On Saturday I had the pleasure to attend the Third Annual Cooperative meeting with the County Line Cooperative. I am impressed by this group (along with many other of the great cooperatives we have in Michigan)! They hosted the Deer Rendezvous the past two years and even allowed other cooperative and QDMA branch leaders to wander around their properties last year. But what really impresses me about this group, is the strength of leaders they have who work together. The different personalities and commitment to the group is what allows this group to have the scope of influence they have. Despite freezing rain, this cooperative still brought in over 20 people who were eager to learn more about managing their deer herd and to get their questions answered about Chronic Wasting Disease.
One of the cooperative leaders, Andy Clark, presented on the cooperative’s development and growth over time. In 2016, they conducted trail camera surveys on multiple properties. The combined data of this data accounted for almost a 1:4 buck to doe ratio. Of the harvest data they collected, they harvested 14 bucks and 24 does (almost a 1:2 buck to doe harvest rate). One of the bucks was 3.5 plus years old and ten were 2.5 years old. In 2017, the conducted the trail camera survey again and found a buck to doe ratio nearly 1:5. Working to increase the doe harvest, they did harvest 56 does, but with an increase of buck harvest as well, their harvest ration was around 1:2. However, some really fun changes included seeing seven 3.5 plus year old bucks harvested, and 18 2.5 year old bucks, with 29 total bucks harvested.
Along with their excellent collection of data, they are also working hard to bridge the gap between the hunting and farming community. As in many areas, the farmers are labeled as an “if it’s brown it’s down” group. Which certainly was the case in this area. However, one of the larger farmers in the area was approached a couple years ago to join the cooperative. After joining the cooperative and seeing the effort to increase knowledge on balanced sex ratios and adequate doe harvest, he has been not only supportive, but a strong advocate for the cooperative strategy. I spoke with him for quite a while after the meeting. He made it clear the local relationships between the hunters and the farmers has grown a lot in the past two years because of the cooperative. On his farm, he does ask his hunters to be selective on the bucks that they harvest and in return the cooperative is honestly focusing on increasing antlerless deer to help reduce pressure on his crops. This collaboration is going far in mending relationships and perceptions of how the farmers and hunters view each other.
In addition, there are a few other new cooperatives developing around the County Line Cooperative. They are all focused on their local impacts and want to stay true to the smaller and local feel. While they join up for big events, they work to tailor their harvest goals to several sections. The cooperatives are supportive of each other and work together quite well. This strategy works quite well to find that local impact yet still find larger quantities of people to attend events.
Lewis family, Andy, Jason, Jerry… thank you for all you do! I am honored to be part of your group and I am thrilled with the effort and product you guys are cultivating. Keep up the great work and thank you for being a great example.v