In a recent blog Jim Zumbo, my senior colleague at OL magazine and buddy of 20 years, took some potshots at those of us who believe in and promote Quality Deer Management (QDM). The gist of Jim’s rant as I took it was phooey with "quality," go out and shoot all the legal bucks you want, no matter the age or size of their racks, it’s your privilege when you buy a license, don’t you apologize to anybody for doing it, especially not the fat cats who artificially breed trophy whitetails in pens and then blast the hell out of them.
First, I’ve got a big problem with Jim lumping QDM guys in with the relatively tiny number of high-brow, high-fence breeder/trophy hunters in the country. BTW, these "pen operations" have been getting a ton of bad press lately in both the mainstream and sporting press. I see them on the way out; some states like Indiana and Minnesota are trying to ban them. Good riddance.
Truth is, most QDM folks are regular folks just like you and me--farmers, lawyers, businessmen, firefighters, house builders, etc. with small to medium-sized tracts of private land. Some of these people have money to burn, most don’t. All are involved in commonsense management that helps whitetail herds in several ways:
I don’t have to tell you that there are way too many does in many areas. QDM focuses on shooting your legal limit of does to bring the buck:doe ratio of a herd at least into a little better balance. Hunters get to stuff their freezers with doe meat; excess venison is donated to churches, food banks, soup kitchens and the like.
By letting young bucks walk and live 3 years or longer, you add mature bucks to a herd in a hurry, and better balance the overall age structure. Biologists say that the older, stronger, dominant bucks will do most of the breeding, in theory passing along the best genes.
Young bucks won’t run themselves ragged trying to breed; to the contrary, they’ll eat more, bulk up, stay healthy and have a better shot at reaching their genetic potential on down the road.
The better the sex ratio and buck age structure of a herd, the earlier and more intense the rut is apt to be in the fall. Fawns will be born earlier next summer, giving them plenty of time to grow big and healthy before the next fall and winter.
Look, I grew up a meat hunter. If it was brown and had an inch of antler poking up on its head, you can bet your ass it was down in my woods (does weren’t legal back in the olden days). It ought to still be that way for kids, teenagers and the Gen Xers who are finding our sport. Let ‘em whack any legal buck. Let’ em get some killing out of their system. They’ll become our brothers of the hunt; we need all the recruitment we can get.
But for the rest of wily old veterans (30 years old plus) with more than a few spindly racks under our belts, why not let a forkie or 6-pointer walk and whack and stack does for the freezer? If you and your buddies will do that, it won’t take long until you begin to see a lot more fine 8- and 10-pointers from your stands. And know what? One day you might even get a crack at one of those 170- to 190- to 220-inch monsters you see me post all the time here at the Zone. All those brutes--killed not by fat cats in some pen, but fair and square in the wild by lucky, hard-core hunters just like you and me--are a byproduct of QDM in some way.
Jim, can you say no brainer?