Missouri’s ‘Antler Point’ Restriction: Don’t Drink the Kool Aid!



Beginning in 2004, the Missouri Department of Conservation began testing Antler Point Restrictions on hunters, as a deer management tool. In 2008 it was extended to 65 counties, comprising the upper 2/3 of the state. From MDC Online:

 “The APR requires a buck to have at least 4 points on one side to be legal. The restriction applied to the archery season and all portions of the firearms season except the youth portion. The expectation was that restricting the bucks that could be taken would promote a larger doe harvest. An additional benefit of this restriction would be that more bucks survive longer and grow antlers large enough to be considered trophies by hunters.”

“Trophies!… “Trophies!… TROPHIES!!!!”


 MDC’s “Hunting tips for counties with antler-point restrictions” offers this sage advice- “Bring binoculars and give yourself plenty of time to count antler points before you take a shot. Wait for a buck that has at least four points on one side. Successful hunters wait for the best shot – when the deer turns broadside. Learn to recognize antlers from this view to minimize errors in the field.”


Now I am generally not a vocal critic of MDC and many of its recent changes have been good ones. The ‘Telecheck’ system eliminated the need to haul your deer across the county to a check station. Missouri deer hunters also enjoy one of the simplest ‘legal firearms’ descriptions on record.

Still- this Antler Point Restriction nonsense is for the birds.

First, APR stacks the odds against novice hunters- and as a father and husband who’s been in on a number of ‘first deer’ I can tell you that these hunters need all the help they can get. Many of these are kids, out with Dad or Uncle Fred for their first deer hunt. Under the ‘old rules’ they’d see maybe 1-5 shootable deer per season; and they might get a safe, sure shot at only one of those. They are thrilled to get any deer at all and even a forkhorn buck is a big deal to them and now, novice hunters must pass on BOTH these bucks:


‘Don’t be fooled by size. The buck on the left has a large rack, but it has only three points on each side—just like the one on the right. Both of these deer are illegal under the four-point restriction.


APR discourages this vitally-important group of opportunities. New hunters are quite literally the future of hunting and the last thing we need is to discourage them.

 Second, APR is a slap in the face to ‘traditional hunters’ who use iron-sighted .30-30’s, military rifles and period firearms from 1830 forward.


Folks, this is deer hunting at its finest and it is the essence of hunting in general. APR requires that the traditional hunter spend more time squinting at bucks, than shooting them.

 Third, APR turns a uniquely American test of hunting & shooting skills into an equipment race. We have done just fine with a 10 year old set of budget binoculars here and most of our ‘deer guns’ wear carefully-zeroed iron sights. The only ‘scoped rifle in the outfit has a 4X on it, which has facilitated precise shots and instant kills at well over 200 yards. Now, by edict of the crowned heads at MDC, all of our optics are obsolete. I suppose we could run down to China-Mart and drop a grand on some new glass; but I am disinclined to have the state dictate how I spend my recreational dollar.

 Fourth, APR does nothing to alleviate the hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage and personal injury caused by deer each year, in Missouri. MDC obviously knows this because the Kansas City and St. Louis areas got a ‘hall pass’ on APR. Now, this would probably never occur to the Commission- but us ‘dayum hillbillys’ don’t liked to wreck our pickups anymore than them high-falutin’ city slickers do! Someone in my neck of the woods learned this first hand. By the third day of the season, there was a spike buck lying dead along 135 Highway, just south of US-50. He was doubtless passed over by hunters but he died just the same and somebody got a repair bill- thanks to APR.


 My final complaint with APR is that it promotes the notion that deer hunting is all about ‘points and trophies’ rather than harvesting the winter meat. Every young deer hunter I’ve mentored, has been taught exactly the opposite. We’ve killed a few decent bucks over the years, but shooting a big rack was never the driving force behind the hunt. And frankly- ‘an obsession with racks’ has never been a character trait of the better hunters I’ve ever known.


I hate to see MDC foster this kind of thinking. 


8 Responses to Missouri’s ‘Antler Point’ Restriction: Don’t Drink the Kool Aid!

  1. John Reynolds says:

    I hunt 25 acres of rocks and trees that is a travel corridor between neighboring farms. My shots are few and far between and usually requires a quick shot. If not for point restrictions, my side hammer .54 TC White Mountain Carbine wouldn’t be wearing that stupid looking 4x scope. Who’s hunting, me or my neighbors sitting in a stand overlooking a 20 acre field, more times than not with a corn pile 150 yards away glassing does until their “trophy” shows up? MDC used to be about helping the locals putting meat in their freezer. Now it’s all about trophies whether it be turkeys, catfish or deer. Last year they tried to up the acreage on landowner tags. If they spent more time enforcing the no baiting laws and not worrying about the five acre landowner sitting in his/her woods, we’d probably see less CWC, blue tongue, the smart bucks going nocturnal because they can pick up food and “companionship” at the local corn pile and the frustration of small time meat hunters, sometimes causing them to “go rogue”. In the last several years, I’ve gotten more venison from the trophy hunters who just want the horns than I have on my own. They drop them off and I process them, Their usually amazed that I’ll eat those “strong tasting bucks.” Assholes….

  2. Kyle says:

    This is a perfect example of an uninformed stakeholder. I will first remind you that there is no APR for youth hunters so they can still shoot whatever they please. Second, I have been hunting my whole life and have never once had an issue identifying antler points on deer. I have a cheap set of binoculars and that’s it. I have rifle hunted in fields where I could have shots exceeding 300 yards but not once have I been unable to see a deers’ points. Also my scope is a 3-9×40 that cost me a whopping $99. This just takes time and practice to get an eye for it. If Missouri hunters are so trigger happy they can’t take time to identify first, then I need to stick to bow season because the orange army is too dangerous. Finally and most importantly, your argument is not ecologically sound. Like so many hunters you think you know better than MDC. For example, APR were not created to increase numbers of trophys for trophy hunters. They were put in place because so many young bucks were being killed that it was drastically changing the age class in many areas which would eventually cause a collapse in the overall herd structure. Most deer that are illegal with APR are sexually immature. APR allows them to live to an age where they can reproduce. So if you want to consistently put meat on the table you can thank APR. Also, if you want to reduce vehicle collisions in an area you won’t need to worry about APR. The best way to decrease overall population while still keeping a healthy herd is to kill DOES! And if you kill a few of them you will actually see an increase in the amount of bucks in the following years. Overall the APR restriction is a good thing for the state. I respect your right to have your opinion but until you spend 4+ years working on a bachelor’s and/or masters, your false claims will only contribute to more stakeholder misinformation.

  3. Sarge says:

    Where do I start, Kyle?

    “…I have been hunting my whole life and have never once had an issue identifying antler points on deer. I have a cheap set of binoculars and that’s it. I have rifle hunted in fields where I could have shots exceeding 300 yards but not once have I been unable to see a deers’ points. Also my scope is a 3-9×40 that cost me a whopping $99. This just takes time and practice to get an eye for it. ”

    Seeing a “Deer’s points” is not the same as COUNTING them. I shoot routinely at 300 yards, so I know what it looks like. You are essentially saying I can hold my hand up, turn it sideways, move it continually, then jog off- and you will still be able to see how many fingers I’m holding up, using your cheap binos and $99 scope. Calling BS on that one- and NO, “time and practice to get an eye for it” does not equate visual clarity.

    I note you immediately attempted to paint anyone who disagrees with APR as ‘trigger happy’ and unsafe to be in the woods with. You just shot yourself in the credibility twice, pal.

    “Most deer that are illegal with APR are sexually immature. APR allows them to live to an age where they can reproduce.”

    So only the guys with big racks are gettin’ any? LMAO!! You need to spend some time in the woods during the rut.

    Then this gem…

    “The best way to decrease overall population while still keeping a healthy herd is to kill DOES!”

    APR is working so well at ‘keeping the herd healthy’ it has been lifted in CWD Management Zones.


    ” I respect your right to have your opinion but until you spend 4+ years working on a bachelor’s and/or masters, your false claims will only contribute to more stakeholder misinformation.”

    And I respect your right to be an educated idiot, or I would never have approved your post 😉 Live long and prosper, Kyle.

  4. Kyle says:

    Well hey! Thank you for the approval!! But I am not quite finished yet. Since we have shifted to a CWD theme I have a few more points to throw out and some response as well. I’ll be more objective this time since subjectivity is not quantitative or repeatable. My apologies.

    First, to address a previous point, in a healthy deer herd only mature bucks will breed, yes. This does not always happen but it should in a well managed population Also, studies have shown (I will link once I’m out of the stand) that increased doe harvest will increase prevalence of mature bucks in an area.

    Now the big guy, CWD. APR has been lifted in CWD positive counties because it will increase harvest (duh). This harvest increase is more for the purpose of monitoring than disease eradication. While it obviously can help with slowing CWD, herd culling was adopted by MDC as a preliminary response until further information can be obtained. This is because to eradicate a disease one must know whether it is frequency or density dependent. Is transmission mainly direct, indirect, or both? In the case of CWD you have prions that can remain in the environment for an unknown period of time (2,4,8,16+ years we don’t know). How do we deal with those? As far as we know, there is currently no feasible way to eradicate CWD from wild populations.

    Studies have shown that CWD has aspects of both frequency and density dependence and infects hosts through direct and indirect transmission. It is not currently known if CWD has a minimum host population threshold. If it is found to not rely fully on population then culling will not be an effective method of CWD eradication. If culling is found to be effective and CWD is removed, then there will likely be APR and other restrictive measures put back in place in those counties to redistribute the population through the different age classes in whatever ratio MDC finds acceptable. Some researchers are testing the “no action” method. If that model is adopted (not likely) you could see APR go back to those counties. Realistically, the model adopted will be somewhere in the middle of these models. Before that can happen, much more has to be learned about CWD. It is a very hard disease to understand and manage in wild populations.

    In the article you linked in your response, it is stated that APR could have contributed to proliferation of CWD. CWD has shown no real biased towards age class. MDC has said young bucks could translocate the disease while searching for new territory but by their own admittance this is a hypothesis. Deer biologists have also found that increased doe harvest can create more room for young bucks, so why not kill more does and mature bucks to leave room so the little guys don’t have travel?

    • Sarge says:

      Please note that I restored your original user name from ‘EI’. But you certainly cracked me up when I read it. My apologies. You’re no more an idiot than I am likely to accidentally shoot my horse/dog/Uncle Fred. So let’s dispense with the innuendo and carry on like gentlemen.

      Your response is well written and offers plausible theory, research and proposed courses of action for CWD affected areas. What we are talking about here, however is why the Missouri Department of Conservation chose to remove APR from the areas with the worst CWD concentrations. If testing harvested deer is a primary motivator for MDC, why did they request it instead of requiring it?

      I will close with this- in my mind, CWD has become a bigger issue than APR. I am about to the point I wouldn’t even shoot a deer in the CWD areas. It’s all rather sad to this old meat hunter.

      Again, thank you for your response.

  5. Kyle says:

    We bicker yet our viewpoints are not as different as they may seem. There is no doubt MDC will always need to modify policies to please stakeholder and biological needs, such is the foundation of adaptive management. Unfortunately there is no one “perfect” system so people across the state (and country) will continue to argue about deer management. Argument can be good (when done professionally as I think we did) as it can produce knew ideas and new action both of which are necessary when discussing tactics to manage the most exploited North American mammal in current times.

    Also to answer your question, from my understanding MDC wanted testing to be mandatory but they faced strong local opposition to it. Intially people were very upset about the culling so I think that was a compromise from MDC. I wouldn’t be surprised though if it becomes mandatory soon however that is just my opinion.

    Thank you for the stimulating debate. Now I’ll need to page through the rest of this site as I am a secret gun nut. Cheers.

  6. Sarge says:

    It’d be a dull old world if we saw everything the same way. Welcome to the campfire.

  7. Mike Leicht says:

    I’m also having trouble counting points on moving deer in the field especially in low light conditions. I just passed up shots on three large bucks during rifle season. I have a 30 foot open space between two tracts of woods to count antlers as they walk through. I wanted to shoot but didn’t because I wasn’t absolutely positive and was fearful of making a mistake and getting into trouble.
    I wish MDC would offer an optional higher priced tag that would allow the purchaser to harvest a three point versus four point on one side to give a little leeway so the hunter would still be legal. I wonder how many deer are harvested and just left in the field because there aren’t enough points. I wait all year for deer season and want to harvest a deer without fear of making a mistake and getting into trouble.

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