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
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
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.