At about the same time the Pennsylvania Game Commission was revising deer management under Gary Ault, the Kinzua Quality Deer Cooperative was formed with the aid of the Sand County Foundation. Using new regulations and DMAP, the KQDC was able to take deer management a few steps further than the Game Commission by more closely monitoring changes in deer and their habitat, something that would not be practical on a statewide basis.
On Saturday, July 14, the full Board of Game Commissioners met in Bradford to learn more about the Kinzua Quality Deer Cooperative. That meeting was encouraging in a couple of ways, by confirming the importance of KQDC study, and by demonstrating that the Game Commission is open to take advantage of what has been learned through the KQDC.
The KQDC land area is 74,000 acres in western McKean County. Goals of the work that has been done there are restoring quality habitat, quality deer and quality deer hunting. Directing the project has been the task of a leadership team consisting of the stakeholders in the deer/forest relationship including landowners, land managers, tourism and sportsmen.
The largest portion of the KQDC area is a section of the Allegheny National Forest. Other land is owned by the Bradford Watershed, Forest Investment Associates, RAM Forest Products and Collins Pine Company.
Before touring the KQDC, an informational meeting was held at the Bradford Holiday Inn Express. Speaking first was Linda Devlin, Executive Director of the Allegheny Mountain Vacation Bureau.
Although hunting is not a growth sport, she pointed out, it still is an important component of local tourism. Tourism shares the quality deer and quality forest goals of the organization.
"Our goal is to provide a quality outdoor experience," Devlin said.
According to Kim Benjamin, who manages the Bradford Watershed land, virtually all of the 12,000 acres owned by Bradford Watershed has been drilled with thousands of holes. Drilling so many gas and oil wells damaged the water table, making it necessary that surface water is used. Several reservoirs have been built on Bradford Watershed land. One is stocked with trout.
A healthy forest is essential to clean surface water.
For many years this land was posted. Public access was not allowed until after a water filtration plant had been built. Since then, Bradford Watershed land has been used for hiking, hunting, fishing and other outdoors recreation.
Before KQDC was formed, about 10% of the Bradford Watershed land was enclosed in fences that were set up to exclude deer. One of the major objectives of the KQDC is eliminating the need to erect costly fences.
Eliminating the need for deer-exclosure fences also benefits deer hunters. Even though there are gates in the deer exclosures, hunters do not like the fences.
Access to the land is the most important benefit the KQDC provides to deer hunters. Deer hunters and foresters have a mutually beneficial relationship. By allowing public hunting, deer density can be controlled. Besides allowing hunters to use the land, timbering improves forest land as deer habitat. Once the habitat improves it will support more and healthier deer.
Brad Nelson, who recently retired from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, gave the Game Commissioners an overview of the KQDC and its accomplishments.
Nelson explained that purposes of this meeting with the Game Commissioners were to demonstrate landowner commitment, to show how data that is collected is used and to show the investment of landowners in providing hunting opportunity.
Although the forest has not regenerated as quickly as was hoped, Nelson said that KQDC goals have largely been met.
Desired deer density of about 15/square mile has been achieved. Results have been improved deer condition which is monitored by voluntary deer check stations during hunting season.
Deer are aged and weighed at voluntary check stations. Antler spread and beam diameter improved. Weight of deer increased more than expected.
Originally conceived as a 10-year project, the KQDC has exceeded that with plans to continue still longer.