Monday, February 15, 2010

Quality Deer Management and the hunt

Cross-posted from the Grousers hunting blog.

I am currently working my way through Marc Boglioli's A Matter of Life and Death: Hunting in Contemporary Vermont, and I know that Eric has already read the book.

Boglioli has some interesting things to say about "Quality Deer Management," or QDM. The following paragraph caught my eye in light of a comment Eric has made on this blog recently about things that "take the hunt out of hunting," e.g., hunting gadgets, or high-fence. Does QDM fall into this category of potential threats to hunting's future?

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?

10 comments:

  1. 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.

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  2. I'm a QDMA Member and Deer Steward. The message and goal that I take home is to shoot for a balanced, healthy herd and habitat. Healthy deer in a healthy habitat have good body size and weight which are useful for survival. A few healthy, mature deer also have big antlers. Does someone object to this?

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  3. Apparently, Bill, there is concern that herd management may alter "meanings of hunting." I find this spurious. Where herd management becomes indistinguishable from what I do on my cattle farm, then, sure, it "ain't huntin' no more", it's agriculture. I think both farmers and hunters make that distinction. Bringing QDM into that discussion, though, seems quite a leap. Managing my wetlands doesn't make my waterfowl hunting any less meaningful; managing my creek doesn't make my fishing any less meaningful, and so on. I think the logic flaw is in saying that raising deer like cattle (eg deer farms, high fence operations, etc) is analogous to a QDM approach. Sensational, but in the end fails the common sense test, in my opinion. This logic is also contrary to clear distinctions made between QDM and trophy deer management by QDM proponents (see http://www.qdma.com/qdm/deer-mgmt-strat.asp).

    Ever heard of grouse and woodcock hunters announcing the informal "rule" "pointed woodcock only?" Is that a self-imposed version of Quality Woodcock Management? Or in the duck blind "Drakes only boys?" Is that self-imposed Quality Duck Management?

    I fear there is a whole lot of nostalgia for "put on the red-checked flannel, grab your lever-action, and let em fly-- if its brown its down." That too is a form of management... which has resulted in enough complaining about poor diversity of age classes in bucks to warrant the discussion of QDM in the first place.

    And Bill, I have the QDMA sign here too. :) You sound like the kind of hunter I'd give permission to hunt my land.

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  4. actually, I think there is a significant difference between QDM done for management purposes and considered as a "management action" as such, versus informal "rules" of drakes only, points only, and the like. This latter category is made up of voluntary actions chosen by the individual hunter to enhance his/her hunt (by increasing the challenge, skill required, and the like). So in deer hunting, for example, a hunter may voluntarily elect to pass on a four point and wait it out for a ten point, but that fact alone in and of itself is not enough to make that hunter's actions constitute "QDM."

    In contrast, QDM as a management activity undertaken by the state, the game reserve, or the private landowner is a top-down mandate the sets the rules of the game for everyone across the board. And generally (not always) the motivation and/or rationale for doing so is improving herd health--NOT enhancing the hunter's experience . . . although those two goals may overlap.

    The excerpted quote from Boglioli's book was really addressing the perception from the hunter's point of view that the character of the hunt (its phenomenology, if you will, to use a Yoda-ish beer camp word) is affected in making the outcome (antlers) more important than the process (the hunt itself). So while Cagey's observations above are all well-taken, they rather miss the point of the complaint: QDM regulations as a bureaucratic mandate may change the "felt experience" of the hunt on the ground, so to speak, i.e., by taking the hunt out of hunting.

    I think in this conversation it is really important not to conflate the management of hunting (or game management) with the nature of hunting/the hunting experience itself.

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  5. I find it interesting to see Vermont used as an example of QDM and then the implication that this has possibly eroded traditional hunting. I have not read MR Boglioli's book, but I feel the posted section may be somewhat misleading.
    (also, I really enjoyed Mr. TidBall's post)

    Having been a significant participant in the process which lead to the current rules in Vermont, I am able to state briefly what some of the rational was. First, I would not necessarily call it a success....yet.
    Vermont was taking approx. 60% yearlings in the annual harvest. Our goal was to increase the age classs of the predominant deer taken to a 2 1/2 year old and to maintain the harvest as per the Department long term plan. IF we can harvest traditional numbers...Did we really have an effect on overall hunter opportunity? I would say not.
    The Fish and Wildlife Board did many other changes 6 years ago. This included a ban on feeding deer, which of course would include baiting. So all those cute bags deer food pictured above would have no legal place in Vermont. I feel that we have excellent traditional hunting in Vermont. We have done our best to keep commercial and special interest out of this sport and life style.

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  6. Jim writes- "I think there is a significant difference between QDM done for management purposes and considered as a "management action" as such, versus informal "rules" of drakes only, points only, and the like. This latter category is made up of voluntary actions chosen by the individual hunter to enhance his/her hunt (by increasing the challenge, skill required, and the like). So in deer hunting, for example, a hunter may voluntarily elect to pass on a four point and wait it out for a ten point, but that fact alone in and of itself is not enough to make that hunter's actions constitute "QDM."

    I think that is oversimplified. What if, as many hunters claim, the experience of their hunt is enhanced positively by the self -awareness that that their self-imposed rules ARE in fact management, or contributing to management goals they support and are invested in? The point isn't conflation, it is deliberate reference to the possibility that "changing hunting meanings" in the direction of conscious awareness of individual experiences as potentially part of management is perhaps a positive, certainly not automatically a negative.

    As none of this is my field, I will bow out now. I am just a land owner who derives a great deal of satisfaction out of my VOLUNTARY QDM efforts and the results they yield, both in terms of the quality of hunting experience (process) and the results (product). I'll leave it to philosophers to convince me that I should have to separate the two in order to experience "true" hunting.

    I am sure something changes when things move from voluntary to regulatory- but that argument should also not be conflated with the "rightness" or "wrongness" or "real hunting-ness" of practicing QDM. Perhaps what takes the hunt out of hunting are rules, period. But then, one couldn't call hunting a sport...

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  7. Kieth writes, "Perhaps what takes the hunt out of hunting are rules, period. But then, one couldn't call hunting a sport..."
    You hit the paradox of sport hunting on the head. To be a sport (as I am convinced hunting is) you need rules, but one of the satisfactions of hunting is using your own discretion on what you do when you are alone in the field.
    To me we have laws which are the lowest common denominator of behavior that society will accept, then their or group or cultural codes then personal codes and decisions made in the field. These require knowledge, clear thinking and lots of self discipline. All great attributes for living a good life and make hunting such a rich experience.
    Too many laws and enforceable codes and you lose this character building aspect of the hunt. Not enough regulation and the slobs ruin the enjoyment of the hunt and imperil the future of hunting.

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  8. Whenever morals or ethics are involved it's never an easy answer. What is right to one is wrong to another, and so on and so on.

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  9. The idea of deer management means a lot of things to a lot of different people. To some, it probably just means reducing the deer population, which is often the case in suburban deer populations which are now widespread. Others, may think it's purely management for trophy bucks. Truth is, it's different in situation.

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