Branch County QDMA
Hope everybody had a successful hunting season. I saw a lot of nice younger bucks on my property, but didnít have an opportunity to harvest a trophy. We did harvest some does, so the freezer is well stocked.
Weíve got a quarterly meeting on Wednesday February 19 at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Branch County Career Center, located at 366 Morse St., Coldwater, Mi. This is going to be a very informative meeting for all who attend. A lot of info on government programs will be available, as well as a food plot seminar to answer any and all questions to get ready for the upcoming spring.
Hopefully, a lot of people utilized the membership discount before the end of year. QDMA membership is still a great bargain at $25, so we need to keep getting the word out and get as many of our neighbors and fellow hunters involved as possible. The more people we get on board, the better hunting for all of us. Everywhere QDM has been implemented, the results have been clear. More involvement = BIG BUCKS!!!! So letís get as many people as we can to this upcoming meeting!
Also at this meeting, we will be setting a date for our first fundraiser. We have some great ideas to discuss; any suggestions are always welcome as well. The next meeting date and agenda will also be decided that night. So, we strongly encourage all members to attend.
The mineral supplements that were discussed are now available. These supplements are approved by Dr. James Kroll. They are very reasonably priced at $18.50 for a 50# bag. This would be a great time to start a mineral program with the severe cold weather weíve had. Call me if you are interested in purchasing some.
Hope to see everyone on Wednesday Feb. 19,
President, Branch Co. QDMA
453 South Angola Rd.
Coldwater, MI 49036
Wildlife food plot workshop presented by Hal McCurley.
Guest speakers include:
Jennifer Taylor and Becky Otto from Natural Resources Conservation Service. They are going to outline USDA Programs that are available. They will be answering any questions on these programs, detailing how to sign up for them, and helping decide what type of plantings to make. There is a lot of money available from the 2002 Farm Bill to be utilized by QDMA members! Get reimbursed for improving wildlife habitat!
Andy Acmoody from the North Central Co-op will be covering soil issues including sampling, fertilizing, and chemicals for weed control. He will be answering questions on all these topics.
Hal McCurley will be discussing the overall project of starting and maintaining a food plot. Food plot site preparation, the how toís and when toís of planting, what equipment, etc.
Set Your Expectations High!
It all started about 5 years ago, sitting in my blind on opening day of gun season. I sat there and watched a herd of 89 deer walk past me, every single one of them bald as a babyís behind. On their return trip, I shot three of them. I could not believe there were so many deer and so few of them bucks.
I have never been afraid to shoot a doe. They, after all, have made up the majority of my harvests over the years for the simple reason I had never really seen a lot of bucks in the field, I knew they were there and I had harvested a few but I was content or so I thought.
After some research, reading articles and listening to our own DNR, I knew more could be done. I had come to the conclusion that there were still way too many does on our property and had made up my mind that our hunting party had to shoot more, many more doe. Thatís when it began. That next year our buck pole consisted of 11 does between 5 of us. We had seen several bucks during bow season but they seemed to disappear once the shooting started.
Over the next winter, I heard about something called QDM. QDM? Something about letting little bucks go, let Ďem grow, "Yeah right!" I said, "BS"! Then I started reading more about it, and the success they had been having down south and in Wisconsin. Needless to say it peaked my interest. I did a little homework and was sold. I had to give it a shot.
The next fall, I decided I would give it a try for myself and see if it was possible to let a buck walk. I set a 4 point to a side limit for myself and decided to try and harvest a few more does than usual. You know what, after letting the first few go, it wasnít that bad. Actually, it got pretty easy. It was the first year I saw more than 2-3 bucks during bow season. Gun season arrived and we hammered the does again filling the buck pole with does and a 6 point, my brother Jeremyís first buck.
Over the winter I explained to our hunting party the importance maintaining a balanced herd, buck to doe ratios, carrying capacity, and the benefits of QDM. (Something I hope to explain in laymanís terms to many others via the Branch Co. QDM branch) Without hesitation everyone was on board. We were excited for the upcoming season.
October rolled around and bow season was once again upon us, we had imposed an 8 point or better restriction and still were aggressively harvesting does. Everyone was surprised at the amount of bucks that were indeed in the area once they started letting the little guys walk and more than happy to fill the freezer with does. Gun season rolled around and the bucks once again disappeared, with the exception of a huge 10 point that made the rounds at mach speed through our property, running past my dad, brother and eventually me. W e were pumped. Again our buck pole turned into a doe pole.
The following spring I joined QDMA and began to receive quarterly additions of Quality Whitetails (the best hunting magazine out there) and made the acquaintance of Dan Timmons, he happened to be the Five Rivers Branch QDM president, what a wealth of info! He really knows QDM, deer biology, food plots, I could go on, you get the point.
Throughout the summer I watched fields, scouted and placed stands accordingly. We were anxious to see if our sacrifices were paying off, we were not disappointed. We saw more bucks than ever, multiple buck sightings every time out and were starting to see some really nice bucks! One of which I missed, not once, but twice! It was the first time in my 15 years of hunting where I could honestly say I saw as many bucks as I had does. The same story went for my hunting party. Gun season came and went pretty uneventfully, doing our part to shoot does and passing on some small bucks opening day and then "POOF" they seemed to disappear. Where did those nice bucks go?
I attended a QDM meeting held by the Five Rivers Branch the next spring, they had several guest speakers, Brent Rudolph (MDNR) did an outstanding job explaining carrying capacity, importance of doe harvest and how QDM goals are finding there way into DNR management schemes. I also had the distinct pleasure of listening to Tony LaPratt and his big bucks on small property seminar. I can tell you this, I learned more in those 1.5 hours than I had in 15 years of hunting. It was absolutely amazing! He showed me that the missing piece of our QDM puzzle was right under my nose all this time.
HABITAT, HABITAT, HABIAT!
Not being very comfortable about taking a chainsaw and laying waste to our deer hunting woods, we enlisted Tonyís help and began to make the initial improvements. He took the chainsaw and began to basically make a mess. There was however a method to his madness, he explained the benefits of such cuttings and showed us how to identify the proper trees to cut and which ones not to. The one we shouldnít cut were few and far between. He also explained the importance of food plots; I had never really given it much thought. "Hell Branch County isnít anything but cornfields and oak trees, what more do they need". Boy was I wrong.
The rest of the summer found us knee deep in clear cuts and half cuts, being swarmed by mosquitoes and horse flies, the whole time my Dad would just laugh and shake his head, he thought we were nuts. By the time we were done, our woods looked like a war zone. We were worried sick, "what the heck did we do", "we might regret this", among other comments. Then the process of food plots, what to plant, where to plant, how to plant. Tony was probably sick of us calling him. Lots of work and we were finally done and we had a whole 2 months to prepare for bow season. God, this is too much like work.
The next 2 months found us praying for rain, which never came and worrying about all that money going to waste. Luckily with a little extra preparation and quality products our plots made it through the heat and drought.
Around the middle of September I walked out to our back field that contained little sprouts of clover and alfalfa and witnessed one of the biggest bucks I had ever seen up to that point, walk from one of our "safe zones" into the field take a few nibbles, cross it and into another "safe zone".
It was right then I knew this season would be different.
The early reports from my brother during an evening hunt in early Oct. was that it was the most deer he had ever seen in that field and he had multiple buck sightings. Man, I was pumped. I couldnít get out for another week and it was killing me. Finally the time came for my first hunt, it was a cool evening and the deer just started piling in, from every where! 1, 2,3,4,5 six bucks stood there in the field chowing down and everyone gave me a shot, but I waited and waited and waited. The rest of the hunters reported similar findings, lots of bucks and some real dandies. This continued throughout bow season, with the report of some large 8, 10 points and one that had what looked like tree limbs coming out of his head, bedded down 40 yards in front on my friend Jasonís brother Kyle. This was getting good!
The morning of November 9, 2002 was absolutely magical, I had several hot does come in that were just acting weird. Then, out of no where comes a massive 8 point trailing one of "his" girls, I grunted and bleated hoping to get his attention, but he was preoccupied and just a little out of range. I sat there and watched him chase those does all over, smiling the entire time. Then my radio goes off, itís my buddy Jason, he just missed that same 8 about 10 minutes prior, I couldnít help but laugh! I sat there watching as a steady stream of immature 6 and 8 points came by trying to find "their" doe.
I left my stand at around 1:00, due to some running around that needed to be done and we were back on stand at around 2:30. I had just helped Jason place a new stand and was on my way to a very "HOT" stand that Jeremy and Jason convinced me to sit in. The wind was perfect for this stand location and although it was warm the rut was in full swing. I hadnít been on stand for more than 15 minutes when 2 does crossed the field and entered a thicket to the west. Jason radioed me and told me that the 2 does "busted him bigger than****" I was cracking up. I had deer all over me in no time, 2 does came from the north and I was readying for the shot, but they passed just out of bow range. Bummer! I just couldnít connect with my bow this year; I was convinced I was cursed!
I sat there listening to deer coming through our "safe zones" and watching them enter the field, listening to deer running around in the thicket and walking toward me. "Man, that deer sounds like its headed right for me". I stood up and readied myself for a possible shot, the deer was coming right at me but was blocked by a cedar a few yards in front of me that I use as a screen, I can see its legs and thatís it. It is motionless, no doubt looking into the field at the deer in it. It appears that it is going to continue on that trail and into the field. I attempt to turn to the right and the stand makes a dreaded SQUEEEEAAAAKKK! UGH! The deer immediately turns around and heads in the opposite direction makes a left turn into my furthest shooting lanes and passes at a trot. The largest buck I have ever seen in the woods, all I see is 6 points on his left side and a long drop tine. Holy *&%*^%&^%&%! I blew it, $#^%$#^%#^%$#&$&%*&%* treestand! I had the buck of a lifetime in bow range and blew it, I was sickened. As I stood there contemplating suicide, I heard another deer approaching from the same direction.
Could it be? Heís circling back around! I now was standing on my seat, praying for no more creaking, my prayers were answered. I stood there silently, not even breathing for what seemed liked an eternity. The deer approached down the same path, stood in the same position and started to pass to my right, that's when all I saw was what looked like a
massive white shark fin come out of the thicket and stop just short of my shooting lane. He froze, my heart stopped, he does a one eighty and headed in the same direction as the 14 point. At his point I am screaming inside, gasping, horrified.
He continues his one eighty and is going to pass directly in front of me, I draw my bow and follow him until he reaches my shooting lane, he passes about 10 yards closer than the other buck. I stop him with a bleat in the middle of my lane, let the pin rest behind his shoulder and touched one off. The buck drops on impact and struggles to his feet and is gone in a flash. A couple brief crashes and then silence.
As I sat there absolutely shell shocked, I must have lost all muscle coordination. I was attempting to put my bow on a hook and I just couldn't do it. I told myself to try and sit down before I fell out of my stand. After about 5 minutes, I got down to check my arrow. I found it and it was covered in bright pink blood, I knew it was a good hit and he probably didn't get very far. I waited for about 15 minutes, my friend Jason and my brother Jeremy radioed me and asked if I had shot a deer, I gave them a synopsis and they were on their way. The blood trail was immediate and short. 35 yards away was my buck of a lifetime.
I firmly believe that this scenario can occur on every single piece of property in Branch Co. With a little work, research, help from others and personal sacrifice everybody can create their own deer paradise. We have a unique opportunity here in Branch Co. with all the private land located within itís boundaries to make a county wide deer paradise. We can tailor our hunts to produce a balanced herd of deer held under itís carrying capacity and reap itís many rewards. We can practice voluntary QDM on a county wide basis enforced by hunter attitudes and peer pressure or we can impose county wide antler restrictions similar to DMU 107 enforced by the DNR by garnering enough support. The choice is ours and the possibilities are only limited by the membership.
The Branch Co. QDM Branch is just beginning to get off the ground but my expectations have never been so high.
Branch Co. QDM Branch
Allen Park, MI 48101
Let Ďem go, so he can grow!
Branch County Career Center
366 Morse St