Ok, I will just come out and say it.
The one buck rule is far superior to antler restrictions when it comes to managing deer for all hunters. I know some hunters are not going to like this and some will adamantly disagree. Just hear me out and if you want to shoot me down – go for it.
The key part of my statement is “all hunters”. Antler point restrictions manage more towards the trophy hunter. The one buck rule offers more opportunity for the hunters that are not as interested in bone. I am thinking of kids and new hunters mostly when I say this. If a small buck walks by, I want them to be able to shoot it. Success is very important to new hunter recruitment and the one buck rule is a better way to facilitate it.
A trophy is in the eye of the beholder. Some only consider a deer a trophy if he reaches a certain score or point total. Those are the types of people that argue most for restrictions. Antler point restrictions may allow for more opportunities for those types of deer but it is not all about antler size. My sister killed a small fork horn this year and she was ecstatic. That deer is going on her wall. I say, let people pick the trophy they want.
In a one buck state, once you make your choice, that is it. You chose your buck, and that is all you get. A few years back I shot a nice six point. It was nothing huge, but it was my second buck with a bow and he gave me a perfect shot. Two weeks later I was out trying to add a doe to the freezer and had the biggest buck of my life stand 30 yards broadside. I had already made my choice and had to let it walk. A more patient hunter will have the opportunity to shoot that monster.
In most antler restricted states you can kill multiple bucks. In essence, hunters are all competing for the same deer throughout the season. A hunter can shoot a basket rack eight in bow season and then kill another one in rifle season. That takes out two deer from the herd that could have grown into much bigger bucks, reducing the trophy potential for next season.
In a one buck state once a hunter kills a buck he is out of the running. This makes hunters more selective. More bucks are passed in one buck states and allowed to reach maturity than in antler restrictive states. I personally have not killed bucks some years, not because I did not see any, but because I wanted a mature one. So next year’s trophy potential has increased because the deer I passed can live another year.
One buck states offer the best of both worlds. Young hunters can choose their trophy and seasoned mature buck hunters have a greater opportunity to harvest a mature buck. Sure there may be places where antler restrictions can bring back balance to a herd with low buck numbers but in those cases it should be used in conjunction with the one buck rule. Then once it is back in balance drop the antler restrictions and keep the one buck.