2010 March 13 Letter to the Editor from Lois Williams

Be Careful What You Wish For

 

Even as I write there is a great controversy going on over whitetail deer on Beaver Island. Much of the controversy is probably over the fact that people just don't know the facts. And just what is all this business about Quality Deer Management? Who is the Quality Deer Management Association? Who sponsors this group? What does it mean on Beaver Island?

I am a member of the Beaver Island Wildlife Club. I have been an active member for many years and have served twice on the board of directors, the most recent as secretary for almost 10 years. I am a year round resident. I hunt on 40 acres that I own and also 160 acres of private land with permission. My association with the Wildlife Club has given me a chance to work with others on issues involving wildlife, fisheries, and cormorant control. Hundreds of hours of volunteer efforts have been given by dedicated members of this club.

In 2005 the club sponsored a Quality Deer Management (QDM) discussion at Peaine Township Hall. Perry Russo, North Central Regional Director spoke about the measures aimed at improving herd quality. This is a three fold effort to refrain from taking little bucks (spikes and four points), take a judicious number of does, and provide better habitat. We certainly can find no fault in those three concepts. Following this discussion we met as a club and decided to implement a volunteer effort of quality deer management. We started our campaign targeted at spikes and called the effort, “Let ‘em go, let ‘em grow”. At the same time most land owners have implemented their own management by not taking any buck without at least three points on one side. This is considered a “hunter's choice” regulation and is voluntary also. We have seen the results of this voluntary effort.

Enter the QDM Association again. They presented their material last weekend. The material has not changed. In a perfect world it sounds perfect. Remember this, however, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't. Many of their areas are privately owned (currently the only mandatory QDM is in Leelanau) and closely controlled. They are funded by huge companies that sell specialty seed and potions for improving the antler growth of big bucks. But what disturbs me the most is they know little about Beaver Island. I don't see how you can drop QDM rules from a mainland situation into an Island. The Wildlife Club has been working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) through Brian Mastenbrook, senior biologist out of Gaylord for years. He advises us and guides us. He is intimately acquainted with Beaver Island.

This is what you need to know: The Beaver Island Conservation Club is pushing for mandatory QDM on Beaver Island. They want that to mean that you can only take a buck with at least four points on one side; bring the doe to buck ratio down to 1::1; mandatory deer checks. First there is the business of MANDATORY, that's just another word for another law. It is not a very democratic kind of hunting. The intended ratio of one doe to one buck is just plain wrong for Beaver Island. This is an issue that is hotly contested by many authors of deer hunting management. However, there is a lot of information out there to support much greater ratios. Brian Mastenbrook believes we could have a ratio as high as 5::1 and there are studies out there that show that even 8::1 can work in some areas. Our deer herd took heavy losses as a result of the winters of 2007 and 2008. There is little room for error when a severe winter causes major losses. This is not the time to be culling the herd and reducing it to a ratio of 1::1.

Currently the club is surveying the membership to find out their wishes. The club plans to meet with the Natural Resources and Ecotourism Commission (appointed by the joint townships) and the DNR. At that time, March 23, a recommendation will be made regarding the number of antlerless permits that will be issued for this year's hunt.

The will of a majority of property owners and hunters seems like a more fair way to settle this debate. Currently there are no guidelines spelled out by the MDNR for mandatory QDM. There are some guidelines for private land but they cannot be applied here because of acreage restraints. Much of our hunting land is state owned, 12,000 according to Brian. The old guidelines are no longer in place. I ask you as a community to take a long, good look at this proposed MANDATORY proposal. Is this really what you wish for?

Lois Williams

March 13, 2010