I am a firm believer in Quality Deer Management (QDM) principles. When necessary, I shoot my fair share (or at least try) of does, and I’ve made a personal decision to pass on year-and-a-half old bucks. I believe these two things help to balance the deer herd and provide me with a better hunting experience, while increasing my chances of taking a wall-worthy buck.
Recently, though, individuals who claim to practice QDM have started to sour my view of the movement.
As I said before, I firmly believe in Quality Deer Management. In the last few years, I’ve passed on many year-and-a-half old bucks – which left my freezer empty at times – since a doe never provided me with an opportunity. But I’m fine with that. It was a conscious decision I’ve made at this stage in my hunting career – I shot plenty of year-and-a-half old bucks back in the day – and I’m fine with that decision, since I believe it increases my chances of having an encounter with a mature deer in the future.
Many aren’t at that point in their deer hunting careers, though.
To criticize a new hunter, especially a young hunter, for shooting a perfectly legal deer, albeit a young one, is just foolish, crazy, and – quite frankly – makes you look like a jackass. While I respect the logic behind your comments that you need to “let ‘em grow”, trying to sway a young or inexperienced hunter into practicing QDM by degrading their first buck is a huge mistake.
And, more importantly, you should never, ever give a QDM lesson around a fresh kill. I agree with your main points – except I believe a hunter’s first deer should be whatever he chooses to shoot, QDM be damned – but to try and sway an individual to your point of view while standing over a deer that they have shot legally, practiced for, and worked hard for, is plain wrong (On the other hand, having that conversation with a newer hunter, while holding onto the rack of a nice 130 you’ve let walk for the last couple of years, is fine in my book).
It seems that many individuals who practice QDM have lost sight of what QDM is really about – harvesting does, and protecting young bucks – and have become engrossed in the idea that QDM is only about shooting large, mature bucks; and they’ll stomp on whomever they believe will get in the way of that, regardless if it turns a young hunter away from hunting, and regardless if it ruins a relationship with a neighbor.
A deer should never ruin a friendship, but – unbelievably – deer hunting, and the differences in the way people choose to hunt, have led to just that.
I am not trying to paint the whole QDM movement with a broad brush, and I know that there are plenty of people involved in the QDMA organization – I’m friends with a few of them – who are great ambassadors for Quality Deer Management as a whole. But I’m afraid the few bad apples I’ve mentioned above – the guys and gals who think that their way of deer hunting is better than others, and whom believe Quality Deer Management is only about shooting large bucks – are pushing those who believe in Quality Deer Management in general away from participating in the movement at all.
And that’s really too bad, because the science and principals behind Quality Deer Management are sound; some of the outspoken representatives of the movement, however, are not.