by Gerry Rightmyer
As a young boy, my fondest memories come from my days spent on my family’s 75-acre farm in Western New York. It was primarily a fruit farm back in those days, consisting of apple and cherry orchards, and the occasional peach or pear tree scattered amongst the rolling farmland. Over the years, the apple prices have fallen, and the cost of operating the small orchards of fruit trees has become cost prohibitive. Over the past 40 years or so, most of the orchards have been cleared, and the farmland that once contained rows of apple and cherry trees, now contains rows of corn, soybeans, and winter wheat.
I guess the transition to “cash crop” farming was inevitable, but I still hearken back to the days of the apple and cherry blossoms so characteristic of springtime. Our family farm has been continually “worked” to one extent or another for four decades. Good farming ground is a special commodity in today’s day and age, and I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the benefits of fertile farmland. Nowadays, farmers utilize every square foot of ground. “Roundup ready” corn and soybeans are the norm, and in good years, most farmers are able to harvest at least three solid cuttings of alfalfa annually. For the most part though, farming is a tough life. Too much water can flood fields. Too little precipitation can kill crops just as easily. Disease, insect infestations, and many other anomalies are constant reminders how tough the farming life really is!
One of the many stresses farmers battle each and every year is preventing crop damage from white tailed deer. Whitetails love protein-rich alfalfa, and their preference for soybeans is unrivaled. For the past several years, a farmer friend of mine has been inquiring about my interest in “Nuisance Hunts”. One unique feature of nuisance hunts, is that they are conducted “outside” of the regular deer seasons, and they’re primarily employed to reduce deer populations on a “site-specific” basis. Ask any farmer planting Christmas trees, ornamentals, fruit trees, or cash crops, how deer affect their business. I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find that deer don’t influence their income in one way or another… they absolutely do!
It just so happens; my farmer friend also leases our family farm, but has another 300-acre parcel a couple miles down the road. It was this “chunk of ground” that desperately needed a reduction in deer numbers. Simply stated… the deer were “eating him out of house and home”! The annual archery and gun seasons in New York were not enough to reduce the deer herd on this 300-acre farm. An imbalance was occurring and something needed to be done! Deer numbers were outpacing the carrying capacity and the farmer desperately needed assistance.
Enter New York’s Deer Damage Permit Program. When a farmer proves loss of income, a representative from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation determines the extent of crop damage attributable to deer, then he/she issues a specific number of “Deer damage permits”, to reduce the number of deer living on the farm, and thereby, reducing the crop damage sustained by the farmer. Sounds like a pretty good idea? In my opinion, it not only benefits the farmer, but it also benefits a myriad of people in the community.
After meeting with the farmer and scouting the property, we set our sights on a Mid-July hunt. We were issued two tags by the farmer. Our goal was to harvest two adult doe from the farm, in the hopes of reducing crop damage done by the resident herd. We also wanted to target “dry” does, so we needed to be very selective during this hunt. No does with fawns would be shot. I had several distinct goals for this particular hunt… help the farmer by reducing deer numbers and crop damage, film an episode on “Nuisance Deer Hunts” for our television show, and to put some venison in the freezer!
Additionally, I wanted to hone my skills for the upcoming big game seasons. What better way to prepare for upcoming hunts, than to practice shooting, blind building, and scouting! I was excited to share the hunt with my best friend, enjoy some camaraderie, and just have fun in the outdoors! Our arsenal of Vanguard products was an integral part of our success on both hunts. Not only did we use our spotting scope while tuning-in our rifles, additionally, both weapons were donned with Endeavor RS riflescopes. While hunting, we regularly scanned the vast soybean fields with our binoculars. Positively identifying the “right” doe was paramount, so optics played a major role in our success. The final tool in our backpacks was the shooting stick. Finding a “dead rest” in a pinch can be difficult, but the Pro T40’s kept our rifles steady, and our shots true! In two nights, we managed to harvest two fine doe. Each deer harvested would be utilized to the fullest extent, and our butcher was happy to have the “out-of-season” work. As a matter of fact, as I write this story, I’m getting ready to brown some venison burger, for a long-awaited pot of my famous chili!
I firmly believe the Nuisance Deer Permit program in New York is a sound management tool. It recognizes the need for alternative strategies to control deer numbers in site-specific situations, and it allows farmers to reduce crop damage through public participation. The opportunity to participate in this program has been a learning experience for me too! The chance to hunt deer during the summer months, the opportunity to help farmers, deer processors, and the local economy is a rewarding feeling too! All in all, I’d say the nuisance deer program in New York State helps many people, and helping people is never a bad thing.
I would also like to thank Vanguard for all of their versatile hunting products. Their optics and shooting sticks make our job as professionals much easier. Season 4 of Forever Wild Outdoors Adrenaline Adventures will be airing next year on the Pursuit Channel. If you’d like to see all of Vanguard’s product line being used on a nationally televised hunting and fishing show, tune in to our show in 2017! The aforementioned nuisance hunt will be a featured episode on next years’ lineup. I can’t wait to see this hunt unfold… it is definitely an adrenaline adventure!