It’s truly a dream come true. With my recent move to a new home and property, I now officially have the opportunity to establish a quality deer management program of my own. Although I am renting, I have sole rights to hunt the property and manipulate the habitat as I see fit. I finally have an area untouched by others, that I can hunt and manage to my own standards, utilizing the many tactics and lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. Upon being certified by the Quality Deer Management Association earlier this year as a Deer Steward I was excited to put my learnings in action, and finally I have a great way to do that.

Now I’m obviously getting a late start with the property this year, but there is still plenty to consider and work on as I begin this project. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you a few of the first goals I’m considering as I begin this journey. Hopefully you can apply this to your own situation if you are beginning or plan to begin a QDM project of your own.

1. Goals: In my opinion the most important part of a quality deer management program is setting goals and developing a plan to reach those. The very most basic goal of any QDM program should be to determine what age class of bucks will be targeted. At a minimum, most QDM programs encourage passing on 1.5 old bucks, but my goal for this new property is to hold out for 3.5 old bucks or older. In addition to setting goals for buck harvest you might also consider working towards a certain deer density or sex and age ratio.

2. Low Hole In The Bucket: When it comes to improving the habitat for your deer, the first thing I would look at is the “low hole in the bucket”. Essentially I’m talking about whatever factor is lacking the most in your area. Deer need quality food, water and cover. Take a look at what you have now, determine whats the poorest or missing from your area and address it first. If your goal is to hold more quality bucks on your property for the majority of their day, your property is only as good as it’s weakest link. Give a deer everything he needs, and he’ll be less likely to go elsewhere. Additionally, if you can provide something on your property that can’t be found elsewhere, deer will naturally spend more time on your property to access this resource.

3. Surrounding Properties: When considering deer or habitat related projects, in most cases you must consider your neighbors and the implications they can have on the success of your management program. When it comes to harvest goals, try to determine if your neighbors are practicing some form of deer management or not. If not, it can’t hurt to chat with them about what your doing and offer them help if they’d like to join you. In addition to that, you also want to look closely at the habitat on your neighbors’ properties. Once again look at what they offer and provide deer with what they don’t have on the neighbors, or provide what is on the neighbors property in higher quality. For example, if you’re surrounded on all sides by agricultural crops, create the best cover possible and deer will flock to your property.

Now while there are many more considerations you must look at when starting your own quality deer management program, these three should definitely be towards the top of your list. They definitely are on mine, and as of now I’m carefully considering all of the above. While nothing is for certain yet, I can say one thing for sure. I’m pretty darn excited to be officially starting my own quality deer management program.

For more information about quality deer management, visit the Quality Deer Management Association’s website.