For our Heroes of Conservation Roundtable discussion at this year’s SHOT Show, F&S asked this very question to a panel of experts, including deer biologists, writers, and conservation leaders. And now, I’d like to ask you.

But first, let’s clearly define the parameters.

We are speaking here of trophy deer management (lower case), as in management (by both state agencies and private land owners) generally with an eye toward big deer, which may include some core principals of Quality Deer Management, such as a herd size that’s in balance with the habitat–as opposed to Trophy Deer Management (upper case), which follows a specific set of guidelines mostly at odds with QDM, including a herd size that is below carrying capacity.

Okay, so we are talking about the trend toward, the push for, and the obsession with big racks as it pertains to land and herd management. In the past, we have discussed how trophy madness affects everything from access and land prices to tactics and etiquette. But until now we haven’t said much about how it affects hunter recruitment and retention, both of which are key issues going forward.

The easy, knee-jerk reaction, I think, is to bash the big-deer movement and all its effects. But it’s more complicated than that. A mature whitetail buck is a magnificent animal that rightly holds a special appeal for virtually all hunters, and I suspect many would-be hunters, too. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, an obsessive quest for big deer can absolutely have some negative effects.

So, taken on the whole, all things considered, knee-jerk reactions aside: Does trophy deer management do more to help or harm hunter recruitment and retention? Please expound in the comments section.