By BILL HILTS
Niagara Gazette — “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 young bucks (yearlings and some 2.5 year-olds) combined with an adequate harvest of female deer to maintain a healthy population in balance with existing habitat conditions and landowner 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.”
So goes the mantra of the Quality Deer Management Association, a philosophy and an attitude that extends far beyond basic antler restrictions – what we talked about last week.
“Antler restrictions are part of QDM,” insists Ray Purdy, Vice President with the Upper Hudson River Valley Branch QDMA, “but it’s not the only part. There are four cornerstones to QDM – herd management; habitat management; herd monitoring; and hunter management. It all works in concert with one another. New York’s antler restriction throughout the state has been at least one three-inch antler and it’s been a slow process trying to change people’s attitudes – especially with some of the older generation.”
“We are seeing all ages of landowners and sportsmen and women involved,” adds Purdy. “The younger generation is actually quicker to grasp this way of thinking while the older generation is slow to make the turn.”
Education is the key for making the transition and to ultimately help them achieve the QDM objectives. It’s those four cornerstones that help those people become armed with the knowledge of what QDM represents.
Herd Management — Cooperators need to understand that this basic premise calls for the harvesting of an appropriate number of does to balance with the habitat. The goal is to protect one-and-a-half year old bucks, but some cooperators may pursue a more aggressive approach to their own QDM co-op.
“For example, some QDM areas might enforce a three points on one side combined with a 15-inch minimum spread on an animal,” says Purdy. “In addition, a co-op may ask hunters to qualify through proficiency with a gun or bow before they can hunt a particular area. While this is at the top end of what co-op rules can be about, this is a good example of how serious a co-op can be.”
Managing the does to get deer population numbers in line with the corresponding habitat is critical. It’s also very complicated. Once that happens, and the population becomes healthier, the average age of a doe becomes less but the body weight increases. A healthier doe will also become more likely to give birth to twins or triplets. “To keep the herd stable, you will need to harvest roughly a third of the does every year,” says Purdy who lives in Glens Falls.
Habitat Management — The work that is put into place, including food plots and other forms of habitat enhancement, benefits more than just deer – it benefits all forms of wildlife.
“If there are too many does in a particular parcel of land you will need to pare down the numbers before any meaningful improvement projects can take place,” reflected Purdy, who has been involved with QDM in Washington County for 13 years.
You might want to check out the book “Quality Food Plots” to see what needs to be put into place for food plot initiatives. On the average, it may take three to five years before you begin to see meaningful results in a co-op area.
Hunter Management — Again, education is the key.
“Before we can get people involved we have to educate them," Purdy said. "Our message helps to turn deer hunters into deer managers. I like to call it ‘one-half inch of trigger control.’ We have six co-ops in Washington County now that total some 20,000 acres. Last year in just one of the co-ops we took 15 bucks that were three points on a side and a spread of at least 15 inches. Six of those bucks were four and a half years old or better. Thirteen years ago we didn’t see a single deer that was that old in that particular tract of land.
“I’ve seen it happen – over 40 landowners working together with one common objective in mind. I’ve seen some landowners who aren’t hunters and didn’t want anything to do with hunting become involved to help the local habitat. It’s pulled all these neighbors together. If you would have told me that 20 years ago, I never would have believed you.”
It’s also led to better landowner relations, which is a good thing.
Herd Monitoring — It’s important to monitor the progress of the deer herd on all of the QDM co-op areas.
“Every deer is checked – whether it’s harvested through hunting or found dead on the property," adds Purdy. "We monitor body weight, whether or not milk is present in the does, antler diameter of the bucks and so on. We also extract a jaw bone from every deer and pull a tooth to determine the exact age of the deer. It’s an important component to the overall program.”
QDM isn’t for everyone. If you wanted to become more informed on developing your own land, you could contact your local QDM Branch to get started. If you don’t know of one, contact Purdy at 518-222-4075 or visit the website at www.qdma.com. Once you have the landowners and the land, all you need is the passion. QDMA will work with a biologist and forester to develop a strategy and set you on the right track. The North Western Branch leader is Joe Ciepiela of Lockport at 625-8279. Other branches exist in the Southern Tier, Rochester area and the Finger Lakes.
“I think that there’s this attitude out there that we are all about trophy hunting and I think that’s unfair,” says Purdy. “When a co-op is run properly, it involves numerous projects that benefit all forms of wildlife, not just deer.”
In the end, it’s better for the environment. And it’s about getting neighbors back to being neighborly.
Gordon Batcheller, Chief of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bureau of Wildlife, says that this form of customized deer management is an interesting concept that balances the deer herd with habitat conditions. It also focuses on the taking of antlerless deer, which is also a good thing because some areas simply have too many deer – such as in Westchester County. They are faced with the challenge of managing the state’s deer herd of more than one million animals both on public and private lands, so they are discussing the regulatory aspect of QDM type programs…which also brings to mind access and what kind of a role this will play with the hunting public. Access is critical for the general hunting public and DEC is focusing more on access across the state. In the end, it will come down to hunter attitudes. The survey that is being conducted this fall will help lay the foundation for whitetail management beyond 2015, when the current plan expires.Calendar of Events for Week of October 27, 2013 Today • Gun Show hosted by the Iroquois Arms Collectors, 2176 Liberty Drive, Niagara Falls from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Open to the public. Nominal admission fee. For more info contact Don Clark at 791-4628 or Bob Chambers at 876-9815. • Northern Zone regular deer season is now open through December 8. Tomorrow • Waterfowl Lottery drawings for Beaver Island State Park, West River Parkway, Strawberry and Motor islands are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for Beaver Island blinds at the Beaver Island Casino located within the state park at 6:30 p.m. sharp. For more info call 773-3271. • Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs general meeting at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara, 4487 Lake Avenue (Route 78), Lockport starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday • Niagara County Fisheries Development Board meeting at Wilson Town Hall, 375 Lake St., Wilson starting at 7 p.m. For more info call Chairman Frank Campbell at 523-0013. Wednesday • Niagara Frontier Chapter, National Wild Turkey Federation monthly meeting will hold their monthly meeting at the Twin Village Post 463, Litchfield Ave., Lancaster (near Transit and Broadway) starting at 7:30 p.m. • Waterfowl lotteries continue for local state parks Fort Niagara, Joe Davis, Wilson-Tuscarora and Golden Hill at the Fort Niagara State Park maintenance building starting at 5:30 p.m. sharp. Drawings will also be held every Wednesday. For more information call the Fort Niagara State Park at 745-7273. • Introduction to Kayaking at Williamsville South High School from 6-9 p.m. Fee is required. Instruction by Paths, Peaks and Paddles. For information on how to sign up, call 626-8080. • Gateway Harbor Canal Fish Derby Committee Meeting at 7 p.m., Gastown Sportsmen's Club, 154 E. Niagara St., Tonawanda. Friday • Final day, Lake Ontario plains fall turkey season. The Southern Tier season is open through Nov. 15. • Leftover Deer Management Unit permits are now available at license issuing agents only. • New York Power Authority Fishing Platform and reservoir closes for the season for fishing. Saturday • Jim Carr Multi-State Pistol Permit Class for Utah-Arizona-Florida at Niagara Gun Range, Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda starting at 9 a.m. This class will give you the necessary certification to apply for pistol permits in those states and give you carrying privileges in some 30 states. For more info or to preregister contact 693-4000. Carr can be reached at 778-9431. • The Great Gorge Route hike in Niagara Falls State park from 1 to 3:30 p.m. For info and registration call 282-5154. • The Pan-Am Experience presentation at Evangola State Park from 2 to 4 p.m. For info and registration call 549-1050. Bill Hilts Jr. is an outdoor writer with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.