03 Jul MAPR Make Violators Out of Honest Hunters
Mandatory antler point restrictions make violators out of otherwise honest hunters like 59-year-old Paul Adomaitis from Idlewild, who simply want to enjoy deer hunting.
“Although more difficult due to a neck injury suffered in an accident, I still like to get out and hunt to the best of my ability, realizing that age and health is catching up with me,” Paul explained in an email.
“On opening day of bow season (Oct. 1, 2017), I went out hunting in the evening, going to my ladder stand that is about 40 yards from my house. Fifteen minutes after I got harnessed up in the stand I heard something coming behind me, which proved to be a buck. I saw immediately that it had brow tines, and tall antlers. Looking the best I could with my bifocal glasses, I saw a fork off the right beam of the deer, which would put 3 tines on the right side, and a legal deer to harvest in this area.
“So I shot the buck with my crossbow, but when I got to the dead buck, I was shocked to see it only had 2 points on each antler. I’m an honest man, so I called the DNR to report my mistake. What did I get for my honesty? A ticket that cost me $305 and a misdemeanor on my record. The officer who responded also took my deer and one of my buck tags!
“Until I shot that deer, I had a spotless record!”
Since Paul had been honest about his mistake and reported the incident, the ticket he received was for an untagged deer, not an illegal deer. It was up to the officer’s discretion whether or not to issue a citation. If the officer had written a citation for an illegal deer, the fine and costs would have been thousands of dollars instead of hundreds.
What had started out as one of Paul’s most memorable deer hunting experiences because this was the first time in 47 years of hunting that he got a deer on opening day, had turned into a nightmare. Adomaitis felt bad enough about making the mistake in the first place and realized he would probably lose the deer by reporting it. On top of that, Paul was hunting about two miles north of where that buck would have been a legal deer and that deer was a legal whitetail during most of his hunting career in the county where he was hunting.
Paul also knew that the fact he shot a buck with two points on an antler instead of three, would not make a difference biologically about the future of the local deer herd. One of the biggest realizations that Paul came to as a result of what transpired from reporting his mistake is that calling the DNR was “the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!”
He had to wait more than an hour for a conservation officer to respond. The officer who responded was Josiah Killingback, who told Paul he had to give him a citation. Adomaitis originally thought the ticket would cost $50. He was shocked when he discovered the total payment would be $305. Paul originally thought about fighting the ticket, until he discovered attorney fees would amount to much more than the fine. Since Paul’s only income is a disability check, the cost of the ticket was enough to strain his finances.
“I had just gotten my disability payment, so I had the money to pay the ticket at the time,” Paul wrote. “This month (November) will be tight though. Now I know why a lot of people don’t call the DNR for anything, and when after deer season, if the snow isn’t too deep and I take a walk, I find numerous deer carcasses.”
Based on my research, hundreds of deer with sublegal antlers are shot in counties with mandatory antler point restrictions every year. In most cases, hunters who make the same mistake Paul did, simply leave the deer where it died instead of calling the DNR. Self-reporting of such mistakes was much higher during the first two years under mandatory APR regulations, however, when DNR officers were more likely to give warnings instead of tickets.
After the first year under MAPR in 12 counties of the northwest Lower Peninsula, for example, Ltd. David Shaw at the Cadillac DNR office reported there were 35 tickets and 46 warnings issued for APR violations in seven of those counties within the jurisdiction of that office. Officers in those counties reported finding additional bucks with sublegal antlers that had been shot and left.
Shaw added that similar violations occurred in Leelanau County during the fall of 2013 even though MAPR had been in effect in that county for many years. He said five tickets and 5 warnings were handed out for APR violations in that county during 2013.
Another 23 APR violations were recorded in Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet Counties in the Gaylord District during 2013, according to Ltd. Jim Gorno. Eight more APR violations occurred in Kalkaska and Missaukee Counties in the Roscommon District, for a total of 122 for all 13 counties. Since conservation officers only hear about a fraction of violations, the total number of sublegal bucks killed in those 13 counties during one year could have been four or five times higher.
Michigan has spent little to no effort to document the number of deer with sublegal antlers killed by mistake by hunters where MAPR are in effect. The number of sublegal bucks killed by accident in western states is one of the major reasons those states have abandoned MAPR, according to the Mule Deer Working Group, which is sponsored by the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.
“After decades of use and many evaluations reporting disappointing results, most western states and provinces have discontinued statewide antler point restrictions,” a fact sheet about mule deer and APR produced by the Mule Deer Working Group states. “The two main reasons for abandoning widespread antler point restrictions are (1) unacceptable accidental-illegal kill, and (2) harvest mortality was increased (focused) on the very age classes they intended to promote.”
The fact sheet states that the number of bucks with sublegal antlers shot by mistake and illegally left in the field under MAPR regulations can be significant and this has been documented in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Nevada and Montana.