2011 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year

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Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) founder, Joe Hamilton has been named the 2011 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year.

QDMA is pleased to announce that its founder, Joe Hamilton of South Carolina, has been named the 2011 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year, an honor bestowed through an open public vote that elected Joe from among four national finalists. The award includes a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which Joe has chosen to give to the organization he founded in 1988 – QDMA – to ensure the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage.

“We have done a commendable job of managing deer and their habitats in QDMA’s relatively brief history,” Joe said. “The $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will enable the QDMA to devote more energy and attention toward educating, nurturing, and guiding future stewards of our precious natural resources.”

Joe Hamilton’s involvement in wildlife management and conservation spans 40 years, beginning in the early 1970s with his research on the ecology of the black bear in southeastern North Carolina while working on his master’s degree in wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. As a young wildlife biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Joe saw how deer populations in the Southeast and other regions were being mis-managed, to the detriment of habitat and the health of deer and many other species. He formed the nonprofit Quality Deer Management Association in 1988 to educate hunters about sound deer and habitat management.

But before QDMA, Joe was known for giving his time and knowledge freely. Deer researcher Dr. Grant Woods recalls how, as a graduate student, he wrote a letter to Joe asking for advice on how to best estimate deer density at a research site. “He responded with a lengthy, hand-written letter that explained how to conduct a spotlight survey for deer, and included data forms,” Grant said. “Joe had no reason to respond except to help a fledgling grad student. That’s Joe – ready to help anyone understand deer and deer hunting better.”

In the words of Peter Stuart, Life Member of the Australian Deer Association and recipient of the QDMA’s 2010 Ambassador Award, “I have encountered numerous wildlife biologists on my visits to the United States and consider Joe Hamilton an exemplary professional with a vast knowledge of animals from salamanders to his specialty, the white-tailed deer. This, combined with his knowledge of wildlife habitats, marks Joe as wildlife biologist of the first order.”

Founding QDMA is only part of Joe’s accomplishments. Through his involvement with other organizations, including extensive work on conservation easements with The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited, Joe has had a lasting impact on wildlife habitat and hunting. Both on the job and off, Joe has put decades into preserving wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage for future generations.

Joe is one of a handful of professionals who have received the Career Achievement Award from The Wildlife Society. His efforts to spread knowledge about deer management have resulted in vast changes in how hunters, non-hunters, biologists and state and federal agencies approach habitat and wildlife management.

In accepting the award at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2011 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, before a crowd of thousands at Outdoor Channel’s Golden Moose awards event, Joe held high his 42-year-old copy of “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold. He cited Leopold for fathering the conservation movement that gave rise to the modern hunting industry, and he pointed out that North America’s most popular game animal, the white-tailed deer, is now the pillar that supports that industry. He also recognized his wife Donna, on the front row in the audience as his chief cheerleader, and gave credit for his award to those who voted for him and networked to raise other votes.

“The race for the Conservationist of the Year Award was unusual for me as a former track & field athlete,” he said. “In this race, my nearly 40 years of conservation activities resulted in the nomination which placed me on the starting line – and that was where I had to stop. The race was run and won by my family and obviously thousands of friends and their contacts through an extensive networking campaign.”

Joe also thanked Budweiser and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for making the Conservationist of the Year award program possible. For more than 15 years, the two partners have been recognizing leaders in the fields of environmental and wildlife habitat conservation and helping fund wildlife conservation efforts throughout North America.

“I went to Las Vegas last week as a wealthy man in family and friendships and returned to South Carolina even wealthier, with a title, and without gambling a penny,” Joe said. “My challenge now is to use this newfound title to further advance conservation.”


About Peter Wood 1194 Articles
As an avid lifelong angler and hunter, Peter’s outdoor knowledge and experiences keep expanding through his hundreds of hours of hunting and fishing podcast interviews with like minded experts. He has received numerous national writing awards. With thousands of outdoor pictures on Ripple Outdoors and many full-length articles with outdoor magazine and video clips you might say that he not only enjoys his outdoor lifestyle, but he’s quite the fanatic! In 2015 he earned fifth overall on the King of the Wood Contest hosted by Canada In The Rough team, pretty good for a baby boomer deer hunter. His buck was also one of the top bucks taken that season. Through Peter’s deer hunting seminars or by attending outdoor trade shows, like the Toronto Sportsmen Show and The SWOC Big Buck Show, he has connected with thousands of like minded people that love hunting and fishing. As a volunteer or member of local and national outdoor groups like QDMA, SWOC, Outdoor Writers of Canada, Archery Trade Show Association he continues to learn and hone his craft. Read his many articles, listen to his podcasts and rifle through thousands of photos on Ripple Outdoors. Discover Peter’s latest posts about outdoor gear, destinations, how to articles and interviews and you’ll be a better angler and hunter for the experience.