Farmer Interviews About Deer Management

April 9, 2019

MSU Extension hosted a webinar in March 2019 to inform crop producers about wildlife species that can impact field crop production and options for control.  In this video, farmers who have had experience with deer damage and management strategies share what they have learned using deer depredation hunting permits.

Video Transcript

 - [Eric] Alright, good afternoon everyone. My name is Eric Anderson. I'm a field crops educator here in Michigan. I'm on the southwest, south central part of the state, around the Indiana border. We have some sandy area down here, and quite a bit of woodlands, and so farmers down here have experienced quite a bit of problems with deer and sandhill crane and some other species, so that's part of the impetus for this webinar this afternoon. What I want to do is just give you a general overview of what we're going to be doing this afternoon. These are the speakers that we'll be hearing from. So, we'll start off looking at the species that are under the purview of The Department of Natural Resources here in Michigan. Ashley will be talking about turkey and geese but mainly focusing on deer. James DeDecker, who's with Extension, he will be also talking a bit about deer and some of the work that he has been doing. What I will do to start us off, however, is I've got some growers in our area who have volunteered to share their experiences with us. And so I will start off each segment by allowing them to share. Our first presenter will be Matt Kaufman who is a farmer down in St. Joseph County. Well, I'm here with Matt Kaufman, who is a farmer in St. Joseph County and in 2018 he had noticed some deer damage. Matt, can you tell me just a little bit about what you were seeing, how long you been seeing it? - [Matt] Hi, yeah the last three or four years we've noticed a lot of deer damage, especially in our fields that border woods, our large wooded areas. And we raise seed corn and some commercial corn and the deer herd seems to be getting bigger every year. And so, I'd heard about, you could purchase a permit to take some of these deer. And so, I filled out an online application for Deer Management Assistance Permits, is what they call it. That's the lingo I guess. And I filled that online and sent that in to the DNR and then they came out and, I guess, verified the deer damage that we had and could see that we were having trouble and they were able to issue us a permit then, last fall. - [Eric] Now Matt, your situation's a little different than probably a lot of the folks that are on today. You are not a hunter, so how were you able to handle that? - [Matt] Well, I was able to get some, I know some hunters and some people that were hunting at the property already and got in contact with them and was able to have them come out. I actually purchased a permit, they were 10 dollars a piece, so you get a discount for the permit, and bought those in my name and then could issue those to the hunters that were hunting on the properties, to tag 'em. If they were to get a deer, to tag it with that tag then. - [Eric] And you were saying that you got some other folks to do the hunting and so they took care of all the processing, they took the meat, is that right? - [Matt] Correct, yeah, I'm not a hunter, I don't come from a family of hunters and these guys, all the deer that were taken were put in their freezers for their families use, yeah. - [Eric] And you were saying that, how long have you been noticing deer damage in your fields? - [Matt] Probably the last four or five years, it's been getting, seems to be getting worse and I had heard about this program through the grapevine but never really looked into it too much and I was finally able to talk to somebody who had actually done this. And the process was pretty painless, actually, so I wish I had done this a few years ago. - [Eric] What were you seeing in the fields? - [Matt] Our seed corn fields, the deer will just walk along and pull the top of the plant out and then walk to the next plant. I've watched 'em, you know, 'cause we run irrigation in the fields all summer and so usually early in the morning you'll see 'em out and they'll just walk along and pull the top of the plant, munch on that a little bit, spit it out and go to next one, just keep doing that, so that particular field that summer was probably, a good half acre was basically destroyed when they pull the top of that plant out, then it didn't make an ear. - [Eric] You said that was seed corn or field corn? - [Matt] That particular field was seed corn. We do have some commercial corn and in one particular in north, I farm in Mendon Township in the north of Mendon there. There was probably 50, 60 deer workin' the commercial corn that early fall, I would say, before we harvested, and just trampling it down and eating and lotta damage there. - [Eric] Now, you actually didn't go to fill out the paperwork until the fall. And DNR came out and took a look at the field, and they were able to assess, even that late in the season, that it was deer damage? - [Matt] Yes, yeah it was very, very evident that there was deer damage there and tracks, the trampled corn, the seed corn, obviously, was already harvested, happened to be when they came out, but this year I'll fill out my application earlier and they could come out earlier and take a look. - [Eric] So, what do you think, moving forward? You said that you had a pretty sizeable deer population. Do you think that you will use the depredation program again? - [Matt] Definitely, I mean I don't have a exact count of deer but I know in the one area there's probably a couple hundred deer in a one square mile there that we've noticed. And, you know, we only got 10 deer out of that, so I don't even think we probably put a dent in it and based on the fawns that I saw this spring that we had a ton of twins and a lot of triplets running around, so for some reason the crop of deer coming on is gonna be a lot. So, I don't think we really put a dent in the deer population yet. - [Eric] Have you considered using the out of season permit. - [Matt] I've heard of that and I'm gonna look into that here this spring and see what that entails, but I think in my situation, I think that might even work better if I've got a couple guys that are diehard deer hunters and I believe that they'd be willing to hunt out of season with the right permit and to try and reduce those herds some more if we can. - [Eric] Alright, well thanks Matt. - [Matt] Okay, thank you. - Our second interview will be with Brendan Kelly from St. Joseph County. I'm here with Brendan Kelly who has had experience with deer damage in his family's corn crops. He and his brother utilized the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Deer Management Assistance Permits, or DMAP program, in 2018 to try to lower the local deer population and minimize future crop damage. Brendan, between you and your brother, you harvested over a dozen deer last deer season as part of your families use of the DMAP program. Now, they were all females, no button bucks. We know reducing the number of females is key to reducing crop damage in the future. How do you avoid button bucks and maximize the number of females harvested? - [Brendan] So, by planning out where we want to hunt and which deer we're targeting, particularly which groups, we found that we were more successful in reducing the number of does that we had on the farm. Particularly knowing how to identify does versus button bucks, knowing that they're gonna be probably the first out to the field and usually gonna be off to their selves, away from the main herd, try to glass them through a scope or a pair of binoculars before we actually plan to take the shot. If we can watch the group long enough to see which one has peed. We can actually see that the does will squat, whereas the button bucks will not. We can also try to identify them by looking at the shape of their skull, knowing that button bucks have a blockier, usually shorter head to them, whereas does will have a longer nose to them and may actually have a larger body that is usually longer and not as stocky or masculine looking. - [Eric] So, as you mentioned, does group together making them difficult to hunt. What techniques do you use to remove a large number of females from the same area? - [Brendan] So, when hunting larger groups, it's often best to hunt in a group with one, even two people with you. This makes multiple shots easier as you have more time per person to shoot at your target. It can also help to plan out ahead of time with those people and know exactly where are you plan to hunt with them and have good blind and area set up. Knowing who's gonna shoot which deer is also key. Obviously, if you shoot at the same deer then you're not nearly as effective as you would be if you each just got one good shot, one doe each. By utilizing other methods like trail cams and planning ahead of time, using wind direction and such, we can also maximize how each run is spent. By keeping a relatively low impact on the area, we can try to reduce the knowledge of the group that we're hunting, not to educate the deer as we call it. - [Eric] So, you mentioned the trail cam. What would be a good use of the trail cam to maximize the efficiency of the hunt? - [Brendan] So, if you have an area you plan to hunt and know there's deer in, obviously this might be where the impact is, the highest on your field, you can try to trail out which directions the deer are coming from and place the trail cams there. This'll help gain knowledge on when they're coming out, how many are in the group. It might even tell you how many does there are. This can help a lot in just pointing overall and might lead to you higher success. - [Eric] The DMAP program requires that you utilize the meat. How do you deal with the harvested deer to minimize cost and time, yet make good use of the resource? - [Brendan] So with the deer that we harvested and kept for ourselves, we ground some of the meat into hamburger, the other cuts were used for jerky and other steaks. By making good shots, we tend to better level sanitation and is preferably done after standing out and keeping the meat cool. You feel really good about having a good quality product at the end and know that your food will be safe. Of the deer that we didn't have time to process ourselves, we gave some to friends and family and other were processed by local meat processors. Another option is to donate the meat to a local food bank. - [Eric] Brendan, thank you for your time and for sharing your experience with us.