Another deer season has come and gone. What was the quality (and quantity) of the bucks where you hunt relative to previous years? Is the herd improving? Can it be improved?
The best way to increase buck body and antler size where you hunt is to increase average age. This requires the discipline to recognize, and pass up harvest opportunities for, young bucks. But what good does it do to pass a young buck, watch it jump the fence, and then get shot by a hunter on neighboring land?
A deer management association (or coop) is a potential solution to the above problem, especially for relatively small landowners. An association is simply a group of land managers in a region who share common deer management goals and make a decision to cooperatively manage their shared deer herd. Goals such as improving the buck age structure, buck:doe ratio, fawn crop, or altering deer density are difficult or impossible to achieve on small acreages without a deer fence. Developing a common strategy over larger acreages is much more effective.
An association can be relatively formal, with bylaws, dues, and elected officers, or relatively informal with no more than an annual meeting. Whatever works best to promote communication, understanding, and cooperation among members in a particular association is the structure to use. People management is usually more challenging than deer management!
The minimum requirement for a successful association is an interested group of land managers who together control more than 3000 acres of contiguous deer habitat. Additional land controlled by compatible managers can always be added as interest arises. The group should seek the assistance of a professional deer biologist to help them determine a deer harvest strategy. This strategy will generally include heavy harvest of does and some protection mechanism for immature bucks.
The local game warden is a good speaker for an early association meeting. In addition to meetings, informal interaction among members while conducting deer population surveys, while tracking wounded deer, and at deer check stations increases the momentum of the organization. Uniquely designed hats, jackets, gate signs, or other items give identity to the group and increase interest in the local area. Benefits of the increased communication among neighbors extends beyond deer, as well.
If you have an interest, discuss the idea with some of your neighbors. Working together, you can achieve much more than you ever could on your place alone. Let us know if we can help!