Most U.S. deer hunters practice some form of "Deer Management" on their property, but less than one-quarter of 1% are recorded members of deer management co-operatives (DMCs). Why is their popularity increasing? How do they impact your deer herd? What are the reasons they start? And how might you join one when you have the opportunity?
A Short Cooperative History
In the 1980s, a paradigm shift occurred in deer management away from traditional deer management towards an increasingly accepted practice of quality deer management (QDM) - used to manage large-scale populations (Woods et al. 1996). QDM protects most 1.5-year-old bucks in an effort to increase buck age structure, while harvesting appropriate female deer numbers to balance sex ratios and maintain deer density with existing habitat conditions (Brothers and Ray 1975).
QDM has been used to establish hundreds of deer management cooperatives (DMCs) across the United States, encompassing millions of acres (QDMA 2005), addressing fragmented parcels under differing deer management styles (Alsheimer 2002).
Deer Management "Neighborhoods"
These deer management cooperatives are groups of ‘landowners and hunters voluntarily working together to improve the quality of wildlife (white-tailed deer), habitat, and hunting experiences on their collective acreage.' This is the draw of DMCs: Meeting management goals across property boundaries, working on the biological scale of deer management - NOT the property level.
This is where QDM co-ops, and deer management cooperatives, can change the game. Meeting your management goals - faster. Yes, you can manage you deer herd using 'QDM' principles on small properties with mediocre success from a deer population scale. Obviously, if you're passing young bucks, their chance of survival is higher than it would otherwise be, and if you manage your habitat you will enevitably attract a few more deer than you would have otherwise. These are both true, and we can debate on "how" successful QDM - in the true sense of the management philosophy - can be on small tracts. But to put it simply, we must also realize that deer don't live their lives with property boundaries in mind. Whitetail home ranges are a fluid area throughout their life, research has shown major seasonal differences based on resources, and movement patterns that change with increased hunting pressure. This is why co-ops are the future of deer management.
Deer management co-ops allow a hunter that has access to a 100-acre property experience the benefits of a quality deer management program that may span a couple thousand acres or larger. Being a member of a co-op allows you a property owner to partner with their neighbors for mutual benefit, increasing trust across boundaries, and quality of hunting experiences within those boundaries. This is why QDM co-ops have helped countless QDM Practitioners reach their management goals faster, while providing higher satisfaction for members of the co-op. The "Neighborhood Effect" is real! A co-op allows for entire "neighborhoods" and landscapes reach their deer management potential. This is why the National Wildlife Cooperative was formed - to connect these landowners, document their progress, and aid in forming new co-ops to increase hunting satisfaction and large-scale wildlife management on private lands. Leveraging deer, turkey, quail, and overall wildlife management o provide landscape benefits and both the wildlife and the hunters.
If you are interested in forming a co-op, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will link you to our state by state database of co-op leaders in your area. If we don't have a current contact, we can let you know so you can start one yourself! Co-ops are about linking landowners, and we are about linking co-ops to provide a quality neighborhood for wildlife management.
Co-op Specialist / National Wildlife Cooperative