The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is a national nonprofit wildlife conservation organization and the leading advocate of the QDM philosophy. The QDMA’s mission is to promote sustainable, high-quality white-tailed deer populations, wildlife habitats, and ethical hunting experiences through education, research, and management in partnership with hunters, landowners, natural resource professionals, and the public.
In 1987, Joe Hamilton was invited to speak to the Australian Deer Association. Impressed with their organization, Joe returned to the states with an idea for a similar group in South Carolina.
Following a series of meetings in coastal South Carolina, a core group of volunteers including Joe, Andrew Harper, Tombo Rhodes, Mickey Scott, Lewis Rogers, Bill Bostick and Parker Tuten outlined the framework of their new group, the SCQDMA. They scraped together $1,200 of their own money to get a newsletter going, and Joe sketched out a logo for the group: a buck and doe silhouette. This core group was eventually named the Lowcountry Branch, the first Branch of the QDMA, and it is still active today. Andrew Harper was elected president, and later, Robert Manning stepped forward and took over the role. Robert and his wife Kathy operated SCQDMA out of their home in Greenwood, S.C.
In the summer of 1989, the first edition of the group’s official newsletter, The Signpost, was mailed to members. Over the next year, widespread interest from other states resulted in the expansion to a national organization in 1990. By 1992, a total of 16 Branches had been formed in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Wisconsin.
By 1993, only three years after becoming a national organization, QDMA had grown to more than 2,500 members. The Signpost newsletter could no longer adequately present the flood of content being provided, so the decision was made to launch the magazine Quality Whitetails.
In 1995, Robert Manning relinquished his volunteer position as Executive Director and Alan Smith of Florida was hired. The “national headquarters” of QDMA was transferred from Robert’s home to Joe and Donna Hamilton’s home in Walterboro, S.C. Joe and Donna refurbished a century-old, 400-square-foot shack behind their house (pictured left).
In 1997, Alan Smith decided to return to his family business, and wildlife biologist Brian Murphy accepted the job of Executive Director and the “national office” was moved from South Carolina to a guest bedroom in Brian’s home near Athens, Ga.
Brian implemented several changes and additions to QDMA and Quality Whitetails immediately selling advertising, launching a new website, creating a new membership brochure and a catalog promoting QDMA’s new line of educational books, videos and deer management tools. After renting an actual office building (pictured right) and hiring an office manager, Brian hit the road, calling on deer experts who were longtime QDMA supports to join in speaking in QDMA Short Courses all over the nation. These efforts caught the attention of new supporters and membership began growing rapidly reaching 10,000 in 2000.
In 2001, QDMA held its first National Convention in Athens, Ga., and more than 700 people from 23 states attended the one-day event. The overwhelming positive response from members helped catapult QDMA into an ever greater period of growth, both in membership and nationwide influence.
By 2002, membership had jumped to 18,000. One of the most critical barriers to QDMA’s future growth and influence was tackled that same year when Frank Coggins of Elberton, Ga., donated 23 acres of land near Athens for a new headquarters site. An 18,000-square-foot building, made possible by donations from numerous QMDA members in architecture and construction, would be dedicated in 2005 (pictured below).
The new building and Education Center enabled QDMA to increase its capacity to educate both members and non-members and to take an active role in promoting sound deer management across the nation. The result has been the most significant period of growth, accomplishment and outreach in QDMA’s history with membership reaching 50,000. Since moving into the new National Headquarters site QMDA has increased Quality Whitetails to six issues per year, launched the REACH Program, created the Deer Steward and Land Certification programs, and produced the books Quality Food Plots and Deer Cameras: The Science of Scouting among many other accomplishments.
Today, QDMA is among the fastest growing conservation organizations in the nation with more than 50,000 members in all 50 states and several foreign countries.
Among the QDMA’s current members are nearly 800 of the nation’s leading deer management professionals. Their collective knowledge enables the QDMA and its members to remain at the forefront of deer biology, research, and management. The QDMA also has a network of more than 180 Branches (organized groups of volunteer members) in more than 30 states with many others forming. QDMA Branches actively promote the philosophy of QDM and the mission of the QDMA in their areas and hold educational and social events to unite like-minded sportsmen in this common goal.