What comes to mind for you when I say quality deer management? Common rhetoric in the hunting world, disseminated largely by popular hunting media would lead you to believe that it is the practice of selectively shooting mature trophy whitetail deer. Now to be fair some hunting programers do a better job with this than others but the core values of QDMA are actually in fact supporting a strong deer heard.
Follow good conservation, manage doe populations, be selective in your harvest of bucks but above all else it is different from hunter to hunter and from one hunting location to another. For many hunters, especially those who are not fortunate enough to have access to large acreages of private land, the practice of selectively shooting pope and young whitetails just isn’t practical. Many of us also do not have the luxury of planting food plots to “grow big deer”.
In southern Ontario where we hunt, we chase whitetails in small woodlots often not much larger than 100 acres surrounded by vast area’s of farm land. Often these area’s are shared by multiple hunting parties using a variety of tactics; shotgun, muzzle loading weapons and bows. It is a reality to which we are accustomed and quite frankly embrace. Whitetail deer populations are not overwhelming large but stable. Hunting opportunities remain plentiful and most land owners in rural area’s of the province are happy to share the bounty of their land.
For the most part in Ontario if I were to mention the topic of leasing hunting lands hunters would look at me puzzled without the slightest idea what I am speaking of. Something for which I am quite pleased. However, without hunting land leases the practice of letting a whitetail “pass” year after year until he is a giant just doesn’t work.
As a bow hunter many of the land owners are quite happy to allow me to hunt until the start of the first shotgun season when the farmers and friends take to the woods dawned in blaze orange, after an exhausting fall harvest, to fill their freezers with venison for the winter. And although the shotgun isn’t my weapon of choice I respect it all the same and am always excited to join in after the hunt to see it’s bounty and share in the stories.
Still this sort of hunting climate makes it ever difficult to find the elusive whitetail who has been both wise and fortunate enough to reach 5 or 6 years old. That said I would venture that any buck making it to 3.5 in our neck of the woods will prove a bigger foe than a 7 year old buck that has been selectively passed year in and year out until his antlers have reached gigantic proportions.
I pass the young bucks and usually forgo taking a mature doe until after the rut when finding a post gun season buck becomes a rarity. But come December the first mature doe that walks past my stand beware! That is if it is not too cold and I am not to rusty from a season only drawing on the old target bag on our back 20. That said you have to personalize the experience and this is simply the practice that works best for my values of quality deer management. I will more than happily pass a 3.5 year old 120 class 8 point as this is a very mature a cleaver deer in our region and not a regular sighting.
I guess as I am preparing to put out my camera’s and officially start my 2015 whitetail season tomorrow I wanted to write this article to highlight that it is the work and process that goes into the harvest not the size of the antlers that makes the trophy. After putting in hours of work scouting and cutting trails, hanging stands, quality deer management for me will be when the first set of back straps hits the BBQ this fall as the hunt blog boys stand around reliving the successful hunt.
Above all practice good conservation, enjoy the outdoors and good friends and be proud of the Quality of the experience not just the Quality of the antlers.