Brian Murphy from the Quality Deer Management Association in the USA gives his perspective from the pointy end of Whitetail deer management
What is the organisation’s mission?
Our mission is to ensure the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. In 2018, we unveiled several ambitious five-year mission goals including: 1) mentoring over one million new or first-time hunters, 2) contributing over $1 million to deer research and management, 3) conserving more than 35 million acres through wildlife co-operatives, 4) doubling the number of QDMA projects on public land that improve wildlife habitat or hunter access, 5) sharing over 20 million prepared venison meals with those outside the donor’s household, 6) donating over 35 million venison meals to those in need and 7) reaching more than 3.5 million hunters annually through QDMA’s print, digital and social media networks. I’m proud to report that in our first year, we met or exceeded all but one of our benchmarks toward these goals. These goals were established to support our desired vision of the future which is one where deer hunter numbers are stable, deer herds are healthy, robust, and accessible and deer hunting is an accepted activity that can be enjoyed by a diverse public.
Where and when did your organisation start?
The QDMA was founded by wildlife biologist Joe Hamilton in South Carolina in 1988. The original organization was called the South Carolina QDMA as Joe had no idea at the time that the Quality Deer Management (QDM) philosophy would spread so far and wide. When forming the QDMA, Joe married the concept of QDM from Texas with the organizational structure of the Australian Deer Association (ADA). In fact, because of ADA’s influence we still call our local volunteer groups branches rather than chapters as they are widely referred to in the States. Not only was ADA instrumental to our early success, we continue to enjoy a strong relationship today which allows sharing of information and ideas to make both organizations stronger.
When did you join the organisation?
I joined as a regular member in 1990 shortly after meeting Joe Hamilton while attending graduate school at The University of Georgia. Two years later the organization transitioned from a state-based organization to a national organization and offered Charter Life Membership opportunities in the new entity. I eagerly upgraded my membership and today am proud to be among the original 37 charter life members. Today, our membership approaches 60 000 throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and several other countries.
What are the two biggest issues you are dealing with in 2019?
By far the two biggest issues facing deer and deer hunting in the United States are chronic wasting disease (CWD) and hunter decline. CWD is an always fatal neurological disease that affects members of the Cervidae family. All native North American cervid species are susceptible. There is no vaccine, no cure, no effective live animal test and the disease agent (a mis-folded protein called a prion) can survive in the environment well over a decade in the complete absence of deer. Simply put, it’s bad news with no real bright light in sight. CWD has been discovered in 26 states, three Canadian provinces and a few other countries and continues to spread. QDMA is among the most active conservation organizations in the States when it comes to CWD. We review and comment on national legislation and policies, help fund research, serve regularly on expert panels and provide advice to hunters on ways to limit the spread of this disease.
Equally sobering is the realization that the number of hunters in the United States declined by 2.2 million (16 per cent) over the past five years. The reason is clear — baby boomers are aging out of the hunter population and fewer younger hunters are replacing them. Despite hundreds of hunter recruitment programs in North America, the trend, while slowing, continues to track lower. QDMA is active on this issue as well with two notable programs: Share Your Hunt and Field to Fork. Both are delivered by QDMA Branch volunteers and our National Office staff. Share Your Hunt is primarily a youth-focused program whereas Field to Fork is designed to reach non-hunting adults who have an interest in locally-sourced foods. These locavores represent an untapped market and our Field to Fork program is widely considered the leading adult-onset hunter recruitment program in the United States.
If you were ‘king for a day’ what is the one thing you would change?
The one thing I would change is hunter apathy. While many hunters are generous with their financial support for hunting and conservation, far too few are actively engaged in worthy organizations or issues. It’s always, ‘Let the other bloke do the heavy lifting.’ Those days must end if we are to ensure a bright future for deer hunting. If we could harness just a fraction of the collective power of hunters, we could accomplish great feats for deer and deer hunters alike.
One piece of advice for the Australian Deer Association?
Be adaptive to changing market forces and social trends, but always be true to your mission and place doing what is right for deer and deer hunting above all else. Watching from afar, I have noticed numerous positive changes within ADA ranging from the new, larger Australian Deer magazine to an increased focus on women, youth and locavores. Clearly, you are adapting. You have set a true and noble course and must not waiver. Your friends on the other side of the pond stand with you in your commitment to the future of deer and deer hunting. Good on ya’ mates!