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#595637 - 02/02/08 11:58 AM AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs
Wes Parrish
16 Point


Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 19470
Loc: Knoxville-Dover-Union City, TN

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I would have to wonder, in such places as Catoosa WMA & President's Island WMA, if there were simply no antler restrictions at all, but instead only 2 1/2-yr-old or older bucks were legal ---- would more hunters be happier with the hunting, and the prospects for taking an exceptionally large antlered older buck?

Would it really be that hard to educate hunters to distinguish yearling bucks from older bucks? I believe many would then voluntarily take it a step further and begin targeting 3 1/2-yr-old and older bucks.

If your goal is simply to produce more 2 1/2-yr-old bucks, then of course, antler restrictions such as "4 points on one side, 8 points, 9 points, etc." will certainly do a great job in accomplishing this goal.

But many hunters state they have a personal goal of killing a large antlered buck, something that generally cannot even begin to happen prior to a buck reaching 3 1/2 years or older. And for any buck to even approach his antlers' genetic potential, he must reach the age of 4 1/2. But then again, how one defines "large" antlers comes into play.

My thinking is that most "practical" antler restrictions (those in use by most WMA's that use antler restrictions) actually increase the harvest of the genetically best antlered 2 1/2-yr-old and younger bucks. My thinking is that WITHOUT antler restrictions, many of these same areas would in fact have MORE genetically superior (large) antlered older bucks, albeit they would have fewer older bucks.

BECAUSE of antler restrictions, the best antlered yearlings are killed at a higher rate on the Catoosa WMA than would be killed if there were no antler restrictions at all. BECAUSE of antler restrictions, the best antlered 2 1/2-yr-old bucks are killed at a higher rate on President's Island WMA than they would be killed if there were no antler restrictions at all.

And even those places where the majority of yearling bucks are fork-horns or smaller, if they use antler restrictions, BECAUSE of those antler restrictions, the best antlered younger bucks will be killed at a higher rate --- leaving fewer of the best to reach the older age classes.

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#595649 - 02/02/08 12:07 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: Wes Parrish]
Wes Parrish
16 Point


Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 19470
Loc: Knoxville-Dover-Union City, TN

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 Originally Posted By: WesParrish
Would it really be that hard to educate hunters to distinguish yearling bucks from older bucks?

With only minimal instruction,
is it really harder for an "average" hunter to identify a particular buck as a "yearling", than it is to:

1) Count 4 points an inch or greater in length on one of two antlers?

2) Count 9 total points an inch or greater in length while scrutinizing both antlers?

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#595652 - 02/02/08 12:08 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: Wes Parrish]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
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I see both sides of that arguement. Management works best when hunters target bucks by age instead of antler size. On the flip side, I can see where regulations for everyone--experienced or not--must be very clear-cut, and simply saying "bucks must be 2 1/2 or older for harvest" is too arbitrary for the average hunter.
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#595653 - 02/02/08 12:09 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: Wes Parrish]
Wes Parrish
16 Point


Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 19470
Loc: Knoxville-Dover-Union City, TN

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Let's consider possible repercussions of a hunter making an honest mistake in the field, i.e. killing an illegal buck.

And I say this in terms of overall hunter satisfaction, both in normally not making a mistake, but even in the event of making one.

At present, a hunter on President's Island could kill a 150-class 5 1/2-yr-old mature 8-point buck, and not only would it be illegal, but he would have that buck confiscated. This could happen if that 9th point was measured to only be 7/8-inch in length. Wouldn't that be a bummer? Of course, I think it's a big bummer that any fully mature buck isn't legal for harvest in the first place.

On the other hand, let's say you accidentally killed a yearling buck, and it got confiscated. Bummer? Yes, not nearly as bad.

In the case of these WMAs, the repercussions of killing an illegal buck could simply be a small fine, confiscation of the buck, and not being allowed to apply for any quota WMA hunts the subsequent year --- just reasonable repercussions --- like disallowing yearling bucks from harvest could also be "reasonable", maybe more reasonable than any of the antler restrictions currently being used on WMAs.

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#595666 - 02/02/08 12:23 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: BSK]
Wes Parrish
16 Point


Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 19470
Loc: Knoxville-Dover-Union City, TN

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 Originally Posted By: BSK
. . . . simply saying "bucks must be 2 1/2 or older for harvest" is too arbitrary for the average hunter.

Yet the current antler restrictions, for the average hunter, expect him to pass up fully mature bucks, even those of Boone & Crockett racks? I find that too non-arbitrary.

Especially, when those same antler restrictions actually increase the harvest of the largest antlered (or at least the ones with the most antler points) younger bucks.

Would you rather have a yearling buck confiscated (as a non-arbitrary penalty) or a mature buck of B & C antlers confiscated (as a non-arbitrary penalty)?

IMO, with only minimal instruction, I believe it's easier for an "average" hunter (in most real-world hunting of free-roaming deer) to identify a yearling buck than it is to count 9 points over an inch in length. And the arbitrary "penalty" for making a mistake is certainly more palatable if I have a yearling buck confiscated than a B & C one.

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#595685 - 02/02/08 12:40 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: Wes Parrish]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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That would be an interesting experiment Wes. How accurately could the average hunter to learn to identify the difference between yearing bucks and older bucks in the field? Set up just that situation and them look at the percentage of yearlings in their harvest.
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#595770 - 02/02/08 02:36 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: BSK]
Wes Parrish
16 Point


Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 19470
Loc: Knoxville-Dover-Union City, TN

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BSK,

A big part of why TWRA does things however they do them has to do with "hunter satisfaction", or better stated, "anticipated" and/or "perceived" hunter satisfaction. Same can be said for many QDM clubs (as well as non-QDM clubs).

My question is could there be ways found to both increase real hunter satisfaction and simultaneously manage a deer herd in a more biologically sound manner? Specifically, could eliminating yearling bucks from harvest, produce a better balance of hunter satisfaction and better herd management than any of the antler restrictions being used (on TN's select WMA's using antler restrictions)?

I'll use a common field example while hunting.
A buck comes by, giving only seconds to access either the buck's age or his antlers, but plenty of time to make a good shot.

Is it more dissatisfying to most hunters to be legally forced to pass up a large-antlered mature buck due to an inability to quickly access the number of points, or is it more dissatisfying to pass up a relatively small-antlered buck due to an inability to access whether a yearling or older?

With minimal instruction and experience, I believe it is easier to confirm a young buck vs an older buck, than it is to accurately count the number of points over an inch in length. And every time I've ever seen a mature buck, I sure didn't have to wonder whether he was a yearling or not, although seldom have I had adequate opportunity (on mature bucks) to accurately conclude how many antler points they might have before I killed them.

A carry-over from times past regarding what an average hunter might consider a "trophy" has to do with antler "points" --- specifically the thinking that a "9-pointer" is a better "trophy" than an "8-pointer". But I do not believe most deer hunters today consider an average 2 1/2-year-old 9-pointer even close to the "trophy" aspect of an average 4 1/2-yr-old or older 8-pointer.

Part of why someone might assume as to which is better has to do with how the question is asked. If I ask would you rather kill an 8-pointer or a 9-pointer, everyone answers "9-pointer". But if we show a picture of an average 2 1/2-yr-old 9-pointer beside and average 4 1/2-yr-old 8-pointer, nearly all would consider the older buck to be the greater "trophy".

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#595952 - 02/02/08 05:43 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: Wes Parrish]
megalomaniac
12 Point


Registered: 10/28/05
Posts: 5235
Loc: Mississippi

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Wes,

I really think it 'would be that hard' to impose a 3 1/2 yr old limit on the average hunter.

It stinks management decisions are made as 'dummed down' restrictions that are easy to follow, but it's still better than nothing.

Or you could simply put the 3 1/2 yr old restriction on PI, and impose a $1000 fine for any deer not making the required age limit, and let the hunter keep the deer. But I doubt the general public would let that one fly.

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#595976 - 02/02/08 06:04 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: megalomaniac]
Wes Parrish
16 Point


Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 19470
Loc: Knoxville-Dover-Union City, TN

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 Originally Posted By: megalomaniac
Wes,

I really think it 'would be that hard' to impose a 3 1/2 yr old limit on the average hunter.

By no means did I mean to imply that.
Although, I think it's great that many hunters are voluntarily deciding they don't want to target bucks any younger than 3 1/2.

Trying to say . . . .
If we replaced most antler restrictions currently in use on most public WMA's (that have ARs) with a simple change to simply disallow yearling bucks from harvest (just on the WMA's with ARs) . . . .
Would we be increasing both overall hunter satisfaction and herd health (on these specific WMAs)?

I was trying to say:
All 2 1/2-yr-old bucks would be legal;
While no yearling bucks would be legal (on WMAs with antler restrictions) --- instead of their current antler restictions, which are causing both the best-antlered yearling and best-antlered 2 1/2's to be killed at a higher rate than they would be killed if there were no antler restrictions on these WMAs.

One of the biggest pitfalls of most "reasonable & simple" antler restrictions is they disallow the legal harvest of many mature bucks, actually progressively increasing (high-grading) the numbers of mature bucks that will never be legal for harvest as long as the antler restrictions stand alone as the criteria for "legal" bucks. And while more research may suggest buck deer get most of their antler genetics from their mommas, to what extent they may get their antler genetics from their dads, the antler restrictions being used on our WMA's are selectively breeding for progressively smaller antlers and/or antlers with fewer points.

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#595993 - 02/02/08 06:13 PM Re: AGE vs. ANTLERS on select TWRA-Managed WMAs [Re: megalomaniac]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
Posts: 65979
Loc: Nashville, TN

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Wes,

You made a good point about how much more quickly you can assess a mature buck over a young buck by body conformation that to count the points on a mature buck.

As I say all the time, "You will know a shooter when you see one." And I mean that literally. Of all the bucks 3 1/2 and older that I've killed, I knew at the instant of first glance that they were a shooter. And that's not from looking at their antlers. I just took a glance and a knew they weren't a young buck the instant I saw them. They simply have a different "pressence."

When I glanced over my shoulder and saw the mature buck I killed this year, I don't conciously remember looking at his antlers, although I knew he had decent ones (quite a bit of antler over his head). But I do remember seeing that massive chest walking straight towards me. The adrenaline rush was so instantaneous that I actually felt a physical jolt run through my body like an electric shock. My entire body physically flinched. Even as he walked past me at only 20 yards and I was lining him up in a 3X scope, all I knew about his rack was that he was at least a decent 8-pointer. I had no idea until I had my hands on his antlers that he was a mid-150s 13-point. In fact, before I climbed down out of my stand to go look for him I told my brothers and brothers-in-law over the radio that I thought I had just shot a mature mid 120-class 8-point. I got the antlers WAY wrong, but I didn't get the general age wrong.

Even though I pulled the trigger on that buck at only 20 yards, if I had been hunting Presidents Island, I would not have pulled the trigger. I didn't know he had more than 8 points.
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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