Michigan Deer Management Group Responds to Column on Antler Proposals

Michigan1This is a response from the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative in Michigan in response to an opinion column by Richard Smith in the October issue of Deer & Deer Hunting. Smith lives in Michigan and is a longtime hunter and contributor to DDH.

Dan Schmidt, Editor
August 8th 2013
Deer and Deer Hunting Magazine

Dear Mr. Schmidt:

We are the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative (LPDMI), sponsors of Antler Point Restriction (APR) proposals that are currently under consideration by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) for implementation in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  We are a grass roots organization composed of Michigan hunters, and are not affiliated with the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). In fact, though some of us are members, several are not.

We are writing with regard to a recent opinion piece published in the September 2013 issue of Deer and Deer Hunting. The author, Richard P. Smith, is guilty of so many factual and conceptual errors in the article “Were we Betrayed?” that it is hard to know where to start. We will limit our response here mainly to his comments about antler point restrictions in Leelanau County Michigan.

Smith said, “Leelanau County is also in the northwestern Lower Peninsula and 2012 marked its 10th year under quality deer management regulations.  Results there were supposed to serve as an example of why the rules should be expanded to 12 more counties in the region.  DNR data does not indicate the regulations were a success, however…” Later he stated, “I’ve made repeated requests to the wildlife division since January for buck harvest data for Leelanau County before quality deer management rules went into effect to compare with those after 2003 and have not received that information.”

As a matter of fact, the information Smith claims he was not able to obtain has been widely disseminated in Michigan. The LPDMI has conducted 14 public information meetings regarding our proposal as mandated by the MDNR and the NRC. In each of those meetings, in thousands of posters, tens of thousands of brochures, on our website, and in our Facebook page, we detailed the buck harvest results of APRs in Leelanau County. This includes both pre-­APR and post-­APR data collected and reported by the MDNR. Moreover, the sponsoring group for the recently implemented and 12 county proposal mentioned in Smith’s article also provided Leelanau County data. Everything presented was derived from published MDNR data, and all LPDMI public information meeting presentations were reviewed by MDNR biologists.

Buck harvest data is readily available for the three years prior to implementation of APR’s in Leelanau County. Each year the DNR publishes a report, available to the public, detailing the results of the annual check station data. In the three years prior to implementation of APRs in Leelanau County, 67% of antlered bucks brought in to check stations were yearlings. Averaged over the five years from 2007-­‐2011 that number has dropped to 27%.  Harvest of bucks 3 1/2 years and older has risen from 13% before APR’s to 44 % after APR’s (figure 1).  In comparison, yearling buck harvest in the Northern and Southern Lower Peninsula averaged 58% and 67% respectively during the same five-­‐year period.

Leelanau County harvests the highest percentage of 8 point and larger bucks in the state, by a wide margin. Prior to APRs, only 34% of the check station bucks in Leelanau County had eight points or more. Averaging over the five years from 2007-2011, that number has risen to 61%. Compare that to 34% in the Upper Peninsula, 25% in the rest of the Northern Lower Peninsula, and 36% in the Southern Lower Peninsula.  That’s right, a county  in a northern region with sandy acidic soils and average snowfalls  of 120-­140 inches per year harvests more 8 point and larger bucks than the agriculturally rich southern part of the state.  All of this information has been widely distributed in Michigan and is readily available to any journalist who would genuinely like to see it.

What did hunters have to sacrifice for this? APRs were introduced in Leelanau County in 2003. In 2001 and 2002,  Hunter  success (bucks per hunter) was 21% and 23% respectively. That number fell to 15% during the first season (2003). Following that the buck harvest rate was 21% or higher in eight of nine subsequent seasons (range from 19% to 38%).  Ultimately, hunters had to sacrifice only one season of reduced buck harvest (figure 2).

It is no surprise that when hunters were surveyed after five years of antler point restrictions in 2008, 72% of respondents were in favor of continuing them. Nor is it a surprise that 68.5% of hunters from the surrounding 12 counties were in favor of adopting APR regulations when surveyed in 2012. The data on buck harvest in Leelanau County both before and after APR implementation had been widely distributed among hunters in the 12 expansion counties, contrary to Smith’s protestation that they were unavailable.

Smith further discusses the “underharvest of antlerless deer [in Leelanau County], along with corresponding increases in deer collisions and crop damage.’  The implication is that APRs had something to do with an increase in the deer population in Leelanau County.  Smith fails to point out that in the two years prior to implementation of APRs, the antlerless tag quota in Leelanau County was 1250 and 1000, respectively. In 2003, the first year of APRs, that number fell to 700. During the last six seasons, it has hovered between 200 and 400 antlerless permits per year.  It is this substantial decrease in the availability of antlerless permits that has likely led to increased population levels in Leelanau County. The DNR has recently responded to this issue by increasing the availability of antlerless permits in Leelanau County to 1400 for the 2013 seasons.

It is a well-­known fact that population control is a function of antlerless harvest, not antlered buck harvest. The overpopulation of deer in Leelanau County is a direct result of inadequate antlerless harvest quotas.

Given his fervent opposition to antler point restrictions in Michigan, it is not surprising that Smith does not like to discuss the readily available data highlighting both the striking improvement in the age structure of bucks and the high level of support among hunters for the existing APR’s in Leelanau County. His claim that buck harvest data was not available prior to institution of APR’s in Leelanau County is overtly disingenuous, as is his premise that antler point restrictions led to increased deer populations in Leelanau County. Like many anti-­APR activists in Michigan, Smith chooses to ignore the data showing the outstanding results in Leelanau County, and instead focus his efforts on nuances about the process, and accusations of impropriety against the Michigan DNR.  This includes his uncontested, unsupported accusations of a “cover-­up” by the Michigan DNR and Natural Resources Commission on Mike Avery’s “Outdoor Magazine” radio program on July 27th, 2013.

There were many other errors, misinterpretations of data, or outright misleading statements in Smith’s article.  For example, in his list of purported “pitfalls” of mandatory APRs, under #5 he says, “In the UP, 15% of 1.5 year old bucks have fewer than three points on an antler, and about 8% of 5 1/2 year old bucks fall into that category.” He includes a figure on the top of page 106 to support this statement.  The only problem is, he is dead wrong.  The figure does not reveal how many points are on an antler.  It is taken from a report published by the Michigan DNR in 2012 called “Evaluation of Upper Peninsula Buck management options.”  The figure records the total number of points on a buck’s entire rack, not the number of points on an antler. For example, a buck missing one beam that had 4 points on the remaining antler would be cited by Smith as having fewer than 3 points on one antler.  He does not even understand the only bona fide data from a citable source that he included?

This is just one example of the many additional errors he made.

In his “pitfall number 13”, he says, “Voluntary antler point restrictions can be as effective as mandatory rules with education.”  Ignoring the fact that this can hardly be considered a “pitfall”, the degree of internal inconsistency it reveals is incredible. Smith is widely known to support voluntary, but not mandatory APRs.  He says in item 13 that they both achieve the same thing.  If so, then most of the other 19 “pitfalls” apply to voluntary, as well as mandatory APRs.  It makes no rational sense for him to be in favor of voluntary APRs if he really believes in the “pitfalls” he lists, which are in essence an indictment of any successful APR program.  We submit that he is in favor of voluntary APRs only because he believes they do not work.  If Smith were to state he just does not want to be told what to shoot, we would have no reason to protest his comments. However, he clearly goes down a different path that not only contradicts itself, but also perpetuates many scientifically disproven myths.

We note, with great disappointment, that there did not appear to be a genuine attempt to gather input from us, from the local sponsoring group for the 12 county proposal, or even from the Michigan DNR (the biggest target of Smith’s diatribe). Instead you chose to interview a national representative from QDMA.  Although some of us know him personally and have great admiration for the editor of Quality Whitetails magazine, he has not been directly involved in any of the proposals or privy to the specifics of the Michigan process.

Putting the header “Opinion” above the piece hardly absolves Deer and Deer Hunting of the journalistic responsibility to ensure that at least some of the author’s points have merit.  The timing is such that the piece came out less than 6 weeks before the Lower Peninsula APR hunter support survey will be sent out by the MDNR on the 15th of September.  Michigan hunters deserve better than a last minute, one-­sided 6-­ page diatribe from an anti-­APR zealot. Insult was added to injury when Ted Nugent, who long ago renounced his Michigan residency to move to Texas, was given a page to pile on with an anti-­‐APR rant, while no-­one directly involved in the process from Michigan was asked to provide a counter-­point.

Attached is a preprint of an article about Leelanau county, entitled “The Best Deer Hunting County in Michigan” authored by LPDMI member Dr. Jim Brauker, which will appear in the next edition of WoodsNWaters News.  We are requesting that Deer and Deer Hunting magazine make a concerted effort to publish the information about our current initiative prior to the September survey date.  As subscribers and/or readers of your highly respected publication, we expect a balanced  and factual debate on the important issues affecting the whitetail world, and not just a sensationalistic narrow view from celebrity contributors.

Respectfully Yours,
The Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative
PO Box 285 Holt MI 48842

Tony Smith
President and Spokesperson
Vermontville, MI

Leon Hank
Chief Financial Officer

David Curtis
Dewitt, MI

Chad Thelen
St. Johns, MI

Kirk Nartker
Laingsburg, MI

Jim Brauker
Addison MI

Lincoln Rohn
Hudsonville MI

Jason Blitchok
Ortonville MI

Richard Zook
Prudenville MI

Dean Smith
Brownstown MI

Randy Vanderveen
Grandville MI

Chad Chrysler
Ypsilanti MI

Bradley Robinson
Waters MI

Scott Homrich


Attachments:  Figure 1 and figure 2

Figure 1

Leelanau Buck Harvest 1


Figure 2

Leelanau Buck 2

29 thoughts on “Michigan Deer Management Group Responds to Column on Antler Proposals

  1. FTruschke

    Thanks fellas for picking me up on the discussion with Mr. Sweeney, The well fed TCC Football community was well fed and thanks you. I am getting ready to unplug and go on vacation so carry on if you care to. I will leave you and those reading this forum a few things to consider about Mr. Sweeney. His arguments have been ignored by the DNR and the NRC. I could post pics and details but that is unnecessary. He trolls every possible forum and injects his spin wherever and whenever possible. He uses side bar arguments to little or no avail to somehow prove that that APR’s are the most most heinous concept ever thought of. There is no doubt that he has posted more often than the next 10 people combined. I will give him credit for perseverance. Yet after all these months and all the meetings that he’s given his opinion, I just checked and he has 43 members of his organization and I’m sure he counts himself in that total. Furthermore, I find it laughable that he does not allow pro APR supporters to debate on his forum. It says right there in black and white that you’ll be kicked out and your posts will be deleted. WOW!!! He and Richard “Phorkhorn” Smith are two peas in a pod as far as I’m concerned. You can toss Tom Lounsberry and his “fake” United Sportsmen’s Alliance in there too. Here is the issue gentlemen…. An overwhelming majority of hunters are happy with APR’s in 045 and 122. Above a super majority voted for similar regulations in 12 more counties in NW Lower Michigan. You know why? because those guys that are lucky enough to hunt those areas are some of the happiest hunters in the state. The vast majority of us are willing to give it a try and see if we get the same results. Nothing more…..

    1. Jsweeney

      Mr. Truschke, you might want to check your facts, I believe you have me confused with someone else. If you are going to try and engage in character assassination, you might want to be sure that you know who you are talking about before throwing any stones. By all means, please show the link to “my” forum, that does not allow pro-APR supporters to post……Laughable? What is laughable is the lack of credibility that is consistent in most of your assertions.

      Ironically, I’m one of those “lucky” guys who hunts in Leelanau Co., I own property there and have been hunting there for the past 30 years, so I’m very familiar with what hunting has been like in that county both before and after mandatory APR’s. What’s kind of funny is that most of the board of LPDMI has never hunted in that county, yet they are self proclaimed experts about the topic. You just can’t make this stuff up!

      1. FTruschke

        My bad Jim, I had you mixed up with Curtis Stone. So there’s 4 of you that can’t grasp the concept. I don’t know about self proclaimed experts but the info is readily available. I live in TC, so the fact that you hunt in Leelanau county is astounding to me. The fact remains that the VAST MAJORITY are in favor of APR’s and HAPPY with APR’s. Which is my main point.

        1. Jsweeney

          Which brings us back my original response to you, nothing wrong with taking the fact that hunters are happy with APR’s in Leelanau Co. into consideration, we just disagree that hunter satisfaction should be the only metric used in judging the merits of sound deer management policies.

          I’d have much more respect for some of the LPDMI guys if they were willing to have an honest discussion about the relative impacts of APR’s, both good and bad. For the most part, however, their knee jerk response is to insist that there are no negative impacts resulting from APR’s and that there are only positive ones. When faced with actual proof of negative impacts, such as reports of crop damage or increased levels of car/deer accidents, the response turns to blatant denial (as in the case of Mr. Sozay) or morphs into an attack on the individual raising the concerns.

          Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I’ve always been very open about acknowledging some of the benefits that can result from APR’s. Of course there are some, nothing is ever 100% good or 100% bad, it’s always a mixture of both. But you won’t hear that from most of those on the other side of the issue. All you will hear is that only good can come from them. After listening to some, you will almost start to believe that APR’s will cure the common cold, stop premature balding and lower the cost of gasoline, as well. That kind of myopic approach does not bode well for constructive or reasoned debates on a very divisive and controversial issue.

          Had the approach of those who are promoting APR’s been an honest one, simply saying that “hey, we like big antlers and we think most hunters would also like to see more deer with bigger antlers”, it would be much easier to respect. Instead, mostly we hear ridiculous claims such as APR’s will reduce car/deer accidents, reduce crop damage, increase recruitment, help recruit and retain hunters, raise property values and resurrect the economy in Northern Michigan. With the snake oil sales approach that the LPDMI has chosen to take, it’s not surprising that the issue has become as controversial as it has.

          1. bioactive1

            Mr. Sweeney, it seems that because you have been banned from posting at the Michigan Sportsman’s Forum, you are trying to use this venue as a place to endlessly present you misrepresentations of our organization and your endless, circular arguments.

            We, the LPDMI, are being honest when we say there is not a shred of evidence that the deer population has increased in Leelanau County because of APRs. We believe the DNR when they say it is the result of low harvest quotas and warm winters. You are pretty much a lone voice, with no credentials, making wild assertions about the biological impact of APRs, and then accusing us of being dishonest when we go with the DNR view rather than agreeing with you or giving you any credibility whatsoever.

            Nor has the LPDMI ever said many of the things in your final paragraph. We do believe it may help with hunter participation. Some of the stuff you are just making up and claiming we said it.

            And by the way, make no mistake about it, like most hunters, we love to see bucks with big antlers, and make that very clear in our web pages. We think there is more to it than that, but we truly love to see big old bucks with big antlers. You suggesting that we have ever said otherwise is complete, bogus nonsense. But you do love to repeat it. Anybody can go here and see how we really feel about the situation: http://mideerhunt.org/the-facts/

          2. FTruschke

            Jim, I worked on the NW 12 APR. I was at most of the public info meetings and worked a lot of hours at hunting shows and deer hunter dinners. We never said anything about crop damage or car/deer accidents or curing the common cold. We were quite careful to only share the facts. We had no say over how the survey was worded. I do apologize for mixing you up with Curtis but it wasn’t a character assassination at all. Nothing but facts. Same thing with Tom Lounsbury. I did an extensive web search and only found that he spoke 2-3 times in front of the NRC using that group name. No Web page, no FB page and he would not respond to my email. For me personally it’s about shooting something bigger than a 1.5 year old bucks for a change and hunter retention. My opinion is that APR’s accomplish both. You guys live on very small islands and I suggest that the next time you are up this way that you duck into a few local places and ask them what they think about APR’s.

  2. kayser sozay

    Mr.Sweeney’s ‘proof’ that whitetail bucks rub trees is irrefutable.

    In fact, bucks do do that.

    Some of us here have seen that.
    In fact, I’ll bet every single reader here has seen that.

    And it is being seen not only in the Leelanau, but also on the Fruitridge of Michigan and, I’ll bet, in the fruit regions of upstate New York and Ohio and probably everywhere fruit trees are accessible to whitetail deer during the fall rutting period.

    It is a fact of life: of deer herd life; of orchard life.

    Is it anymore prevalent today than it was in my grandfather’s day….the 20’s & 30’s? Nope. One may see more single trees with rubs….but then there are a LOT more fruit trees today than 90yrs ago.

    Is it anymore prevalent today than in my father’s day…..the 40’s & 50’s & 60’s? Nope. One may see more single trees with rubs…..but then there are a LOT more fruit trees today than 50 to 70yrs ago.

    And specifically for the Leelanau …..(and to a lesser degree the Fruitridge)……there are MORE deer because we have enjoyed 3 mild winters in a row….. AND……. the Michigan Department of Natural Resources cut the number of doe permits available in that DMU by near 80% (!!!).

    So what do you get when you have a LOT more trees and more deer? …..Rubs, would be just one of the correct answers.

    To claim today that because a few more spikehorn or forkhorn buck deer are living another year because of a harvest regulation established 10years ago is THE reason fruit trees are preyed upon is…..as has been stated……utter nonsense.

    Again, and it cannot be stressed too often in these discussions. The Leelanau APR regime is 10 years old. It was implemented as a trial with the mandate that it must achieve a high level of satisfaction amongst hunters and landowners… (and orchard owners ARE landowners) …… after the end of the initial 5-year test period.

    It did that. Approaching near 8 out of 10 indicated they liked the program. And supported it.

    Nearly 8 out of 10!

    Now, as we come to the end of this discussion, are there some orchard owners who are experiencing vexing deer depredation issues? You bet there are. There ALWAYS have been wherever fruit trees are accessible to wild whitetail deer. But it is important to note, the most common complaints on damage is not the rubbing issue….but rather BROWSING of newly planted trees, vines, nursery stock. And browsing ain’t limited to just those few spikehorns and forkhorns that got their one-year option. In fact, browsing is a pretty universal trait no matter what sex the deer is, or how big or small his antlers may be.

    The solution to any crop or orchard depredation issue is to get the herd to a size that is compatible to the habitat…..natural habitat and the human habitat. Increase doe permits to appropriate levels to do that.

    And don’t forget, the prospect of more back-to-back mild winters…….is NOT bankable. Not here in Leelanau at the cold end of those westerly winter winds it ain’t.

    1. Jsweeney

      Mr. Sozay seems to have missed the main thrust of the supporting information that was provided, the fact that older bucks tend to rub at much higher frequencies then younger bucks. While it’s convenient for him to ignore that and interpret the remarks of some of the leading whitetail deer experts as merely being “whitetail bucks rub”, it does little to support his claim that rub damage is simply population related. It’s an understandable omission, as acknowledging that buck age structure can have an impact on the level of agricultural damage to fruit growing operations, kind of undercuts his entire “nothing to see here folks, move along, move along” mantra in regards to potential negative impacts of APR’s. Once again, his propensity to distort facts and offer unsubstantiated opinion is more bunk than bank.

      In a similar manner, he offers the unsupported suggestion that recent population growth in Leelanau Co. is solely due to limited antlerless permits. Again, he conveniently ignores the available data that indicates that the number of antlerless permits available has had no impact on the level of antlerless harvest per hunter, it’s been identical in recent years to what it was when 5 times as many permits were available. This aversion to facts and the denial of reality is strangely reminiscent of an attitude put forth by an individual I’m familiar with, who was constantly castigating other hunters for legally using apples for deer bait because they concentrated deer, while he was simultaneously planting apple trees on his property specifically to feed the deer. Another point of view that is more bunk than bank. I guess some leopards don’t change their spots. ; )

      1. bioactive1

        He did not say “that recent population growth in Leelanau Co. is solely due to limited antlerless permits.”

        Solely? You made that up.

        He pointed out that there had been a reduction an antlerless permits and that there had been three mild winters in a row.

        1. Jsweeney

          He said that there were more deer in Leelanau Co. and gave only two reasons why that has occurred, 3 consecutive mild winters and a reduction in antlerless permits. He did not mention any other reasons. In fact that is the second time that he suggested those two factors as the reason for the population increase and did not mention any other reasons the previous time either. I’ll stand by solely, unless Mr. Sozay would like to amend his comments to add some additional reasons. Apparently you have decided to add literary critic to your resume along with being an author of creative fiction, given your recent article in W&W. ; )

          Btw, is the hunter loss “trainwreck” that is occurring on Beaver Island during the APR period there a good example of the impact that APR’s have on hunter recruitment and retention? It’s kind of funny that you didn’t even mention the most recent NWLP “APR experiment” during your recent article…….

  3. kayser sozay

    A commentator earlier alleges that because the herd in Benzie county is not impacted by winter mortality to the degree Leelanau is…..then hard winters are not a determinant on our local herds.

    I don’t think so.

    Leelanau is at the eastern edge of Lake Michigan. Look at a map. Winter matters here. Hard winters matter more. When we have a mild winter….as we have enjoyed for 3 years in a row…… we remember. Those are good spells. And they matter more to wildlife than they do to us humans. Take that to the bank.

    Dramatically reduced doe permits ……also matter.
    That too is bankable.

    So for those who are Anti-Change in buck harvest regulations to assert that allowing spike horned bucks and forked-horn bucks to live another year is THE reason Leelanau has experienced an expanding herd….. with its attendant crop damage and traffic conficts, is, in my opinion, nonsense. As I so stated.

    It is an attempt to just throw up any old objection to see if it will stick. In my opinion, it is dishonest.

    Same too with the assertion that allowing spike deer and forkhorn deer to live another year creates unacceptable tree damage. That too, is not credible.

    To be sure, it IS credible …very credible….to HAVE orchard tree damage inflicted by whitetail deer. I know that. I’ve seen it . I’ve experienced it on trees of my own. As did my father in the ‘40’s & 50’s….and my grandfather before that.

    Fruit trees accessible to any antlered whitetail deer in the fall are subject to damage. That is as true in the fruit growing regions of Michigan as it is in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

    Is it more pronounced today than it was back in my father’s and grandfather’s day?


    It was a PIA then, it is a PIA today.

    Letting spikehorn bucks and forkhorn bucks live another year did not make us like it any less.

    Nor did it make it worse.

    Bank on that too.

    Leelanau’s APR’s are now about 10yrs old …and continue to show overwhelming support (nearly 8 out of 10 hunters and landowners support it). And by the way, those LANDOWNERS who support it include orchard owners.

    Nearly 8 out of 10.


    1. Jsweeney

      Let’s see, on the one hand we have Mr. Sozay, who says that an increasing buck age structure has no impact on the frequency of antler damage to fruit trees. He offers no supporting evidence to bolster this point of view, only offers the somewhat vague assertion that it’s “bankable”. But then he goes farther then that and claims that suggesting such a thing is not only not credible, but that it’s dishonest.

      On the other hand we have a research branch of Michigan State University documenting the antler rub damage to fruit trees that has occurred in Leelanau Co. and we have a number of highly credible whitetail experts who offer input on the impact that age structure has on the frequency of antler rubbing among bucks.

      Let’s look at what some experts have to say on this issue;

      Dr. Karl Miller – “The number of rubs on any piece of property is influenced by a number of factors. In our studies, we have recorded rub densities that range from less than 500 rubs/mi2 to over 3,000 rubs/mi2. Obviously, one would expect that deer density (or at least buck density) will have a major influence on the number of rubs made on an area. However, while our studies have indicated that density has an impact, it is not a direct relationship. Rather, we have found that the number of rubs is more directly correlated with the density of older bucks (2.5+ year old) in the population. Researcher John Ozoga found similar results in his studies in Michigan. John’s studies revealed that younger bucks make fewer that half as many rubs as did mature bucks, and that they tended to start rubbing much later in the fall.”

      “If we acknowledge that yearling bucks make approximately 50 percent as many rubs as older bucks, our data suggests that on some area, older bucks may be making more than 1200 rubs during the roughly 90 day rubbing period. That translated to about 15 rubs per day!”

      Kip Adams QDMA- “A buck’s age can play a role as older bucks tend to rub more than younger animals.”

      “The relative abundance of rubs and scrapes on a given area is directly related to the density of mature bucks, and areas with mature bucks can have 10 times as many rubs as areas without them.”

      John Ozoga – “Research findings suggest that older, dominant bucks rub more than younger subordinates,”

      “The researchers recorded buck rub densities ranging from 474 to 1,502 per sq. mile and they found rub density closely related to the number of bucks older than 2.5 years old in the population. That is, older bucks produced far more rubs than younger bucks.”

      “On healthy deer ranges, rub densities can vary from a couple hundred to nearly 5,000 per square mile and are closely related to the number of older bucks in the population. Even a fairly large number of young bucks may make few total rubs relative to what a couple of older bucks in the same area can produce.”

      Bryan Kinkel – “Rub densities and rubbed tree size are greatly influenced by herd dynamics and buck age structure; i.e. competition between bucks. Buck population plays a role, but it doesn’t play as important a role as most hunters would assume. Over a 10 year period, in my rub density and distribution study (the largest study of its kind that I know of), we measured an increase in rub density from around 500 rubs per square mile at the beginning of the study to rub densities approaching 6,000 rubs per square mile by the end of the project. Although buck population did increase during the study, certainly not anything like the 12-fold increase in rub densities measured. The big difference was herd dynamics. The local deer population went from an unbalanced herd with few older bucks (and no mature bucks) to a very balanced herd sexually and age structure-wise, including an adequate percentage of mature bucks. It was the much increased competition between bucks (especially older to mature bucks) that drove the very high rub densities at the end of the project.”

      Dr. Grant Woods – “We have found a correlation between the number of rubs and the number of older bucks in an area. The better the age structure of a herd, the more rubs and signposts that appear. On one of our management projects in Tennessee, we started out noticing about 700 rubs per square mile, or 1.1 per acre. After five years of good herd management, it increased to an amazing 5,000 rubs per square mile, or 7.8 per acre.”

      The rather dramatic refutation that these experts provide to the unsupported and clearly ridiculous claims made by Mr. Sozay make one wonder how “bankable” any of his assertions may in fact be. They appear to be more bunk then bank.

  4. FTruschke

    Richard P. Smith’s article is a joke just like his article in Woods and Waters Magazine. How two organizations publish his misinformed opinion without checking any facts is beyond me. It does, however, reinforce what I’ve always said, “A magazine article is nothing more than one person’s opinion and should be treated as such”. I don’t have time to address Mr. Sweeney’s opinion but will pose the same question to him that he has so far refused to answer. I’ll get to that in a bit but first, here are the facts: After the five year trial period for APR’s in Leelanau county, support increased to 72%. I am sure it is higher today. Conversely, only 25% of Michigan hunters surveyed by the DNR said that they were happy with their deer hunting experience. Leelanau county’s hunter retention and time spent afield are also higher than the 12 county APR that was just passed. Much higher in most cases. The data is readily available for those that wish to see it. Here’s my question Jim, What is so wrong with 3 times as many hunters being happy with their deer hunting experience than we currently experience in Michigan”?

    1. Jsweeney

      Mr. Truschke is conflating two different things. The 72% level of support that he indicates was for the renewal of mandatory APR’s. It was not a response to any kind of a question regarding whether or not hunters were happy with their overall hunting experience. The level of satisfaction with their overall deer hunting experience evidenced by Michigan hunters, per the 2012 MDNR hunter survey, was 54%, not 25% as Mr. Truschke indicated.

      As to his second claim regarding hunter retention being higher in Leelanau Co. as the result of mandatory APR’s, that is simply another one of the fabricated claims that the LPDMI has incorporated into their narrative to “sell” these regulations. The fact is that there is no data that shows any impact regarding hunter retention or recruitment in those counties that can be reasonably attributed to APR’s. By manipulating some of the data available, the LPDMI has raised the “tantalizing possibility” that APR’s may contribute to hunter recruitment and retention but when a closer look is taken, it becomes clear that the differences in hunter retention that have been observed between the various counties in Northern Michigan have nothing to do with regulations and everything to do with a significant decrease in hunter participation that occurred in most counties, well before APR’s were enacted in Leelanau Co.

      The topic of hunter retention is discussed at length in a monograph which can be seen here:


      Finally, in response to his question, what is wrong with 3 times as many hunters being happy about their hunting experience? Ignoring for the moment, the inaccuracy of his numbers, the answer is, there is nothing wrong with it. The larger point, however, is that hunter satisfaction, while certainly important, should not be the primary basis for developing sound deer management policies. Our objection to the APR’s that have been proposed and which are being implemented have to do with specific concerns, both biological and economic, which may result in certain parts of Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula. Where it seems that we differ is the opinion that any potentially negative impacts resulting from APR’s should be ignored and are of no consequence, as long as hunter satisfaction is high. We will have to differ in that opinion.

      1. FTruschke

        Ask a man what time it is and he tells you how to build a watch…. I unfortunately don’t have time right now because I have to go cook several hundred hamburgers for a football picnic. Hopefully someone else has the time….

      2. bioactive1

        I am glad you agree about how high hunter satisfaction is in Leelanau County. The DNR has looked carefully at the biological impact of APRs and they disagree with you, as does the LPDMI, that there is any substantial biological risk to implementation of APRs.

        As for your comments about hunter retention, you suggest that most of the impact felt by the surrounding counties happened before APRs. WRONG! Comparing the two years before APRs to the average over the last few years, hunter numbers are unchanged in Leelanau County, down 8% in Emmet County, down 22% in Charlevoix, down 16% in Antrim, down 32% in Kalkaska, down 20% in Missaukee, down 18% in Osceola, down 30% in Lake, down 21% in Mason, down 28% in Manistee, down 26% in Wexford, down 16% in Grand Traverse, and down 24% in Benzie. The average of the 12 counties is down 19%.

        The LPDMI has never said that there is any proof that Leelanau County is the best county in the area for hunter retention because of APRs. But we have fielded hundreds of comments from hunters who have stated that it could cause hunter participation to decrease. That is the main reason our attention was drawn to hunter participation. Because it is a red herring used to argue against APRs, right up until we showed the clear, incontrovertible evidence that it has the best hunter retention in the region.

        It is a shame that because of your focus on fighting APRs at any and all costs, you will not allow the possibility that APRs might help to stem the decline in hunter numbers. A train wreck is happening right before your eyes in northern Michigan and your solution is to maintain the status quo rather than trying something that has led to very high hunter satisfaction elsewhere.

        It is especially shameful because you know that the only other region with long term APRS, DMU 122 in the Upper Peninsula, is also the best area for hunter retention in the entire Upper Peninsula, growing hunter numbers by at least 24% over the last several years while hunter participation has fallen 20% across the rest of the UP.

        1. Jsweeney

          Mr. Brauker gives us another example of the narrative that he has developed to try create the illusion that the hunter loss that has been experienced in Northern Michigan is either recent or ongoing. That is simply a fabrication. Between 2001 and 2004, there was a substantial loss of hunters that occurred in every county in Northern Michigan, with the exception of Leelanau Co. APR’s were not enacted in Leelanau Co. until 2003, so it’s highly improbable that these regulations had any impact during the time period when the other counties experienced substantial hunter loss. For the most part, the loss of hunters in the other 12 counties had stopped by 2005. Between 2005 and 2012, most of these counties, including Leelanau Co. under APR’s, have experienced little change in hunter numbers, except for minor fluctuations. If the APR’s in Leelanau Co. were the driving force behind hunter retention, then the impact in terms of recruitment and retention would accelerate, corresponding to the increases in buck age structure and the increased harvest of older bucks. If the lack of APR’s is a direct cause of the loss of hunters, then the pattern of loss experienced between 2001 & 2004 would have continued in those counties without APR’s. Neither of those things has happened. The hunter population in Leelanau Co. has been mainly static since 2005, as it has been in Grand Traverse, Antrim, Mason, Charlevoix and other NWLP counties, There is nothing to indicate that either the presence or absence of APR’s has had any influence over hunter recruitment and retention in the NW13 counties for at least the last 8 years.

          Mr. Brauker is aware of that fact but it does not match the narrative that he has developed in a somewhat pathetic attempt to drum up support for these regulations, by painting the picture of a “trainwreck” of falling hunter numbers. The illusion of a “trainwreck” only works if the more recent numbers are compared to the 2001 – 2004 time period, most of which was prior to APR’s either being in effect or having any potential impact. Unless Mr. Brauker is suggesting that APR’s are the reason that Leelanau Co. did not lose hunters during the period prior to their enactment there, his narrative falls apart like a cheap suit.

          Comparing the hunter numbers that occurred between 2005 to 2012 shows, Antrim +5%. Charlevoix +10%, Emmet – 3%, Grand Traverse +17%, Kalkaska – 2%, Lake – 3%, Leelanau +12%, Manistee – 9%, Mason unchanged, Missaukee – 2%, Osceola -2%. The only two counties that might possibly qualify for “trainwreck” status are Benzie, which is -16% during that time period and Beaver Island which is down a whopping -64% during the last 8 years. Losing 64% of the hunters in a DMU could certainly qualify as a trainwreck. It should be noted that up until 2 years ago, the hunter loss on Beaver Island was bad but not catastrophic, with numbers down -19% between 2005 & 2010. The hunter loss on Beaver Island changed from a steady trickle to a raging torrent in 2011 & 2012, with the numbers last year being a full 64% lower than in 2005. What changed? Well, the obvious change is that in 2011, mandatory APR’s were enacted on Beaver Island.

          For some reason Mr. Brauker fails to mention those results, when waxing eloquent about the fabulous impact that APR’s have on hunter retention. Instead he continues to distort the truth and paint a picture of an ongoing “trainwreck” regarding hunter loss in that area, because he realizes that simply the appeal of bigger antlered bucks is probably not going to be sufficient to garner the needed level of support for these regulations. So instead he has manufactured a “crisis” in the form of his “trainwreck” narrative and promoted APR’s as being the only solution to this problem. It’s a shame that he and the other members of the LPDMI are not satisfied with letting APR’s stand on their own merits and instead feel the need to pull the wool over peoples eyes. Intellectual dishonesty is never a pretty sight.

  5. kayser sozay

    let me edit on this new forum format:

    When I say in my statment above ” The commentator above asserts this: ” ………. I am specifically referring to the comments made by a poster titled ‘JSweeney’. No one else.

  6. kayser sozay

    The commentator above asserts this:
    “The facts are that car/deer accidents have risen substantially in Leelanau Co. under APR’s, the deer population has increased and agricultural damage to fruit trees from antler rubbing has increased substantially due to the change in the buck age structure resulting from APR’s.

    I am familiar with the agricultural landscape of Leelanau county and much of the Traverse City area. What the individual above asserts is nonsense….or instead, I’d submit, it is an intentionally misleading construct aimed at furthering a personal agenda to further the continuing harvest of spike-horn and fork-horn buck deer.

    The “change in buck age structure” has got absolutely nothing to do with the increase in the car/deer issue, or the crop damage issue….or, for that matter, the increase in population issue that is the underlying cause of car & crop problems.

    The real world reality the commentator sidesteps ..or intentionally avoids mentioning….is that we in northern Michgan have enjoyed 3 straight years of mild winters. That may not seem unimportant to readers here who do not experience our winters on the downhill side of winds coming across Lake Michigan but it is important to us…..and vitally important to wildlife. Bad winters are hard…very hard on deer,and often dramatically suppress fawn recruitment. Conversely, a mild winter allows and encourages population surges.

    Such has been the case in the northwest portion of Michigan’s lower peninsual. The herd in the Leelanau area has surged. And importantly, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has reduced over the last 5 years the number of doe permits allocated for the area. Hence, we get population released from the weight of winter mortality— coupled with a regulatory scheme discouraging the harvest of antlerless animals.

    So what do you think the result of that is?

    I’ll tell you…..a population bubble.

    A bubble that the above opposer of regulatory restrictions on buck deer now attempt to tout as attributable to letting buck deer grow another year older.

    He is disingenous in that attribution and, in my opinion, pushing an agenda aimed at protecting the continuing harvest of spike-horn and fork-horn buck deer.

    1. kayser sozay

      Still learning this new forum format: When I say “the commentator above asserts:” ………I am specifically and exclusively referring to the Commentary offered by ‘JSweeney’.

    2. Jsweeney

      Mr. Sozay is certainly following the pattern evidenced by the LPDMI, if anyone provides evidence showing possible negative impacts of APR’s, they attack the messenger. Very predictable.

      His claim that the population increases and the increases in car/deer accidents and agricultural damage are solely attributable to recent mild winters is without substance, unless one were to believe that the impact of such winters would be limited to just Leelanau Co and not the immediately adjacent counties, as well. While mild winters may certainly contribute to increased recruitment and population increases, such an effect would be uniform across a geographic region and does not explain the difference in recent changes that have been seen in Leelanau Co. and not in adjacent counties.

      Here are the facts; car/deer accidents have increased in Leelanau Co. during the APR period, while decreasing or remaining unchanged in all of the other 11 surrounding counties. That is not the result of several mild winters, it’s the result of two factors, increased population resulting from the protection of yearling bucks with no offsetting increase in the number of antlerless deer harvested and greater numbers of bucks in the population. Car/Deer accident data has indicated that during the fall rut period, there is an increase in the frequency of car related deer mortality and that increase is higher among bucks than among does. Increase the number of bucks in the population, as has occurred under APR’s in Leelanau Co. and it’s not surprising that there will be a corresponding increase in the number of car/deer accidents. Mr. Sozay claims that limited numbers of antlerless permits are the reason that antlerless harvest has not increased to offset the population increase resulting from protecting 75% of the yearling age class. This claim is unsupported by the available harvest data. Prior to APR’s being enacted, when there were ample numbers of antlerless permits available, Leelanau county hunters harvested 1 antlerless deer for every 8 hunters. In recent years, with limited antlerless permits available, the harvest ratio has been an identical 1:8. In adjacent Benzie Co., the antlerless harvest ratio, during the time period prior to APR’s in Leelanau Co., was 1:9. Antlerless permits have been even more limited in Benzie Co. in recent years than in Leelanau Co, yet the antlerless harvest ratio over the last 5 years there is an identical 1:9. There is no evidence to support Mr. Sozay’s claim that the limited availability of antlerless permits has had anything to do with the population increases that have occurred under APR’s. It is simply a fabricated claim.

      Several of the other claims that he makes lack substance, as well. Peer reviewed research has documented substantial increases in the frequency of antler rubbing that occurs as bucks get older. Well known and credible white tailed deer experts such as Dr. Karl Miller, Dr. Grant Woods and John Ozoga, have reached that conclusion, as the result of their research. Mr. Sozay and the LPDMI have said that the buck age structure in Leelanau Co. has shifted substantially, increasing the number of older age bucks in the herd. Fruit farmers in Leelanau Co. have indicated substantial increases in the amount of antler rub damage to young fruit trees in recent years. A recent report by the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Station, a division of Michigan State University, detailed the levels of fruit tree antler rub damage that is occurring in Leelanau Co. and the resulting negative economic impact to farmers. Mr. Sozay and the LPDMI want to ignore the peer reviewed research documenting the increases in antler rubbing that occur with older buck age structures and they also want to ignore the increases that have occurred in damage to fruit trees in Leelanau Co. that has occurred under APR’s and the resulting negative economic impact to farmers. The response of some of the most vocal advocates for APR’s has been that these farmers should simply fence their hundreds of acres of orchards if they don’t like the amount of damage that is being caused by bucks to their trees. A somewhat arrogant and short sighted approach, some might say.

  7. klevans88

    These are not permanent changes. The effect will be evaluated in 5 years. It will then require another vote and approval. Michigan needs to make change to the hunting regulations. We are losing hunters. We have maintained hunter numbers by lowering the age limits to artificially inflate numbers. We have an aging group of hunters. The young people are not interested in hunting areas with low percentage chance of seeing a nice buck. The purpose of the proposal is to get more deer to the 2.5 and older age group. This will not only produce a slightly older age class of deer, but also create a healthier deer herd. I recommend watching the LPDMI video with an open mind.
    Change is not bad, it is only different!
    Definition of Insanity – Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results!
    Michigan’s current deer regulations are insanity!

  8. bioactive1

    Mr. Sweeney, you criticize us for using check station data, yet you did exactly the same in an “white paper” you sent out to farmers in the Leelanau County area, in a bid to scare them into thinking that TB would be introduced the herd by APRs. Do you remember saying this?

    “In Leelanau Co., prior to the imposition of APR’s, approx. 60% of antlered bucks
    harvested were yearlings, 20% 2.5 year olds and 20% older bucks (3.5+years of age).
    This would indicate a herd with a younger average buck age structure, which is the
    result of heavy harvest pressure on the yearling age class. In contrast, during the 8
    year APR period in Leelanau County, there was a substantial increase in the average
    age of harvested bucks. During that period, the percentage of yearling harvest fell to
    35%, which would indicate an additional 25% of the previously harvested yearling age
    class survived to be able to disperse to other areas, the percentage of 2.5 year olds
    harvested increased to 27% while the percentage of older bucks harvested almost
    doubled, to 38%. This indicates a substantial shift in the average age of bucks within
    the herd.”

    In this comment, you repeatedly identify check station data as reflecting harvest data.

    I have a simple question for you. Why is it OK for you to use the check station data to make a point, but it is “misleading” if we use it?

  9. farmlegend

    Well done. Worth noting how JSweeney’s spirited reply was utterly unresponsive to the article’s solid points and total dismantling of Richard Smith’s inaccurate and dishonest piece.

  10. bioactive1

    Yes, check station data are biased towards bigger bucks. That makes it all the more remarkable that prior to APRs, only 13% of the bucks brought in to check stations in Leelanau County were 3.5 years old and older, and 67% were 1.5. Those numbers changed to 50% and 20% respectively over the last few years.

    It is also remarkable that you criticize the LPDMI for using check station data, yet you sent a white paper to many farmers in the Leelanau County region, citing the exact same check station data and saying during the 8 year APR period in Leelanau County, “…there was a substantial increase in the average age of harvested bucks.”

    You used that data to try to scare farmers into thinking that diseases would be introduced into their area by older bucks under APRs.

    How on earth do you have the nerve to criticize us for using the exact same data you did? You were far less careful about identifying it as check station data than we were.

    Sweeney White Paper: (see page 19-20) http://concerned-sportsmen.net/uploads/APR_White_Paper__Rev._2_.pdf

    Jim Brauker, LPDMI member

    1. Jsweeney

      As with so much that is presented by the LPDMI, Mr. Braukers criticisms are long on hyperbole and short on actual facts. The paper of mine that he provided a link to (Thanks, Jim ) is not intended to scare anyone, it simply lays out the biological realities related to two communicable cervid diseases, CWD and TB and explores the potential impact that implementation of mandatory APR’s may have on increasing the spread of prevalence of those diseases. APR’s result in increased yearling dispersal and an older buck age structure, two factors that have been associated with increased potential for the spread of these two diseases. That fact is the primary reason the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to suspend APR’s in an area where CWD was found in the free ranging deer herd, as part of their risk mitigation efforts. These concerns are not simply abstract, a number of the counties that have been included in the recent mandatory APR initiatives are located in the portion of Michigan’s northern lower peninsula, where TB is endemic in the whitetail deer herd and where numerous diary and cattle farms have been forced to be depopulated due to the infection of cattle with TB, passed from deer.

      Mr. Brauker evidently missed the disclaimer that I included regarding the use of check station data in the paper that he linked to. It directly preceded the portion that he selectively decided to quote. It’s worth repeating, as it clearly describes the limitations inherent in using voluntary check station data, something that the LPDMI failed to explain.

      “It should be noted that the data available regarding the age class composition in
      individual counties in Michigan is somewhat limited. The Department of Natural
      Resources does not include age or antler point data in the statistical information
      gathered in the annual hunter survey. The limited data available is gathered at the
      voluntary check stations that the DNR uses for this purpose but the actual number of
      deer checked annually represents only a very small percentage of the deer harvested
      and the DNR has stated that the results are probably skewed towards larger and older
      animals, due to the voluntary nature of the data collection. Because check station
      availability varies widely form county to county, the value of comparisons between
      different counties is limited. This is not to say that there is not some valuable
      information to be gained from analyzing year to year changes that occur in individual
      counties, only that those changes may not be accurately representative of trends
      occurring in the actual harvest. Some of the estimates included in this paper are based
      on check station data and it needs to be stressed that the nature of this data may not
      accurately reflect the actual harvests that occur. ”

      I have not seen any kind of a similar disclaimer used by Mr. Brauker or the LPDMI, to explain the limitations of using voluntary check station data, which would certainly contradict Mr. Braukers claim of being “less careful” in identifying the limitations of check station data.

  11. Kosh

    Well written response, Jim. Thank-you for everything you have done for myself and for the MI Farm Bureau in helping us fight these LPDMI guys; We truly couldn’t have done it without you! I have some other ideas to float by you so I’ll give you a phone call later tonight. Kosh

  12. Jsweeney

    It should be noted that much of the information that the LPDMI is providing to convince people to support APR’s is either misleading or is pure conjecture that is not supported by any facts. Many of their claims are based on the premise that the check station data that they refer to is an accurate representation of the the actual harvest that occurs. What they fail to disclose is that this data is not based on a randomly generated statistical sampling but is merely the result of voluntary submissions, which represent a very, very small portion of the actual harvest. Unlike many other states, Michigan does not have mandatory deer check rules and in many counties, check stations don’t exist. That means if hunters want to voluntarily want to check their deer, often they have to drive long distances to do so. The result is that the data that is gathered is highly skewed and varies substantially from county to county, which makes comparisons between different counties, sketchy at best. In fact the Michigan DNR has bluntly stated that this data is not the result of random statistical sampling and has said that “the fact that these data are from deer voluntarily brought to the check stations probably means that larger and/or older animals are more likely to be examined.” In 2012, for example, there were 1,532 antlered bucks harvested in Leelanau Co., yet only 86 bucks (5%) were voluntarily brought to the check station. That means that data on 95% of the bucks harvested was not included in the small, non-random, voluntarily submitted group of bucks on which the LPDMI is basing the graph that they included, which is somewhat misleadingly labeled “Buck Harvest in Leelanau Co.” A more accurate label might be, “a non-representative , tiny sampling of the bucks harvested in Leelanau Co, which the DNR identifies as being skewed towards larger and older bucks.” ; )

    The LPDMI makes similarly unsubstantiated claims, when they imply that the increase in population that has occurred under APR’s in Leelanau Co. is attributable to the lack of antlerless permits available there. This claim is contradicted by the facts. During 2001 & 2002, prior to APR’s being put in place, during a time period when antlerless permits were widely available, the ratio of antlerless deer harvested to hunters was 1/8, or one antlerless deer harvested for each 8 hunters. Antlerless permits in Leelanau Co. have been highly limited during the last four years, yet the ratio of antlerless deer harvested to hunters? 1/8, identical to the harvest ratio that occurred prior to antlerless permits being limited. Their claim that overpopulation has been the result of limited antlerless permits is simply not a credible claim and is unsupported by available data.

    The facts are that car/deer accidents have risen substantially in Leelanau Co. under APR’s, the deer population has increased and agricultural damage to fruit trees from antler rubbing has increased substantially due to the change in the buck age structure resulting from APR’s. None of these negative impacts have been mentioned by the LPDMI during the public presentations that they have made, during the course of their campaign to “sell” antler restrictions, which has created a distorted view of the actual impact that may occur from introducing antler restrictions to other portions of Michigan

    It’s certainly ironic that a group which has used misleading and unsupported claims to further their agenda is now accusing individuals who oppose these restrictions as being “untruthful”. Pot meet kettle!

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