March 21, 2023

Quality Deer Management? Maine Needs QUANTITY Deer Management

It has taken awhile for me to finally get around to responding to George Smith’s article that appeared on on 12/11/2012 about some sportsmen in Northern Maine looking to implement Quality Deer Management for Aroostook County. It appears they would like the help and approval of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) but are running into strong opposition. I think those same sportsmen are going to run into mostly opposition from me on this one. (Smiling)It pains me greatly to agree with MDIFW for the most part on this issue.

In reading the article, one might get the impression that Quality Deer Management is about antler restrictions. This is only one aspect of a complete program that is designed around doing what the name of the program suggests; creating a “quality” deer herd.

Not to take me wrong, as I admire the passion to make hunting better, but I did guffaw a time or two in reading that some Northern Maine deer hunters want to create a quality deer herd. The reason for my snickering is that I was talking with a former Olympic ski coach once about problems I was having sustaining a “quality” ski team, year in and year out. His response to me, again not intended to offend simply to state the obvious, “Tom, you can’t make a good tossed salad if all you have to work with is a head of lettuce!”

Before I take the time below to post information and links (I’ve done this several years in a row) let me say that I am not necessarily opposed to Quality Deer Management, although I certainly believe it has its problems. However, I’m not sure that Northern Maine even has anything that resembles a head of lettuce. I just don’t see how “quality deer management” can rebuild a deer herd.

In Smith’s article, he quotes Gerry Lavigne, former MDIFW deer biologist and now works for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, as saying:

“I am still opposed to antler point restrictions, especially in northern Maine. Selectively removing bucks will not lead to deer recovery. Improving doe and fawn survival will.”

“Increase the deer population from 2 to 10/sq. mi. and we’ll have an abundance of mature bucks again,” said the always-outspoken Lavigne. “Any other strategy is just a smokescreen. Hunters deserve better than that.”

Doe and fawn survival is key. Deer herd management is complex and I don’t pretend to be an expert on it, but during my years of writing I have attempted numerous times to seriously explain to hunters that doe to buck ratios cannot be 100 does to 1 buck. Failing to grasp this concept makes it that much harder to educate hunters on how Quality Deer Management works and what the results will be and the purpose for seeking to implement it.

As I said, not everyone is a fan of QDM. Petersen’s Hunting magazine ran an article over a year ago asking, “Is Quality Deer Management Ruining Hunting?” Check it out.

And there’s always the debate that not only can be heard in coffee shops in deer country, but get published in national magazines, that trophy hunting ruins the gene pool. Nearly 4 years ago, Newsweek Magazine ran an article, “Survival of the Weak and Scrawny.” The tragedy of this publication was the authors, not only had no idea what they were talking about, they never sought out the hoard of scientists who refuted the claims of this study. It just made for good sales and a bit of controversy.

Dr. Valerius Geist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, The University of Calgary, Canada, provided me with the information to better explain what transpired during that study. If you are serious about understanding deer herd management, and as it might pertain to how selective breeding for “quality” deer might work, I strongly urge readers to follow all of these links and do a bit of studying. It’s fascinating stuff.

I also took the time to post another piece to explain about “trophy” (by definition) hunting and the results of that. In this article is a grocery list of information that I was able to compile from a host of qualified scientists who speak freely about trophy hunting, genes and breeding; all related information.

I have yet to find a wildlife scientist, even a new-science scientist, who would agree that implementing Quality Deer Management would aid in rebuilding a deer herd. I don’t think Maine is ready for “quality” deer management. What is really needed is “quantity” deer management. Let’s put our efforts and resources together to figure out how to increase the deer fawn recruitment and THEN work on quality.

Note: Pro Quality Deer Management sportsmen, even then, may run into opposition from wildlife managers.