"Daryl, are antler point restrictions a useful management tool for deer and elk?" An antler point restriction (APR) is a management tool Game and Fish uses to limit buck or bull harvest to animals with a minimum number of points on either antler. Often the intended outcome is to increase the number of males, especially mature bucks or bulls, in the population or to reduce overall harvest. Game and Fish and other western states have evaluated this tool for mule deer and elk since the 1960s. In Wyoming, APRs have been used when buck/bull ratios are too low, harvest is too high or when hunter crowding is an issue.
These restrictions have been shown to decrease total buck/bull harvest and hunter pressure. In some cases, APRs have increased the number of bucks/bulls in the population, but this effect is not long-lasting. APRs focus all hunting pressure on the older age classes of males and, if left in place too long, gradually decrease the number of the large-antlered, mature bucks/bulls over time by focusing the harvest on this segment of the population. Hunter participation and opportunity are also reduced and APRs can have the unintended effect of increasing the number of young deer or elk mistakenly taken and left in the field.
APRs are a useful management tool provided they are carefully applied over a limited amount of time. Contrary to what most people think, APRs do not result in long-term increases in the number of mature bucks/bulls in deer and elk populations.