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Frye: Deer Alliance makes debut

| Saturday, July 26, 2014, 8:31 p.m.

As promised, it's here. The National Deer Alliance, an organization that aims to be NRA-like in terms of political clout on behalf of deer and deer hunters, launched this past week.

The group has been in development since the first Whitetail Summit was held in Missouri in March. That was a gathering to talk all things deer, deer management and deer advocacy.

The 200-plus constituents on hand — hunters, biologists, land managers, hunting industry types, outdoor media and others — represented a wide range of groups that are collectively avid and willing to spend.

Deer, whitetails particularly, account for more hunting activity and more sporting dollars spent in any given year than any other species. Hunters alone lay out $12.4 billion annually, the Alliance said.

Yet those hunters are splintered.

There are nearly 11 million of them nationwide, according to the Alliance. That's about 80 percent of the 14 million hunters nationally, yet fewer than 1 percent belong to a deer-specific organization.

By comparison, 41 percent of duck hunters, 24 percent of elk hunters, 9 percent of pheasant hunters and 8 percent of turkey hunters belong to groups specifically representing their favorite species.

The Alliance wants to change that and bring deer hunters and managers together.

“NDA's goal is to serve as the unified voice of the modern deer hunter and guardian of North America's wild deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage,” its website reads.

The group is going to be a little different than, say, Ducks Unlimited, at least initially.

For starters, you can join for free. Visitors to the Alliance's website, nationaldeeralliance.com, need only provide a name and email address to get started.

That enrollment method is indicative of how the group wants to operate. Executive director Craig Dougherty told the Outdoor Wire that it plans to be a largely electronic organization, relying on weekly emailed news blasts and social media to communicate.

It will have a steering committee in addition to its staff of four. That committee will give direction to the issues the organization should tackle, either proactively or in response to outside influences. Members and supporters will be asked to provide guidance and feedback and help fight the fight where possible, though.

That's critical, according to information explaining the group's founding.

“In many respects, whitetail hunters and managers have become complacent following decades of herd growth and good times. Perhaps this explains why deer hunters are the most fragmented of all hunter groups,” the Alliance website reads.

“Regardless, the Whitetail Summit clearly revealed that more challenges face deer hunting and management today than at any time in recent history. We can either do nothing and hope for the best or take action and chart our own future.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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