Deer Biology and Management - Jim Fodge

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Bath, NY

What is Quality Dear Management (QDM) and how does it differ from the current system of management?

The name itself is somewhat unfortunate in that it implies other types of management may not produce quality deer or a quality hunting experience, which is not necessarily the case. The QDM concept strives to maintain a deer herd with a more "natural" sex and age structure as well as deer in good physical condition, in balance with their food supply. In addition, QDM implies an overall quality in the deer hunting experience.

How does this differ from more traditional management schemes?

Hunters have always put a premium on the harvest of adult bucks and rarely are there enough to go around. Most traditional management systems are designed to provide the largest possible harvest of antlered bucks while maintaining the deer herd in balance with natural food supplies and other competing land uses. This requires that a large portion of deer herd be females (maximum production) and the bucks are normally harvested at a rather young age. In fact, most bucks are harvested at 1.5 years of age when they have just grown their first set of antlers. To accomplish this requires restraint in harvesting young bucks while at the removing a substantial portion of the female population each year.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of this type of management?

QDM may be useful in situations where deer damage to agricultural crops or natural vegetation is a concern and particularly where landowners have experienced problems in harvesting enough deer each year. If a given area will support a fixed number of deer in good physical condition and under one management system, half those deer are females, while under the other system, 80% or more are females, then the number of fawns produced annually will vary significantly. Basically, the number of fawns born each year is equal to the number of deer that must be removed each year to maintain a stable population. Under a QDM management system, fewer deer would need to be harvested annually.

The fact that more older, larger bucks are present under a QDM management program has obvious benefits for deer hunters, but there may be additional, more subtle advantages. With a higher ratio of bucks to does, breeding usually occurs in a more restricted time frame, earlier in the fall. This results in less stress and subsequent mortality to bucks, and fawns are born earlier the next spring, giving them the advantage of more time to grow before they face their first winter. Many observers believe that deer behavior is greatly modified when only young bucks are present in a population.

Disadvantages include the need for additional and often complicated regulations to insure that young bucks are not harvested and the need to harvest a significant portion of the female population each year. N addition, the same thing that makes QDM attractive to someone with a damage problem (fewer deer born each year) may make it unattractive if the goal is to provide the maximum number of harvestable animals each year.

Many people are practicing QDM on properties ranging in size from less than 100 acres to large holdings in excess of several thousand acres. You may want to learn more about it.

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