My state has hunting seasons during the rut, and still produces top end animals. Besides isnt the rut still going on in DEC.,in an area over populated with doe's? I know I've seen bucks checking out estrus scents clear up to the last days of the season around here anyway. I would also think that the rigors of late winter would stress the bucks more with a hunting season during the coldest time of the year. They already are dealing with heavy snow cover,frozen ground, a limited food source, and weight loss, then you throw slugs and group hunts at them on top of it all. This is a time when they should be more worried about how they can be gaining wieght back from the rut, instead of where to hide from hunters. My beliefs are that a earlier gun season would put less stress on bucks. As for the topic, I know over populated doe herds effect the size of deer antlers, but also think the same effect could even be in a area where there is ample food sources for the herd to be at peak health. I'm adding this to my many reasons I believe in harvesting excess doe's and letting young bucks walk. You never know keeping all those doe's to attract a few bucks during the rut, could be negatively affecting the size of antlers on those very same bucks. [;)]
"Let a young buck go, so he can grow."