IV. Buck Age Structure Management: Some Realistic Expectations in New Hampshire

Implementing buck age structure management in New Hampshire would require significant changes to deer seasons. While the percentage of older-aged bucks in the buck kill would go up, the total number of antlered bucks killed would initially go down, and may or may not come back up.
Implementation of any of the buck age structure management (BASM) methods would result in a significant change in hunting opportunity in one way or another. All would initially reduce the total antlered buck kill, but ideally, the number of older bucks in the population would increase over time and eventually buck kill would recover or increase. However, due to the effects of shifting hunting pressure, non-hunting mortality, yearling dispersal and other factors that operate in New Hampshire, the initial reductions in total antlered buck kill could be long lasting.

Little change would be noticed in the timing and intensity of the rut
It is doubtful that any dramatic change in breeding ecology would be noticed as New Hampshire is starting with a much better buck age structure than most states that have implemented this type of program. The timing of the rut is unlikely to change but an increased number of older bucks (at least an increase in 2.5 year old bucks) may increase competition and the intensity of the rut, including the amount of buck sign such as rubs and scrapes. This in itself can contribute to hunter satisfaction.

Buck bag limits could reduce the buck harvest in New Hampshire but probably not as much as many people think.
It is currently possible for someone to take 3 antlered bucks a year if they have a hunting license, an archery license and a special archery license. Statewide over the past 5 years (2005-2009) 94.4% of hunters taking an antlered buck have only taken one. Only 5.1% of these hunters have taken 2 bucks, and 0.6% of them have taken 3. A 1 buck per year bag limit would reduce the statewide antlered buck kill by an average of 342 per year or about 5.2% of the total average antlered buck kill of 6,560. A 2 buck per year bag limit would reduce the statewide antlered buck kill by an average of 34 per year or about 0.5%.

Some methods of buck age structure management would likely need adjusting over time as results are evaluated.
Methods such as buck bag limits and changes in season timing or length would require variable regulations that were dependent upon the specific conditions in the area they were implemented. Initially it would be difficult to predict what the results would be and adjustments would likely need to be made over a period of time to achieve the desired reduction in antlered buck kill.

The impact of antler point restrictions (APRs) is very dependent on what APR is chosen
Implementation of antler point restrictions (APRs) would have different results depending on the minimum number of points required to be considered legal. A 2-point APR only protects about half of the yearling bucks (the half with the smallest antlers) and in order to protect the majority of yearling bucks, a 3-point minimum APR would be required. This would protect 83.2% of yearling bucks from legal harvest. Because of New Hampshire’s lower productivity and slower antler development, it would also protect some older bucks as well resulting in 48.1% of all antlered bucks being protected from legal harvest. In New Hampshire, a 4-point minimum APR would protect almost all yearlings (97.9%) and the majority of all antlered deer (67.7%) from legal harvest. The preceding values are based on statewide averages and would vary somewhat from WMU to WMU but either would result in substantial initial reductions in total antlered buck kill.

Realistically, some of the buck age structure management methods are too impractical, too “non-traditional” to be acceptable, or simply inappropriate for implementation in New Hampshire. These methods probably include buck quotas, weapon type restrictions, earn-a-buck, antler spread restrictions and age restrictions.

 


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