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QUALITY DEER MANAGEMENT A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

 

It all started in November of 1952. How many of you remember that year, or were you even around? My introduction to deer hunting at age 17 coincided with the states game managementís experiment with statewide doe harvesting the last three days of the firearm season. I remember well that experience. Base camp was my maternal grandparentís farm in Pinconning, and the hunting spot was the Tittabawasse State Forest second fire lane north off M-61. Along with my dad I had plenty of hunting companions. My mother was the oldest of 16 kids. My Uncle Frank was not only the oldest of the boys, but also the most intense, knowledgeable and successful hunter. There was always a supply of canned venison (good stuff) in the pantry put up by my grandmother. I didnít tag anything that first year but sure got hooked on the sport. I have missed only one firearm opening day since and that was in 1964 to pick up our newly adopted son David. I was in the woods the next day.

I spent many an hour listening to my dad and uncles telling their hunting experiences. That first year there was general agreement that there were way too many deer and that they were getting smaller. My Uncle Frank would tell of the times he would drive on

M-61 from Bentley to the city of Gladwin and many times observe up to 200 deer during the forties, and through the years he would see less and less bucks and smaller deer.

So did the three-day doe harvest impress my hunting companions on the need for sound and balanced deer management? Not for long. The very next year I was hearing views about the 1952 overkill of does. " Itís no fun being in the woods and not seeing anything, you shoot a doe and you shoot three deer etc. etc". All this negative talk even though two bucks were taken that year. Talk about a confused young lad. I didnít know which end was up. What did stick in my head was my Uncle Frankís earlier statement of his experiences of seeing progressively fewer bucks and smaller deer through the forties.

Fast forward to 1963. Although I had taken a few does my first 11 years of hunting I had never seen let alone shot a buck in the woods. That year I researched for a better area and changed some hunting tactics. It paid off with my first spike buck. Obviously it must have been the total hunting experience that kept me going back each year, for it sure wasnít the thrill of seeing and shooting a buck.

In 1974 I joined the Mid Forest Lodge Hunting Club which has 18,000 acres and is located just North of Gladwin. This club introduced me to habitat and deer management on a private landowner level. It wasnít exotic but they kept records of the number of deer harvested, had a yearly track count for census, had a timber harvest program and a few small rye fields for food plots. Boy! You talk about strong opinions on whether you should cut timber or not (save the oaks), shoot does and lately pass on young bucks. But as we all know good things take time and through persistent progressive leadership their deer and habitat management program is still moving in the direction of a sound and balanced deer herd.

In addition to my chosen field of mechanical engineering, in 1982 I added cash crop farming to my work schedule. Out of a total of 650 acres, we farmed 400 in the Gladwin Clare County area till 1996. I still plant 60 acres yearly but these are food plots for a variety of wildlife. Planting crops on your own land in an area of too many deer sure is a learning experience. I now know the meaning of the saying "you canít live with em and you canít live without em." We have actually had to slow down the combine in fear of jabbing deer with the cornhead. To lessen my crop damage I would plant food plots deep into the adjoining woods. After a few years of fine-tuning I finally got satisfactory results.

Starting in 1991 I began bow hunting my property seriously. I was seeing more and bigger deer there than at Mid Forest Lodge. Just about the same time I heard about and became interested in the concept of Quality Deer Management, (Let Em Go Let Em Grow). In 1992 seeing only two different bucks throughout the hunting seasons on a 160 acre piece of land that had a good mix of deer habitat convinced me I could do better. I increased my food plot acreage, added variety, left 5 acres of corn standing and started passing on young bucks in 1993. In January of 1994 while in Texas on a weeklong deer management course under Dr. James Kroll I joined the Quality Deer Management Association QDMA. Fast forward again to opening day November 15th 1998. On this same 160 acre parcel I observed 11 different bucks, two of which were 2 Ĺ year old 8 points I took one of them the day after Thanksgiving while hunting with my 10 year old grandson Joey. It doesnít get better than that! I have observed 34 different bucks on this property (8) of which are 2 Ĺ years old or older during the fall of 1998. Many of these I shot with my video cam. Why did I see 34 different bucks, 11 bucks, opening day and why did that 2 Ĺ year old 8 point (now 7 points) hang around? Contrast this to my 1992 experience, or my first eleven years of hunting. Come to think of it I saw more bucks last November 15th. Than I did throughout my first 25 years of hunting. 1977 was a banner year at Mid Forest Lodge.

Are you interested in learning my secret formula and going the way of QDM? First be prepared to have a different attitude. Your main focus needs to be on the welfare of the deer, not yourself. I do tend to get a bit intense when it comes to deer so donít be disheartened if you canít make the round trip. There is no secret formula; it's all rather simple. Harvest only 2 Ĺ or older bucks, and leave a few for seed. Count your deer and harvest an adequate no. of does. This keeps the sex ratio close and literally makes room for bucks. I estimate my buck to doe ratio at 1: 2.5. This is too high, it should be closer to 1: 1.5, even though we harvest about 5 does to one buck annually. Too many neighbors not shooting does. Also affecting my program is I have 12 different neighbors whose land touches mine from 2 Ĺ to 170 acres in size and about half of them practicing some form of QDM. I consider my 160 acre hunting spot that has good soil prime deer habitat. I put 10% (16) acres into warm season food plots with a legume base of 10 acres planted deep into the woods. Another 10% (16) acres is put into cold season food plots with a corn base of 10 acres that is left standing (also serves as an additional safe area in the fall). I have permanent safe areas (refuge) 5 locations totaling 35 acres (20%) and they are honored. I also have a timber-cutting program, which will leave 20% of the wooded area 10 years old or younger. I have various watering spots (beavers helped me out this past year). We have planted a variety of at least 50,000 trees. We also have at least 700 fruit bearing apple trees which grazing cattle planted for us many years ago. Thank you very much.

In September of 1996 after our third QDM educational seminar held at Gladwin high school we formed the Mid-Michigan Branch of the QDMA. We hold an annual QDM educational seminar and have an internet web page address http://members.tripod.com/~mmbqdm/index.html which has information from code of ethics to a variety of proven food plots. The Mid-Michigan Branch is testing a variety of food plots this year for the national QDMA and we will have that information available in the spring of 1999 on the web page.

My uncle Frank has moved to that super hunting spot up in the sky, yet his words still ring in my ear and now even louder with the controversy about deer management being discussed throughout the state by many interests. Too many of us still do not understand why we see so few bucks (especially adults) in relation to the does seen, have a me first attitude and just donít understand that they are their own worst enemy. Uncle Frank I think I have the answer and the remedy to the things you talked about in 1952. Our game management leaders have too long paid attention to the never satisfied consumer and not being concerned enough about the best interests of our deer population. The remedy is a good dose of QDM.

Keep the fun in hunting.

 

 

Ed Spinazzola

President Mid-Michigan Branch QDMA

December 1998

 


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© 1996 Mid-Michigan Branch Quality Deer Management Association

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Page Updated: 14 Dec 98
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