Quality Deer Management Essay, Research Paper
Quality Deer Management
There is no other big-game animal in North America like the white-tailed deer. The whitetails habitat is so widespread that it covers just about all of North America and parts of Central America. The white-tailed deer is the most commonly hunted big game animal ever. Before the settlers arrived, an estimated 30 million whitetails inhabited what is now the United States and Canada. But as settlers pursued them for food and market hunters slaughtered them with snares, traps, and set guns, the deer population underwent a disastrous decline. By 1900, only 400,000 whitetails remained.
What happened ever since 1900 has truly become a huge conservation success story. Through a massive effort by sportsmen and wildlife managers, market hunting was outlawed, sport-hunting regulations were established, and habitat improvement programs began. Because of the efforts of these concerned people the whitetail population has risen to around 20 million.
The deer population has increased so much that in many areas, they suffer from chronic starvation. “Bucks only” laws passed years ago to help in re-establishing the dwindling deer herds now work against the deer by resulting in an overabundance of does. Even with the overabundance of does many hunters refuse to shoot a doe. They believe in the old saying, “It takes a doe to yield a buck.” This is entirely true but it ignores the basic law of nature that any piece of land, and the food and cover in it, can support only so much game. If the excess game is not harvested by hunters or killed by predators, nature will take over and exterminate enough animals as needed or more through disease and starvation. That’s why hunting is a much more humane means for a deer to die then to die of disease or starvation.
There is a lot more then can be done to help the whitetail deer reach the highest level of quality that is possible. One great naturalist and well-known deer researcher, Aldo Leopold, once said, “There is value in any experience that exercises those ethical restraints collectively called sportsmanship.” That quote sums up why the concept of Quality Deer Management is becoming more and more popular in the hunting community today. All over the continent deer hunters are welcoming a philosophy of deer management unlike the traditional methods that they were used to in the past. However, while some parts of North America are welcoming the idea with open arms, others seem to be dragging their feet.
It is impossible to discuss deer at all without talking about deer management, because there is there hardly a deer alive in America today that is not directly influenced by man. We control the water the deer drinks, the food that it eats, and the land that it lives on, and we regulate the manner, sex, and amount of deer harvested. The problem lies in the way we manage the deer herd. The time has come to practice Quality Deer Management.
First of all some of you might be wondering exactly what is Quality Deer Management. Well the best way to describe it is by stating its goals. Brian Murphy, executive director of the Quality Deer Management Association, used this definition, “Quality Deer Management can be defined as a management philosophy/practice that unites landowners, hunters, and biologists in the common goal of producing biologically and socially balanced deer herds within existing environmental, social and legal constraints.” There are three things needed in order for Quality Deer Management to work. You need quality deer habitat, quality deer hunting, and quality deer hunters. The primary goal of Quality Deer Management is to manage for populations and attributes of the deer before we came in and screwed it up. What would be ideal is to have a 1-1 sex ratio and a good amount of mature bucks and does.
Quality Deer Management as we know it today is believed by many to be introduced by Texan Al Brothers. In 1975, Brothers and Murphy Ray Jr. co-authored the book Producing Quality Whitetails. In this book they wrote, “(This) information is for the benefit of all persons who believe in the wise use of our natural resources. Particularly, it is for those who have an uncommon interest in deer herd management, the production of bucks in quality and quantity, and the ultimate reward of good management – the harvest, by hunting, of surplus deer.”
When the concept of Quality Deer Management was first introduced there was very slow progress. The idea of Quality Deer Management was at first believed to be a “Texas thing,” because it was much easier to implement on the large ranches of Texas. However, many hunters had heard of the quality of the whitetails in Texas and decided to hunt the land and see for themselves. Slowly but surely the practice moved its way to other regions.
After Quality Deer Management had gained acceptance around many areas of North America. However, there were still many challenges that faced the practice, including traditions, misconceptions, land restrictions and philosophical differences.
For example, deer herds were traditionally managed to protect does so regions could rebuild their herds. In the process, bucks were overharvested. As a result, buck harvests in most of the northern states were comprised of more then 80 percent yearlings.
Unlike southern areas, where most deer habitat consists of larger tracts of private land, most northern habitat is made up of small parcels. Because people in the south have more land at their control, it was easy to practice Quality Deer Management. Northern states have a tougher time because even if you want to practice Quality Deer Management the people that hunt the land next you may not want to.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, the U.S. had major economic growth. At the same time, western Canada and the Midwest of the U.S. had a major increase in deer populations. Because hunters had extra money they decided to travel to these places to hunt large, mature bucks. What these people saw on these trips made them wonder if they could get those kind of results on their land.
Another interesting aspect of hunting started in the 90’s, deer hunters were getting older. The average age for a deer hunter today is 40 years old. Most of the hunters in this age group were in the 4 stage of deer hunting. The first stage is the shooter phase. This stage is where a hunter is just looking to get bucks under his belt. The second stage is the limiting-out phase, where the hunter wants to get as many bucks as possible. Stage number 3 is the trophy stage. This is the stage that I am at right now. I skipped right over the 2nd stage and straight to trophies. The trophy phase is were you’ll pass up smaller bucks hoping to find the king of the woods. Then there’s the 4th stage, which is the method stage. The method phase makes a deer hunter hungry to learn more about things like land and deer management. This is a big reason why Quality Deer Management is becoming popular around the country. When hunters reach the 5th stage Quality Deer Management should reach its peak. The 5th stage is the mellowing-out/ sportsman’s stage. At this stage the hunter will have enough time and money to use Quality Deer Management to its fullest.
Even though there are so many benefits to Quality Deer Management, not everyone has taken to this practice. There is an old saying that goes “We’ve never done things that way before.” This is probably a big factor to wildlife agencies rejecting Quality Deer Management.
Some states have tried to use Quality Deer Management on a small scale. In 1998, New York tried to enroll an 84 square-mile tract into the Quality Deer Management Program. All four of the townships had to agree on the plan for it to take place. It was approved 11 out of the 14 times it was voted on but in the end it failed. “The public was divided on the issue, though more appeared in favor then those against. Most of the opposition revolved around the fact that people didn’t want the government telling them how they had to manage their land. In addition, some merchants wanted to be reimbursed if the movement caused lost revenues. There was also a very vocal group of local hunters who didn’t want to see any change from the way things had been done in the past.” Said Nate Tripp, who was a deer biologist who was involved in the project.
Another major problem is caused by people called “advantage takers.” These are people that will set up hunting stands along the property lines of hunters that practice Quality Deer Management. These people realize that they will have a better chance to take the bucks – mostly yearlings and 2 ? year old bucks – that Quality Deer Management landowners want to protect.
The rise of land prices also contributes to the problems facing Quality Deer Management. Sometimes you’ll get landowners that have practiced Quality Deer Management for many years, then sell small parts of their land for much more then its worth. People will see the advertisement in the paper and see that its been under Quality Deer Management for so long; they’ll buy the land, and overhunt it for a couple of years and then sell it again. The price that hunting land sells for has gone up so much that it is now more expensive to buy hunting land then farm land.
Despite land prices, small parcels of land, low doe harvest, and opposing public opinion, I think the benefits of Quality Deer Management far outweigh the drawbacks. Before my hunting group began practicing Quality Deer Management, my hunting partners followed the old saying “If its brown, its down.” Even though I haven’t fully broken them of that habit, they’re making some progress. We began this practice at the beginning of the 1997 season. For the first two years we really didn’t notice a difference in the quality of the deer on our land. But in 1999 the larger bucks began appearing. As a matter of fact 1999 was probably the most productive year deer hunting that our parcel of land has ever seen. Out of the three bowhunters in our group (my dad, troy, and myself), both Troy and I shot a 13-pointer and an 11-pointer respectively. Ever since 1999 I have noticed that the amount and quality of the bucks have risen more and more each year. Because of the size of the bucks that roam our land, hunting has become even more enjoyable then it was before. When you know that there are larger bucks out there, you tend to stay out in the woods longer and pay more attention.
One benefit that I enjoy my self, and I know others do, is that I get the experience to manage deer to the highest level of quality that it can be. I also love putting all my knowledge of whitetails to good use and see if I can make a difference in the deer herd, even if it’s just on our land.
I believe that Quality Deer Management will only get bigger as time goes on. However this depends on two factors. First, education must continue for hunters and non-hunters alike. It is important to remember that Quality Deer Management is not only a “for trophies only” idea. I forget this myself a lot. Quality Deer Management is for the well being of all habitats and the balance of sex ratios, and from better hunter-landowner relationship to better managers of whitetailed deer. Secondly, the success of Quality Deer Management will also depend on how wildlife agencies respond to this idea. Throughout history, many northern states have gone all out on shooting bucks. Now they realize that just shooting bucks do not equal quality deer herds.
I believe that it is time to make Quality Deer Management a part of every hunters game plan. The benefits may not happen right away but after a couple of years you will have years and years of quality hunting. You not only will have a better hunting experience but you will also have fun implementing Quality Deer Management on your land.
http://www.burnsville.org/deer_management June 18, 2001
http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/ July 19, 2001
QDM: Are You Up To Its Challenges? Deer and Deer Hunting November 1999 Krause Publications Inc.
QDM: Can Your State Make It Happen? Deer and Deer Hunting November 1999 Krause Publications Inc.