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Arguably, the most important part of QDM is herd management. Determining the appropriate number of deer to harvest by sex and age is essential. The first step is to establish the number of deer the habitat can support in a healthy condition. Thus, habitat quality determines herd size, herd quality, and harvest requirements for both sexes.

It is often difficult to establish the appropriate herd size for a property because it is not a fixed value from year to year, or even season to season. Habitats are constantly changing and seasonal conditions vary. Land-use changes on your property or adjacent properties also affect habitat quality. However, with a little homework and some advice from a wildlife professional, a reasonable starting point can be established.

The manager must understand that deer health will decline if it exceeds the habitat’s capacity to provide quality forage and cover. A good indication of habitat quality is deer body weights, especially in young deer. A decrease in average body weight within an age class often indicates a decrease in habitat quality. In bucks, average antler measurements within an age class also provide useful insight regarding current habitat quality. With does, other warning signs include a reduction in the average number of fawns per doe or the lactation (“in milk”) rate in adult does.