The following article does not necessarily represent the opinions/views of any of my sponsors or viewers and is intended solely to provide readers with a way to see another side of a very important issue facing deer, deer hunters and the deer industry.
I’ve always wondered how people have been fooled into supporting the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States). I guess it is because people don’t investigate this organization thoroughly enough before jumping off and supporting it. From the name itself, the HSUS would appear to be what we all would hope it would be. It sounds like an organization that would be for humane treatment for animals. I wonder, “Who wouldn’t be for that?” But, when the HSUS and its actions are closely reviewed, it is clear they are not what their title implies. We, as hunters, outdoors people and animal lovers, all realize the farce in which the HSUS continues to conduct itself. We also realize that if HSUS gets their way, they will see the end of all hunting of all animals, to say the least.
So, when I compare the HSUS to the QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association), it may come as a shock to people. It is actually a shock to me. But, it is the best way I can think of to address what I see is a potentially bad thing for deer. Yes, I see lots of similarities. After reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong. And keep in mind, there’s likely a better way to illustrate the issue, but comparing these two organizations is certainly something that will get lots of folks to read this and hopefully give it some serious thought.
I’m a deer nut
If you are reading this, odds are that you are a whitetail deer enthusiast. I know I am absolutely nuts about this animal, as are millions of Americans that hunt AND don’t hunt. Deer are easy to become passionate about. They are beautiful and they live in a wide variety of habitats. From the dense timber woods to urban areas, deer adapt and find a way to live.
As a lifelong deer hunter, I became so intrigued with the whitetail deer that I couldn’t get enough by just spending a couple of months in the woods chasing them, hoping to put a tag on one and take it home. Many years ago, I was opposed to high fences and deer farming. Today, I am an avid supporter of both and I find it hard to believe that at one time I was so against both of them.
How did this happen? Honestly it happened slowly over time and without question, it happened because I had a desire to be closer to the whitetail then I’d ever been.
Nuts for deer or just nuts?
Recently, the QDMA came out with an announcement that urges hunters to oppose the expansion of the deer farming industry in seven states. QDMA states the reason is that “deer farming poses a threat to wild deer and the deer hunting heritage.” I know that this announcement took many people by surprise. However, I knew it was only a matter of time before this agenda of the QDMA would be announced publicly.
On the QDMA website, it also says that deer farms should all fall under the jurisdiction of wildlife agencies rather than agriculture agencies because wildlife agencies have more knowledge of wildlife and wildlife diseases. I find that hard to believe and I know lots of folks that work in different States’ wildlife and agriculture departments. Animal health is more closely monitored by agricultural agencies than wildlife agencies in every state that I know of. Who looks after the health of livestock? Agricultural agencies do. I believe that maybe we should call these farm deer “live stock” and then they can fall totally under the agriculture agencies that undoubtedly have more resources to track animal health then wildlife agencies.
Since QDMA made the announcement, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the emails are still pouring in from people (most of them are members of QDMA too) that are outraged with such a position by this organization. Even sponsors of our television programs have contacted me asking how they should address the issue. It appears that QDMA has opened up a subject that has fueled the otherwise quiet members of the deer enthusiast community to rally and take a stand. The problem is, they are taking two different stands and each opposes the other. To see just how even many members of the QDMA are divided on the issue, all you need to do is visit the forum on the QDMA site. Lots of comments from both sides and, keep in mind, these comments are made by their members.
I am writing this to address what I feel is one of the most potentially destructive things deer enthusiasts are facing IF they want to see the future of the whitetail deer remain bright. The deer enthusiasts that have contacted me are very uncomfortable with this friction caused by the QDMA announcement. This action by the QDMA is a prime example of why the future of hunting does not look as promising as it should.
Let me get this clear from the beginning, I honestly believe that regardless of which side of this issue you fall on, I’d bet that if you were to sit down and dialog with those on the other side of the issue, you’d find that we have more in common than not in common.
I’m a believer that QDMA had no idea that this announcement would cause the uproar it has, not only with some of their sponsors, but also with some of their members. Many of their members are deer farmers themselves and virtually every deer farmer I know (and I know hundreds of them personally) all hunt deer. They, like me, got into the whitetail business because they too couldn’t get enough of deer by just hunting them.
I’m also a believer that there are many members of QDMA that had no idea that they belonged to an organization that they now know is dead set against them, their business of deer farming/ranching and ultimately what many feel is against the future of whitetail deer and deer hunting.
How can an organization that calls themselves the QDMA take such a position? How can so many QDMA members support an organization that now publicly takes a position that is directly opposed to them?
Out of touch?
Now think about this. If QDMA gets its wish, what do you think their future stance on high fence hunting will be? I compare this type of announcement to be as ridiculous as if the NRA came out in support of some kind of gun ban. Give me a break.
When an organization comes out with such a radical agenda as QDMA has, it has to make people wonder just how out of touch with their membership and much of the deer hunting community they really are. Do they realize that without their members, they are nothing? Do they realize that taking a stand that divides hunters can do nothing but hurt the future of hunting and indeed themselves? Or, do you think that this is exactly what they are trying to do by taking such an open, divisive approach towards deer farming AND the future of deer hunting?
I’d recommend you go to the QDMA website and read their mission statement and purpose. It all sounds so good. But, nowhere in that mission statement does it say that they will take a stand that will prove to be detrimental to deer, the deer industry and all of us that love deer. But, that is exactly what is going on.
What’s in a name?
After researching the QDMA website, I have to say I’m impressed and my first thought is that I support what they stand for. But, when I research the (HSUS) Humane Society of the United States website I can see things there I support too. But, I choose not to support either. Why? Because actions speak louder than words and it’s clear from the recent statement from QDMA that this could be just as radical of an agenda as the folks with HSUS. You may wonder if I’m comparing QDMA and the HSUS. I am. It appears they have lots in common. Before some of you blow a gasket by this comparison, I’m honestly trying to remain as objective as I can. Can’t we all just get along?
Both organizations at first glance seem very innocent and something that anyone that loves animals would want to support. But, when you peel back all the layers of propaganda, their agendas are clear. They are not what many of their supporters believe them to be.
For HSUS, their hidden mission is to end all hunting. It’s really not hidden any longer. But, it’s clearly not in their mission statement. The heck with management. The heck with people. The heck with everything including animals. When HSUS wins, every animal looses. The best way that HSUS wins is to see the hunting industry fragment. Archers against long gunners. High fencers against low fencers. Private hunting versus public hunting. Bait versus no bait and on and on. Let’s face it, hunters have become so fragmented that we are easy prey for the antis. All they have to do is sit back and see us destroy ourselves and best of all, they never have to spend a penny. It’s people like you and me that care for animals so much, that we do what we can to see that all of them are taken care of and that they have a bright future. And yes, taking care of some animals includes hunting them.
For QDMA, their agenda is clear. And their recent action makes it appear they could be out of touch with much of their membership. They, like all of us, stand for quality deer management. Heck, who of us doesn’t? We all love deer, don’t we? And we take care of deer in different ways. Some of us plant food plots, provide supplemental water, leave dedicated sanctuary areas for them and more. Why? Because we love deer! But the folks with QDMA want us to love deer the way they want us to, not the way we choose to.
Is deer farming a threat?
In my opinion the claim from QDMA that deer farming poses a threat to the future of hunting couldn’t be further from the truth. Additionally, there is no science that I’m aware of that proves diseases among whitetail deer are caused by deer farming. The claim that deer farms have deer with diseases is true. But, deer that live outside deer farms have diseases as well. Even in states that deer farming is not permitted, deer have diseases. Just ask the folks in Montana or Wyoming where some deer herds have seen reduction in numbers due to Blue Tongue, EHD and even CWD.
The difference between deer on a deer farm and those not on a deer farm is simple. Farmed deer are well looked after on a daily basis and cared for in a humane manner that wild deer could only hope for. Farmed deer enjoy the good life as they have plenty of food, water and adequate cover. They are cared for nutritionally and medically. Are non-farmed deer cared for like that? When a farmed deer becomes ill, they are doctored. When a non-farmed deer becomes ill, who would even know? When a farmed deer dies, by law deer farmers are required to determine why the animal died and strict guidelines are in place in the event a serious illness is the cause. When a non-farmed deer dies, who knows? Who knows, not only when it died but, more importantly, why it died? So many questions.
Then comes the argument about manipulating deer breeding so that monstrous antlers are grown. Yes, deer farmers try to line up the perfect breeding pairs so large antlered deer result. However, deer hunters interested in quality deer management hope to accomplish the same thingby removing those deer with supposedly inferior genetics and allow those with larger antlers to do the breeding. When did it become a bad thing to try to get the best deer to breed, regardless of where they live? Don’t hunters want to have a chance at healthier, better, bigger antlered deer? Sure they do. That is part of what quality deer management is about.
Rally the troops, don’t divide
Outdoorsmen are under attack from those that want to see hunting end. Therefore it would only be reasonable to assume that last thing we need is any organization that fragments our already fragmented troops. I have always been one to try to see both sides of issues and when I don’t know something, I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to know. I then try to educate myself on the subject before I go out and publicly make a stand to support or not support an issue. I believe that each of us should arm ourselves mentally with the proper information on a subject so we can defend ourselves whereever we stand.
For the QDMA to come out against deer farming and to use the reason that it creates a threat to the future of deer hunting is unbelievable. We all want quality deer management regardless of where we live, even if it’s on a deer farm.
More information and research on whitetail deer is obtained from captive deer than wild deer and this information benefits all deer no matter where they live.
Different strokes for different folks
Management techniques for deer differ depending upon many things. Loss of habitat and human encroachment are key factors that affect whitetails. Management of deer in New Jersey, where land has been fragmented for centuries, is different than the management of deer living on big ranches in Texas or large farm land in the midwest.
The issue boils down to private property rights
Our country was founded upon private property ownership and there is no better steward of the land and all that resides on it then the landowner themselves. To suggest that by and large state agencies do a better job of managing wildlife then private landowners, I believe, is absurd. State agencies manage according to the public perception of the way things should be. It’s politics folks.
While wildlife is the “property” of the “people” of the state, that “property” resides in many areas on private land. Does that mean that the “people” have the right to pursue the “property” on private land without permission? Of course not. Because it is private land and as long as Americans continue to enjoy private landowner rights, this will always be the case.
But, it is obvious that we live in an entitlement society. One where people are simply entitled to things when they literally have done nothing to deserve or earn them. I see an ever increasing attitude of wildlife entitlement among hunters.
Many hunters think that hunting is a right. But I disagree. Hunting is a privilege. But regardless of where you stand, privileges and rights need to be protected. If hunting is a right, can you show me where it says so in our Constitution?
Are the “people” of our country entitled to wildlife? If so, who pays for their entitlement? It is the outdoorsmen that hunt, fish and camp that pay for the wildlife and it is because of the generosity of these people that all Americans enjoy wildlife. No doubt, outdoorsmen are the leading conservationists in the world.
Deer farms preserve hunting heritage
Next statement they make: “Deer farms cause a growing threat to our hunting heritage.” Are you kidding me? Deer farms create more opportunity for hunting than ever before. Is it perhaps not the kind of deer hunting that QDMA would like to see? But, to the thousands of hunters that enjoy hunting deer that may have originated from a deer farm operation, it’s hunting to them. When I hear the “fair chase” hunters put down these other hunters because their choice of where to hunt, it makes my point of hunter fragmentation even easier to make.
Deer from deer farms wind up on properties that have been without any deer population for decades due to habitat loss and encroachment of man. Once these deer are introduced to the land, they can be hunted. I think this opens up more hunting opportunity. Doesn’t it? When deer from deer farms wind up on property where the owners allow terminally ill children, wounded warriors, the elderly, and yes, the able bodied hunters that want to shell out the money to hunt there, that’s good for hunting. Those hunters purchase equipment that raise money that goes towards conservation, the exact same way as those hunters opposed to hunting behind a high fence.
The subject of hunter fragmentation is a hot topic and one that almost everyone in the industry wants to avoid. It’s the proverbial time bomb that can backfire on people and companies. The proverbial elephant that everybody knows is in the room but nobody wants to talk about it. But it is something that must be addressed if we truly are concerned about the future of hunting.
I hear it said that the North American Conservation Model is not being followed in some areas, and I agree. I also wonder if, and when, this model (which obviously worked well at the time) was drawn up, did it take into consideration all the changes we’d see in our world? Did it take into consideration that land fragmentation and loss of habitat (due to man) would pose such a serious issue wherein some areas wildlife would simply vanish? Did they ever think there would be a need to have so many conservation groups working to save what hunting ground we have remaining? Certainly, if we followed this old conservation model, everything would be an outdoorsman utopia. But, the reality of the situation is that it’s not.
I’ve been in numerous meetings with land owners and concerned sportsmen that talk about developing a new conservation model that addresses the issues facing sportsmen today. That really is a political hot potato. You ought to see the sparks fly when that goes on.
My thought is radical. Why not allow the people that own their land make decisions about what is done with their land? And that includes choosing to raise sheep, goats, deer or turn it into another strip mall. If wildlife has no value, we will eventually have no wildlife.
Then, there are those hunters that claim deer hunting in a high fenced area isn’t “real” hunting. Really? What is real hunting? That’s like trying to define what is a “real” date to a high school student. Does a “real” date include a movie and dinner, or a dance or a whatever? Answer is different strokes for different folks.
For years, I have worked towards unifying sportsmen regardless of how they hunt or where they hunt. If they hunt, odds are they are my kind of people. Even if I don’t participate in the kind of hunting they may do, and even if I don’t like it, I still support them. Why? Because they are hunters. Hunters are the biggest threat to the future of hunting and this announced position by the QDMA is simply another outstanding example of how messed up some sportsmen have become.
A challenge to the QDMA
It would be nice if this subject could actually be debated by knowledgeable people representing both sides. If QDMA would be willing, I’d be happy to line up such a debate and to videotape it so those interested could watch, listen and then make up their own minds on the subject.
I will always be on the side of deer first and then, in my opinion, everything else falls in line somewhere behind that. My philosophy has always been to remove all personal opinions and agendas on wildlife management and then focus on doing what is best for the animals. Then everything else will fall into line.
I love deer. All deer. No matter if they live in high fence, low fence or no fence areas. Deer need to be managed properly and embracing a philosophy that divides hunters cannot be healthy for the future of hunting.
What should you do?
My advice is to become an activist and start this very moment by doing something to help mend the fragmentation among sportsmen. Recognize that we have more in common than not and that when we all are pulling in the same direction, we all benefit. The future for sportsmen looks better when we are all on the same page.
I consider myself to be an aggressive advocate for quality deer management, yet I cannot bring myself to join the ranks with those out there that work to see that hunters further fragment.
If you have an opposing view, I’d love to be able to speak to you about it. I may be tough to track down, though, as I’m looking for reasons to help bring sportsmen together and trying to avoid those things that divide us. The best way to get in touch with me is via our website, http://keithwarren.net, or on my Facebook page, http://facebook.com/keithwarrenoutdoors.
Keith Warren is the host of three nationally broadcast television programs airing on Pursuit Channel. He can be reached via Twitter @thehighroadtv or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/keithwarrenoutdoors.