by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, MUCC
I had the honor of attending East Olive’s annual post season meeting this past weekend. They are are great cooperative, one that has been working hard at improving hunting and habitat in their area for coming up on a decade now. When I did my research on deer cooperatives in graduate school, East Olive was very involved in providing valuable data. This group shows high levels of group cohesion, satisfaction, and common values/interests. Before joining their cooperative members indicated a hunting experience satisfaction level of 41%, yet indicated their satisfaction rose to 81% after becoming involved in the cooperative.
East Olive covers over 11,000 acres of managed properties and has 165 or so members. This past year was a good year for many cooperative members. A lot of good bucks were brought in, and the top three are pictured below with their lucky hunters! (Left: Kent Ballard - 4.5 year old 10 point, gross score 145 4/8, net 124. Middle: Luke Hagy - 6.5 year old 10 point, gross score 148 6/8, net 7/8. Right: Ike Pearsall - 3.5 year old 8 point, gross score 134, net 132 2/8.)
The sad news for East Olive Cooperative is that the most recent discoveries of CWD brought the disease zone to their front door. The leadership of this cooperative, in conjunction with the local QDMA branch are taking this very seriously, and went to DNR and QDMA National looking for guidance and direction on how to best move forward as avid deer hunters managing for herd quality.
Chad Stewart, DNR Deer Biologist, was at their meeting on Saturday to explain about the disease and answer questions. QDMA provided some feedback and information as well. The full version can be found here.
Many hunters are concerned about what CWD means for harvesting bucks. Here is what QDMA has to say. “Older bucks are two to four times more likely to have CWD than younger bucks. Therefore, on paper, the best way to combat the disease is to keep density low and the age structure young. That means not allowing bucks or does to mature. However, in reality, hunters are needed to regulate deer populations, and many hunters stay engaged for the opportunity to pursue mature bucks. It is QDMA’s opinion that as long as hunters continue hunting, shooting antlerless deer, and helping keep deer herds in check, then it is more beneficial to have some mature bucks in the population than to shoot all bucks at a young age. If mature bucks are scarce, some hunters will become less engaged and shoot fewer antlerless deer. Therefore, QDMA's recommendation for hunters is to harvest antlerless deer to help reduce deer density, continue protecting yearling bucks if you desire, but apply increased harvest pressure to all bucks 3½ years of age or older.”
Also, QDMA strongly advocates that cooperatives have an important role to play, even with CWD in the picture. “Cooperatives can play a huge role in managing CWD. Cooperatives provide the perfect venue to share information, keep hunters engaged, and ensure adequate deer harvest in their area. Cooperatives are the future of deer management across the whitetail’s range, and this is especially true for areas with CWD.”
Kirk Nartker, cooperative leader for East Olive, has been very involved with DNR and the interactions they have had with the public since the first case was found. "I'm very impressed with how well our MDNR staff has been addressing the community about the new CWD issue here in Clinton County,” Kirk said. “From the public information meetings to local co-op meetings, from QDMA branch banquets to the deer shows and the internet blogs, they are everywhere, getting the message out. I think a lot of hunters never took CWD seriously enough and maybe some still don't. I hope they soon will because right now, the folks in the central Michigan area, will pay the price for the rest of their lives. I just hope we can keep it contained in this area. I wouldn't wish this on any deer hunter."
CWD is going to change the hunting in East Olive Cooperative. They see themselves as part of the barrier, protecting and defending Michigan’s deer herd from a further impact of CWD. We don’t know the extent of this disease yet, but I assure you, East Olive Cooperative is taking their role seriously. How are you going to approach this disease?