Conservation News


The National Deer Association is pleased to present our 2023 Conservation Awards recognizing significant contributions to the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat and hunting. Click the links to learn more about each of our winners and their achievements for deer conservation.


The National Deer Association is pleased to present its 2023 Signpost Communicator of the Year Award to Katie Hill of Montana, a staff writer for Outdoor Life. Named after the organization’s first newsletter, the Signpost Award goes to an outdoor communicator who shares accurate information with deer hunters, works to ensure a strong future for whitetails, and supports the NDA and its mission.

An extremely prolific writer, Hill published 224 articles on the Outdoor Life website in 2023, sometimes publishing two in one day. Her subjects ranged widely and included wild, “this happened to me” hunting stories, notorious poaching cases, and strange deer. However, many of her articles require extensive reporting on complex conservation policy matters or detailed scientific topics like chronic wasting disease, such as her recent article on CWD in Yellowstone

“Katie can crank out quick, popular articles about some of the crazier happenings in hunting and wildlife while doing background reporting for longer articles on important conservation matters, stories with quotes and supporting facts from multiple sources,” said Lindsay Thomas Jr., NDA’s Chief Communications Officer. “To my knowledge, she’s one of the most prolific outdoor writers at work today.”

Hill’s 2023 archive included stories about deer with significant injuriesrare disorders, and parasitic larvae living in their noses. More viral-style stories like “Rutting Buck Crashes Into Lingerie Store” and “Hunter Accidentally Blows Up Blind Then Tags Palmated Buck” were published alongside deeply thoughtful, long-form articles like “Conservation vs Preservation: What’s the Difference?” and “Is Wildlife in Trouble This Winter? Here’s Why Biologists Aren’t Too Concerned About Winterkill.”

Frequently in her writing, Hill cites statistics from NDA’s annual Deer Report. She often interviews NDA staff members on deer biology and conservation. And she often provides links to NDA articles that expand on the topics she covers. Beyond NDA, Hill has an extensive list of qualified experts, scientists and leaders she uses as sources in her reporting, ensuring reliable, fact-based information for her readers. This in particular is an important requirement for NDA’s Communicator of the Year Award.

Among recipients of NDA’s Communicator of the Year Award, Hill is the youngest and the first woman.

Hill earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Emerson College in Boston before moving west, where she earned her master’s degree in environmental journalism from the University of Montana. She still lives in Missoula. 

During her studies at the University of Montana, she spent five weeks living out of her truck and driving from North Dakota to the Texas Gulf Coast to follow and write about the endangered whooping crane migration for her master’s project. Katie joined Outdoor Life in August 2022 after a 14-month stint as assistant editor at MeatEater. While she was there, she reported stories that explored everything from the illegal sale of endangered saiga antelope horns on Amazon to the complicated public access issues in Montana’s Crazy Mountains.

See Katie Hill’s complete Outdoor Life archive here.

Previous winners of NDA’s Signpost Communicator of the Year Award include Alex Robinson of Minnesota (2022), Josh Honeycutt of Kentucky (2021), Mike Hanback of Virginia (2020), Dan Johnson of Iowa (2018), Tony Hansen of Michigan (2016), Will Brantley of Kentucky (2015), Mark Kenyon of Michigan (2014), Scott Bestul of Minnesota (2013), Andy Whitaker of Alabama (2012), Patrick Durkin of Wisconsin (2011), Bob Humphrey of Maine (2010) and C.J. Winand of Maryland (2009).


The National Deer Association is pleased to name Doug Duren of Cazenovia, Wisconsin as its 2023 NDA Deer Manager of the Year Award winner, an award presented to a person or persons who demonstrate outstanding commitment to sound management of deer habitat and populations.

“Doug is a leader in CWD education and outreach and hunter recruitment efforts in Wisconsin and beyond,” said Kip Adams, NDA’s Chief Conservation Officer. “He organizes CWD sampling sites, doe derbies and more for Wisconsin’s hunters, and in doing so leads the charge for sound deer and disease management in the Badger State.” 

Doug Duren is a passionate hunter, farmer, land manager and conservationist. He is the owner of Lone Oak Interests, LLC, specializing in site and land management consulting and contracting services throughout Wisconsin and the Driftless Area. 

Doug manages the Duren Family Farm near Cazenovia, Wisconsin where he has been working and hunting for over 45 years. The farm has been in the Duren family for 115 years. He is also a frequent guest on the MeatEater podcast and TV show, where he shares his expertise and insights on hunting, conservation, and land stewardship. He advocates for the core message of “It’s not ours, it’s just our turn”, which means we should care for the natural resources we have inherited from previous generations and pass them on to future ones.

Read Doug’s article, Why Every Hunter Should Care About CWD.

Doug also recognized a need to connect deer hunters that need a place to go with landowners that could use assistance with reducing deer numbers, farm chores or general land management activities, so he founded Sharing the Land, a “Conservation Cooperators Network,” that pairs farmers, ranchers and rural property owners with private land access seekers for the purpose of stewarding and enjoying healthier lands together, all under a shared conservation ethic.

Doug has worked on a variety of projects with several public and private conservation organizations including American Forest Foundation, Aldo Leopold Foundation, Pheasants Forever, Wisconsin DNR, and others. 


The National Deer Association is pleased to name Dr. Duane Diefenbach, Adjunct Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Leader of the PA Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit at The Pennsylvania State University, as its 2023 NDA Professional Deer Manager of the Year Award winner. This award is presented to a person with significant on-the-ground experience, and one who has made a measurable impact to deer and deer hunting through education, research, or management on public or private lands. 

“Duane is an avid bird and deer hunter,” said Kip Adams, NDA’s Chief Conservation Officer. “He and his students have presented their research at numerous NDA national and Branch events during the past 20 years. We are honored to acknowledge him with this award.”

Duane received degrees from Washington State University, the University of Maine, and the University of Georgia.  His areas of expertise include white-tailed deer, biometrics, population estimation and harvest management. He is most widely known for his work on the ecology and management of white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania. 

Duane and his students have been collaborating with the Pennsylvania Game Commission since 2000 on a series of research projects on deer and deer hunters. This work has included studying survival and causes of mortality in fawns, effects of antler restriction regulations on harvest rates and dispersal in bucks, dispersal behavior or female white-tailed deer, and the spatial distribution of hunters and deer harvest as influenced by roads and landscape characteristics.

Duane’s current deer research is The Deer-Forest Study, which is a long-term study of the relationship of deer herbivory, competing vegetation, and soil conditions on the forest vegetation conditions.


The National Deer Association is pleased to name the USDA Forest Service (USFS) as its 2023 Agency of the Year Award winner. This annual award is presented to an agency that has practiced innovative and progressive deer and wildlife habitat management techniques; has engaged the public, deer hunters and other key stakeholders in the deer and habitat management process; and/or has affected positive change in deer and habitat management in the last year, including but not limited to addressing major threats to deer with adaptive strategies, programs or through adopting science-based regulations or policies.

The merit is based on the broad, collaborative partnership exercised between NDA and the USFS in 2023, both through Stewardship Agreements to achieve on-the-ground management in numerous landscapes across the country, as well as USFS staff assisting with volunteer habitat workdays on three National Forests as part of NDA’s Working for Wildlife Tour. These efforts significantly contributed to NDA’s Public Lands Initiative, which has a goal of improving 1 million acres of public land by 2026.

“The USDA Forest Service bears the responsibility of stewarding 193 million acres for the enjoyment of America’s public, including those who are concerned about and enjoy observing and hunting sustainable deer populations,” said Nick Pinizzotto, NDA’s President and CEO. “We are honored to give them one of our highest conservation awards and truly look forward to a burgeoning relationship that aims to increase our collective impact.”

USFS staff worked with NDA on Stewardship Agreements to achieve habitat management on public lands in several states in 2023, including employees from the National Forests in Mississippi. Many USFS staff also assisted with NDA volunteer workdays on three National Forests.

Congress created the federal Stewardship program that allows USFS to authorize a partner like NDA “to perform services to achieve land management goals for the National Forests and the public lands that meet local and rural community needs.”  Projects under this program must address at least one of seven named forest or rangeland management goals and include practices that ultimately improve land conditions, shifting the focus toward a desired future resource condition to restore and maintain healthy forest ecosystems. They are also a means for the USFS and other federal agencies to increase their workforce capacity, as well as contribute to the development of sustainable rural communities and provide a continuing source of local income and employment. 

In 2023, NDA implemented 10 Stewardship Projects with the USFS and addressed landscape-level access and forest health issues in 17 states on 14 National Forests. To date NDA has improved 746,509 acres of public land, providing remarkable progress towards the million-acre goal. These accomplishments would not be possible without direct USFS staff and programmatic support. 

NDA partnered with the USFS, three different state wildlife agencies, MeatEater and numerous conservation partners to host the Working for Wildlife Tour last year. These Kentucky volunteers collected over 700 pounds of white oak acorns for forest restoration.

Entrusted with the care of our Nation’s forests and grasslands, one of the USFS mottos is “Caring for the Land and Serving People” – thus, public engagement is a foundational element of what they do. Staff utilize a variety of methods, approaches, and tools to create meaningful experiences that support the relationship between the land, the agency, and the public. The agency certainly provides a structured process for the public to solicit feedback and input into a specific proposed action or decision through public comment periods, and NDA is actively engaged in this process through our grassroots advocacy center to represent deer hunters/enthusiasts and land managers. 

In 2023, NDA’s policy team and members spoke out on six state and three federal engagement opportunities through over a dozen action alerts, ranging from vegetation management projects on a particular Ranger District to issues more national in scope, such as those impacting climate resilience, ecological integrity, and social and economic sustainability. Moreover, NDA staff were involved in other ways last year, too, including several USFS stakeholder collaboratives, which are organized efforts to bring citizen-lead groups from diverse backgrounds together to build consensus on a forest management project or plan and employ a shared outcome. 

Finally, NDA partnered with the USFS, three different state wildlife agencies, MeatEater and numerous conservation partners to host the Working for Wildlife Tour last year, which brought attention to the critical work hunters and anglers do to create, conserve, and restore wildlife habitat through volunteer on-the-ground events/workdays. These events provided an opportunity for over 200 participants to volunteer on USFS land and bring positive change to local deer or habitat management issues. Workday tasks included implementing 10 acres of aspen restoration on Idaho Panhandle National Forest, 35 acres of tree and food plot planting on the National Forests of Mississippi, as well as collecting over 700 pounds of white oak acorns for native reforestation on Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. 


The National Deer Association’s 2023 Hunting Heritage Award recipient is American Outdoor Brands Inc. (AOB) of Columbia, Missouri. AOB and it’s 21 brands include many everyone will recognize: BOG, Hooyman, Uncle Henry, Caldwell, Tipton, Gorilla Grills, MEAT! and more. Everyone who knows these brands sees that AOB positions themselves to champion a holistic outdoor lifestyle.

“It’s our privilege to present this award to a company that so diligently promotes a full-circle image of hunting while also taking the time to practice what they preach including mentoring their own aspiring staff afield,” said Hank Forester, NDA’s Director of Hunting.

AOB’s “Harvester” brand explains the ethos: “To the HARVESTER, it’s not a job. It’s not about killing or mounting a trophy. It’s a passion that lives within to create, to grow, to conserve and to ensure that the hunger to hunt and experience the most inaccessible terrain is passed down for future generations. Being a Harvester is not about taking, it’s about giving back.”

Not only does AOB use their brands to promote full-circle hunting, they’ve also put time, energy and support as a company to mentoring within. 2023 was the third year AOB has helped host aspiring hunters from their staff on a Field to Fork as part of our combined Mid-Missouri Field to Fork event. In the last three years, twelve AOB employees have gotten their first deer as part of the organized event, most often being mentored by their colleagues.


The National Deer Association is pleased to announce Dr. Bronson Strickland, Extension professor at Mississippi State University’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, as the 2023 Joe Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award winner. This award is presented to a person who has dedicated their life and/or career to wildlife management in general, and deer management in particular. The recipient must also have made a significant impact in deer management, deer research, or deer hunting.

Bronson was born and raised in Athens, Georgia and received a bachelor’s degree in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia in 1995. Next, Bronson pursued a master’s degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville where his research involved estimating white-tailed deer carrying capacity in southern Texas. After graduating in 1998, Bronson moved to Starkville, Mississippi to work as a research associate at Mississippi State University, and in 2000 he began work on a doctorate degree where he continued research on the ecology and management of white-tailed deer populations. 

Upon graduation, Bronson worked as a research wildlife biologist with the National Wildlife Research Center in Mississippi where he developed and directed research related to the understanding and minimization of wildlife damage caused by fish-eating birds at aquaculture facilities, natural fisheries, and sensitive habitats. In 2006, Bronson joined the faculty at Mississippi State as the Extension Wildlife Specialist. Bronson is currently the co-director of the Deer Ecology and Management Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University, conducting extensive research into whitetail deer. 

This research maintains ongoing collaboration between the Deer Ecology and Management Research team and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to inform sustainable management for both biodiversity and recreational hunting.  Bronson is an educational innovator as he was one of the first academics to embrace and successfully incorporate social media and all associated technological platforms for education.  He is also an instructor in NDA’s Deer Steward Level 1 online course.

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