The 2011 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year Award went to Joe Hamilton of Hendersonville, S.C., during the annual SHOT show in Las Vegas. Hamilton was a longtime biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources before his passion for deer management ignited the movement of quality deer management and led to the founding of the Quality Deer Management Association.

The winner of the Budweiser conservationist award also earns the right to choose the organization to receive a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Hamilton named QDMA as this year's grant recipient.

"The $50,000 grant from the NFWF will enable the QDMA to devote more energy and attention toward educating, nurturing and guiding future stewards of our precious natural resources," Hamilton said.

Hamilton's involvement in wildlife management and conservation spans 40 years in his native state of North Carolina, where he worked with black bears. Educated at the University of Georgia, Hamilton settled into the Lowcountry of South Carolina and became very involved with work concerning the white-tailed deer that occurred in high numbers there. In 1998 he founded the nonprofit Quality Deer Management Association.

Hamilton also worked in the field of land conservation while working for The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited. He has also received the Career Achievement Award from his wildlife biologist peers in the Wildlife Society.

Budweiser and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have been recognizing the Conservationist of the Year for the past 15 years, in addition to raising awareness about conservation and funding wildlife habitat efforts throughout North America.

"My challenge now is to use this newfound title to further advance conservation," Hamilton said.