DEER MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Kip Adams, QDMA Director of Education and Outreach, Northern Region
Quality Deer Management (QDM) is a household name to modern day deer hunters. You can’t pick up a hunting magazine, watch the Outdoor Channel, or talk to the guys at camp without seeing or hearing the letters QDM. The rise in popularity of QDM is a good thing for deer, other wildlife species, habitats and hunters. While today’s hunters are more educated than ever before, there are still too many that don’t fully understand how QDM differs from traditional or trophy deer management. This article will compare and contrast the three management strategies using seven measurable variables. I’ll begin by defining the three strategies and will then compare each to the variables in bullet point fashion. Traditional deer management (TraDM) is the approach where any antlered buck, regardless of age or antler quality is harvested and few, if any does are harvested. This is the management strategy that every state in the country used and most continue to use today. This strategy may work when the deer herd is below the habitat’s carrying capacity but fails when the herd equals or exceeds the carrying capacity. QDM is the approach where young bucks are protected from harvest, combined with an adequate harvest of female deer to produce healthy deer herds in balance with existing habitat conditions. QDM is first and foremost about putting the right number of deer on the landscape. If a habitat will support 20 deer per square mile, QDM says put 20 deer per square mile on it. If a habitat will support 30 deer per square mile – put 30 deer per square mile on it, but don’t put 30 deer on habitat that can only support 20. QDM also improves age structures by allowing bucks to reach all age classes – not just 1 and 2 years. QDM accomplishes this by not shooting yearlings. Trophy deer management (TroDM) is the approach where only fully mature bucks, 5-7 years old, with high scoring antlers (with the exception of cull bucks) are harvested and does are aggressively harvested to maintain low deer density and optimum nutrition for the remaining animals. TroDM is not practical in much of the United States and the strategy is negatively viewed by much of the hunting and non-hunting public. Acreage Requirements • none for TraDM • varying acreage requirements for QDM • 5,000-10,000 acres required for TroDM Buck Harvest • shoot mostly young bucks in TraDM • shoot bucks 2.5+ year-old bucks in QDM • shoot fully mature (5-7 years old) and cull bucks in TroDM Doe Harvest • shoot few or no does in TraDM • shoot adequate number of does in QDM (number is often high) • shoot high number of does in TroDM Adult Sex Ratio • generally skewed toward does in TraDM • more balanced ratios in QDM • nearly equal ratios in TroDM Deer vs. Habitat • deer herd greater than habitat’s carrying capacity in TraDM • deer herd in balance with habitat’s carrying capacity in QDM • deer herd less than habitat’s carrying capacity in TroDM Influence on Habitat • moderate to severe habitat damage in TraDM • minimal habitat damage in QDM • minimal habitat damage in TroDM Deer–Human Conflicts • high deer-human conflicts in TraDM • reduced deer-human conflicts in QDM • low deer-human conflicts in TroDM The seven items above show how the different management strategies affect our deer herds and habitats. Each strategy is unique and shouldn’t be confused with the others. For example, QDM is as different from TroDM as it is from TraDM, even though many hunters and non-hunters incorrectly consider QDM and TroDM to be one in the same. Each strategy has its place in deer management, but evaluation of the deer herd and habitat is necessary to correctly choose the strategy that will be most effective at producing a healthy deer herd and healthy habitat. TraDM works when the deer population is below the habitat’s carrying capacity and the goal is to increase the deer herd and provide recreational hunting. TroDM works best when the goal is to produce mature, trophy-class bucks with high scoring antlers. QDM works best when the deer population is at or exceeding the habitat’s carrying capacity and the goal is to improve the health of the deer herd and balance it with available habitat. Fortunately, QDM also provides tremendous hunting opportunities. Kip’s Korner is written by Kip Adams, a Certified Wildlife Biologist and Northern Director of Education and Outreach for the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). The QDMA is an international nonprofit wildlife conservation organization dedicated to ethical hunting, sound deer management and preservation of the deer-hunting heritage. The QDMA can be reached at 1-800-209-DEER or www.QDMA.com.