QDM Ruining Hunting? — Readers Respond

In the April issue I wrote on the unintended consequences of QDM and how it has changed whitetail hunting (not for the better).

We have received buckets of mail in response to the piece.  Some we have ran in past issues of Hunting, but this one just came in and it was so well written I decided to run it here. — MS

Dear Mr. Schoby,

I get every hunting/gun magazine in print, so sometimes it takes me a while to get around to reading them.  Consequently, I just read my April edition of Petersen's Hunting.  I want to say you have earned a fan for life.  Your editorial about QDM needed to be said in an important forum like Petersen's Hunting, and finally someone comes along who has the cajones to say it exactly the way I see it.

Lord, where do I start'¦ In 1983, I belonged to a hunting club in one of the most prolific areas in the state of Georgia.  Like most redneck clubs, it was run by a bunch of good ole boys who were all related to each other in some way.  Being an old southern redneck myself, I got along fine with everyone'¦in the beginning.  Like so many folks smarter than the rest of us, they liked to come up with their own rules.  Though the state had a generous doe season and bag limit, they decided that no one in our club would be allowed to shoot a doe until after Thanksgiving weekend (about a month after does became legal in that area).  Also, no "button" bucks were to be killed at any time, though they, too, were perfectly legal during antlerless season.  (There was an exception; if you hunted with open sights, you would be forgiven for killing a "button" buck.  If you had a scope, you had no excuse, since you could obviously see it plainly.  Lord, what drivel..).

They also looked with disdain on anyone who killed what they arbitrarily deemed a "scrub buck."  The club president's son was a self-described trophy hunter.  His entire manhood and sexual performance apparently depended upon him killing a bigger buck than anyone else.  Eventually, I came to understand that any deer you killed smaller than his was a "scrub buck."

The club rules may not seem onerous, and in truth, they weren't (well, maybe the doe rule to a meat hunter like me).  But you see, rules are not always rules, depending on where you fall in the pecking order.  Turned out the boys in charge like to play poker at the end of the day, and imbibe heavily on fermented drink.  Along about midnight or later, they would decide they needed some "camp meat."  Grabbing their trusty Q-beams, they hit the back roads until they managed to acquire said meat.  Often it was a doe before Thanksgiving, or occasionally, a "button buck."

Low and behold, the misty morning comes when I'm sitting in my tree stand and spot movement in the thick undergrowth out in front of me.  Since it was after Thanksgiving, I could take a doe, or anything but a "button" buck.  Now, understand that I had been hunting for twelve years at that point, and had only killed one deer.  Needless to say, I wanted that deer.  Unfortunately, neither binoculars nor riflescope could discern beyond a doubt the sex of the deer, only that it was sans visible antlers.  Virtually sure it was a doe, I shot the deer when it presented its shoulder in an open area about 30 yards away.  You guessed it'¦"button" buck.

Though it was only my second deer, and I was extremely excited, when I got it back to camp you would have thought I'd just shot the mascot for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Besides my uncle, my dad, and my brother, not one other person in that club shook my hand, or even spoke to me.  Later that evening, they talked it up and tried to vote me out of the club.  My dad and uncle became upset and the four of us quit the club that night.

In 1984, we started our own club on a new six hundred acre lease about ten miles from the old club.  We all agreed that we had only one rule'¦the Georgia state regulations and bag limits.  For a few years life and hunting were good.  Then, slowly, as old members left and new members begin to join the club and gain influence, little rules started to pop up again.  Suddenly, we could only take one doe per season on the club land, though at that time the state allowed up to five does.  Soon, we were forced into a "gentlemen's agreement" that we would forego shooting "button bucks."  The day a young club member killed his first deer, a "button" buck (what else), and most of the other club members wouldn't even talk to him, I decided to raise the BS flag.  I called a meeting, gave them all a piece of my mind, reminded them that this was the very reason our club came into existence in the first place, and also reminded them that this was the boy's first deer.  They loosened up and congratulated him.  Unfortunately, the damage was done.  The boy and his father, both fine, law-abiding hunters and good people, never came back again that season and didn't renew their memberships the next.

Eventually, I got so tired of it all myself that I quit deer hunting (which had been a major love of my life) for several years.  Now, this madness has become state-wide.  Georgia now allows only two antlered bucks per season (but up to twelve does), one of which must be an eight-point or better!  Do you know how many hours and years I sat on a tree stand before I even saw an eight-point buck?  Lord, I'd hate to be a young teenager just starting my deer hunting career in Georgia.

In my home, I have four walls of "scrub bucks" mounted.  I did the simple antler mounts myself, even hand made the plaques.  To those who have attempted to make fun of them, I've said, "Every one of those racks means something to me.  Each one reminds me of a particular time when I was in the woods, away from the cares of life, with a fine gun in my hands, breathing clear autumn air."  In short, each one, when taken in the context of an entire lifetime, represents an extremely rare, memorable event.

Most of us are very limited in the amount of time we can spend hunting.  If you work all year to take a one-week hunting trip, and spend thousands of dollars on all the related expenses, the last thing you want to worry about is a bunch of arbitrary rules some self-appointed expert has put into place, the primary purpose of which seems to be ensuring you never pull the trigger on that new thousand-dollar rifle you spent the last six months getting ready to go.  If you're like me, you want to bring home some meat.  Few things about hunting are more satisfying to me than feeding my family on meat I have hunted, shot, processed, and cooked myself.

Each of us is at a different point on our lifetime hunting path.  The deer that wouldn't get a second look from a seasoned hunter of 30 years would cause the heart of a young, first- season hunter to race, pounding the blood to levels audible in his ears.  It incenses me when the former hunter attempts to force his values on the latter by establishing club rules, or codifying into state law, his opinion of how a hunt should be conducted and enjoyed.  The woods are big enough for all of us, and there are enough deer to go around.

Thanks, Mike, for letting me have my say.


Rick Castleberry

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