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July 1998

QUALITY DEER MANAGEMENT EXPLAINED

 

The term Quality Deer Management (QDM) has been tossed around lately and if you asked 100 people what it meant, you would probably receive 100 different answers. If you asked individuals who claim they practice it, what their practice consisted of, you would probably not receive two similar answers, and yet all of the individuals could be satisfied with their results. That's part of the beauty of QDM. There are guidelines to follow as outlined in the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) book. "Quality Whitetails" and if you followed them to a "T" you would experience the greatest return. However you can pick and choose parts of the QDM concept and apply it to your area and get positive results. Practicing the basics gives you the most back. Think of QDM as a super large pizza pie with all the trimmings and if all you can eat is two pieces, it just might fill you up.

Normally the first thing people think of in relating to QDM is passing on young bucks. This is an important practice and without it other practices aren't as effective. What is meant by young buck? This means all of the 6 month old button bucks and all of the 1 1/2 year old bucks in your area. If you are located in central Michigan you could have 6, 7, 8 and even 10 point 1 1/2 year old bucks. To protect them all means you need to educate yourself to properly identify the top end of the 1 1/2 year old bucks in your area. You say you are not ready to pass on an 8 point buck even if he is a young one. Okay, you can have your pizza without pepperoni. I would suggest you protect at least 50% of the 1 1/2 year old bucks as a start. You need to have at least cheese on your pizza. I am not even going to talk about the button bucks except to say think of them as the only sacred cow in the deer population. In the U.P. and parts of the northern lower peninsula passing on spikes comes close to protecting 50% of the young guys. In most parts of Central Michigan passing on 4 points protects 50% and in Southern Michigan you need to raise the bar to passing on 6 points. Contact your local DNR biologist and get their opinion.

QDM is primarily practiced voluntarily and on private lands. There are areas where it is a mandatory regulation such as in Dooly County in Georgia with overwhelming success and approval and starting this hunting season the state of Arkansas initiated a minimum 6 points rule throughout the state. But that's another story. I feel a similar experience will happen in Michigan but due to our long experience with the present rules it will take a few success stories and many voices saying "what about me". The no spike rule in South Fox Island, Drummand Island and DMU 101 for 1997 is a start and has good approval from the hunters so far.

What's that, those two pieces didn't really fill you up, what's on that big piece? Well that big piece is easier to swallow than the two pieces you just ate and yet is more important. It consists of getting the deer population healthy, productive and the deer population number in line with the area. These goals sound pretty basic and you might be tempted to say, "All I have to do is feed them and all is well". Have you heard about the T.B. problem? A healthy deer is one that

has access to nourishing food year long (not necessarily exclusive to but preferably living plants) water, plenty of cover and space (also known as social pressure). Healthy deer are productive deer which means a consistent and large fawn crop. Getting the deer population in line with the area does not necessarily mean having it at the maximum sustained yield (62.5% of the maximum carrying capacity). Many managers refer to it as the cultural carrying capacity, and this means you are addressing the local conditions such as agricultural practices, automobile traffic density, population centers etc.

Okay so the piece wasn't so easy to swallow and you can't eat anymore. So please let me just tell you about the next piece. Its called record keeping. Its important to keep records of the productivity, weight, age and antler size of harvested deer yearly. This will help in telling you where you were, where you are at and the direction in which you are headed. A common example of the need to keep records would be the following. Lets say you belong to a hunt club with 2,000 acres (which is more than enough to see good things happen when practicing QDM). You and your fellow members have seen the light, want to improve the welfare of the deer herd and your hunting experience. You are all gung ho, you realize the 1 : 10 buck to doe ratio on your property is not right and you see very few mature bucks. For your first hunting season you all agreed, no bucks taken, only does and you pounded on the doe population. The following season the late summer observations seems to indicate more and bigger bucks and plenty of fawns. Whoop dee do! Success is mine. So you all agree that 6 points and above can be taken and for good measure a few does. The results of that hunting season were very encouraging, so everyone agreed to continue with the same formulae for the third year. That year produced the first pope and young taken. How can you argue with success? So the 6 points minimum and a few does taken became a commandment. That pope and young was the last one taken and slowly through the years the Quality and number of bucks harvested dropped. The deer population is a dynamic one and it takes constant observation with never ending fine tuning to keep it at a high level of productivity. Record keeping helps you make informed decisions.

The fifth annual Quality Deer Management Educational seminar held September 12th at Gladwin High School, Gladwin Michigan should take some of the mystery out of this subject. Please come and finish your pizza. The speakers are most knowledgeable and interesting. Bring at least one question with you.

Keep the fun in hunting,

 

Ed Spinazzola; President Mid Michigan Branch QDMA

 


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