13 Feb Thumb MAPR Survey Biased
Regardless of the outcome of a survey being conducted this winter to determine the level of support for mandatory antler point restrictions (MAPR) in a 5-county area of the Thumb, the results will be biased on the high side due to wording of the survey. The DNR, which is conducting the survey, refused to modify wording to inform those who receive it that 50% or more of yearling bucks are already protected in those counties under voluntary APR.
The purpose of MAPR is to protect at least 50% of yearling bucks. Since that is already being accomplished voluntarily by hunters who choose to pass up most yearling bucks without a regulation change, a regulation change isn’t really necessary. But the organization that is pushing MAPR and the DNR don’t want hunters who receive the survey to know that.
Opportunity To Modify Wording
The DNR had the opportunity to modify the wording of the survey by adding a sentence, but they refused to do so. Due to biased wording of previous MAPR surveys, I asked DNR deer specialist Chad Stewart for an opportunity to review the wording of the upcoming survey and he gave me the chance to do so. On November 20, I received a draft copy of the survey wording along with the following email from Stewart:
“This survey has been viewed by the sponsoring group and deemed acceptable to them. This survey is fairly consistent with previous surveys that have been issued in the past. If you have any comments related to the survey, please let me know at your earliest convenience. I would be willing to consider minor changes if necessary. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this survey no later than November 28.”
Here’s the draft survey wording: “A proposal has been submitted to the MDNR by the Thumb Hunters for Antler Point Restrictions (APRs) to modify deer regulations regarding the harvest of bucks in Huron, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, and Tuscola counties (see map on reverse side). The proposal requests that the Natural Resources Commission implement regulations that would require all bucks taken in the area have at least four points on one antler. Youth hunters participating in the Liberty Hunt (youth firearm deer season) and veterans who qualify for the Liberty and Independence Hunts will be exempt from the proposed APRs during these seasons. Current regulations also exempt individuals hunting under a Mentored Youth license (under age 10) from all APRs, and this exemption will not change. If the proposed APRs are implemented, these APRs would be in place for five years beginning with the 2019 deer hunting seasons. Another survey would be conducted to determine the level of support for retaining these regulations after four years.
“This proposal aims to protect most 1½ year old males by allowing the harvest of only those antlered deer that have four or more antler points on one side, each point one or more inches in length. The MDNR supports mandatory APRs only if at least 66% of hunters in the affected area support these regulations. Thus, MDNR needs your assistance in measuring support for this proposal. Please provide us your opinion about the proposed regulation by completing the brief questionnaire.”
I responded to Stewart’s email as soon as I received it writing, “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to comment on the wording for the mandatory APR survey for the 5 counties in the Thumb region of MI. Here are the changes I would like to see made to better inform hunters who get the survey what they are expressing their opinion about. I think the first paragraph was also too wordy about exceptions and I shortened that.”
I suggested streamlining the first paragraph of the survey to eliminate 2 lines of text by incorporating all of the exception in one sentence: “The proposal requests that the Natural Resources Commission implement regulations that would require all bucks taken in the area have at least four points on one antler, except youth hunters participating in the Liberty Hunt (youth firearm deer season) and veterans who qualify for the Liberty and Independence Hunts and individuals hunting under a Mentored Youth license (under age 10).”
And then I asked that this sentence be added to the beginning of the second paragraph: “The purpose of mandatory APRs is to protect at least 50% of the yearling bucks, but that goal in these counties has already been achieved under voluntary APR.”
When I didn’t hear from Stewart about my suggested changes by November 23, I sent a followup email asking him to let me know he got my suggested changes and if the added wording was accurate.
I also wrote, “I hope you will agree that this mandatory APR survey is very different than all of the others? This is the first time, to my knowledge, a survey has been done for counties in which approximately 50% or more of the yearling bucks are already being protected under voluntary APR, so the survey information should be different than the others to inform those who receive the survey of the difference.”
Suggested Changes Declined
I finally heard from Chad on December 3 and he acknowledged that my wording was accurate, that the sponsoring group rejected my proposed changes and that this survey was not being treated differently than the others even though the yearling buck harvest was already within the MAPR guidelines.
“I made the sponsoring group aware that several individuals, including yourself, wanted to review the language prior to it going out to the public,” Stewart wrote, “and gave them the opportunity to consider incorporating these changes. Ultimately, they declined to make additional changes.
“Our APR initiation guideline does not have a qualifier that prohibits the introduction of an APR survey based on current observed harvest dynamics. As we review our guidelines next year, this can certainly be a topic of discussion and consideration for the panel assigned to review this process. But under our existing guidelines, we do not consider this survey any different from other APR surveys.”
In spite of the fact the DNR is supposed to conduct MAPR surveys, the sponsoring groups obviously have control of the language of those surveys, which is why this one and many of the others have had biased wording that favor positive responses. That’s also why MAPR have been spreading across the state with the DNR’s support. This is the first time a MAPR survey is being conducted for counties in which 50% or more of yearling bucks are already protected by voluntary APR, but this survey is being treated the same as all of the others!