In October 2009, I had a telephone conversation with Jim Strader, an Eaton County hunter who passionately spoke about QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association) and the “Big Creek Co-op” that his father’s farm participated in. He was very proud of the efforts of club members Troy Strang, Pastor Todd McClaine and brothers Rodney and Ryan Heisler for their efforts in establishing the group. He finished our conversation with the fact that he had a couple of big bucks running around. I asked him to call me back if they shot anything 150 Boone and Crockett or better.

On November 16 Jim called me and stated, “You said to call you back if we shot anything 150 or better, is 178 5/8 big enough?” Well we all know the answer to that question!

Jim hunts on his father’s 267 acre farm that is a part of the 5,500 acre co-op that practices the principles of QDM. Strader states that there is only 8 acres of woods on the farm but they utilize the CRP program and have 18 acres of switchgrass and seven acres of food plots made up of Imperial Whitetail clover. They have also planted a ten acre sanctuary of white pine, spruce, highbred cranberry, highbred poplar and honeysuckle that sits in the middle of the spread and they only enter the area in the early spring to look for sheds.

On the morning of November 16, Jim was sitting in an enclosed box blind that sits 18-feet in the air. He overlooked an Imperial Whitetail Clover field that bordered switchgrass and a Nebraska grass patch. His thoughts were consumed with a big buck that he got trail camera pictures of and had visually seen in August. At 7:40 a.m. the hunter’s dream came true when the big buck materialized in front of the blind. Jim saw that the buck was broadside at 125 yards so he took a shot with his 12 gauge shotgun. The buck then bolted towards him and he fired two more shots but in hindsight he doesn’t think either of those shots hit.

Jim waited for over an hour and at 9 a.m. he started tracking. He found dark red blood where the big buck was last seen. As he followed the trail he found two spots where the deer had bedded and then he saw that the trail went over a ridge. Strader quietly snuck up the incline and peeked over the top. The buck jumped from his bed and Jim placed a fatal shot and the buck went down.

The 13-point buck looked just as impressive up close and personal as he did in the pictures. The brute had a live weight of 240 pounds and a dressed weight of 200 pounds. He is a main frame 10-point with 3 kickers. He sports an inside spread of 19 inches and the longest tine is an incredible 13 inches. Big Creek member Pat Rankin green scored the buck at a gross total of 178 5/8 Boone and Crockett points. To put this in perspective, Realtree Road Trips television host Michael Waddel’s personal best scored 176 and he hunts fulltime at the premier locations in North America.

The 41 year-old Strader states that he started practicing the principles of QDMA at the age of 23. In 2001 he took his first bow killed buck that scored 126 Pope and Young points and the last buck that he killed was November 30, 2003 and it was a 3 ½ year old 10-point that scored 134 B&C Points.

As of this writing, the Big Creek Co-op has taken 19 bucks in 2009 that scored 105 or better. Three generations of the Heisler family scored their personal best bucks this year with teenager Ty Heisler shooting a 130 P&Y class 8-pointer with his bow, father Rodney Heisler shot a 136 B&C and grandfather Roger shot the 105 B&C during the shotgun season.

On November 22, Nate DeRuitter killed a giant main-frame 10-point that also has 3 additional kickers to make it a 13 -point that scored 163 7/8 Boone and Crockett. These are some very impressive bucks for Michigan, or for that fact anywhere.

The evidence is in. QDM works when people “cooperate” and adhere to the principle of “Let them go to let them grow.” This may sound like a broken record but it seems that those who shoot big bucks are adhering to this rule. To learn more about the principles of QDMA, visit their website at