QDMA’s Deer Steward Comprehensive Quality Deer Management Program

White-tailed deer management is more than planting food plots or deciding to let a small buck walk in archery season. In fact, quality deer management is a comprehensive philosophy built around improving deer populations, promoting sustainable wildlife habitats, and creating hunting experiences through research, education advocacy, and hunter recruitment. This approach to whitetail management should sound familiar to many as it is the basis of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA).

The QDMA Deer Steward program takes managing white-tailed deer to a professional level. The course content and field experiences received at each level promotes the cornerstones of the QDMA. Recently, The Bearded Buck hosted the QDMA Deer Steward Level 2 program in central Pennsylvania. Some the country’s most respected and experienced deer managers gathered at The Bearded Buck’s showcase farm to educate hunters and land managers in the second level of certification of the QDMA Deer Steward program.

4 Cornerstones of QDMA

The Deer Steward certification program is built on the four cornerstones of quality deer management. Within each program, these four foundations drive the topics and education in each certification level.

  1. Herd Management – Herd management consists of determining deer numbers by sex and age, evaluating deer health and using both to assess optimum levels for your objectives.
  2. Habitat Management – Improving available land resources to maximize white-tailed deer potential and create a sustainable property for all wildlife species.
  3. Hunter Management – Managing the hunter resource through education to understand the principals and fundamentals of quality deer management.
  4. Herd Monitoring – Herd monitoring is a broad collection of observational data around your deer herd. Harvest data and observational data points provide important information about herd size, health, sex ratio, reproductive capacity, age structure and management success.

What is Deer Steward Certification?

The QDMA deer steward certification program offers individuals the opportunity to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the concepts behind quality deer management. Each certification level is progressively more involved and must be completed in sequence.

Deer Steward 1: The first installment of certification is an online program. This program provides students with an understanding of key quality deer management principals around habitat management, deer biology and management practices.

Deer Steward 2: Level 2 is a more advanced study of managing deer and habitat. The program expands on the topics covered in level 1 through a mix of classroom and field experiences. Students learn from professional deer managers and researchers and also have an opportunity to develop a deer management plan at the end of the four day program. 

Deer Steward 3: The highest level of achievement is the QDMA Deer Steward 3. This final level in the certification series has no coursework or exam like level 1 and 2. Rather, level 3 is obtained through personal achievement and long-term service to QDMA and/or the practice quality deer management principals. 

In addition, QDMA has also recently begun online and in-person modules. Both platforms allow further in-depth whitetail management education on specific topics surrounding the Deer Steward program and QDMA principals. Topics include food plots, aging deer, deer biology and other subjects that complement the Deer Steward certification series.

A Recap QDMA’s Deer Steward Level 2 Hosted by The Bearded Buck

The four-day Deer Steward 2 program hosted by The Bearded Buck encompassed all facets of deer management. Specifically, key topics that were covered included: 

  • Aging bucks in the field and aging deer by tooth wear 
  • Deer management techniques for both buck and doe management 
  • White-tailed deer biology and ecology including disease management 
  • Managing hunter expectations and success 
  • Herd monitoring techniques including spotlight and trail camera surveys as well as harvest data interpretation 
  • Habitat management strategies around hardwood forests, early successional habitats and food plots.

 Several parts of the program stood out and are worth some further discussion. For example, the deer necropsy portion presented by Kip Adams, Director of Conservation for QDMA, provided an in-depth look and understanding of deer anatomy. A necropsy is a detailed examination of a dead animal, much like an autopsy, in order to learn something about the deceased animal. Particularly, a necropsy is done to understand cause of death, parasite and disease affects and anatomy and reproductive processes.

The Bearded Buck is hosting a Deer Steward 2 event with the The Quality Deer Management Association. Today was necropsy day !

Posted by The Bearded Buck on Sunday, September 9, 2018

Video: Necropsy day hosted by Kip Adams at the Deer Steward 2 event.

Furthermore, an important part of any deer management plan is to understand deer breeding. An interesting and valuable part of the program was the piece delivered on deer breeding, specifically on fetus development and the information it can provide. Fetus development can be measured from road-killed deer or harvested deer if seasons allow. The information can help determine breeding dates and fawning dates, which are data points that aid in making future management decisions.

Posted by The Bearded Buck on Sunday, September 9, 2018

Video: Understanding deer breeding through fetus analysis and why it matters for management decisions.

One of the final highlights, among many, of the program was the topic on forest habitat managementValuable deer habitat management strategies for hardwood forests such as forest stand improvements and hinge cutting to improve forest conditions for whitetails were discussed in the field. A review of optimal conditions for deer habitat as well as desirable and undesirable tree species provided attendees the knowledge needed to implement habitat improvements on their own hunting lands. 

Posted by The Bearded Buck on Saturday, September 8, 2018

Video: Forest habitat management strategies for quality deer habitat. 

How to Get Involved with Deer Steward and Quality Deer Management

As mentioned previously, the QDMA Deer Steward program starts with the level 1 curriculum. The Deer Steward 1 program can be taken completely online by signing up at QDMA’s Deer Steward website. The program consists of a series of video lectures and exams. It can be completed at your own pace and is a prerequisite of enrolling in the Deer Steward 2 program.

Those individuals interested in more advance deer management training can continue on to QDMA’s Deer Steward 2 and 3 certifications. Level two requires an in-person commitment for several days of classroom and field learning. The level 2 program is offered usually a few times a year at various locations across the country. At the end of Deer Steward 2, attendees are proficient at implementing advanced deer management techniques. Level 3 is currently the capstone certification achieved only through a lifetime commitment to quality deer management.

In conclusion, the most recent Deer Steward 2 program hosted by The Bearded Buck was a tremendous success. The four-day program provided attendees with comprehensive knowledge and practical experience around quality deer management principals. The entire QDMA Deer Steward program is a valuable tool and professional certification for land owners, hunters and professional managers alike.