Quality Deer managment
By Bianca Burnett
There is no arguing that in North America, the big-game animal that comes to mind first is the whitetail deer. This deer not only in North America but also in parts of Central America. Whitetail deer is the most commonly sought big game to hunt. Prior to settlers the population reaching somewhere in the ballpark of 30 million throughout the United States and Canada. Only to find around 400,000 by the 1900’s. Not what you expected to read? Hold on before you jump ship! I’m speaking deer management my friends, and how it has brought back these glorious numbers once on the decline. What took place since the early 1900’s can easily be said as the greatest conservation success story and I’m going to explain how.
Thanks to the past effort and success of sportsmen and sportswomen, regulations were established, market hunting was outlawed and habitat management and improvement programs put into place. Due to these efforts the whitetail population has seen upwards of 20 million. So, what does this mean to you? Story over, case closed? Not so fast, numbers don’t always mean a good thing. Now these numbers have potentially turned in areas and causing chronic starvation and the overabundance of doe, now causing the negative effects on the population.
How many times have you looked online a seen only bucks harvested? Maybe even someone being poked fun at because they shot a doe? While mature buck harvesting is all around a great mindset for a seasoned hunter, it cannot be the mindset of every hunter. Have you ever heard the saying, “It takes a doe to yield a buck?”
While this is true, this simply is ignoring a simple and basic law of nature. If the excess game is not harvested and there are not enough predators, nature will begin to balance itself, through disease and starvation. This seems to be a slippery slope I’m sure many of us do not want to see our deer go down.
There is no intelligent way to discuss deer if deer management is not involved. Aldo Leopold, once said, “There is value in any experience that exercises those ethical restraints collectively called sportsmanship.” This quote is a great way to sum up the full concept of Quality Deer Hunting. Many across the country have welcomed this philosophy and management directive openly. I’m sure you have seen or been asked “Are you out for doe patrol this season? While there are many working on the population balance, many still dare not shoot a doe. Do keep in mind, while I say doe patrol, keep up with YOUR state, region, zone etc. Not all areas are in crises and follow the specified limits. Now back to the central issue, many across the country are still stubborn and will not harvest a doe.
Quality Deer Management has gained great acceptance across North America. However, there continues to be many challenge the practice, some include traditions, misconceptions, land restrictions. When I say land restrictions, let me clarify. In the southern states which is where I live, also where the majority of the whitetail deer habitat is, consists of larger tracts of private land. While going upwards, most northern habitat is made up of small parcels. Due to this, more people in the south have land at their control, making it easy to practice Quality Deer Management. The Northern states have a different story, because of land issues, Quality Deer Management is less in opportunity. Keep in mind also leasing land and lease owner rules vs state regulations. My last lease for instance, had a club rule of 6 points or more to shoot. Just for instance although not a doe rule.
Let me take a step back just in case anyone is wondering exactly what Quality Deer Management is. Brian Murphy, who is the executive director of the Quality Deer Management Association, saying this as the 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.” Quality Deer Management is comprised of three things. As listed the three include, quality deer habitat, quality deer hunting, and quality deer hunters. The only goal of Quality Deer Management is to manage for populations and avoid a disastrous future in the species. Ideally a good number and goal is to have a 1-1 sex ratio, this being mature buck to doe.
Issues arise along time as seen when a land is exchanged from an owner who practiced deer management then the land goes to less than deserving individuals or overprices the land. The land may then be overhunted and passed to another. This does two things, keeps the prices astronomical, and yet the population of the land dwindles as the owner’s misuse and abuse the previously well cared for land and its deer. Simply stated, new owners may not always take mind to what they shoot or its effects long term, while the previous owner did. Some of this is intentional and some of this is just lack of knowledge. This is the purpose of writing this. Over time much has changed, for instance at times, no doe was legal to shoot in some zones in Alabama. Fast forward this just caused more issue as only shooting bucks couldn’t be a long term, lasting law. This would not equalize the deer herds. Success in deer management lies with the hunter as well as the wildlife agencies response and reactions.
I say this to urge each and every hunter to be a part of quality deer management. Be mindful of your actions and remember the part you play today will have its role in the future! If you are truly a lover of the game you hunt, be sure to give small donations to your local wildlife foundations as they work for you! Be sure to be kind to each other and openly willing to share knowledge to new hunters as well as none hunters who may be angry due to lack of knowledge. Hunting is not something to be used as a way of popularity or attention, it is a privilege. If you have the attention of many, use it to help continue the quest in bettering the future of hunting for the generations to come. It will take us all to work for a better future. From the land owners, hunters, and agencies, we are the future and a must be a team to succeed.