September 30, 2000
I started off my last letter with the statement that we are off to a good start. It turns out to be true. Not only with my observations, but also the views of many others. This is the third mild winter in a row and along with last year’s excellent forage growing summer, this year’s early spring with plenty of moisture conditions couldn’t be better for the deer in Mid-Michigan to express their full potential.
My farming home base location of 120 acres is in Gladwin County DMU 106. All of my farmland (400 acres) was put in CRP in 1996. With the help of the DNR Forestry Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Division, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture we planted 60 acres in pheasant cover, 60,000 assorted trees, flooded 4 areas, dug out a pond, and set up a continuous food plot program of 12 acres for a variety of wildlife at the home base. The whole farm is wide open with very few trees except for a 4-acre Red Pine woodlot that was planted 13 years ago. I do not hunt this farm. I allow a few neighbors and friends to hunt it with the stipulation that does be taken and only bucks that are 2 ½ years old or older. Starting in 1998, I noticed a small group of older bucks that chose this location for their summer resort and rendezvous. In 1999, this group increased to 7-9 bucks with the oldest being probably 4 ½ years old. This encouraged me to plant a wide variety of plants from early spring, late spring, late summer to early fall for a total of 20 acres starting in 1998. The intent was to provide a choice of high protein and carbohydrates year-round. The variety consisted of (4) Rape types, 10 acres of corn that was left standing, a variety of Lequemes, Oats, Rye, and Wheat grains and more.
Around the middle of May this year the bachelor group reappeared and greatly increased in size. The doe and fawn population remained stable with no more than a dozen visiting or living on this open area. On June 18, 2000, the alarm woke me at 5:00 a.m., dressed with a pair of binoculars and shorts, I sat on the deck and waited for the sun to appear and burn out a heavy fog. At the dawns early light many familiar four-legged forms appeared 300 yards directly west past the dug out pond in a 1 ¼ acre Lequeme meadow mix field. There were 15 munching deer, 14 of them were bucks. To the left in a 3-acre cornfield were 4 more bucks and 3 does. Thinking this would make a good photo, I scurried around to the front door, still clad in my warm weather attire, to fetch the camera. I glanced at the east side of this property and observed 6 more bucks. Total deer: 24 bucks and 4 does. I like that ratio. These deer were not alarmed at my presence and continued to graze away. The 14 bucks eventually moved to the far west of my property and proceeded to bed down in the open field. That evening, dressed more appropriately, I observed all 14 bucks emerge from their beds, move into the cornfield, then migrate into the east end and feast on Rape until dark. This scene or one similar repeated itself until the middle of August when the bucks started to move off the farm to bed down in the morning.
I have documented on 2 hours of video on my 120 acre farm the following: (1) 5 ½ year old, 14 point; approximately 165 Boone and Crockett, (3) 3 ½ year olds, all 10 points; From 130 to 160 Boone and Crockett; (8) 2 ½ year olds, (1) 10 point, (1) 9 point, and (6) 8 points; From 90 to 130 Boone and Crockett, and (16) 1 ½ year olds; the smallest being a 5 point, and (8) 8 points. This is in a county that averages less than one record book buck per year. Mr. Dan Boss of Hook and Hunter, Channel 9-10 Cadillac showed excerpts of these brutes on August 24th.
In this location, I have a few neighbors who have agreed to protect the 1 ½ year old bucks. Most of these bucks will drift off to nearby doe areas to fulfill natures cycle come mid-October. It was a thrill to watch the pecking order evolve. Some of these 1 ½ year olds would literally jump out of their hides when approached by the 5 ½ year old or the 160 class 3 ½ year old. The next time you hear the phrase "If I don’t shoot him my neighbor will" tell them this story. The above happened due to the following: nature cooperated, our intense habitat management program, adequate harvest of does, record keeping, and the protection of all 1 ½ year old bucks.
You would think I would be ecstatic about this year’s experience. I am, but I am also sad. I encouraged all to drive by and observe these bucks and many have. I did this knowing full well that I was inviting potential trouble (poachers). On September 16th a.m. we observed (7) 1 ½ year olds and the big four. So far, So good. So why am I sad? These deer belong to everyone and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to observe what I did this past summer whether on private or on public land.
Mr. Tom Campbell, editor of Woods and Water, asked me what could be done for the public land hunter when baiting is banned and yet the private landowner has the option of hunting over food plots. I feel very strongly about this and think the public land hunter has been getting the short end of the stick for some time. Witness the change in deer population, public land versus private land. Thirty years ago 75% of all our deer were on public land. Today it is estimated to be less than 20%. The primary cause is poor deer and habitat management. The cure is good deer and habitat management.
In addition to protecting all 1 ½ year old bucks, and harvesting an adequate number of does. May I suggest just one action of many in habitat management that could be taken. When you drive a rural highway you become automatically on alert for crossing deer. Have you ever asked yourself why the deer gravitate to the roadside? It’s a perfect food plot. It’s cleared, mowed, and has a mineral lick (salt applied during winter), and the runoff of water from the road provides additional moisture for increased vegetative growth. Think of the great improvement if every two track and fire lane in public land became a no till 60-foot wide food plot. The technology is already here.
First, create a 60-foot wide clear-cut in these lanes. Kill existing vegetation in these 60-foot wide clear-cuts with a low toxicity to animals Contact Herbicide (many choices available). Apply this Contact Herbicide 3 times with the last spraying around the middle of September. This creates an ideal seedbed for the following early spring no till broadcast frost seeding. Using the existing two tracks, apply this herbicide with a self-propelled commercially available sprayer (Hi-Boy) capable of spraying a 100-foot wide swath, with a spray boom that is 8-foot above the ground. Broadcast lime, fertilizer and seed with a commercially available self-propelled spreader. If adequate moisture is available the broadcast seeding could be extended for additional seeding to late spring, late summer, and early fall. Broadcast a variety of plant types that will grow in the sprayed soil types. Maintain this 60’ wide clearing if necessary with cuttings. It’s cheap, attractive, and it works. This should pull away most of the deer visiting roadsides, which creates a safer condition for the motorist and the deer. With the savings the insurance companies will experience plus generating good will perhaps they can be moved to cover some of the cost. The funds for this program should come from the existing CRIP program. The increased cost could be financed through an adequate increase in all hunting license sales, (including anterless). I believe once hunters understand that the increase would be 100% earmarked for habitat management there would be overwhelming support. Can you imagine seeing private land type deer and having private land type hunting experiences on public land? This program would benefit many other species of wildlife from ground nesting birds to foraging bears.
For large tracts of land it has been found that between 2-3% planted into food plots is satisfactory. This would be around 15 acres per section. Not including the income from the initial clear-cut, the cost to plant and maintain should not exceed $100.00 dollars per acre per year. For 5000 sections, this would total 7.5 million dollars. A $10.00 dollar increase in the buck licenses alone would more than cover this worthwhile investment.
Okay enough of my thoughts let’s talk about you. Thanks to the many that sold raffle tickets (many asked for additional ones) and helped make our annual seminar a success. We attended a director’s meeting of the Clare Chapter of the Michigan Farm Bureau, (our main opposition) and invited them to attend our seminar. At least six did and as Mr. Doug Reeves, MDNR Wildlife Bay City District Supervisor noted, "The opposition appears to have abated".
Mr. Reeves said he hasn’t received an opposition call about the DMU 107 demonstration since last January. My personal observation is that many have switched and are now in favor of it.
The lucky raffle winners are Brian Cole of Pinconning 1st prize, Al Allard of Harrison 2nd prize, Brett Gushow of Auburn 3rd prize, Mike Card of Auburn 4th prize, and Harold Laskowsky of Harrison 5th prize.
We had 8 well-attended QDM workshops this past year from Cadillac to Munising. Thanks to your enthusiasm, the word is spreading. We had a booth at the Woods-N-Water Imlay City Sports show on September 8th, 9th, and 10th. It was a welcome change to have the overwhelming support and encouragement that we experienced there. Perry Russo pushed for the Tri-County mandatory proposal, which is scheduled for January 27, 2001, as the kick off day (details to follow). Not one person was opposed to Perry’s proposal, negative about QDM, or asked, "What is Quality Deer Management?" I remember Dr. Bill Moritz, MDNR biologist, quoting in 1997 about a survey sent out in 1993 that showed less than 20% support for QDM. I recently received a survey from Whitetails Unlimited with 2 questions in it. One question was mandatory deer check; the other question was about mandatory protection of young bucks. Most interesting.
Hey, If you want to sell raffle tickets and QDM videos, employ the Jacobsons. They must have worked at carnivals in their youth.
Stemming from the youth safety classes that several of our members helped out with our branch is mentoring at least 10 youth hunts. Many thanks to Bill Sclesky, Bruce Patterson, Frank Myers, Herb Klekamp, and Boyd Wiltse. As of today bucks were taken by 2 excited kids. Mr. Boyd Wiltse mentioned that we may be giving the wrong message to these youngsters, and maybe the deer allowed to be harvested should be limited to does only. I think he is right.
We had 15 members attend a deer aging class given by Tom Collum, MDNR biologist at the Rose Lake Research Center. We expect to attend an extended deer aging and biology class next year set up by Doug Reeves in Bay City, so stay tuned.
Our next Mid-Michigan branch meeting is on October 14th at 12 noon at Jay’s. We will be nominating members for the board of directors. The election is scheduled to take place in January 2001. Please contact me if you are interested.
Take a youth with you this fall and find out the true meaning of keeping the fun in hunting.
Keep the Fun in Hunting,
Ed Spinazzola, Board of Directors QDMA