DEER MAN­AGE­MENT AND HUNT­ING TRA­DI­TION CAN CO­EX­IST

Outdoor Life - - CULTURE SHOCK - —W.B.

Peo­ple love to point fin­gers at ev­ery­thing that’s “wrong” with mod­ern deer-hunt­ing cul­ture: food plots, trail cam­eras, leases, antler re­stric­tions, bucks with names, and Qual­ity Deer Man­age­ment, to name a few. There was none of that mess back

in Grand­daddy’s day, and the world was bet­ter because of it.

That’s ac­tu­ally non­sense. QDM works (the real QDM, which fo­cuses on herd health and habi­tat, not just grow­ing tro­phy bucks), and you need only look at the South­east for proof. This re­gion of the coun­try was once known for deer dog­ging and crazy-high buck lim­its. Th­ese days, it’s not only the most ac­tive QDM re­gion in the coun­try, but it’s also the nation’s top re­gion for deer hunt­ing by al­most ev­ery mea­sure. Seven of the Qual­ity Deer Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion’s top 10 mem­ber­ship states are in the South­east. (It prob­a­bly helps that the QDMA was founded in South Carolina and is based in Ge­or­gia.)

So, start­ing with the num­bers: South­ern hunters like to shoot, so much so that they have killed more antlered deer, on aver­age, than hunters in any other re­gion over the past five years. Even if you took Texas out of that tally (where more hunters kill more deer than in any other state), the South­east would still fin­ish close behind the Mid­west in aver­age an­nual antlered deer take. The South­east also has the high­est deer har­vest—bucks and does— per 100 hunters of any re­gion in the coun­try.

And yet they’re not just shoot­ing any deer that walks: All of the top five states with the high­est per­cent­age of 3½-year-old (or older) bucks in the har­vest are South­ern states. Mis­sis­sippi is leading the way, with 77 per­cent of its buck take recorded at 3½ years or older. And all the while, as hunt­ing-li­cense sales have de­clined na­tion­wide, they’ve mostly held steady in the South—and in some states have even in­creased since 2011. With longer seasons, deer hunters in the South­east are the most avid in the coun­try too, log­ging more days afield per per­son than hunters in any other re­gion.

So, adopt­ing QDM prin­ci­ples, and the food plots and trail cams that have come with it, has re­sulted in more deer, big­ger deer, and a ro­bust hunt­ing cul­ture? North­ern­ers might want to pay at­ten­tion to what’s go­ing on down there.

A gi­ant from the South­east, where Qual­ity Deer Man­age­ment prac­tices have cre­ated bet­ter hunt­ing.

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