CASH Courier > 2004 Spring Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier

Quality vs. Quantity in “Deer Management”

By Peter Muller

A dispute that occasionally arises within the hunting and “deer management” community is whether deer should be managed for quality or quantity hunting. Our first reaction to that squabble is “Who cares how you weirdoes prefer to kill deer? You are both in need of intensive long-term therapy and should be locked up”.

But, taking another look at the dispute, we learn some of the finer details about deer management practices and agency policies. So it pays to attend those meetings and to record the arguments.

Here is the basic argument: Some hunters prefer to hunt “Quality Deer”; they would rather get a few shots at bucks with a big rack of antlers than many more shots at bucks with lesser antlers. Other hunters would rather maximize the number of targets they get to shoot at, even if the deer are less spectacular as trophies. There are obviously diverging interests within the hunting community. More experienced “trophy hunters” usually take great pride in telling you how they’ve gone hunting for years, sometimes without taking a single shot, passing up many possible shots to wait for that rare opportunity to shoot at a trophy buck. Other hunters will admit that they usually shoot at the first thing they see.

If deer are to be managed for “quality”, there will be fewer deer in the area. (More males means fewer females, resulting in fewer new offspring.) That means fewer successful and satisfied hunters. In subsequent years, there will be fewer hunters and hence less “hunter economy”. Just some of the things that hunters are known to spend money on are: hotels, motels, firearms, ammunition, outdoor equipment, alcoholic beverages, electronics (CB radios, satellite TV de-scramblers), tobacco products (smoking, chewing), bladder control devices, vehicles (ATVs, pick-up trucks), and underwear (yes, surprising as that seems, some hunters actually do wear underwear).

[Editor’s note: We contend that hunters drive out other tourists and other types of businesses.]

If deer are managed for quantity, there will be more deer, more hunters who hunt successfully (kill at least one deer) each season. There will be more hunters, more license sales, and more P-R tax to the game agency.

Game agencies have, by and large, managed wildlife to maximize their revenues from license sales and Pittman-Robertson tax-- that is to say they manage for quantity. Quality management has been done mostly on privately owned preserves that charge a premium to hunt on their land.

Due to pressure from trophy hunters, some state game agencies have begun to consider Quality Deer Management as a local option.

In the Catskills region of New York State one area is now a quality deer management area and another adjoining area was proposed as an additional Quality Deer Management area. At the local town meeting at which permission was sought to approve the change (more legally precise, to request that BOW change its policies to Quality Deer Management), most of the local business owners were vehemently opposed to the change, citing loss of business as their major concern.

The sole voice for the change came from a club of trophy hunters.

Most interesting to note was the position of the representative of the Bureau of Wildlife of the DEC (the NY State agency that regulates hunting). The representative stated clearly, “We can manage them any way you want to – just tell us how you want us to manage the deer population”. This exposes as a lie the usual party line that deer populations have to be managed the way they are being managed for the good of the species. C.AS.H. has been maintaining for decades that deer management (and wildlife management, in general), is practiced primarily to provide a maximum number of targets for hunters.

What should we make of this internal debate in the opposing camp? First of all, I think we should document (audio tape and videotape) all of the disputes, with particular attention to the agencies’ admission that alternative methods of deer management would greatly reduce the current deer population. We can then quote their statements back to them when they allege to the public that the current (quantity) management methods are needed for deer population control when, in fact, those methods maximize the wildlife population as an accommodation to hunters.

C.A.S.H. went to the meeting to call for no hunting at all and to tell them the rest of the world is watching and horrified; further that the wildlife is not theirs to kill. But, given that the shots are still called by them, think about the fact that management for trophy hunting creates fewer deer, fewer hunters, fewer kills, and less public support. The “quality” deer hunters lost the vote.

Peter Muller is the Chair of C.A.S.H. – a Committee of Wildlife Watch, Inc.

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