Antler Restrictions and Whitetail Deer Hunting

Antler restrictions for whitetail hunters have become common place in many states, including Texas. After many years of listening to hunters complain about not seeing enough good deer, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department decided to experiment with the new approach of antler restrictions in several Texas counties. The restrictions were based on what was learned about deer in South Texas over more than 20 years of research. The studies showed that if a buck does not develop two branched antlers by it’s second year, the deer will likely lag other whitetail bucks for life. This explains why these new restrictions allow, or even encourage hunters to take a spike buck.

The other goal of these new restrictions was to allow the best of the younger bucks to grow older. However, the idea was to do something different than using just rack points, an approach still in use in other state with disappointing results. Again, overall goal is to protect the best of the younger bucks, while removing the worst. Simply put, protecting the best of the younger bucks means using restrictions based on spread, rather than points alone. After all, I’ve seen two-year bucks with ten or more points and very little spread. Restrictions based on points does nothing to protect these deer, which again, are the ones that are most likely to become bruisers in later years.

So then, why do some oppose these restrictions, despite the fact that hunters have strongly applauded them in the counties were they were first started? IMO, it because they don’t accept the outcomes of the studies upon which they are based. Others don’t like them because of what see they as a single “loop hole” in the approach, that is, the protection of freak deer with tall and narrow racks. As for now, the vast majority of hunters are reporting very positive whitetail hunting in those counties where these restrictions have been put in place. And in many cases, those who didn’t believe in them first, have since changed their mind.

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