QDM Cooperatives: All the Cool Kids are Doing It

May 19, 2016 By: Matt Ross

What do bell-bottoms, pegged jeans, parachute pants or in todays era, skinny jeans, have to do with deer management? Two words: peer pressure. Our friends wore them, so we wore them. Luckily, I have discovered the pegged-jean equivalent of a technique that will help improve your deer hunting this fall.

In my experience working with thousands of deer hunters and landowners across the country, probably the number one justification I hear why someone may fully support QDM-style practices but choose not to participate is the assumption, nay the fear, that their neighbor will shoot anything that they let go.

I’m calling that bluff.

That’s a lame excuse and there is an easy answer to it; it’s called a QDM Cooperative.  I have personally been involved in the formation of dozens of Cooperatives over the years, leading to literally tens of thousands of acres that currently implement QDM. In these communities the land is better managed, the deer and other wildlife on it are healthier, and the participants all partake in a more exciting and satisfying deer hunting experience. Whether you own, lease or are a member of a club, why would you not want that for the place where you hunt? You just have to put in a little effort to get the surrounding neighbors on board.

The first big hurdle involves getting over the fear of the unknown. Get out there and contact all the surrounding landowners and deer hunters and inform them of your goal to improve hunting for yourself and the entire neighborhood. By putting it in these terms, you’re framing any personal motives within the context that you want to help them as well. That helps soften the blow.

Be sure to plan ahead before you knock on all those doors. You’ll want to invite them to a pre-scheduled meeting that takes place well before the next hunting season. The intent here is to meet and gauge the collective interest level among all neighbors of improving hunting in the area. Be sure not to announce the “official” formation of a Cooperative at this meeting. This get-together should allow everyone to voice their opinion. Make sure they know that their opinion counts.

Next, have a third party on hand at this meeting to give attendees a formal presentation on the logistics and benefits of QDM Cooperatives. This may be a QDMA Branch president, Regional Director and/or one of our Cooperative Specialists. Offer plenty of opportunity for Q&A at the end.

Finally, and probably the simplest, most effective strategy I have used to form a QDM Cooperative, is to have a large tax or plat map of the potential Cooperative area with one or two color markers or highlighters on hand. This is where the peer pressure comes in. When you step up after the Q&A session and officially announce you want to give this a try for this year, pick up a marker and color in your property. This shows your commitment, and I assure you, after that, the dominoes will begin to fall. People will start lining up to enroll their property as well, symbolically pulling up their very own pair of pegged jeans. I’ve seen it too many times to count.

The fact is your neighbors likely want to give this a try, too. They’re a just waiting for someone to take the lead. You should be that someone. So, if you want to take the initiative and start improving the deer hunting in your area, I encourage you to get a tax or plat map and put yourself out there this summer. Be prepared to do a little work to make it happen; after all, someone has to take that leap and start rolling up their pants…I mean sleeves.

About Matt Ross:

Matt Ross of Saratoga Springs, New York, is a certified wildlife biologist and licensed forester and NDA's Director of Conservation. He received his bachelor's in wildlife conservation from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and his master's in wildlife management from the University of New Hampshire. Before joining the NDA staff, Matt worked for a natural resource consulting firm in southern New Hampshire, and he was an NDA volunteer and Branch officer. He and his wife Sadie have two daughters, Josephine and Sabrina.