Deer Conservation photo

Joe Hamilton, founder of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), has been named Budweiser’s “Conservationist of the Year” beating out three other finalists for the prestigious honor. Hamilton accepted the award during the Golden Moose Awards ceremony, held during the 2011 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.


I met Joe two years ago at a QDMA function, and the man is simply a class act. Among the most respected biologists in the country, Hamilton has spent his over 40 years studying wildlife and is an expert on many species, from amphibians to black bears. He’s among a handful of living biologists who has received a Career Achievement Award from The Wildlife Society, an association of professional biologists and researchers. Joe has also worked with other groups, such as Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy, to create conservation easements and expand hunting opportunity. But you’d never guess at his pedigree if you met this modest, friendly man on the street.


Of course, Hamilton is best known for QDMA, an organization he started in 1988. For several years, QDMA “headquarters” was literally a shed in Hamilton’s backyard. The organization now claims 50,000-plus members, who reside in every U.S. state and Canadian province, as well as several foreign countries. QDMA is among the fastest-growing conservation groups in the country of late.

During his acceptance speech for the Budweiser award, Hamilton held up a copy of Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac”, acknowledging Leopold as the father of modern game management. Hamilton is an heir to that legacy, and the stamp that QDMA has placed on modern deer hunting cannot be downplayed. Folks who associate QDMA as a group advocating trophy-bucks-above-all-else have not taken the time to read the organization’s entire message. Though whitetail deer are certainly a major player–in the hearts of hunters or the plans of state agencies–they are only one component of any given ecosystem.

Hamilton (and QDMA) has educated scores of hunters and biologists, helping them to re-think deer management in order to achieve a balanced and healthy whitetail herd. In my opinion, there have been few men who have made a heftier contribution to modern deer management, and he’s most deserving of this award. Hamilton has donated the $50,000 monetary prize to QDMA.