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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

QDM: Fact vs. Fiction

Quality Deer Management (QDM) is a concept and practice that has been around for some time. It has been getting a lot more attention lately and most people have heard about it, but a lot of people have misconceptions about it, including some of the groups that claim that they are advocating it.

Let’s start by stating what QDM is NOT. It is not trophy hunting. It is not resulting in a larger deer herd. It is not about genetics and “culling inferior deer,” although one group in the Finger Lakes (who have obviously failed high school biology) apparently thinks so. It is not about forcing mandatory antler restrictions on hunters, although there are other groups who want to do this. It is not some exclusive hunting club where members pay to join. It is not a magic wand that will result in lots of big deer passing by your tree stand. There may be bigger deer around but that doesn’t mean you will see them.

Several years ago I discussed this with Wayne Masters, then with the DEC Region 7 Office, and now with QDM Association. Recently at a NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association gathering in Washington County we met with Tony Rainville, president of the Upper Hudson Valley QDMA, and manager of the Odd Duck QDM Cooperative near Greenwich. We also toured a property where Tony pointed out habitat management and discussed many aspects of QDM.

Tony and other QDMA personnel stressed that they do not favor mandatory antler restrictions. Yes, they practice it on various properties but firmly believe that a majority of hunters must approve of it. Their method is education, not legislation.

Tony was quick to point out that this is not a practice that will result in hunters seeing more deer, or even more big deer. He pointed out that a few years ago he was seeing lots of deer, but now that the herd is more in balance with the habitat he is actually seeing considerably less deer. Older bucks may be there but they are smarter, often nocturnal and wary. It is a matter of skill, time spent afield and luck to get them in your sights.

The four “cornerstones of QDM” are herd management, habitat management, herd monitoring and hunter management. You have to have a suitable area (e.g. not the Adirondacks), large enough area to be effective and people who believe in this.

For example the cooperatives are groups of area farms that all agree on these ideas and work with QDMA to practice this. It is not an organization that hunters join and have automatic access to these thousands of acres. Individual farmers still control the number and who hunts on their individual property

Herd management means to balance deer population with habitat. Part of this is improving age structure by letting young yearling bucks pass to grow older. Part of this is harvesting enough does to control population.

A second cornerstone is habitat management to provide abundant forage and cover. Some involves food plots but a lot involves managing natural vegetation. That can be cutting trees for winter browse, small clearcuts or “releasing” apple trees by cutting the brush around them. Even planting small strips of soybeans around cornfields or pumpkin patches can help the deer and save farmers money from crop depredation.

Herd monitoring involves collecting harvest data from the co-op area and observing numbers, ages, etc. through trail cams. Interestingly, Tony commented that the big, mature bucks will spot trail cameras and avoid them. Hunter management is focused on educating hunters on the program and explaining costs or savings.
Determining age of deer is more than counting points on antlers. Body characteristics and other factors allow trained people to get a fairly accurate idea of how old a buck is. All deer taken during the season are checked in a local farm for data collection which is later compiled and shared.

Tony Rainville stressed that different areas of the state often have bigger deer, carrying capacity, etc. due to habitat and other factors. So each area would have different sized deer for the same age. And as mentioned previously they aim to balance the age structure of the herd but are not trophy deer hunters.

QDMA works with the landowners to develop sanctuaries large enough so that deer that are ‘bumped” don’t leave the property. It must be an area where deer have food, water and cover to feel safe. More hiding cover for fawns means a higher survival rate as less are found by predators like coyotes.

Tony also had a lot of other interesting and useful tips about hunting strategies that we will share at a later date. It was a very interesting and productive afternoon learning and seeing what QDM is really like.

The people involved will readily tell you that QDM is not for everywhere or everyone. But it is important to realize that QDMA is a sincere, scientific-based and hard working group. Don’t confuse them with some of the other groups that cloud the issue or alienate sportsmen. There is much more about the program than space in this column allows. For more information visit the web site


Adirondack Birding: The Annual Adirondack Birding Festival will be held June 7–9 throughout the Central Adirondacks. Many different events ranging from seminars on bird identification to field trips will be held at various locations. Check the web site for the complete schedule and locations.

Bugs: Although the cold, windy weather spoiled many outdoor-related plans this past week, it did keep the nasty insects like black flies at bay. Be forewarned that with the pleasant warm weather in the forecast, the vicious pests will be out in force. Hikers, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts need to be prepared for the onslaught of black flies, mosquitoes and punkies which will ruin any outing. Be sure to carry plenty of insect repellent. It also the peak season for ticks so be sure to spray your clothing and skin with repellents and check for ticks which can carry Lyme Disease.

If You Care, Leave It There: New Yorkers should keep their distance and not to disturb newborn fawns or other young wildlife as many animals are in the peak season for giving birth, the DEC cautioned.

Many people assume that young wildlife found alone are helpless and need assistance for their survival, however, in nearly all cases this is a mistake and typically human interaction does more damage than good. Those that see a fawn or other newborn wildlife should enjoy their encounter but keep it brief, maintain some distance and do not attempt to touch the animal. Most fawns are born during late May and the first half of June. While fawns are able to walk shortly after birth, they spend most of their first several days lying still. During this period a fawn is also usually left alone by the adult female (doe) except when nursing.
People occasionally find a lone fawn and mistakenly assume it has been orphaned or abandoned, which is very rare. Fawns should never be picked up. If human presence is detected by the doe, the doe may delay its next visit to nurse. The fawn’s protective coloration and ability to remain motionless all help it avoid detection by predators and people. Should you find a fawn or other young wildlife, If You Care, Leave It There. In nearly all cases that is the best thing for the animal.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A shock to the system

With the coming of spring and the beautiful weather we have enjoyed the past two weeks, many people want to be out on the water enjoying boating, paddling and fishing. Even though air temperatures have been in the 70s, remember that the water temperature is much colder. Safety is a major concern at this time of year..
The rules of safety such as not standing in a kayak or being aware of weather conditions always apply. But this time of year there is the added danger of cold water, which is far more dangerous than most outdoor enthusiasts realize. Even when it is not legally required, wearing a personal flotation device is a good idea.
My neighbor “Whitewater Dan” Maneen is an skilled veteran paddler with both canoe and kayak. He points out that the combination of cold water temperatures and even moderate air temperatures pose a serious danger from drowning or hypothermia if you are not prepared.
When someone is plunged into water 32-50 degrees, there are a number of severe reactions that are sometime classified as “cold water shock syndrome.” The first reaction is the gasp reflex that often causes a person to inhale water. This is commonly followed by hyperventilation which can lead to unconsciousness or mental confusion and muscle contraction that makes swimming impossible.
Cold water can trigger heart attacks or numb the muscles so that a person can’t grasp a life preserver or even climb out of the water. Depending on the water temperature, clothing worn, etc. hypothermia can be life threatening in 40 to 60 minutes.
A few sobering statistics you should consider: In water under 59 degrees, 59% of the accidents were fatal. Of those people who died, 90% were not wearing PFDs. In 43% of these cases, the victims were less than six feet from safety!
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail has a web site that offers two free brochures on water safety. Click under brochures and go to “Wear It! Life Jackets Matter” and “Cold Water Survival.”
Scott Locorini of Adirondack Exposure reminds everyone that colder water and temperatures, especially in the Adirondacks, are a serious matter. Here are a few simple tips by Scott Locorini to keep in mind:
• Always let someone know where you’re going. Even just a phone message.
• Never paddle alone. This is a hard one to adhere to, but if you are going to paddle alone, go to a place where you are likely to run into other people.
• Dress for the water, not for the air temperature. A little discomfort can pay huge dividends if you end up in the water.
• Learn what clothes and materials are appropriate for paddling (in other words, don’t wear jeans and a t-shirt). If your clothing is breathable, it will help alleviate some of the discomfort issues.
• Learn how to self-rescue and practice the rescues! Take a class, join a club and learn the appropriate rescues for your type of boat. Don’t just read about them or watch a video. You need to practice them under various conditions for the rescues to work when you need them to.
• Carry some sort of first aid/emergency gear and know how to use it! We don’t mean a defibrillator (or even a cell phone). We’re talking about stuff that you can take with you on each outing, such as a basic first aid kit along with fire starting material and emergency heat sources. This can be the difference between an uncomfortable story and something much worse.
Be careful out there this year and remember that a little common sense goes a long way!
ADIRONDACK OUTDOORS: Many area residents love the nearby Adirondacks for a variety of outdoor sports. A new publication for sportsmen who enjoy the Adirondacks made its debut recently. “Adirondack Outdoors” is a quarterly magazine devoted to the traditional outdoor sports including hunting, fishing, paddling, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and much more. It is written by local experts from all areas of the Adirondacks with a focus on where and how to enjoy these sports.
The current edition is only available as a digital edition online but subsequent issues beginning in June will be available in both digital and print editions. Check the website and click on the image in the upper left to bring up the magazine and then use the arrows to turn the pages.
FAO SUCCESS: Seven years ago concerned anglers started what would become the Future Anglers Outreach Program. Since that first day the program has gathered tremendous support, gained national attention and has provided hundreds of rods and reels free of charge.
The program differs from derbies in that it offers simple instruction to young anglers and their parents. The one day event’s sole purpose is to give the basic fishing skills to the entire family so fishing can be a successful experience that they will continue to do on a regular basis. All kids receive a rod and reel, bait and tackle to keep free of charge along with snacks and drinks to all attendees.
The event is now run by S.H.O.T.S. (Sportspeople Helping Others Through Sharing) which also provides many meaningful events for youngsters and assists adults in need. This year’s event was held at Marion Manor Marina, Oneida Lake on Sunday, April 28.  Again a large crowd of 130 youngsters with a parent in tow had a great experience on a beautiful day.
As the day warmed up the fish started to cooperate to the delight of most youngsters. S.H.O.T.S. volunteers were on hand to unhook wiggling fish, show youngsters how to bait a hook and give advice on casting, etc. The important thing was that the kids were introduced to fishing, received basic helpful advice and will have a start with proper tackle.
Thanks goes to S.H.O.T.S. for their financial commitment to the program, their many volunteers who donated their time on Sunday, Marion Manor Marina for allowing use of the facility, and to Ted Dobs, chairman of the event.
YOUTH TURKEY HUNTS: As mentioned previously, April 20–21 was the special Youth Turkey Hunt weekend which allowed youngsters accompanied by an adult to have a weekend to try and get a bird before the regular opening on May 1. The Oneida County Sportsmen’s Federation teamed up with Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) to give youngsters without an adult family member to hunt with a chance to hunt with experienced mentors. The youngsters had safety and turkey hunting technique instruction the previous weekend before hunting with ECOs.
Youngsters generally had a lot of action, and seven of the 16 bagged very nice turkeys on Saturday. Chairman Scott Faulkner said that a smaller number went out on Sunday but none were successful.
They all had a great time, shared a meal with the adults afterwards and were very enthusiastic about their experience. One youngster had a big tom strutting five yards away for many minutes but he was unable to get a shot. Later the ECO commented that he was sorry the youngster did not get a shot. The boy just smiled and said, “that’s OK, there’s always another day.”
Congratulations to all involved. Thanks to the many sportsmen and ECOs involved for their time and effort in this important effort in getting youth started and interested.