Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Interested in some ‘quality deer management?’ Here’s what to know

If you’ve hunted deer for more than a few years, you’ve no doubt heard the term “quality deer management,” or QDM. By now, there’s plenty of information out there about QDM, both good and bad, true and untrue.

After implementing QDM for the better part of a decade now, here’s what I think you should know when you’re starting out.

Defining the purpose

First and foremost, I’ve noticed many folks around home have a misunderstanding of QDM and its principles. It can be seen as a dirty word, associated often with “trophy hunting,” which is unfortunate, because “trophy deer management” has a set of principles all its own.

Having spent a few years in Texas, I have a clear-eyed view of the difference between QDM and managing for so-called trophy deer, and I can promise you, they are not the same.

Implementing QDM is based on whole-herd management, essentially taking a biologist’s perspective on deer management and recognizing that proper herd management takes into account not just bucks, but also does, fawn production, sex ratios, habitat quality and capacity, and so much more.

Are older, larger bucks a typical side-effect of QDM implementation? Without a doubt, but they are a part of the whole. The overarching goal is to take management responsibility for the local deer herd and recognize that to properly manage deer, we have to manage the entire herd, not just the ones we want to put on the wall.

Strap in and buckle down

If your goal is to improve the herd and have a higher proportion of older age-class bucks on your stomping grounds, fair warning; it can be a long, hard road. Old habits die hard, and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is this: It takes three years to grow a 3-year-old buck.

Hunters in many areas of Minnesota harvest a disproportionate number of bucks relative to their abundance in the over all population. Although deer numbers are good across large swaths of the state, antlerless deer tend to outnumber antlered deer by a good margin. If anything, many areas could do with substantially higher doe harvest.

I say this only to instill patience. It takes time to see widespread changes across a whole deer herd. I’ve spent many years harvesting multiple does and eating my buck tag in order to do my part to better my local herd and to reduce the disparity in sex ratios. If you go into a QDM regimen and think you’ll be killing huge bucks in a year or two, you’re likely to be disappointed. Stay the course, believe in what you’re doing, and enjoy the process.

Know thy neighbor

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “If I don’t shoot it, my neighbors will,” I could’ve had a free bow this year. It may seem true if you don’t know your neighbors, but have you ever even talked with them?

I made the effort to start connecting with neighbors a few years ago, and it was incredibly mind-opening.

Turns out there were far more folks around me that had the same goals as I did, and had been doing their part to better the herd as long as I had.

A funny side-effect of talking with my neighbors is that I’ve become even more picky than I previously was when it comes to my buck tag.

I’m fortunate to hunt in an area with good deer numbers, and harvesting multiple does each season to fill the freezer is usually not a problem. Knowing that my neighbors are letting young bucks walk only encourages me to let them walk, too.

If anything, talking with neighbors has made me fully commit to the principles of QDM, because I know that we’re all going to benefit.

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