Category Archives: Agriculture

Business Gazette Article Features Patriot LWM

In a welcome “coincidence”, the same day we celebrated the memory of an American Hero, an article with his name in it was published. We waited a day to put this story up to allow Kirk’s memory to be properly honored. Now, here is the article from the Business Gazette featuring Patriot Land and Wildlife. Hope you enjoy it.

CLICK HERE FOR STORY ON GAZETTE.NET

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Program Continues to Take Deer from “Nuisance to Nutrient”

The reproductive potential of White-tailed deer is no secret to the majority of citizens today. Often a simple drive down an area roadway will show signs of their presence in the form of an unsightly carcass or an unlucky commuters bumper laying near the shoulder. You may have even shaken your head at the sight and thought to yourself, “What a waste!”. Well you weren’t alone.

In early 2004, as populations of White-tailed deer continued to climb (along with the associated crop damage) despite historically liberal harvest limits for local hunters, area wildlife managers were left scratching their heads. Why would the overall population of deer continue to climb despite increased hunting opportunities for local hunters? What was the limiting factor in the reduction effort and how do we correct it?

With the help of a landowner survey revealing the increasing environmental, health, safety and economic problems caused by the overpopulation of white-tailed deer, the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and other County departments asked this very same question. How do we reduce the number of deer without creating wanton waste and possibly fill another void?

In the end the answer was not so much the lack of will, but the need for a way.

The Problem:

Regardless of hunter harvest opportunities, the average household freezer holds packaged meat from up to 2 processed deer. Some hunters were able to find family and friends who could use the meat from other harvest deer, but often their freezers filled up quickly as well. The hunters desire to harvest more deer in support of a sustainable population was there, but the avenue to distribute that meat was not. Meanwhile, the freezers of local area food banks didn’t stay quite as full and the stomachs of less fortunate families faired about the same. Enter the DED, area farmers and a non-profit by the name of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

The Solution:

The DED Agricultural Services Division along with FHFH and area farmers worked with various agencies within Montgomery County as part of this County-wide deer management effort to find a solution. The solution? A County-funded deer donation program to help connect the increased harvest from hunters with the areas shelters and food banks.

The Deer Donation Program encouraged farmers and hunters to harvest more deer in a responsible manner by providing local, minimum- hassle deer collection sites, of which there are two in Montgomery County. Hunters would drop off their harvested deer at these refrigerated trailer collection sites which would in-turn be transported to a certified meat processor. Once processed, the meat is then donated to the Capital Area Food Bank which distributes the meat to food banks and shelters across the Washington Metro area.

Results

The program is currently administered in partnership with Patriot Land and Wildlife Management Services that coordinates the collection, processing, and donation of venison to food banks in the local area. From it’s humble beginnings of 39 donated deer in the 2004-2005 season, the 2010-2011 season proved to be the best yet with 401 deer being donated. These 401 deer equate to over 16,000 pounds of meat donated to the areas less fortunate.

The Deer Donation Program has invested $140,000 over 7 years. The value of the Program is calculated to be upwards of $255,000. This is based on the value of the meat collected (49,080 lbs at $2/lb) and the value of the crops not consumed from agricultural fields (1,227 deer harvested, 2,000 lbs of grain saved for each deer harvested (2,454,000 lbs.), value of grain estimated at $3.671/bushel). This does not include the reduction in vehicular damage caused by deer vs. vehicle collisions or many of the other negative economic impacts resulting from an overpopulation of deer.

Even despite the apparent economic success of the program, the true value to those families in need is something that is hard to put a price on.

The program has spawned the creation of several other similar donation programs throughout Maryland over the past few years. Hopefully with renewed support from local officials, this program can continue to  fill a need on multiple fronts.

Read a complete summary of the 2010-2011 results here:

Check out a past newspaper article about the program here:

Measuring Success in Deer Management: A Numbers Game

On the last day of January, as another Maryland hunting season came to a close, being a passionate wildlife manager I found myself anxiously awaiting the final test of Patriot LWM management strategies. Thorough analysis of hunter harvest records and observation logs is what drives our measure of success or failure, and what guides our management objectives for the following year. Although hunters under Patriot management must log harvests into our online database within 24 hours, the laundry list of other tasks to accomplish during the season does not afford us the opportunity to really look deeply into the numbers.   

Observations logs completed by hunters after each hunt include information like:

  • Location Hunted
  • Weather Conditions
  • Number and Sex of Deer Seen (Does, Bucks, Yearlings, Unknowns)
  • Predators Seen
  • Other comments
Harvest data collected by hunters includes information like:
  • Sex of the animal (Doe, Buck, Button Buck)
  • Approximate Age (Utilizing Tooth Wear and Replacement)
  • Approximate Weight
  • Presence and number of any fetus’(Generally appear later in the season)
  • Presence of Milk (Does)  
  • Antler Measurements (Bucks)

Each aspect of the biological data collected could be a blog entry in and of itself (hint: each may very well be in the future) used to discuss the importance of the measurement and what it is telling the wildlife manager. For the purpose of this blog entry, I only wish to present the case study of the Patriot Land and Wildlife 2010-2011 management season and allow readers to begin to see how the data collection relates to measures of a management program.  

Patriot LWM Hunter Management

Patriot LWM organizes, qualifies and provides oversight for a volunteer hunting group known as the Patriot Whitetail Removal Team (PWRT) for use with large or small scale management efforts on properties that demand both discretion and production.

Patriot LWM also provides hunter management for our recreational leasing and property management clients to insure their wildlife management programs are carried out in conjunction with the recreational enjoyment of the land.

Patriot utilizes the principles of Quality Deer Management to educate it’s hunters in deer biology and administer harvest quotas and techniques to be carried out by both sets of hunters.   

The Numbers

Brief Analysis and Discussion

The total management area for Patriot LWM was 5000 acres. PWRT and Lease Members harvested a total of 345 deer on that acreage.

       PWRT

The PWRT accounted for 220 of those 345 deer. 96% of the total harvest were does (females), 3% were button bucks (.5 year old males) and less than 1% of the total harvest were Bucks. Of the 7 button bucks killed, many were the result of late season body size increases which made them mistakenly targeted for harvest as does. Of the 2 bucks that were harvested, one was a 3.5 year old buck with only ¼” small velvet nubs where antlers should have grown, again causing this buck to be targeted as a doe. The other was a 4.5 year old mature buck with an antler score of 149 total inches, 7th largest crossbow harvest in Maryland ever, obviously meeting our ideal harvest standards.

PWRT members averaged 1 deer harvest for every 2.5 hours spent in the treestand which is a testimate to both their hunting ability as well as their maximization of the effort vs. result equation (the manner in which effort is applied has a direct correlation to the result realized). Most female deer possess reproductive potential by 1.5 years of age, with older deer accounting for the highest reproductive potential,  often bearing twins and in some cases triplets.

Therefore the targeting of this upper age structure in a population will further expand on this effort vs. result scenario. Harvesting 3 deer of lower reproductive potential is not as effective as harvesting 3 deer with a high reproductive potential, although the exact same amount of effort is expended in both cases. 62% of the 220 deer harvested by PWRT were 2.5 years old or older, 23 % were 1.5 years old and only 15% of the total harvest were less than 1.5 years of age.       

According to the Maryland Annual Deer Report, during the 2009-2010 season, 66% of the total state hunter harvest were antlerless (deer without antlers) and 34% were antlered bucks. When you factor in the total number of button bucks (male antlerless) that were recorded during this time, the actual female deer harvest is 52%, with males making up the other 48%. These numbers are a far cry from the above 96% needed to realize a population reduction as is recommended by many State wildlife managers.   

     Leasing Members

Although not quite as precise, a similar situation unfolded on recreational leases under Patriot LWM oversight. Lease members accounted for 125 total deer harvested, 89% were does, 8% bucks and 3% were button bucks. Of the 10 bucks killed, 4 were harvested due to the fact they had been severely wounded on adjacent properties and needed to be put down out of proper ethics. 3 bucks were harvested by youth hunters (16 years or under) and 3 were harvested as meeting the mature buck requirements.

       Combined Analysis   

Measuring the reproductive potential of a population is an inexact science; many factors weigh into the debate including herd health, climate, weather conditions, predators etc. For demonstration purposes we will only make a few assumptions so that readers can better visualize how specific harvest requirements weigh in to the effort vs. result we talked about. If we assume that based on our age structure, some deer would have had triplets, some twins, others 1 or none at all, the following are an example as if the reproductive aged does would have had twins. The combined harvest of these 345 deer, plus their reproductive potential which was not realized accounts for up to 989 deer that will not be there in the spring of 2011 to feast on agricultural crops, landscapes or ground nesting bird habitat. An adult deer consumes on average 1.5 tons of forage a year, so 345 deer harvested immediately results in 517.5 tons saved and up to 1483.5 tons saved for 2011.

In later blog entries we will take a look at specific results as they relate to agricultural yield data and economic relationships to effective deer management, stay tuned!

You Want to Plant What?? Benefits of Diversionary Food Plots in Agriculture

When the idea of planting food plots for white-tailed deer rolls across your tongue in front of concerned community members or agricultural professionals fed up with deer damage, the response is often the same. “You want to plant what??? The last thing we need around here is more deer, and feeding them will surely do just that.”

This statement is not far from the truth but the reasoning behind why it’s a good management decision may surprise you. 

The Origin of a Concept:

When Patriot LWM first began management efforts on a 250 acre tract with 132 acres of crop production agriculture and the remainder in timber and other cover types, the deer damage issue was at a breaking point. Hunter harvest practices were the first issue to get a facelift on the property including the increase in the reduction of adult female deer (does) and implementation of other techniques in line with the principles of “Quality Deer Management”. Initial population analysis identified the need for an extremely high number of female deer to be removed from the property, so much so that alternative harvest techniques needed to be considered.

 Supplemental Food Plots:

A well rounded wildlife management program incorporates habitat and forage management into its population control measures. So as a wildlife manager I am somewhat partial to the idea of supplemental food plots as a way to create a year round nutritional program for the overall health of my white-tailed populations. Food plots of varying species (such as clover, chicory, cow peas, etc.) with varying maturation times can be installed to supplement existing food sources (row crops, acorns, etc.). They can also fill gaps in the deer’s diet after other food sources are exhausted, such as after crops are harvested or acorns are depleted. Depending on their intended use and location, it is very simple for supplemental food plots to double as a diversionary food plot as well.

 Diversionary Food Plots:

My definition of a diversionary food plot is simply a plot installed for the purpose of diverting a deer’s feeding attention off of one source and onto another, such as off of row crops and into a clover mixture. Once again, your species selection along with its location will be the main determinate of the success of that diversion. Planting something deer have no intention of eating until late December will be of no comfort as the corn and soybeans get devoured in late summer.

Patriot LWM installed a mixture of clovers and chicory based on their perennial nature requiring minimum maintenance and also their high tolerance to deer pressure.   

For the purposes of our project, Patriot LWM  worked with the farmer and located a mutually beneficial site on the property. 15-30 feet of field edge bordering existing tree lines were donated to the “diversionary food plot fund”, another fact which raises eyebrows in an agricultural community hesitant to give up tillable acreage to the wildlife battle.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of this technique.           

Running the numbers:

Farmer:

  • Low yield in these sacrificed rows already due to deer damage on edges and shading under the “drip line” of trees
  • Reduced expenses on unused acreage
    • Seed
    • Fertilizer
    • Lime
    • Herbicide application
    • Fuel for equipment
    • Wear and tear on equipment striking trees
  • Hunters gladly supplement the cost of food plot installation for own benefit
  • Increased yield in the remaining acreage
  • Increases recreational lease value of the property

 Hunter:

  • Supplemental food source for improved health of deer population
  • Increased harvest opportunities
    • Creates harvest location along edges when normal standing crops would hinder harvest
    • Deer can be concentrated to particular areas for increased harvest
    • Brings deer to the “staging areas” near fields earlier allowing for more harvest opportunities before light expires
    • Keeps local deer populations on the property long after crops are harvested allowing hunters chances to increase harvest throughout the course of the regulated hunting season
    • Attracts deer from neighboring properties which may not have effective management programs to allow their harvest during daylight hours instead of them entering onto the property to feed outside huntable hours.
    • Provides space for hunter access to remove harvested deer while crops are up

In later blog entries we will take a closer look into the specific results of this project but initial findings are very positive. Diversionary food plots coupled with educated hunters practicing the principles of “Quality Deer Management” should be an option worth exploring for many landowners and farmers trying to win the war on deer damage. Stay tuned!