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"Has our hunting improved? Have landowner relationships improved? Has hunting become even more enjoyable than it already was? Yes, Yes and Yes! We are currently in the good ol' days of deer hunting in our area."



By: James Lanier, Ridgeville QDM Cooperative / Wisconsin



Most hunters who practice QDM do so to increase their chances of killing a larger, more mature, buck. There is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it's often the motivating factor for many to become involved in QDM and aid habitat management. However, there is more to QDM than increasing the number of big bucks.


Benefits of managing deer using QDM principals include:

  1. More mature bucks

  2. A balanced buck to doe ratio

  3. Deer numbers in balance with the habitat

  4. Overall improvement of the deer herd health – Happier Deer

  5. An overall increase in Hunter Satisfaction Rates – Happier Deer Hunters

  6. Improved relationships with neighboring landowners – Happier Neighbors


I often get asked, “How do I start my own cooperative?” I wanted to provide prospective hunters – that want to form their own co-op – a guide from someone who was in this situation 19 years ago!


First 10 Steps to Form a QDM Cooperative


1) Make the commitment! If you are already practicing QDM on your property and will continue to do so, you have nothing to lose.


2) Educate yourself on what QDM is and what it isn’t. Read the book, “Quality Whitetails – The How and Why of Quality Deer Management” and refer to websites like the National Wildlife Cooperative’s.


3) Talk to your closest neighbors to gauge their interest in following a QDM program. Let them know of your plans for a cooperative and ask for their thoughts and consideration. 


4) At this point you may be able to create a committee (with 1 or more others) to help you out). If not, that’s okay; you will be able to do this step somewhere else along the way.


5) Get a landowner map of your target area. Draw a circle around your property, a “QDM Target Area”. Start small, a 1 mile radius is a good; a 2 mile radius is very good, 3 miles is better. Start small, work  your way out from your target area as time and interest allow.

















6) Create a contact list of all landowners and hunters located within your target area. Include: name, address, phone, email, land acreage, location and notes. 


7) Create a Facebook Page. If needed, solicit the help from your kids, a friend, or neighbor. Search Facebook for example of pages of other cooperatives. It is a great way to generate interest.


8) Post some cooperative signs along roadsides in the area. Posting signs gets people talking and it is another great way to generate interest.


9) Send out a letter to your target group. Include: (a) definition of a QDM Cooperative (b) map of your target area (c) your plans, ideas, goals (d) ask for help and feedback (e) a short questionnaire with a self-addressed stamped envelope will increase your response rate (f) your contact info. Be sure to follow up all inquiries with a visit, phone call or email.


10) It’s now time to start thinking of a get-together. Do something as simple as a “Meet-n-Greet BBQ” in a garage or shed. Just getting to know your neighbors is a big step to a successful cooperative. Provide handouts, cooperative signs, harvest recommendations and a cooperative target area map.

While it does take some time and planning to form a QDM Cooperative, the benefits are worth it. Instead of making 19 years of excuses like I did, make a commitment today to form a cooperative! Focus on what you can control, work with your like-minded neighbors that share your ideas for better deer and better deer hunting. Following these first 10 steps will get you started down the right path. Good Luck! 


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In the summer of 1995 I received a letter from my friend Brian. He, along with one of his neighbors, was forming a Quality Deer Management (QDM) Cooperative. Brian sent me the letter because I had permission to hunt a property within this area, and he wanted my support. After reading the letter and talking to Brian, I was in!


Over the years, because of the success of his cooperative, Brian encouraged me to start a QDM cooperative on our family farm several hours away. My excuses were always the same:

  1. “My neighbors shoot every buck they see.”

  2. “My neighbor’s deer management plan is: if it’s brown, it’s down.”

  3. “My neighbors will never do it.”


Nineteen years after this initial article from Brian in 2014, I read the book, “Quality Whitetails – The How and Why of Quality Deer Management (QDM)”. After reading this book I was ready to promote QDM in our area. Already managing our land for quality deer, it was time to commit to forming a cooperative around the farm. I mailed out over 150 letters and invitations to our first meeting, and lined up two guest speakers - one from the WI DNR and one from the QDMA - to talk about my ideas about a cooperative. To make a long story short, we just completed our sixth hunting season as the Ridgeville QDM Cooperative. Has our hunting improved? Have landowner relationships improved? Has hunting become even more enjoyable than it already was? Yes, Yes and Yes! We are currently in “the good old days” of deer hunting in our area.

what is quality deer management & qdm co-ops?

QDM is a management strategy that produces healthy deer herds by balancing adult sex ratios through protecting young bucks and adequate doe harvest. The combination of protection for young bucks to improve buck age-structure, coupled with the harvest of does to maintain a healthy population in balance with the existing habitat conditions, provides quality hunting experiences and opportunities to harvest mature bucks and plenty of venison! 


A QDM Cooperative is a group of landowners and hunters working together to improve the quality of the deer herd, habitat, and hunting experiences on their collective acreage. A QDM Cooperative allows neighbors to pool their lands together to have a much more positive impact on the local deer herd.



ridgeville qdm co-op / wisconson

About the Author

James Lanier, QDM Specialist Wisconsin

For the past 25+ years James has been managing deer and improving deer/wildlife habitat on his family farm in Wisconsin. In 2014 he formed two Deer Management Assistant Program Cooperatives with neighboring landowners. In 2015 he formed a Quality Deer Management Cooperative with even more neighbors which now includes 55+ landowners. While employed for QDMA he helped form and/or expand 100's of QDM Cooperatives in the upper midwest. He is a recipient of QDMA's Deer Steward 3 Certificate, the final step in QDMA's Deer Steward Certification Program.

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