QDM KEEP YOUR STANDARDS HIGH
When people try to sell you a product they hardly ever mention the negative points. Well I am selling Quality Deer Management QDM, and I think you should know some of the down sides. If you are thinking of applying the concept to your hunting property take note, and benefit from the experience of others. One minor downside and this doesn’t happen often is when a very high grade of QDM is put into practice and the results lead you into thinking you will be growing Boone and Crockett bucks. QDM is the harvesting of 2 ˝ and 3 ˝ year old bucks primarily, and when you start seeing some nicer ones appear you might be tempted to let them pass. This is not QDM; this is the beginning of Trophy Deer Management, which is an entirely different deer management concept. Another downside, and I consider this one as serious, is when a low grade of QDM is put into practice. I direct the following to all including the DNR and the NRC.
The present 3" minimum spike buck rule appears to work. After many years with this rule in effect there are still records being broken state and county-wide, example Mr. Mitch Rompala’s Monarch. So making just about every buck a legal one and keeping the buck population young hasn’t affected the deer gene pool, or has it? I believe the reason we are not detecting a negative impact in the deer population using the present buck rule is precisely because almost all bucks are legal and consequently all classes from spikes to 10 point 1 ˝ year old bucks are fairly well represented in the buck harvest. This tends to keep the deer gene pool constant. Did our early game management personnel make a lucky guess with 3" minimum spikes or did they make a sound deer management decision through scientific knowledge. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. So why change something that appears to be working? This is what I think is happening ever so slowly.
First the deer have evolved into the present animal through over 4 million years of evolution and any negative impact through minor mismanagement of 100 years will hardly show anything detectable, and tell me, is anyone keeping precise records? What I hear from the DNR is there are no studies showing a negative impact. As I have noted, you are not likely to detect any in such a short time frame. So what makes me think the gene pool is declining with the present buck rule? Throughout history in every animal species where man has an interest, their physical characteristics have been altered and manipulated through selective breeding. We don’t need additional proof to convince us that it is important that the best of the best do the majority of the breeding to maintain at minimum, existing conditions. This is not happening with every 1 ˝ year old buck with good genes or not getting an easy chance to breed. In a natural deer population with older bucks being present, the more aggressive buck takes charge. This guy tends to be the biggest in body and antler size and along with his aggressiveness does most of the breeding, and that’s just what the doctor ordered. The less dominant bucks in the area tend to be suppressed. You can’t stop all the breeding by these lessor bucks but the controlling force is present and felt. Without the older dominant bucks being present younger bucks become dominant but they don’t control the social order as well. So I believe slowly but ever so surely we are degrading our deer population especially in heavily hunted areas.
The constant breaking of deer records can be explained due to the mere quest of breaking records. Ask Mr. Rompala how he and he practically alone get all those record bucks in an area not especially known for super bucks. It’s rather simple; who do you know has his hunting skills? How many super sheds are found, but the original owner never seen? The non-typical world record sheds found in Missouri are an example.
Getting back to why practicing a low grade of QDM can be a serious downside. As I mentioned with a 3" minimum spike rule, all buck classes are targeted. In the upper peninsular, passing on spikes protects up to 60% of the 1 ˝ year old bucks. It is 20% in the farming Mid Michigan area and less than 10% of the 1 ˝ year old bucks are spikes in southern Michigan. Protecting 60% of the 1 ˝ year old bucks should produce positive results. Protecting 20% in Mid Michigan will get you no where. Not only will you not see any positive results and get discouraged, (this is where the downside occurs) you can create deer genetic problems. At our last QDM educational seminar held September 9, 1998 our keynote speaker was Dr. Harry Jacobson, world known biologist specializing in deer genetics. His 30 years of intense research at Mississippi State shows that spike bucks can become truly trophy bucks. You really cannot predict what a buck will become when observing him as a 1 ˝ year old. Even at 2 ˝, it's questionable. What a buck shows at 3 ˝ years of age, he will likely show throughout his life. However there is a distinct separation of class which shows in a 1 ˝ year old buck, and this is between the spikes to the 8 point group, and the 9 points and more group. The 9 point and more group remains superior. A 1 ˝ year old buck with 9 points or more is more common than most people think, and this occurs from Mid Michigan to our southern border. Protecting spikes only in the Mid Michigan agricultural area could seriously over time degrade our deer herd. By eliminating the superior group of bucks and letting basically only spikes to finish the breeding, the slow degradation of our deer herd will be accelerated. When practicing QDM, whether it is on a private or state level, SET YOUR STANDARDS HIGH. You should protect all of the 1 ˝ year old bucks. My minimum recommendation when starting a QDM program is protect at least 50% of the 1 ˝ year olds and within a couple of years upgrade your standards. In Dooly County Georgia where it all began as a regulated rule, the minimum buck standard is a 15" outside spread. The rule protects all of the 1 ˝ year old bucks and up to 20% of the 2 ˝ year olds. This assures some bucks will attain an age of 3 ˝ and as we all know, older bucks are smarter and more wary. In Dooly County there are now more bucks being taken in the 5 ˝ year old and older class.
The main focus of QDM is the welfare of the deer population and all its needs. The welfare of the hunter is considered, but secondary, however it turns out if you take care of the deer they will take care of you.
Keep the fun in hunting,
President Mid-Michigan Branch QDMA
December 22, 1998
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