- Don Mulligan
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This year's whitetail roundup is filled with lots of good news for deer hunters and was presented at QDMA's convention by their CEO, who took sides on one of the most controversial topics in deer hunting today.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. Speaking before a packed house at this year's QDMA convention in Louisville, Ky., Brian Murphy, QDMA Chief Executive Officer, didn't mince his words when describing his biggest concerns for the future of deer hunting.
"Television hunting shows and even QDMA misinform hunters at times regarding the true nature of deer hunting," he said. " We all have to do a better job portraying the sport as something more than just the pursuit and harvest of record book bucks."
Even more controversial, however, was his statement about high-fence hunting operations.
"Though different operations offer very different experiences, I am concerned about the role high-fenced hunting will have on the future of deer hunting and the health of our deer herd in the United States," Murphy said.
He cited concerns over the spread of diseases within the deer herd and the role captive farms might play. He also discussed the negative impact privatization of otherwise wild animals would have on hunting.
After that, Murphy offered endless research and evidence that we are currently in the midst of "the good old days of deer hunting right now."
From 1985 to 2005, the number of whitetail deer in the United States more than doubled, growing from 14 to 30 million animals.
In that time hunter numbers have declined, according to the USFWS, but not as drastically across all species.
From 1996 to 2006, for example, overall hunter numbers fell 10 percent, but big game hunter numbers only dropped 5 percent. From 2001 to 2006 the decline was only 2 percent.
That's manageable, Murphy said, as long as we all continue to portray our sport positively and strive to keep it in the public eye.
And by all indications, hunters are doing a good job.
According to Murphy, a recent study by a non-hunting group found that 71 percent of all youth believe "hunting is cool."
Forty-four percent of the children polled also expressed interest in trying hunting someday.
Add to that the fact that the National Archery in the Schools Program grows exponentially every year, and the future looks bright for the sport.
None of the good news was meant to imply there won't be changes and challenges coming to deer hunting.
"More than any time in history, the American deer hunter is more knowledgeable about the sport, practices QDM, owns land, manages land and conserves it, and is likely to pass the legacy on to his heirs," Murphy said.
Even the way we hunt deer will change according to Murphy, who believes hunting co-ops are the future of deer hunting. Currently, 34 percent of today's hunters are part of a co-op, he said.
Here are some additional highlights from QDMA's 2009 Whitetail Report.
• As a significant indication of the spread of the QDM philosophy, the percentage of yearlings (1 ½-year-olds) in the nationwide buck harvest declined from an average of 51 percent in 1999 to 45 percent in 2005. During this same period the percentage of 2 ½-year-olds increased from 28 to 32 percent and 3 ½-year-olds or older increased from 19 to 23 percent.
• Following a nationally published report that dangerous levels of lead was found in donated game meat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in fact, the average lead level of the hunters they tested was lower than among average Americans. The original study was eventually questioned after it was shown to originate from a group with a mission of conserving birds of prey.
• Incidences of hemorrhagic disease, including both epizootic hemorrhagic disease and bluetongue virus, were few and far between in 2008. That's good news, as 2007 went in the books as the worst year for the disease in at least 50 years.
• In 2006, deer hunters spent $12.4 billion on their favorite pastime. This sum is more than half (52 percent) of the total expenditures for every species pursued. Additionally, all hunters combined spend more on their activity ($23 billion) than the total revenues of McDonald's.
• It is impossible to control or even predict which bucks breed which does in the wild. Thus, it is difficult to control the genetic traits you select for (or against) by selectively harvesting bucks based on antler characteristics.
See the entire 68 page report at www.qdma.com.
QDMA's 2009 whitetail deer report