QDM: Fact vs. Fiction
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.
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 www.QDMA.com.
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 www.adirondackbirds.com 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.