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The Dirty Politics of Deer Management

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The Dirty Politics of Deer Management

One of the seven tenets of the North American Model of Conservation is that wildlife policy should be dictated by science, and hunters are the principal tool biologists use to manage deer.
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One of the seven tenets of the North American Model of Conservation is that wildlife policy should be dictated by science, and hunters are the principal tool biologists use to manage deer. This is what my Wildlife Management 101 professor called the happy triangle: trained biologists, whitetails, and sportsmen.

In the real world, it’s more like a dysfunctional decahedron, with special-interest groups, lobbyists, legislators, governors, biologists, and factions of hunters all pulling in odd directions, often behind closed doors. At the ground level, it’s a messy, sometimes dirty business where money, power, and influence can matter as much as or more than what biologists prescribe, what hunters want, or what’s best for the deer.

Backroom Deer Deals

State agencies are supposed to manage deer herds on behalf of the public. That includes everyone—farmers, insurers, hunters, nonhunters, and even antis. But hunters are unique in this mix. Unlike any other group, we do the actual work—and we pay for it with license fees and excise taxes on equipment. Everyone should have a seat at the table to help bring consensus. But when hunters are left out, there is something fundamentally wrong.

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