Quality deer management, also known as QDM is a topic that is getting a lot of lip service lately. It certainly isn’t a new concept but awareness is growing faster than it ever has. Quality deer management practices have been in existence since the mid to late 80’s and possibly even earlier in parts of the country like Texas. In the mid-80’s, deer hunters began realizing that years of intense buck harvesting coupled with an insufficient doe harvest was causing over populated deer herds with distorted sex ratios highly favoring does. Very few bucks were surviving beyond 1.5 years old. Traditional management practices became a concern and hunters began questioning the effectiveness and their own morals. The desire to investigate new options supplied the foundation for quality deer management and consequently the forming of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA).
During the same time as the evolution of deer management, the commercial food plot industry was also being born. Inadvertently, both the QDMA movement and the modern food plot industry were established in 1988. Both grew very slowly in the first decade or so and have only now began to pick up the pace as far as awareness. Understandably, many hunters are under the misconception that QDM is simply the process of planting food plots for wildlife. Truthfully, widespread QDM programs are much more involved and food plots are only one piece of the puzzle.
So what is quality deer management? QDM is the practice of managing the habitat, monitoring and managing the herd, and educating hunters. Herd management consists of controlling the deer population and sex ratio by harvesting a suitable amount of does where necessary and by protecting young bucks. Management of the wildlife habitat normally includes planting food plots and increasing natural vegetation to improve nutrition availability. Monitoring is simply collecting data and tracking results of your deer management efforts. These combined endeavors will help to improve the quality and health of the deer heard while controlling overpopulation which can be detrimental to both deer and the habitat. It’s important for hunters to become educated on proper methods and techniques of QDM. For most deer hunters, and good starting point is to become a member of the Quality Deer Management Association. From there you can begin to educate yourself and others by supporting their efforts and by getting involved. Another easy implication is restricting the harvest of young bucks on your land and harvesting a fair amount of does. Educating your land neighbors and joining efforts can certainly help to improve deer management even more.
Many things can be done to improve wildlife habitat and many of the practices are favorable to state and federal wildlife habitat programs that will pay landowners for improving their land. From timber stand improvements and native grass plantings to food plot production and hardwood establishment, there are many possibilities worth looking into. This coupled with the harvesting of adequate numbers of does and putting restrictions on younger bucks will greatly improve the herd and hunting efforts. It’s important as hunters to increase our knowledge about quality deer management and help spread awareness that will protect our wildlife for future generations.