Deer management cooperatives are partnerships between neighboring landowners or deer clubs that allow the participants to manage deer more effectively.
These landowners or managers often encounter limitations to managing for better deer due to the size of their property, limited resources or number of participants. Cooperatives can be comprised of as little as 500 acres made up of a few landowners or consisting of several thousand acres with a larger group of landowners.
Usually, larger cooperatives are more effective because of their ability to better manage deer over larger areas while sharing equipment and ideas, and collecting needed deer data.
Why are deer management cooperatives needed?
Cooperatives are needed to overcome many of the problems associated with managing deer effectively. Many properties managed for deer are not large enough to cover the deer’s entire home range. A deer’s average home range covers around 1 square mile, so managing on less than 640 acres can be difficult. By working together, landowners with smaller acreage can control and manage the entire home range of a deer to see results in producing better quality deer. Members working together across their combined acres to properly harvest both does and bucks can achieve improved harvest quality. Smaller property owners may not have the equipment necessary to manage the habitat to improve it for wildlife. They can also share equipment, manpower and ideas to reach their management goals more successfully. Increasing the size of a property that is being managed for deer can also increase the amount of data being gathered such as observation data, antler measurements, weights and age structure. This data can be interpreted by a biologist to form a management plan for the entire cooperative property.
How do you form a deer management cooperative?
The first step is to identify the area that you want to include in the cooperative. Usually, it is best to choose adjoining property next to that which you are currently managing and build the land base necessary to successfully manage deer. Once you have identified the properties you want to include, the next step is to determine who owns the property and contact them about the opportunity to form a deer cooperative. The best way to accomplish this is to invite your prospective partners to one of your club meetings or an informal gathering. Also, remember not to be too pushy. Your main goal at this point is to become acquainted and share your ideas and successes with them pertaining to deer management and explain the benefits – larger, healthier deer.
How can a deer management cooperative or landowner receive help to manage deer?
Each year, hundreds of deer clubs and landowners utilize the Deer Management Assistance Program to improve populations and habitat. DMAP is a free AGFC program that assists deer clubs and landowners in managing their deer herd and habitat (yearly deadline to enroll is July 1). Private lands biologists are available to conduct a site visit on your property, discuss your management goals, provide habitat recommendations and develop a custom plan to fit your deer management objectives. The PLB can educate members on how to collect deer data accurately. The data can then be used to manage the deer herd on a yearly basis. PLBs are very knowledgeable in all aspects of habitat management such as forest stand improvement, prescribed burning, food plots, native warm season grass habitat and other practices that benefit deer and a wide range of wildlife. Minimum DMAP acreage requirements for the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and Gulf Coastal Plain are 1,000 contiguous acres. For the Arkansas River Valley, Ozark and Ouachita Mountains and Crowley’s Ridge, minimum acreage is 500 contiguous acres. This is where forming a co-op can take deer management to the next level when smaller landowners are willing to work together. Start this hunting season working with your surrounding landowners to form a deer management cooperative.
For more information on establishing and maintaining land for wildlife habitat improvement and programs to help, contact an AGFC Private Lands Biologist at Hope, 877-777-5580; and Monticello, 877-367-3559.
CLICK HERE for more information about deer habitat.