In 2014, I was invited to attend the first North American Whitetail Summit. I thought it was because of my extensive knowledge of, and experience with whitetail management and biology. It turns out that I was just there to report on the proceedings. The principle purpose of the Summit was to bring all the stakeholders focused on whitetails to a single gathering.
Given that whitetails are North America’s single most important wildlife species in terms of participation (11 million deer hunters), economics (spend about $1,700 a year, collectively amounting to $18 billion) and conservation in general (that supports countless other wildlife programs), it was surprising such a coordinated effort had never been attempted before.
Attendants were tasked first with identifying issues they felt most threatened the future of deer conservation, and then with prioritizing those issues and identifying strengths and opportunities. Much was accomplished at the Summit, not the least of which was a unanimous acknowledgment of the need for a national organization dedicated to uniting deer hunters, managers and enthusiasts in the conservation of North America’s wild deer populations.
Out of that, the National Deer Alliance (NDA) was born. The Quality Deer Management Association was first handed the reins and charged with developing the concept. They then involved Whitetails Unlimited and Mule Deer Foundation. By 2015, the NDA became an independent entity and had a full board of directors and an interim director, Craig Dougherty. The next step was to recruit and hire a permanent president and CEO, an honor eventually bestowed upon Nick Pinizzotto.
I recently had an opportunity to talk with Nick about the NDA, starting with how he became involved.
“On a personal level was my passion for deer and deer hunting,” he said. “I was an outdoorsman from a very young age, having grown up in Pennsylvania where deer hunting is like a religion.”
That passion grew into a career eventually involving leadership roles with several outdoor conservation organizations like Delta Waterfowl and the U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance (now just Sportsman’s Alliance).
“It’s not every day you get a chance to start a national deer organization. I was flattered they were interested in me.”
At the time Nick was being considered for the position with NDA it was still unclear what this organization would look like and how would it be different from the existing deer organizations.
“For me it became clear to me during the recruitment process,” he said. “It was impressive that the existing three national deer organizations were the ones starting NDA cooperatively and they were doing it to be a bigger help to all deer species across the country, primarily on a policy level. These other groups do a lot more on-the-ground conservation but recognize a much greater need for work on the policy level. So the NDA was to be a policy umbrella, a unified voice for the…