Bill Marchel: An imbalance in the equation

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 3, 2010 - 5:08 AM

Mature bucks are few and far between in Minnesota. That's not what Mother Nature intended.

hide

Many Minnesota hunters feel too few mature bucks like this big 10-pointer exist in the state and that a healthy deer herd should consist of a more balanced buck-to-doe ratio and age structure.

Photo: � Billmarchel.com, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

BRAINERD — One day last week, I spent the final two hours of daylight perched high in an ash tree, bow in hand, white-tailed deer on my mind. I was overlooking an expansive willow and alder lowland interspersed with open sedge meadows.

A few days prior Mother Nature had bestowed upon the countryside a fresh covering of wet snow, and it clung to every branch, twig and blade of grass. It was cold -- near zero -- and a moderate north wind didn't help. From my elevated perch, I viewed the impressive landscape through just a slit in my windproof facemask.

Some might call this form of entertainment punishment: the numbing cold, the biting wind, the deep snow. But as I continued my afternoon hunt, it wasn't the weather that was most disturbing to me, but rather the thought of how poorly our deer are managed by the DNR, at least in the opinion of most veteran hunters I know.

A deer herd skewed toward females and immature males is not a healthy herd. Deer biologists have proven that. Most knowledgeable hunters believe our deer herd should be managed to attain more mature bucks and a more natural buck-to-doe ratio, as nature has intended. Whitetails, they believe, did not evolve to become the spectacular animals that they are with an imbalanced herd.

In 1996, I interviewed Jay McAninich, who at the time was a deer research biologist for the Minnesota DNR. He is no longer with the agency. The following is an excerpt from that interview.

• • •

"We have discussed QDM [Quality Deer Management] internally with a number of our managers. We've gone over what is happening in other states, particularly those to the south that have been working with this approach to deer management for some time," McAninch said. "QDM has also been discussed extensively with managers in Michigan and Wisconsin, who basically have just watched the concept evolve on private land."

McAninch said Minnesota will take a different approach.

"There is a lot interest on the part of our managers to see what we can or cannot do in this sort of a venture," McAninch said. "Right now we're at the stages of active discussion of what we would do, where we would do it and how we would offer this opportunity [QDM]. We are well under way in planning a QDM effort in the state."

According to McAninch, the plan probably won't be ready until the fall of 1997 at the earliest.

• • •

What happened to that plan? Fourteen years later, QDM efforts remain in the experimental stages.

According to statistics published by the Quality Deer Management Association in 2008, a whopping 67 percent of the antlered bucks harvested in Minnesota were only 1 1/2 years old, the highest total in the nation. In Kansas, only 17 of every 100 antlered bucks are yearlings.

Much like catch-and-release fishing, QDM may take a while to catch on. Among humans, the need to succeed is great. Some hunters cannot fathom the idea of watching an immature buck pass only to go "deerless" for the season. Unfortunately, peer pressure influences many hunters.

Yet for QDM proponents, passing up young bucks is considered success, as is shooting a doe. Often, those involved with QDM gain satisfaction by other experiences, such as learning deer biology, working with others on habitat programs and improving hunting ethics. A chance at shooting a mature buck often becomes secondary.

QDM, however, should not be looked upon as a higher form of hunting. Many hunters are satisfied just to be outdoors with perhaps an opportunity to shoot a deer, any deer, and no one should be shunned for that. All hunters should remain open-minded to the ethical hunting philosophies of others.

But (this is important) for those who complain about the lack of mature bucks, or for hunters who feel our deer should be managed from a biological standpoint, with the long-term health of the herd and the habitat in mind, perhaps they should push for a QDM plan in Minnesota. In the meantime our DNR experts believe deer management is a "social issue." Deer biology is obviously of less concern.

That cold reality struck me when my afternoon vigil was deerless.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors columnist and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Washington 102 FINAL
New York 91
Oklahoma City 114 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Cleveland 91 FINAL
Miami 101
LA Lakers 93 FINAL
Chicago 113
Golden State 86 FINAL
LA Clippers 100
DePaul 69 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 72
Ohio 58 FINAL
Nebraska 71
Colorado 66 FINAL
Hawaii 69
George Washington 60 FINAL
Wichita State 54
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close