Deer hunting needs a unified voice to secure and enhance its future, and QDMA is positioned to fill that need: This was the message of leaders from all sectors of the hunting community gathered at the first-ever North American Whitetail Summit.
“This event has revealed a clear need for a national umbrella organization to carry this work forward for deer hunting. QDMA, you’re it,” said Jay McAninch, President/CEO of the Archery Trade Association, in his comments at the Whitetail Summit press conference.
Held March 3-6 at Bass Pro Shops’ Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri, the four-day Whitetail Summit was attended by more than 200 people including representatives from 19 companies in the hunting industry, 18 state wildlife agencies and one provincial agency, nine leading institutes of deer research, 17 major landowner groups including the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 13 hunting or conservation organizations, and, most importantly, deer hunters from more than 20 different states and one Canadian province. In breakout sessions, these groups identified their top issues of concern, highlighted ways they could address those issues, and discussed steps the other stakeholder groups should take. However, numerous issues were mentioned repeatedly by all groups, including hunter recruitment and retention, hunting land access, deer population levels, whitetail diseases, the influence of politics on deer management, habitat loss, hunter education, public perception of hunters, predators, feral hogs, and the growth of the captive deer industry.
“QDMA convened the Whitetail Summit to create dialogue between all these stakeholder groups regarding the future of white-tailed deer, and it was a huge success,” said QDMA’s CEO Brian Murphy. “But beyond the issues, we kept hearing a call for a broad coalition to unify these voices and push for action on issues. Many people pointed at us. It’s a logical and natural step for QDMA to expand beyond our founding mission at this point in our history and do more for every deer hunter in North America. QDMA will accept that calling.”
Throughout the Summit, concern for the whitetail resource and the future of deer hunting was evident among all groups.
“The path of the whitetail hangs in the balance and will be determined by you here at this symposium,” said Will Primos, founder of Primos Hunting, in his comments at the opening of the Summit.
That idea was echoed by Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and a presenting sponsor of the event, who said companies and organizations that often view themselves as competitors share a common need to protect white-tailed deer.
“There is no competition in conservation,” Morris said to the group.
The urgency and necessity of the Whitetail Summit was also emphasized by U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, former Vice Presidential candidate and an enthusiastic deer hunter who spoke to attendees through a video message, and also by Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, who attended the Summit and was a keynote speaker.
“The cooperative energy generated at the Summit was impressive, but it means nothing if the whitetail community fails to turn this opportunity into action,” said Murphy. “The stakeholders spoke of their confidence in QDMA’s ability to keep the momentum going. With that kind of support, and with the broader support of the entire deer-hunting world, we will continue to bring deer hunters together to ensure a strong future for our tradition.”
Though Winter Storm Titan prevented more than 50 of nearly 270 registrants from attending, the diversity of the gathering still far exceeded any whitetail-focused event ever held. More than 15 different outdoor media outlets covered the event. QDMA is currently studying the extensive list of issues and ideas produced by each stakeholder group at the Whitetail Summit and will share insights over the coming weeks. Visit QDMA.com to sign up for our free e-newsletter, find updates, or support QDMA by becoming a member.
Attendance at the Whitetail Summit included the following, listed by stakeholder group:
Academia/Research: Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Clemson University, Kansas State University Extension, Mississippi State University, South Dakota State University, University of Georgia, University of Tennessee, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, West Virginia University.
Hunters (states/provinces represented): Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Ontario, Canada.
Hunting Industry: Archery Trade Association, Bass Pro Shops, Big Game Logic LLC, Bushnell Outdoor Products, Cabela’s, Federal Premium Ammunition, Mossy Oak, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Outdoor Underwriters, Pape’s Inc., Primos Hunting, Redneck Blinds, Responsive Management, Sitka Gear, Tink’s, Trophy Rock, Whitetail Properties.
Landownership/Management: Callaway Gardens, The Campbell Group, Choctaw Wildlife & Parks Dept., Deep Fork Whitetail Management Association, Drumming Log Wildlife Management, The Forestland Group, GrowingDeer.TV, Lucky Star Ranch, The Noble Foundation, Plum Creek, Rayonier Inc., Resource Management Services LLC, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, USDA-Forest Service, W.C. Bradley Farms, The Westervelt Co., Weyerhaeuser Co.
Non-Governmental Organizations: Bluffland Whitetails Association, Boone & Crockett Club, Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry, National Bowhunter Education Foundation, National Rifle Association, The Nature Conservancy, Pope & Young Club, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Whitetails Unlimited.
Wildlife Agencies: Alabama DWFF, Florida FWCC, Georgia DNR-WRD, Illinois DNR, Indiana DW, Kentucky DFWR, Michigan DNR, Minnesota DNR, Mississippi DWFP, Missouri DC, Nebraska GPC, North Carolina WRC, Ohio DW, Oklahoma DWC, Ontario MNR, Canada, South Carolina DNR, Texas P&W, Virginia DGIF, Wisconsin DNR.
Logo courtesy Quality Deer Management Association