“To ensure the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage.”
The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is a non-profit conservation organization working to ensure the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. Since 1988, QDMA has worked to promote sustainable, high-quality deer populations, wildlife habitats and ethical hunting experiences through research, education, advocacy, and hunter recruitment. QDMA teaches deer hunters how to improve local deer populations, habitat and hunting experiences.
What is Quality Deer Management?
Quality Deer Management (QDM) is a management philosophy/practice that unites landowners, hunters, and managers in a common goal of producing biologically and socially balanced deer herds within existing environmental, social, and legal constraints. This approach typically involves the protection of most or all yearling bucks combined with an appropriate harvest of female deer to maintain a healthy population in balance with existing habitat conditions and hunter desires. This level of deer management involves the production of quality deer (bucks, does, and fawns), quality habitat, quality hunting experiences, and, most importantly, quality hunters.
QDM guidelines are formulated according to property-specific objectives, goals, and limitations. Participating hunters enjoy both the tangible and intangible benefits of this approach. Pleasure can be derived from each hunting experience, regardless if a shot is fired. What is important is the chance to interact with a well-managed deer herd that is in balance with its habitat. A side benefit is the knowledge that mature bucks are present in the herd – something lacking on many areas under traditional deer management. When a quality buck is taken on a QDM area, the pride can be shared by all property hunters because it was they who produced it by allowing it to reach the older age classes which are necessary for large bodies and antlers.
The QDM Philosophy
Increasingly, landowners, hunters, and wildlife managers across North America are embracing the QDM philosophy. This is evidenced by the increasing voluntary and regulatory implementation of QDM practices on private and public lands. Hunters are rethinking what constitutes a “quality” hunt and how they can make a positive contribution to the future of the deer herds they hunt.
Another benefit of QDM is increased hunter safety. By taking the time to positively identify each deer by sex and age, the likelihood of accidental shootings is even more remote than under current management methods. Hunters participating in QDM enjoy both the tangible and intangible benefits of this approach. Pleasure can be derived from each hunting experience regardless if a shot is fired or an animal is harvested.
What is important is the chance to interact with a well-managed deer herd that is in balance with its habitat. A side benefit is the knowledge that mature bucks are present in the herd – something lacking on many areas under traditional deer management. When a quality buck is taken on a QDM area, all property hunters can share the pride because they helped produce it by allowing it to pass as a younger animal.
QDM Building Blocks
QDM guidelines must be tailored to each property, there are four cornerstones to all successful QDM programs: herd management, habitat management, hunter management, and herd monitoring.
Herd Management - Perhaps the most important part of QDM is herd management. Determining the appropriate number of deer to harvest by sex and age is essential. In many areas, deer populations are at or above optimum levels and herd stabilization or reduction is needed. [More]
Habitat Management - Improving available nutrition is another important cornerstone of QDM. The diet of a healthy herd should contain 12 to 18 percent protein and adequate levels of calcium, phosphorous, and other important nutrients. [More]
Hunter Management - Hunter management is a critical, yet often difficult aspect of QDM. Education is the key. Hunters must fully understand both the benefits and costs of QDM. [More ]
Herd Monitoring - Herd monitoring is the final cornerstone of QDM. Two types of data are commonly collected – harvest data and observation data. Harvest data should be collected from every deer taken or found dead on a property. Commonly collected harvest data include sex, age, weight, antler measurements, and reproductive information. [More]
Is QDM For All Hunters?
Not necessarily. But a growing number of hunters have progressed to a stage in their hunting that reflects a change in values and a desire for a “different” hunting experience. Involvement in QDM is simply an alternative to traditional deer management. Originally, only large properties (1,000 acres or more) were involved in QDM, but smaller properties are now participating through the formation of QDM cooperatives comprised of several smaller properties with similar objectives.
Is QDM For You?
Quality deer management is not a panacea and many things should be considered before implementing QDM practices on your hunting land. If you answer yes to the following questions, QDM may be right for you.
- Do you have enough acreage to manage your deer population without being severely affected by hunting pressure on adjacent properties? If not, will your neighbors join you and possibly others in forming a QDM cooperative?
- Is the habitat on your hunting property adequate to produce and maintain a healthy deer herd? If not, do you and your hunting companions have the funds, equipment, and commitment to manage and improve the habitat?
- Do the deer-hunting regulations in your state allow enough flexibility to manage your herd?
- Does your state wildlife agency encourage and assist landowners with management and allow adequate doe harvests?
- Are you and your hunting companions prepared to commit to a long-term (often five or more years) management program?
- Do you and your hunting companions understand the financial, time, and energy commitments and have realistic expectations regarding a QDM program?
When considering QDM, realistic expectations must be stressed. Management goals should be set with the potential of the local herd in mind. As a quality herd becomes established, it is important not to let expectations exceed the capabilities of the herd or habitat. Significant changes to deer herds and deer habitats do not happen overnight and often take several years to become obvious.