Monday, February 15, 2010

More on Quality Deer Management

The Vicar and I are both working our way through Marc Boglioli's A Matter of Life and Death: Hunting in Contemporary Vermont. (Of course Rico is reading it for work; I am reading it for recreation.)

Be that as it may . . . Boglioli has some interesting things to say about, ahem, "Quality Deer Management." Perhaps we can get a rise out of Cagey with this one. heh heh

Boglioli writes:
"While QDM may be an unqualified success for deer management in Vermont, it could well alter local meanings of hunting because of its emphasis on 'the trophy.' Most hunters, while certainly not opposed to the idea of bagging a 'Rackasaurus' on opening day, are thrilled to bring home any deer at all. If it happens to be unusually large, or has a trophy rack, so much the better. But QDM is a different philosophy. It focuses on the size of the deer and/or its rack as a way of determining the value of a hunting experience. This thought first crossed my mind when I initially learned about QDM in 2002 r 2003, and it was emphasized again in a conversation with a Vermont game warden in 2004, who said, 'The cultural perception of hunting has gone from process to product. . . . They're taking the hunt out of hunting.' A man at a local deer camp shared similar sentiments and pointed out (even though he agreed that it might be good for growing bigger deer) that QDM was a completely different approach from what he referred to as the Vermont 'family' hunting tradition, which is not oriented around a quest for trophy bucks but rather around the love of fresh venison, the enjoyment of family and friends, and the chance to spend some time in the woods rather than at work. Considering how many times I have heard hunters say 'You can't eat the horns,' I think this guy had a point." (p. 29)
Well, what do you think? Does QDM, Earn-a-Buck programs, and the like "take the hunt out of hunting"? Do we risk altering the "family hunting tradition" if we change the focus of hunting from process to product? Is this the end of hunting as we know it?



Path Walker said...

I'll step in it -- not knowing a whole lot about deer management. Just seems to me QDM isn't for a state agency. Better suited to big private ranches like Keith's. Done right (???) they'd be taking out the spikes and poorly-racked older bucks, not nice 6 and 8 point yearlings and 2 yr deer. At the Cagey Ranch the discerning sport can probably age a buck by its body shape (right boys?), but for the general deer hunting public they have to go by # of points. State's are better off managing the does, and letting those of us who like to eat yearlings keep slaying those measly little spikers (and does when we get the chance). That's my culture and I'm sticking to it! (except when hunting on a ranch with silly antler rules ;-) )

KGT (aka Cagey) said...

I like big horns and big antlers. I also like big fish. I am a fan of Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young, and Safari Club International's efforts to quantify exactly what a trophy is, as opposed to a run of the mill specimen. I like the Big Buck Club tradition at my Sportsmen's club, a tradition that has been around a lot longer than QDM. Hell, I even like the lunker squirrel contest, and I know squirrel hunting traditions haven't been corrupted by trophy-ism

Jim likes a "hunting is sport" argument. He likes to keep score in his own esoteric ways (opportunities, shots, blah blah blah). Trophy hunting is just another way of keeping score and should be ok via a "hunting is sport" argument.

But all of this doesn't get at the real flaw of the argument. The author says "...But QDM is a different philosophy. It focuses on the size of the deer and/or its rack as a way of determining the value of a hunting experience."

Provocative, inflammatory even, but not accurate. QDM is focused on the quality of the deer herd, including buck to doe ratio, and good representation of all age classes among bucks.

Three points- 1.The above statement generalizes wrongly that all anyone wants is a big rack, or else they ain't huntin'. Well, sometimes we just want meat-- under QDM, you want meat, shoot a doe. That's still huntin'.

2. We wouldn't have poor age class distribution if people weren't ALREADY horn hunting prior to the advent of QDM.

3. Who said someone could limit my freedom to hunt for horns exclusively if thats how I determine the value of MY hunting experience??

Path Walker said...

BACK IN THE DAY when I was a wee teenager with a penchant for hunting the deer, I practised my own sort of QDM. I'd let the yearling forks-plus walk, but any spike or scraggly-racked older buck was highly sought after. Those spikes were scarce, but I recall one trophy spike 2 1/2 yrs old that I reduced to the freezer. And I kicked myself for killing a beautiful 8 pt yearling. There were some nice mature big racked bucks.
When I got to Maine I soon learned not to let a legal buck pass, or you could be in for a long season or more likely a deer-meatless winter. There wasn't an age class distribution issue. It's just that the densities were so low none of the age classes were abundant.
But over in Tantilloville, where the sports also are just out to put venison in the freezer and are looking for the first legal deer(s) (i.e. NOT horn hunting), those ignorant yearling bucks certainly take it on the chin. The chinless yearlings of course don't add to the succeeding age class, and so we've got the skew that VT is trying to reverse (apparently successfully). And so if more yearlings in VT are surviving, the buck numbers should be increasing, so what's buddy griping about? After all, most hunters want to see a buck, maybe even kill a buck. Arggh! I just convinced myself the antler restriction has merit (although not so much from a "trophy" standpoint). I knew I shouldn't have had that beer!

Alex Metcalf said...

Does the well informed, "real" definition of qdm mean a lick? Pretty sure most think its all about telling hunters what they can/can't shoot (bigger government?) for the goal of bigger bucks. Perception is everything, right? So, it's possible that local meanings of hunting can be altered by the perceived emphasis on "trophy," even if the "real" emphasis is something else.

Marc said...

Great discussion. In response to comments about QDM in Vermont, you can check out any number of VTFWD pubs that talk about hunter satisfaction as the main reason this policy has been implemented (not that there aren't other benefits involved). For example, one document (

states, "Management efforts by southeastern state wildlife agencies have kept habitat as the focus of deer management. However, northern hunters have focused more on increasing antler and body size of bucks to bolster hunter satisfaction when calling for changes in deer management practices." So, at least in my experience in Vermont, QDM was usually discussed in public as a way of growing bigger deer and racks, not growing a healthier herd.

And thanks for picking up the book!


KGT (aka Cagey) said...

Playing devil's advocate for a moment, why should we be so worked up about changing local meanings of hunting anyway? Things change. Animals evolve, adapt, including Homo sapiens. And deer.

Before I get too excited about breathless arguments about changing meanings of hunting, I think I'll ponder other changed meanings of hunting... time was a man could kill a barrel full of passenger pigeons and not bother anybody. Damn government came in and changed meanings of hunting, made us follow LIMITS.

Time was a man could kill a hundred ducks on Cayuga Lake over some corn with a punt gun. The old timer tells me they used to take Canvasbacks by the trailer load to the market in NYC. Now they changed meanings of waterfowling in these parts. The government says we can only kill one per day.

Now, when I'm not "in" my alter-ego Cagey, but instead pretending to be an academic (no comments from the peanut gallery of clearly more successful examples), I tend to side with anthropologists, given that the Boasian curse befell me long ago. And, now that Marc, presumably also trained as an anthropologist, has joined our little covey of grousing, we must be circumspect.

Perhaps marking a change in hunting meanings is not a judgmental act. Perhaps it is not subject to nostalgia. I need to read the entire book to know what the author has in mind.

What I DO know, is that Jim the Ithacan Gadfly zeroed in on a quote from a game warden in his rise-getting post -- "The cultural perception of hunting has gone from process to product. . . . They're taking the hunt out of hunting." I can't say that Marc is necessarily defending this logic- so far, all I know is that he alludes to it.

I have to give some thought to why we have to address this game warden's logic with equally dichotomous thinking about process vs product. At a gut level, I don't buy it... but I'll have to get back to ya'll.

Alex Metcalf said...

"Playing devil's advocate for a moment, why should we be so worked up about changing local meanings of hunting anyway? Things change. Animals evolve, adapt, including Homo sapiens. And deer."

I like the idea of the meaning of hunting changing...for deer :)

Alex Metcalf said...

And, yeah, I ordered the book, too.

Vicar(ious) said...

keep going, y'all, great fodder for my book review. Meanwhile, I am happy to keep hiding in the gallery. Metcalf, aren't you supposed to be off on some coyote hunt this weekend? (see Ch 7).

Jim Tantillo said...

Eric has weighed in at the Fair Chase hunting blog:

Eric C. Nuse said...

This question brings to mind one of the fundamental differences between sport hunting and market hunting. In market hunting the value is in the dead animal, in sport hunting it is primarily in the live animal. Prior to the ban on pot and commercial hunting the value for many folks was on the meat and hide, leading to the wholesale destruction of many game animals. This continues to be the model for many marine fisheries. Even with our modern knowledge we are over fishing nearly every species.

Will QDM taken to the extreme lead to over killing? No, I don't think so, but the mind set is troubling.

In a comment on an earlier post a fellow from New Zealand told about red deer that where being bred for antler size and fed supplements that was causing some of these critters skulls to crack.

It seems to me that too much wildlife management can become domestic deer management if we aren't careful. Then the hunt is truly gone from the hunt.

February 18, 2010 11:36 AM

Alex Metcalf said...

How has wildlife management, particularly in the east, not already become domestic deer management? Almost every aspect of habitat, diet, and behavior of deer is determined by human development and behavior?