by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
Recently, the acronym QDM has become a big buzzword in the hunting world. Quality Deer Management is a hunting strategy that is becoming more and more popular with hunters across the country. This particular hunting strategy allows hunters to become more selective and permits deer to reach their utmost potential. It also educates hunters about how to harvest properly and how “letting them grow” actually works. I will define QDM and also give pros and cons to this rising management plan.
Quality Deer Management is one of four popular management strategies in the deer hunting world. Since the 80s, the mindset has changed from shooting as many deer as we can to being very selective in deer hunting and hunting habitat. By definition, quality deer management is the use of restraint in harvesting young bucks combined with the harvest of female deer to maintain a healthy population that is in balance with habitat conditions. This management strategy combines quality deer with quality habitat and quality hunting. QDM integrates all three factors to provide the best hunting for hunters, while protecting young deer and preserving the habitat. Quality habitat means to provide whatever necessary to increase nutritional quality in a specific environment. Along with this, herd management must be enforced. Herd management begins by keeping the population below nutritional carrying capacity, which requires that you still harvest does. In this management plan, the doe harvest rate should at least equal the buck harvest rate due to the fact that males are more likely to suffer from natural mortality. Most importantly, hunters must be educated to be selective in order for this management plan to work. Everyone that plans to harvest deer must be on the same page with habitat management, herd management, and hunter management or this plan will fail.
The increase in the number of deer harvested will increase fawning rates; a surplus of nutrients leads to healthier does which leads to healthier fawns. As the male fawns mature, you will notice an increase in antler diameter in yearling bucks. An increase in proportion of mature males is also a plus. Furthermore, there is an increase in social stability. This means that the mature males will do most of the breeding. This leads to a reduced fawning season and an increase in fawn survival. If more fawns are born at once, a phenomenon called “predator swamping” takes place and the idea of survival in numbers can be seen. More fawns on the ground at once are more likely to survive than fawns dropping over a long period of time! With the new social stability in the herd (male bucks doing most of the breeding), you will begin to see improved genetics which is the most important factor to any hunter, I believe.
Unfortunately, there are also drawbacks to this management technique. You must be selective!! This is probably the hardest adjustment for hunters. You cannot be trigger happy if you want QDM to be effective on your property. The other negative aspect is that older males will most likely die of natural causes. I do not see this as a drawback; I see this as a pro because that means that you are effectively implement QDM on your property!
As you can see, the pros definitely outweigh the con(s). QDM is an important management technique in the deer world. It is very important to me because it is a great learning tool for kids that are just getting out in the woods and for adults that have grown up in an era where it was acceptable to shoot as many deer as you could in one season. It teaches us how to be more selective and then rewards us for it! Wouldn’t you rather see healthy fawns and a healthy habitat over starving fawns and barely any mature deer? QDM only works when you decide that fewer, healthier deer are more important than shooting everything that walks within shooting distance. Please give this management technique a try on your own land or implement it into the hunting club rules. If you abide by the rules, you will see quality deer, quality habitat, and quality hunters in the upcoming years.
Subscribe to the True South Properties Newsletter to keep informed of featured properties, new listings, and property developments.