In the Field: Starting a Cooperative

by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator

Over the weekend, I had the honor and privilege to attend the first official Bacon Creek Quality Deer Cooperative meeting. Chad Stewart, DNR Deer Specialist, and Steve Chadwick, DNR Regional Supervisor, were in attendance as well, and the three of us discussed some of the accomplishments of this group. A first meeting says a lot about a group’s potential, and the work done prior to the meeting paves the way for success or added challenges. I am excited to say, that we believe this group to have a lot of potential, and is started off to a great start!

There are a couple things key things Jeffery Antes, the cooperative leader of Bacon Creek, did very well. The first is that he did his research before he officially started anything. He talked with neighbors to seek interest, researched what cooperatives were, and worked with the cooperative coordinator to brainstorm, and gain insights from current (and local) successful cooperatives, like Red Creek Cooperative.

Once he did some background work, he held a meeting with a few key landowners in his area. This meeting had several neighbors (including a 2014 state record buck holder), one of Red Creek Cooperative’s leader, Kurt Laux, and myself. We talked about goals, expectations, levels of commitment from other landowners around the table. I emphasized that Jeffery couldn’t do this on his own, and he needed a few other committed members to be willing to step up and contribute. We talked about what areas other members could assist with, and what tasks they were willing to complete.

That first meeting wrapped up with full bellies (venison chile of course), vision for the coming months, a game plan for growth and recruitment, and a date on the calendar for a big end of summer cooperative event. That very afternoon, Jeffery had created a Facebook page for his cooperative and began drafting letters introducing the cooperative idea that he would send out to his neighbors.

A  couple months, and many conversations with neighbors, members, and myself, we found ourselves enjoying some fine BBQ’ed chicken (smoked with care by Pork-n-Stein, interested in working with cooperative leaders to promote quality wildlife management) with some local neighbors interested in learning more about the cooperative. Jeffery welcomed the group, introduced myself, Chad, and Steve, and we all were able to talk about the benefits and resources available to cooperatives. After enjoying some great food and conversation, we were able to tour a couple of the properties within the cooperative.

A key component to this meeting was an enlarged map of the cooperative area. Jeffery had some highlighters available for landowners to highlight their properties on the map, indicating they were on board with achieving the goals of the cooperative. One aspect that was very interesting, and new to me, was that landowners could highlight their land yellow, indicating they planned to pass 1.5 year old bucks, or orange, indicating they planned to pass 2.5 year old bucks. This allowed for members to start where they felt more comfortable, and illustrated that young bucks were being protected.

Now that the first event is over, Jeffery is sending out a letter to the neighbors sharing about the first meeting happenings, and providing a map of the cooperative. He wants to make sure that neighbors have plenty of correspondence and opportunity to know about the cooperative. For the pre/post meeting mailings, Jeffery was able to secure the addresses from an application called Onxhunt. You can also go to your township and request a list of addresses in your area.

If you are interested in starting a cooperative in your area, I would love to help. Please feel free to contact me at, or 517-346-6454.

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