken increased, the average antler size of the bucks decreased. In one management area the average 2.5 year old buck scored 87 inches B&C but after a couple years of AR’s the average dropped to 78 inches. Many hunters fear that by killing all the larger animals you just leave the inferior bucks to breed, and this is obviously a well founded fear.
Instead of pushing antler restrictions, how about we work towards getting a better buck to doe ratio. Aren’t we doing that with the AR’s? Glad you asked and no we are not. In my county we actually increased the number of bucks (and deer in general) that could potentially be killed. The limit went from one buck per hunter to two so now instead of shooting one buck that might have been a young deer, hunters are now taking one young buck, one or two doe, then maybe a large mature buck as well. In an area that already had a high hunter density that can’t be good for the overall deer population and bucks in general.
If you really want to have a positive impact and ensure bucks get older before being taken then for one season make it doe only. That’s right, I said it. Doe only. That means all bucks (that don’t get hit by cars, eaten by predators, or die from disease) get a year older. The only problem is that TPWD will never go for it due to a fear of losing hunters for a season and losing revenue.
I’m all for making sure there are more big bucks for hunters to chase but the current AR policy is not the best way to do it. If anything, it’s only making matters worse and has the potential to hurt the white-tail population long term