When we reported the formation of the National Deer Alliance last week, we weren’t surprised to see some pointed commentary. Any time a new organization forms, people have questions. What is the group’s purpose? Who gets my money? How exactly will they help the cause that’s so important to me?
All legitimate queries, and anyone contemplating joining a group deserves answers.
I think I can handle the most basic. Martin45 asked, simply, “Who are these guys?” Well, the need for a national deer organization has been kicked around for awhile, actually; our friend and colleague Andrew McKean, editor of Outdoor Life, called for just such a group in a feature story he wrote a couple years back. The idea later became a huge talking point at last spring’s QDMA Whitetail Summit, which I attended. The Summit pulled together researchers, biologists, and hunters from across the country, largely to address some of the big, pressing concerns facing America’s whitetails. QDMA, to their great credit, recognized that as much as they would like to be the big national organization folks were calling for, they are too small (membership stands at about 50,000), their focus is too tight, and (deserved or not) their brand is not embraced by all deer hunters.
So the QDMA wisely stepped out of the spotlight and helped form the NDA. But, and this is important, the NDA is not the QDMA dressed in a different suit. It unites the efforts of established deer groups like QDMA, Whitetails Unlimited, and The Mule Deer Foundation and is already receiving strong support from hunting industry groups. The Archery Trade Association (ATA) recently donated $100,000 to the NDA, and I expect similar support from other major players, with diverse points of view.
Which brings me to Question Two: Wisc14 asks, “Is this really needed?” My answer is, “absolutely.” As I mentioned in my original post, deer (whitetails in particular) are too easily taken for granted by too many. Because whitetails have been relatively abundant (to the point of peskiness in some areas) over the last few decades, many question whether they even need management. Well of course they do. We are managing whitetails whether we allow no hunting in a particular area or decide to eradicate an entire herd. The question is, who has the loudest voice when these management decisions are being made?
Too often, it’s not hunters. (For more on this, see my 2013 article “The Dirty Politics of Deer Management.”)
There are plenty of groups—often far more organized and politically powerful than hunters—who exert influence in ways that can hurt deer and deer hunting. Meanwhile, we are all but ignored in some cases, even though we pay the freight for the agencies making those management decisions. The NDA hopes to change that by acting as a unifying voice to represent the country’s 11 million deer hunters. In a nutshell, they hope to be the NRA for deer hunters.
No doubt you have more questions about the NDA. And we welcome them. We’ve asked NDA Executive Director Craig Dougherty to sit on the hot seat and field your queries. So fire away. Post concise, respectful questions in the comments section below, and in an upcoming post, Dougherty will do his best to answer them. If you are a deer hunter, Dougherty wants you to join the NDA, but only if you’re confident in their purpose and intent.
So have at it, folks….