partnering with land owners to improve deer herds is just the beginning
When neighbors Garrett Clark and Chuck Roberts decided to improve their deer herd near Fitzhugh, Okla. they couldn’t have foreseen the impact a common interest would have in building strong neighborly relationships and better hunting opportunities.
The Limestone Game and Range Management Association consists of 25 land owners working with the Noble Foundation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to improve deer herd balance and health over a combined 13,000 acres. Associations such as this are rare in both existence, and how they operate. This group has taken a step back from social media posts to use face to face communications, and hands on learning to achieve their goals, which, have now become a side note in comparison to the profound connections made among the neighbors involved.
Misunderstandings between neighbors have led to many a conflict, but when Garrett and Chuck figured out they were both shooting each others bucks they decided to benefit from this new found knowledge. They called upon the Noble Foundation, and set up a meeting with Russell Stephens to form a plan which eventually guided them and their neighbors to where they are today.
Garrett has seen many benefits to this program since it’s inception. Not only does he get great enjoyment managing a quality deer herd, he feels this association is improving the land and it’s value as well. Garrett noted these aspects about the program and the association he helped create.
“We’ve already noticed a difference in herd quality in some areas. I can honestly say my hunting land wouldn’t be as productive without this program, or the cooperation of the land owners, and the knowledge of the aiding organizations. Sharing trail camera pictures and other information is really just the starting point. Without the shared idea of a healthy, balanced herd our individual acreages wouldn’t be as collectively productive. The only other way to achieve something like this would be to fence the deer off with “high fence”, but that isn’t hunting in my book,” said Garrett.
Without the complete control of a “high fence” neighborly cooperation seemed to be the only option to manage a balanced deer heard that would produce a closer buck to doe ratio and larger, more mature bucks. What everyone in this association found out that fewer does meant increased herd health. By harvesting more does, and shooting fewer bucks, the given amount of nutrients would be distributed equally. Chuck commented on this aspect.
“I have not always been a management hunter. I’ve tried for several years to harvest mature bucks, but this didn’t always happened because of elements that were out of my control, and honestly harvesting does wasn’t a consideration of mine until recently,” Chuck said.
Chuck Roberts has seen the improvements of this program on his family farm, but admits the most beneficial part has had nothing to do with deer at all.
“I’m most happy with the increased communication among my neighbors. Deer hunting was just a catalyst for this cooperation. After we fined tuned our deer management ideas, and were all on the same page, everyone began to benefit both on the farm and socially,” explained Chuck.
Of course the main focus of this association was to increase health and buck to doe ratios, but this all hinged on the cooperation between neighbors. The level of success relies not only on cooperation, but of the expertise of outside agencies such as the Noble Foundation and the wildlife department. The DMAP program, or Deer Management Assistance Program allows these hunters to harvest anterless deer any day during the archery, muzzle loader, and gun seasons with special DMAP permits. In cooperation, members of the Limestone Game and Range Management Association collect detailed biological information on their harvests. Department biologists then analyze this data to provide further management recommendations. Spotlight surveys are the groups primary means of counting deer, and through this hard work they’ve determined the percentage of bucks that they should harvest. This is really the key factor to the whole program. By setting a cap on the amount of bucks harvested, which has been less than 20% of their entire deer population, the association has improved there buck ratio. Garrett committed on this process.
“It doesn’t really matter the age of the bucks harvested. They can be spikes or extremely mature bucks. What really matters is the number taken. This is where the cooperation and complete involvement of all the neighbors pays off. Within a few years we should see a real difference,” Clark said.
The neighbors of the Limestone Game and Range Management Association have become closer friends and better neighbors. With a common goal and lots of cooperation they’ve built equal hunting opportunities and a healthier herd.
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