Cooperation Is Key

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Cooperation Is Key

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Hunters are passing more shot opportunities on young bucks now more than ever. In contrast, they are harvesting more antler-less deer than ever. The relatively recent shift in deer management has proven that by letting young bucks, primarily yearlings, we can increase the chances of spotting larger, older deer. These same principles have proven that managing the doe population positively effects the deer herd and even the rut. Even if you aren’t a serious hunter who actively seeks out mature bucks, it is still beneficial for the deer herd to follow the principles behind Quality Deer Management (QDM.) There are huge benefits of this shift in management but many hunters aren’t as willing to switch over their ways of traditional hunting and deer management. This is how you can begin the cooperative process.

A cooperative is very similar to a hunting club in which members split the leasing fee on a property and have equal rights to hunt the land. Usually a harvest requirement is established and must be followed. The question is, how does the guy who owns a tract of land manage and grow nice deer? The idea is to find neighboring landowners who have a similar mindset and set some rules to follow. Usually, in this case the hunters hunt only their land but with the neighbors help they can create a great deer habitat that wouldn’t be possible without each other.

When designing management plans I have encountered more than a of couple landowners who have noticed that their neighboring landowner had something of value from a management standpoint that they didn’t. Larger tracts of timber resulting in more bedding cover or a permanent water source are just a few. By combining efforts, landowners can equate what one has that the other doesn’t, then strive to create the best habitat between the two properties. This teamwork will surely result in better deer and hunting experiences. It just takes a few minutes of talking to one another which can easily be initiated by simply swapping stories about deer sightings and recently harvested deer.

The trickiest part is deciding on what age class deer to harvest. You can’t expect the landowner next door to pass on a buck that is only 2.5 years old but is the biggest deer he has ever spotted. Just because you may let him walk doesn’t mean that everyone will. That being said, yearling deer should be protected as much as possible. Their chances of survival increase as they age so it is imperative to let them walk. The biggest mistake is to demand that they hunt like you and talking down to them because they may not know as much about deer management as yourself is a mistake that will certainly backfire on you. Politely suggesting new harvest requirements is the best plan of action. If that doesn’t work, show them proof that management works either by trail camera pictures or pictures of a buck or two that you have taken on managed land. Let them know that the results can be even better with a partner’s help. You will have their attention.

By establishing a cooperative, you can increase the habitat on your land and the health of the herd. If conducted properly, you will notice a huge difference and it’s very likely that your best deer hunting seasons are ahead of you. The key is not to be pushy and always be respectful. Cooperatives are just like the new trends in deer management…some hunters may not agree with them but the ones who embrace and follow the principles are not likely to go back to their old ways of hunting or deer management. There’s a reason for that.

For a full length feature about designing Cooperatives and implementing harvest strategies check out my article Like Minded Success in Mossy Oak Gamekeepers Spring 2014 Issue.

~Andrew Walters  Mossy Oak Properties

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