This past Saturday, East Olive Deer Cooperative celebrated their tenth Big Buck Night! In the past ten years East Olive has see their ups and downs. They have seen an effect of EHD, and now are faced with CWD. They have seen some incredible bucks harvested, along with some old does. Through the thick and thin, the constant has been their increased growth in acreage and relationship, working hard to stay true to the vision of a healthy and balanced deer herd comprised with an older age class of deer.
East Olive is comprised of over 10,000 acres and 150 members. They hold a pre-season meeting each fall, and a Big Buck night each winter. They work on habitat projects with the Clinton-Ionia QDMA Branch, and conduct a harvest survey each year. Kirk and Linda create a newsletter that keeps their members up to date on deer related events and issues that occur over the year.
I have had the pleasure of being involved with this cooperative since 2010. They are a warm and inviting group. Their meetings consist of people of all ages, many women, and a large group of kids. Connor, my 2 month old son, met a cute girl at the meeting who was born the day after him. Who knows where that might lead... The potluck feast that is assembled at the Big Buck night will fill you up with a happy tummy.
Kirk Nartker is the leader of this group, and he has done an amazing job, with the help of his wife Linda, keeping the group organized, upbeat through challenges of disease, and continuing to build relationships and expand their reach of influence. From the research I did in graduate school, this group ranked high in a classification of 'fitness' that correlates with the members' strong feelings of camaraderie.
East Olive is a fine example of what leadership, positive action, collaboration with the DNR, encouragement of valuable deer management goals, and cooperation look like. I am proud to be part of this group, and to have the pleasure of calling many of their membership personal friends of my family.
Congratulations on not only reaching a decade of existence of continued growth in number of people and acres of land, but more importantly, in quantity and quality of relationships! Keep up the great work, you are truly making an impact.