BuckTracker: Hillview’s Home-Grown Bucks

Last week my friend Ted Marum and I were invited to Hillivew, Minnesota, to talk to a group of hunters about quality deer management. You’ll note I did not capitalize these last three words, as Ted and I were not representing the Quality Deer Management Association. Rather, we were asked to talk about our practical experiences implementing QDM principles; restraining harvest of young bucks, shooting an adequate number of does, and improving habitat.

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Hillview is not so much a town as it is a few buildings in the north-central part of the Gopher State. But this is a small place with big ideas. About 7 years ago, members of the Aho family (there are 18 siblings in this family of Finnish ancestry, at least half of which deer hunt!) decided they were tired of the quality (or lack thereof) of deer hunting on their farm. So they implemented QDM principles for themselves, then started talking to their neighbors. This fall, Melvin Aho (our host) and his clan figured that, between their holdings and neighboring farms, there were over 15,000 acres under some form of QDM in the area.

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Ted and I spoke to a crowd well over 200 people that day. We also got an eyeful of antlers, listened to some excited and enthusiastic deer hunters, and enjoyed a great meal and camaraderie. The event was attended not only by hunters, but landowners, DNR wardens and biologists, and representatives to the state legislature. There were raffle prizes (the biggest pot was a drawing where hunters tossed their unused buck tags into a pot), as well as cash awards in the “Big Doe” contest (the hunter and the landowner where the doe was killed each received $500). I’ve been involved in QDM for quite a while, but I’ve met few groups who can match the Hillview crowd for enthusiasm!