National Deer Alliance: Right Move, Perfect Time

The hunting world just got a much-needed shakeup with the forming of the National Deer Alliance (NDA), which seeks to be the unifying voice that will represent whitetail nuts, muley freaks, and blacktail fans. In short, if you are deer hunter, the NDA has your back—and that of the wildlife so important to you.

All I can say is: It’s about time. I’ve long maintained that deer have been taken for granted in this country. In recent decades, American sportsmen have ponied up millions to preserve and create waterfowl habitat and restore wild turkeys. Meanwhile, whitetail populations were booming, so it was easy to ignore them. We lived in a happy little bubble, but there was no way it could last forever. And it didn’t.

In the last handful of years we’ve seen some critical changes. Deer have been hit by diseases like CWD, EHD, and Bovine TB. Record harvests have also thinned populations dramatically. I don’t believe there’s a crash imminent, but the days of a whitetail behind every tree are behind us, at least for now. Things have changed for hunters, too. Our numbers are shrinking, and so are the number of acres accessible to hunting. But perhaps most critical is this: Although we’ve constantly stepped up to the plate and done what biologists asked of us, hunters are too-often ignored or given short shrift when deer-management policy is crafted.

What we must never forget—and must never let anyone else forget—is that hunters pay for deer management. Our dollars are significant enough that, without them, most state game agencies would fold. No group that weighs in on deer policy—not the farm bureau, the timber growers, the bird watchers, or even the insurance agencies—pay a nickel to manage deer. No, they spend their money on the political process. And they are organized. We’re not. Consequently deer hunters, and deer, have suffered.

The NDA has the potential to change all that. Yes, there are already active and vital organizations devoted to deer—QDMA, Whitetails Unlimited, the Mule Deer Foundation—but their membership are small; of the roughly 11 million deer hunters in this country, only about 1 percent belong to one of these deer groups. We need a bigger umbrella. To their credit, each of the above organizations have put their egos aside and joined the NDA to work together to create a unified voice for America’s deer hunters. The QDMA deserves special praise for recognizing that they couldn’t be the ones to unify hunters and instead playing the lead role in creating the NDA. I’ve already joined (basic membership is free and online at www.nationaldeeralliance.com), and I urge you to do the same.