QDMA Announces 2019 Branch Achievement Award Winners

QDMA’s mission to secure the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage could not be realized without the tireless work of our grassroots volunteers. Their efforts and achievements were in the spotlight at QDMA’s Whitetail Weekend in March when we named the winners our 2019 Branch Achievement Awards.

“QDMA simply could not exist without our passionate volunteers,” said Kip Adams, QDMA Director of Conservation. “QDMA Branches connect our staff to the communities where our mission is implemented, where our goals are fulfilled, and our dreams are realized. Without Branches and volunteers it’s all just ideas. With them, it’s smiles, full freezers and stewardship.”

The 2019 awards and recipients are as follows:

Branch of the Year: Coulee Country Branch of Wisconsin

Coulee Country Branch President Kim Zuhlke accepts the Branch of the Year Award from Matt Ross, QDMA’s Assistant Director of Conservation.

While the Coulee Country Branch has only existed for three years now, that didn’t stop them from racking up an impressive list of accomplishments for 2019. They held a suite of traditional Branch events, including a summer field day and property tour, a fall youth deer hunt, a winter habitat improvement project on public land, a spring food plot seed sale, as well as a successful fundraising banquet. However, they also facilitated more unconventional programs, like a CWD workshop on how to remove deer lymph nodes, a gun raffle that incorporated and incentivized CWD testing with venison donations in their community, and piloted a CWD self-test kit for their state wildlife agency, which drew accolades from local biologists and politicians.

Branch President of the Year: Ryan Decker, White Store Branch of North Carolina

Ryan has been the Branch president for the White Store Branch since its inception over eight years ago. He has never asked about someone else taking on the position, and the Branch is very happy with his leadership. Ryan started the Connie Maxwell Youth Hunt three years ago, growing it to having 21 orphaned youth attend and receive clothes, shoes, coats, hats and small toys or games. To fund the event, the Branch decided to raffle off a Kawasaki Mule, raising over $12,000 to give back to the youth with clothes, food for the hunt and taxidermy. This event is strongly supported in the community with donations, volunteers, and assistance. Ryan has a young family and still finds time to give back to the community through his Branch leadership position.

New Branch of the Year: Southeast Michigan Branch

Pictured (L-R): Southeast Michigan Branch President Cory Franceus, Vice President Corey Fall, Treasurer Phil Smith, Secretary Drew Gilbey, volunteer Heath Platt, and volunteer Clair Koppleman.

In their first year, this new QDMA Branch held a banquet that generated over $50,000 and 175 QDMA memberships. In additional to a successful fundraising banquet, the Branch hosted three Pint Night events, a habitat day, and assisted with a Field to Fork event. They also worked with a local processor to fund the costs of over 1,500 pounds of donated venison and formed several new wildlife Cooperatives.

Membership Branch of the Year: Southwestern Wisconsin Branch

Pictured (L-R): Travis Wilson, James Lanier (QDMA Regional Director), Tony Grabski, Joe Brunker, Matt Andrews and Steve Brunker.

The Southwestern Wisconsin Branch was formed 15 years ago in 2005. Over the years, they have supported local 4-H clubs, the National Archery in the Schools Program at local high schools, and each year they donate over 100 QDMA memberships to high schools in the southern half of Wisconsin. In 2015, they were named the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Local Organization of the Year. In 2016, they received the QDMA Branch of the Year award, and in 2019, they were named QDMA’s Membership Branch of the Year with an astounding 335 QDMA memberships.

Mountain Maryland Branch President A.J. Fleming

Sponsor Membership Branch of the Year: Mountain Maryland Branch

The Mountain Maryland Branch was named the Sponsor Membership Branch of the Year for recruiting 18 sponsor memberships at their tenth annual banquet. The Branch, which was formed through a QDM Cooperative that now encompasses over 40,000 acres, also participates in a county-wide coyote contest and hosts a popular session called the Mountain Monarchs, which showcases western Maryland’s largest whitetails.

Fundraising Branch of the Year: North Central North Carolina Branch

Pictured (L-R): Branch Treasurer Kyle Shotwell, scholarship recipient Lilly Clayton, Vice President Adam Wolfe, and President H.R. Carver

While the North Central North Carolina Branch generated over $31,461.52 for conservation in 2019, they are known for much more than simply holding a successful fundraising banquet annually. In fact, they recently started a venison donation program in their community, they routinely host a free youth day in partnership with their state wildlife agency and local Parks and Recreation department, and they have given away well over $20,000 in local scholarships to deserving students since their inception.