A redwood tree would seem out of place in the rugged mountains of Southern New
York, yet for decades the spirit of one has dominated the terrain and become a
beacon of conservation to deer hunters nationwide. Craig Dougherty, that
monolithic influence in the deer world, passed recently, yet his impact on
conservation and wildlife management will survive for generations to come.

I first met Craig in the mid 1980’s on an elk hunt with United States Outfitters in
New Mexico. George Taulman had just begun outfitting and invited Craig, Marv
Epling from Crossman, and I to participate. Shortly thereafter, Epling became
President of Golden Eagle Archery teaming with Dougherty and capitalizing on his
marketing skills.

Craig was a well-educated man and it only took a few conversations for this fact to
become evident. A graduate of Syracuse University, he held a master’s degree and
Doctorate, yet I never heard him referred to as “Dr. Dougherty” in my 40 years of
association. In a hunting camp or a sporting show, he was just “Craig” be it a very
thoughtful one. Dougherty was a master at networking well before the term became popular. When the ownership of Golden Eagle changed hands and became more aligned
with the Bear brand, Craig invited me to attend a hunting camp in Florida. In the
mid 1990’s the area south of Orlando was as virgin as when Columbus arrived, and
I was introduced to a world as simple as Disney was complex. Dougherty and his
friends used the camp and hog hunting to communicate the merits of products as
well as build teamwork. Dougherty was always in tuned to national hunting issues, in particular, with whitetail deer. When the Quality Deer Management Association was formed, he not only embraced the concept in principle, but invested in it as well.

Kindred Spirit is Born
“Kindred Spirit” has no electricity, yet the insulated walls of this mountain top
hunting camp incubate camaraderie and family bonding like no cabin on earth. In
1990, Craig purchased 150 acres of the poorest deer habitat imaginable. The
abandoned farm on the western slope of a New York mountain was overgrown
with scrub brush, its productivity in complete decline. Mast was limited to a few
surviving hardwoods and an old apple orchard, abandoned by its owner 30 years
previously. The few surviving fruit trees faced stiff competition from upshoot
saplings and an overstory that staved them of light.  The property had a small, two-story cabin that would soon become the Camp David of QDMA in the Northeast. Droughty invited me to join him during a
summer work party and see the kinds of things he envisioned. An early purchase was a bulldozer that he and his son Neil used to open up the canopy and plant food plots, a new concept at the time. In future years he’d experiment with sun angles, various plantings, plot size, and hunting strategies.
Work parties also were important social events at Kindred Spirit. Craig’s father often joined him for dinners and celebrations, and it was a cool place for Neil to bring a date. Neil was so enamored with the property that he approached his father and asked the unthinkable: “Dad, I don’t want to start my senior year in college but stay at the cabin.”

Craig’s son Neil Dougherty, is one of the most educated land managers in the country.


I can only imagine the conversation that followed, and the consternation Craig felt
about his son bailing on his senior year. However, this decision would become one
of the most important in their lives.
I interviewed Neil and Craig about that season and published “Build Your Own
Record Book Bucks” about the decision. During that fall, Neil hunted every day
and soon became one with the land and its creatures. As his woodsmanship skills
increased, he saw more and more deer, and worked toward his three goals: take a P&Y deer, bag a wild turkey, and see a black bear.
As the fall progressed, he’d take a 140-class whitetail, a hen turkey, and see tracks
and scat of a black bear. What a difference QDM strategies had made on the

Craig partnered with Mossy Oak as the camouflage company entered the wildlife
forage business with Biologic and Kindred Spirit became the NorthCountry
Whitetails Demonstration Site for Hunting and Habitat Development. Using a
decade of experience, the latest research and Mossy Oak products, Neil soon
became a widely sought-after seminar speaker, sharing habitat development

Publishing their Findings

Given Craig’s educational background, developing wildlife research begged to be
published and Craig and Neil invited me to help with their book. We sequestered
for a weekend, they talked, I typed, and “Grow ‘Em Right- A Guide to Creating
Habitat & Food Plots” was born. Three years later, they updated the title with
additional information.

North Country Whitetails Demo center was the first of its kind and has had thousands of land managers tour the facility.

Craig became Chairman of the Quality Deer Management Association and was instrumental in the formation of the National Deer Alliance. Despite the success of whitetail deer populations nationally, Dougherty’s foresight helps prepare us for whitetail diseases and the decline in hunter numbers. Craig also served on the Board of the National Bowhunters Education Foundation and the Archery Trade Association. It is with great sadness that I share these intersections in our lives. Craig was a man who loved hunting, wildlife, and the outdoors and had the foresight to transform goals into action. His presence will be greatly missed by his family, hunters, and wildlife managers nationwide.

In keeping with his priorities, Craig asked that friends take time in their favorite spot to remember him. Contributions may be made in his name to the National Archery in the Schools Program, W4285 Lake Drive, Waldo WI 53093, Roy@naspschool.org or to the Field to Fork Program, Quality Deer Management Association, P. O. Box 160 Bogan, GA 30622 www.qdma/com/recruit/field-to-fork