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CONTACT:
      Kent Gustafson: 603-271-2461
      Mark Ellingwood : 603-271-2461
      April 28, 2011

Fish and Game Withdraws Proposed 3-Point Antler Restriction in WMU-A

CONCORD, N.H. -- The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has withdrawn its proposal to establish a 3-point antler restriction in Wildlife Management Unit A in northern New Hampshire, choosing instead to monitor the herd and revisit management options for 2012.

Public advocacy for the broad application of antler point restrictions in New Hampshire at 2010 winter/spring deer hearings prompted Fish and Game to form a Buck Age-Structure Management (BASM) Working Group in the summer of 2010.  The Working Group, consisting of deer hunters, Commissioners and Fish and Game staff, was tasked with putting together an unbiased survey to solicit deer hunter opinions on the issue of Buck Age-Structure Management. 

The survey was initiated last fall, and results indicated that there was substantial support for the use of antler point restrictions when age imbalances in antlered buck age classes were detected, but there was also significant opposition to any application of BASMproposals.  Support for management action was particularly strong from hunters who identified WMU-A as their primary deer hunting area.  Fish and Game data indicate that Unit A has a history of such imbalances, and, based on survey results, Fish and Game proposed the institution of a 3-point restriction in the unit to enhance the recruitment of yearling bucks into older age classes.   

Public hearings on the antler point restriction proposal occurred on April 7 (Concord) and April 8 (Pittsburg).  There was solid support for the proposal at the Concord hearing and significant opposition to the proposal in Pittsburg. 

At the April 20 Commission meeting, Fish and Game staff recommended that the Commission withdraw the proposal.  Staff indicated that they recognized the controversial nature of the proposal and that given the level of opposition in the North Country, it was not essential to move forward at this point in time; population recovery following several severe winters was a greater priority. Staff further advised that they would continue to monitor the situation in WMU-A and other units in New Hampshire and that they would be looking at all the options for re-balancing buck age-structure before making deer season recommendations for the 2012 hunting season.  The Commission discussed the issue at length before voting to withdraw the proposal with a 5 to 3 vote.

Additional background:

  • A N.H. deer management plan objective calls for maintaining a balanced buck age-structure in which at least 50% of antlered bucks are 2.5 years old or older. A higher proportion of older age bucks can have biological benefits and increase hunter satisfaction.

  • Prior to 2007, this objective had not been met in WMU-A for several years and for the 2007 season, a 2-point minimum antler point restriction (APR) and somewhat shortened seasons were implemented to reduce the kill of young bucks and the late season kill when deer can be particularly vulnerable due to deep snow* and yarding behavior. These measures were designed to allow more bucks to survive to older ages.

  • Beginning with the winter of 2007-08, severe winters led to overall declines in the deer population over the next several years and in addition, by 2009, concerns over the genetic consequences of the 2-point APR through the protection of the smallest antlered yearlings (i.e. "spike-horns") led to the removal of the 2-point APR for the 2010 season. The decrease in the deer population and reductions in either-sex hunting opportunities, along with the protection of about half of the yearling bucks under the 2-point APR, made evaluating the effectiveness of the 2-point APR difficult.

  • Public input during the process to remove the 2-point APR indicated a desire of many hunters to see APRs maintained in WMU-A, and a growing desire to have APRs implemented in other areas of the state.

  • In response to this interest, the Department provided an opportunity for 66,000 hunting license holders to participate in a survey to help better understand hunters’ preferences with regard to Buck Age-Structure Management and the management methods that might be employed to achieve it.

  • The survey indicated that a majority of hunters were in support of implementing some form of buck age-structure management when the deer plan objective was not being met, as had occurred in WMU-A, but there also was significant opposition.

  • The decision was made to propose a 3-point minimum APR in WMU-A as an option to continue to increase the proportion of older age bucks, based on the results of the survey. The 3-point APR would protect the vast majority of yearling bucks and would not have the potential genetic consequences of the 2-point APR.

  • The Commission voted to withdraw the proposal on April 20, 2011.

Learn more about the issue of Buck Age-Structure Management, and hunter response to the fall 2010 survey, at www.huntnh.com/buckagestructure.

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