January 24, 2013
"Balanced Age Structure" Is Not Always a Euphemism for "Trophy Bucks"
By Dave Hurteau
Anyone who follows along here knows that while I think there’s a lot to like about QDM, I’m not quite ready to shake my pompoms for the movement—no matter how sexy I may look in a majorette uniform, and I’m telling you, it’s pretty damn sexy.
That said, I do sympathize with the good folks at QDMA—smart, serious professionals devoted to the resource—when they try to explain, again and again, that decades of traditional deer management designed to grow deer populations skewed the natural age structure of most herds, and that with populations now widely recovered, we need to correct that. To which they receive a resounding “Pishaw!” from a contingent of unbending hunters who know better. “All you want are trophy deer!” they insist.
Look, we all—including the folks at the QDMA—know that there are hunters who usurp the language of QDM to justify their trophy deer obsession. There is too much “good-for-the-herd” talk from run-of-the-mill bulls**tters. But that doesn’t mean any effort to increase the number of mature bucks is bogus.
I prefer my nature in the most natural state possible. (Just one of those quirks.) QDMA biologists tell us that herds with a balanced age structure—which usually means more mature bucks than is common today—are in a more natural state. And lo and behold, they have evidence: Lower jaw examinations from Native American middens dating from 1,000 BC to 1,700 AD, for example, show that the average age of harvested deer was 3.5 to 4.5 years and that 23 to 43 percent of deer killed were mature bucks.
If there wasn’t so much noise to the contrary, I’d suspect that there’s a legitimate reason for increasing the number mature bucks that has nothing to do with antlers. I’d think maybe you can support the QDMA’s call for a more a “balanced age structure” without being trophy obsessed. But I can’t be sure.
And so I ask, especially to the QDMA haters: If the deer herds were in a more natural state, would it bother you much if 43 percent of the deer you bagged were mature bucks?