by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator
Last week I had the privilege of being on the Wired to Hunt podcast. We talked about my position, what cooperatives are, and how to handle a slew of situations that cooperatives deal with. If you have not listened to it, it is worth your while to do so! You can listen to it here.
I wanted to dig deeper into one of the topics of discussion: encouraging increased harvest standards from cooperative members. One of the questions that Dan brought up was how to address a cooperative member who did not follow the guidelines agreed upon by the cooperative as a group. My answer was along the lines of remembering private landowners still retain legal rights to do what they will on their own property and trust may not have been established yet.
When you are part of a wildlife cooperative, respecting private land ownership and gaining trust are essential. It will take a couple years to build the relationships within the group, as well as for deer to mature. Entering into a cooperative scenario, it is vital that we remember that as long as the activity being conducted on private land is legal, they are entitled to that activity. It may not fit into the goals you hope to accomplish, but their rights and a private landowner must be respected. The last thing you want to do is create a rift between you and a cooperative member because they are not following the “agreed upon cooperative guidelines.”
In regards to the levels of trust, it is important to remember where the group came from. Many hunters harvest a deer because they feel that their neighbor will harvest if they do not. This is not a feeling that is going to go away instantly once a cooperative is formed. Be patient, and create environments where people can grow in their trust for each other.
The best way to instigate change in behavior on your cooperative is to embody that standard. Hold yourself to a higher standard, encourage those publicly who are doing the same thing. At the same time, do not demean or speak negatively about or to your neighbors who have not decided to dive in fully just yet. Be patient that in time they may decide to pass younger deer too. You never know, and you don’t want to burn a bridge and eliminate the potential for them to be fully on board with the cooperative goals and harvest standards.