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Opinion: A cooperative approach to managing deer
Buckeye Farm News
By Dan Long, Stark County
As Ohio’s deer herd continues to grow, hunters, landowners and farmers must unite and work together in order to balance deer herds with the habitat and minimize deer-human conflicts. Easier said than done; however, one proven method is QDM cooperatives.
Formed by members of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), this technique is very beneficial to farmers who want to reduce their local deer densities, deer and other wildlife crop damage and foster a positive relationship with local hunters.
According to the QDMA, “A Quality Deer Management Cooperative is simply a group of property owners and hunters working together to improve the quality of the deer herd and hunting experiences on their collective acreages. Cooperatives vary in size, number of participants, and organizational structure depending on the needs and objectives of members. By forming a cooperative, members (hunters and farmers) gain the management advantages of a larger landowner. Cooperatives are voluntary affiliations and in no way entitle neighboring hunters access to your property or diminish the landowner’s control. They are simply collections of landowners and hunters that establish and abide by agreed deer management guidelines to enable improved management over a larger area.”
Farmer benefits of QDM Cooperatives are many, but here are a few major ones that meet a farmer’s objectives. QDM cooperative members are not solely focused on shooting big bucks, but harvesting does and reducing the overall herd density. Since cooperatives are a collective effort of local landowners, deer are managed regionally and not strictly on one piece of property. Cooperative members from the QDMA follow a code of ethics; communicate with all landowners on harvest objectives; reduce crop damage by hunting other species such as raccoon, ground hog, and squirrel (if permitted); and help reduce poaching and criminal activities from unwanted elements. Farmers will soon realize that cooperative leadership can serve as their personal deer managers or subject matter experts on managing the local deer.
Cooperative members become an ally in a farmer’s eye, as crop damage and wasted resources are reduced, and local farmers / landowners can rely on a core group of hunters that are safe and dependable. A cooperative can unite local farmers and establish realistic deer management goals and objectives. Imagine not having to deal with deer damage control permits, burying unwanted deer or finding reliable, ethical shooters during out-of-season crop damage? Having a dedicated core of hunters is basically a handsfree operation where the hunters serve as the deer managers, communicating their efforts and results to the farmer throughout the season.
Accessing hunters to properties forbidden to hunting is one of our biggest obstacles; however, cooperatives can assist in dealing with and educating uncooperative neighbors. Many property owners that do not allow hunting either do not understand the need to control their deer herd or may have had unpleasant experiences with hunters in the past.
With a careful and respectful approach, many of these landowners can be convinced to allow hunting or at least be supportive of the goals of the cooperative based on a professional and ethical solution to a problem that affects the local area.