Print Trees Do Not a Forest Make

Pulp companies herald their "reforestation" efforts, but single species tree plantations are no replacement for the natural wildlife habitat destroyed by clearcutting.

Most Maritime deer hunters have not yet heard or read about the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). That's in the process of changing. Spark-plugged by deer enthusiast Jim Steeves, last fall the association held two symposia in New Brunswick in mid September, one in Fredericton and the other in Irishtown, a few miles north of Moncton.

At these two symposia, NB deer biologist Rod Cumberland gave a talk on "The latest research on buck breeding ecology and buck behaviour", while habitat specialist Rob Capozi delivered a presentation entitled "Managing your woodlot for deer". Agrologist Tom Byers made those in attendance aware of what can be planted on even small food plots of land that would be beneficial to deer.

The organization came into being in the late 1960s in Texas. Chapters have since been established in most states, and the movement is now expanding into Canada. The New Brunswick branch of QDMA is the second chartered Canadian group of this Association.

One of the movement's first steps has been to tap into the N.B. Wildlife Trust Fund and utilize these funds to improve the quality of the deer herds, their habitat, and of the deer hunt. Efforts also include ensuring that deer have access to quality food sources and well protected wintering grounds. (It should be noted that while angling interests and organizations had no shortage of ideas and projects with which to apply for Trust Fund money, hunting interests have been generally harder pressed to come up with management concepts.)

Yet to have a better understanding of QDMA we must take an overview of the whitetail deer and where they are found. In the southern United States, deer are overabundant thanks to a lack of harsh winters to the point that, to give but one example, in South Carolina in at least two zones there is no limit on antlered deer during their long season, with a limit of two antlerless deer per day on either-sex days. Hunters can, and often do, harvest more than 100 deer each per season, with most of the meat going to a program entitled "Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry".

Contrast that with New Brunswick, where especially hard winters can often kill almost 25 per cent of the population. Last fall, an estimated 52,000 hunters harvested a total of 10,514 deer, meaning almost one in five deer hunters went home empty handed.

One of the main thrusts of QDMA is to avoid killing an excessive number of yearling bucks. In Pennsylvania where deer are also very prolific, and where at one time more than 90 per cent of bucks harvested were yearlings, changes were made to the regulations so that while the state was still issuing relatively high numbers of antlerless deer tags, only bucks with three to four antler points per side could be legally shot. This resulted in a more balanced deer population, with a more desirable ratio of bucks to does to fawns.

In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where severe winters often kill off large numbers of deer, every effort is being made to re-grow deer populations which are still well short of the carrying capacity of available habitat. A major part of that effort involves limiting of the number of antlerless deer tags being issued.

A telling point is that in New Brunswick the yearling buck harvest is approximately 56 per cent of the total number of bucks harvested. The province's deer herd also continues to be well balanced as to the ratio of bucks to does to fawns with a proper spread as to age in these groups, all this well within the parameters to which QDMA aspires.
Yet, while the first step is to grow our deer herds to reach the carrying capacity of their habitat, the next step is to increase the amount of that habitat and do so in part by providing proper sources of food that can include the planting of food plots of the right kind that will increase both the size and the heath of our animals.

A key point is that Maritime hunters should no longer simply be consumers of the resource, but managers of that resource. In other words, taking more responsibility such as actively working to improve our deer habitat. In this day and age the every increasing demands on the provincial departments of health, education and transportation has resulted in less and less of the government resources going towards wildlife.

Hunters must now become more educated-to which end the QDMA publishes and distributes a magazine six times a year loaded with information pertaining to deer that is factual, to the point, and makes for interesting reading.

In New Brunswick, most crown lands and large lumber company owned woodlands have been clearcut and converted to nothing more than tree plantations growing a single species of softwood, which of course is far from ideal for deer. Almost all our prime deer habitat in New Brunswick is now found on private woodlots. Consequently, QDMA is encouraging private woodlot owners to adapt many of the woodlot management practices it recommends.

The improvement of deer habitat on crown lands by the planting of hardwoods, cedar, and other sources of food for deer, remains only a theory. With the proliferation of yellow, hunt-with-permission-only signs in New Brunswick, much of the best deer habitat is becoming off limits increasing numbers of hunters that do not own woodlands, or have friends that do. Thus for the majority of hunters, re-establishing prime deer habitat on crown lands may be their only hope for the future.

Comments (1)add comment

usRlost said:

I have written to goverment about the aerial herbicide spraying done in NB and have joined the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. There is a petition being circulated to put an end to this and save our Acadian Forests. Quebec listened to its woodlot owners and banned this practice. The Maritimes must join the 21st Century! See more at
September 11, 2010
Votes: +12

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