In the Field: Return from the Ozarks

I had an incredible opportunity to head down to Missouri for a week and spend some quality time with their wildlife cooperative coordinator, Brian Towe. His position is funded jointly with the Missouri Conservation Department and Quality Deer Management Association.
Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, MO Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, MO
Missouri has over 30 wildlife cooperatives scattered around the state. Their main game include deer and turkey, while parts of northern Missouri has some good pheasant potential. Honestly, other than a couple road kill deer, I did not see any live deer, despite many hours in the truck. It helped me realize my appreciation for the deer I see on a regular basis here in Michigan. As I drove up to Roscommon this weekend, I saw over 12 deer in the first ten minutes of my drive, and then just stopped counting. I wasn’t even looking for deer! Turkey, however, Missouri has a generous population, similar to many areas in southern Michigan. Of the many beautiful birds we saw, the bearded hen stands out as most memorable.
We had a couple of cooperative meetings, where I had the great fortune of meeting some welcoming Missouri Cooperative Members and leaders. One of the exciting aspects of my trip was being able to compare many similarities between Missouri and Michigan cooperatives. Sure, the antlers were a little larger, but the common interests, challenges, and motivations were all the same.
Meeting with one of the Southern Missouri Deer Cooperatives. Meeting with one of the Southern Missouri Deer Cooperatives.
One big area of partnership Brian encouraged was working with neighboring cooperatives to drum up volunteers to aid in prescribed burns. A lot of times, one cooperative may not have the expertise to accomplish a task, yet by working together and sharing resources, even across cooperative boundaries, can prove to be extremely beneficial.
Another area of note - if you are starting up a cooperative, and you have fewer show up to meetings than you expect, be careful about being disappointed too quickly. One of the meetings we went to only had five guys show up. However, these five guys could account for a majority of the deer harvested around the cooperative properties just by recalling conversations they had with neighbors over the fall and winter months. They were able to provide enough information to get some good starts on harvest estimates for the entire cooperative! These were also guys who were willing to help out with administrative aspects of the cooperative, which is something some cooperative leaders will give a hand or foot for.
In summary, we are doing some great things here in Michigan. We have a lot of cooperatives already, and some good habitat work going in the ground. We have some solid networks of cooperative leaders, and some new groups getting started. Let’s keep up the great work, and see what we can accomplish - together, one neighbor at a time.

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