Historically, deer managers have concentrated on increasing deer populations by protecting antlerless deer from harvest. This approach helped restore deer populations from all-time lows in the early 1900s. Presently, the deer population in North America exceeds 30 million. Although deer populations may be low in some areas (e.g., the southern Appalachian region of east Tennessee and western North Carolina), deer herds are well established over most of their range and, in fact, are overpopulated in many areas. Today, progressive managers concentrate on improving herd quality where deer populations are established.
Quality deer management (QDM) is a strategy and philosophy that involves managing deer herds in a biologically and socially sound manner within existing habitat conditions. Simply put, QDM is sound deer management. QDM is not trophy deer management, where emphasis is placed on producing bucks with antlers large enough to qualify for the Boone and Crockett (B&C) Record Book. Also, QDM is not just about shooting does. QDM encourages active participation in an antlerless deer harvest where appropriate and advocates the protection of young bucks. The recommended antlerless harvest should be determined by deer density, sex ratio, habitat conditions and landowner objectives. Hunters practicing QDM, in essence, become managers by improving the age structure (allowing yearling bucks to survive to maturity) and sex ratio (harvesting adequate numbers of does), managing the habitat and keeping detailed records on deer observed and killed.
It is also important to realize QDM is not about putting a “monster buck” behind every tree. Further, practicing QDM will not necessarily make the deer on your property look like those from Alberta, Wisconsin, Illinois, or south Texas. Every area has its own limitations, from the genetic makeup of the deer herd to soil fertility to land-use practices (with many others in between). As a hunter/landowner interested in managing deer, you must realize these limitations and concentrate on allowing the deer herd in your area reach its potential, without unrealistic expectations. Managing a deer herd is complex and influenced by many factors, many of which are not fully understood. Nonetheless, there are three factors that greatly influence a deer management program: age, nutrition and genetics.
"PB1643-Quality Deer Management - Guidelines for Implementation," The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, PB1643-2M-8/03 E12-4915-00-002-04, http://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_agexfish/8