by Anna Mitterling, Michigan Wildlife Cooperatives, MUCC
What a fun opening weekend of hunting, buck poles, and deer check! What most stuck out to me about the weekend, is that regardless of where I was, hunters were in high spirits about the season. While the weather was cold and rainy much of the weekend, I think we were all just happy to be out hunting.
I worked deer check in the core CWD area in Montcalm County. While there was a feeling of concern from many of the hunters who brought their deer in, there was a stronger attitude of excitement and responsibility. My favorite youth hunter who brought his deer in jumped out of the truck and ran around to the tailgate with his measuring tape in tow. He proceeds to show us how well his buck “measured” as he pulled the tape out across the antlers of his deer. He was so proud of his buck! His excitement was contagious, and a small group of people formed to check out the success of this youngster.
I was thankful to have gotten out – finally! Was able to see some small bucks and a few does, out of range of course. Being able to sit in a blind for a few hunts was relaxing and rejuvenating. I’ve been on the go for work pretty intensely for the past few months. While I love what I do, it can be wearing. Sitting there, waiting for the sun to rise, listening to the rainfall, I was reminded of just how incredible it is to have the freedom to sit and hunt. What a blessing and a privilege to not only feed our families with quality meat but to have the mental sanity check that comes with sitting in nature, alone with our thoughts, at peace.
I also want to take a moment and thank all of the cooperative leaders and partners I have the absolute privilege to work with. Thank you for all the texts over the past week, checking in, making sure I was getting out to hunt, and sending me pictures of your hunts and harvests! It is an honor to support your efforts, and to see the successes we’ve seen over the state! Knowing the pride and satisfaction you are getting out of your hunting, the relationships you are building with your neighbors, and the action that is being taken to improve hunting and habitat across the state, I am humbled to be where I am.
Buck poles!! Eaton County QDMA Branch had their first buck pole this past week. They had a good turn out and some nice bucks! Newcosta Cooperative had their first buck pole as well! I am sure there were more groups that had them, and I am thrilled to see the local QDMA Branches and Cooperatives take a role in hosting these buck poles. I was able to attend two, and the value I see in these is incredible. I hope that if you are in a cooperative, and there is not a local buck pole in your area already, consider hosting one next year! The first year or two may be sparsely attended, but just like cooperative acerage, once it starts growing, it snowballs!
Southern Mecosta Whitetail Management Association held their annual buck pole. This cooperative started as a buck pole, and has grown to be one of the biggest cooperatives in Michigan. They have a team of leaders who pull these events off, seemingly without a hitch! The food was great, and the atmosphere was positive and fun. They provide free QDMA memberships to their buck pole entries, and just this year hosted a youth deer pole where they supplied each of the kids with a subscription to the QDMA Rack Pack. They do have an annual fundraiser where they are able to raise the funds to supply these memberships.
County Line Cooperative held their first buck pole last year. They were impressed by the growth in the event this year! Over 60 people attended and several great bucks came as well. They had prizes for kids for just coming and yummy food for all. The DNR came to check the deer at the buck pole. In addition, the cooperative has their own “check station” through DNR, and is able to collect data under the cooperative so they can track the information over time. Speical thanks to Bruce Barlow and Lindsay with the Wildlife Division, for coming out to the buck pole after a long day of deer check. These partnerships are what make all of this successful.
In addition to having a great turnout, the County Line Cooperative also grew by over 400 acres that night. Interested neighbors came by, who had not come to meetings or events in the past. This event created an environment that enticed locals to come and learn more about the activities within the cooperative. I strongly encourage cooperatives to set up their own buck poles or take the initiative to be involved in existing ones. The platform these great to promote the good work of habitat and herd management cannot be understated.
Again, thank you, and great job to all! I hope regardless of your harvest success, your opening weekend was full of memories and celebration. I value sharing the successes with all of you!
If you are interested in starting a cooperative or learning more about cooperatives, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.