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Farmers Ask For Help as Deer Devour Their Crops

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Harry Tuttle, Sep 2, 2004.

  1. Harry Tuttle

    Harry Tuttle Well-Known Member

    Farmers Ask For Help as Deer Devour Their Crops
    More Hunting Weighed; Animal Groups Opposed

    By Tim Craig
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, September 2, 2004; Page GZ03

    Montgomery County farmers who have survived decades of suburban sprawl are now warning that they might not be able to overcome the white-tailed deer that are eating large swaths of their crops.

    "We need something to be done in the next 30 days. It's a must," said Billy Willard, a Poolesville farmer who grows corn, wheat and soybeans on 2,200 acres. "It's severe enough that if this problem is not turned around, I really think the county's agricultural preserve will be gone. These farmers will sell to developers and go somewhere else to farm."

    County leaders say they understand the urgency.

    Last week, more than two dozen farmers met with County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and state and county officials to begin devising a strategy to decrease the deer population in the county's rural areas.

    Officials say they are considering a variety of options, which include expanding the fall hunting season, allowing people to shoot deer on certain Sundays and opening more public land to hunting. The county is also considering building a processing plant so harvested deer can be more quickly turned into edible meat.

    "The farmers are telling us the greatest threat to Montgomery agriculture is the white-tailed deer," said Jeremy Chriss, Montgomery's agricultural services manager. "We all must work together to solve this problem, and it is going to involve a comprehensive approach involving the county, the state and property owners to identify ways to manage deer more effectively."

    County officials hope to propose a plan within a few weeks.

    Hunting and deer management have long been thorny issues in Montgomery County, which is home to the national office of the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals' regional office.

    "We don't believe killing deer is going to solve this issue for farmers," said Mike Markarian, executive director of the Fund for Animals. "This is a very progressive county, and people want to deal with these humanely and constructively. People assume hunting is going to be a magic bullet, but killing a bunch of deer simply means the surviving deer are going to get more food and reproduce more quickly."

    Yet Gene Phillips, who operates a produce stand and farms 10 acres on Shaffer Road in Germantown, said the deer population has forced her to quit growing sweet corn in the county. She now plants pumpkins -- which the deer still damage, albeit at a slower pace than other crops -- in Montgomery and grows corn in Frederick County.

    "They don't have as much of a deer problem as we do down here," Phillips said.

    Deer are also ravaging George Lechlider's crops in Laytonsville.

    "I already planted my tomatoes over three times this year," said Lechlider, 83.

    Paul Peditto, director of the Department of Natural Resources' wildlife and heritage service, said Montgomery's combination of suburban development, protected forest land and 77,000 acres of farmland makes it prime habitat for the highly adaptive white-tailed deer.

    Deer have chewed through much of the county parks' forestland this year, exposing a noticeable "browse line," where most vegetation below a certain height has been eaten.

    "They have eaten everything they can in the forest, so in the evenings they come and start in the farmers' fields," said David Plummer, district manager for the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District.

    Because of aggressive efforts to limit development in the northern part of the county, Montgomery remains a vital part of state agriculture. The county ranks first in the state for pumpkin and strawberry production and is in the top five for ornamental plants, peaches, sweet corn, apples and Christmas trees.

    In July, Montgomery County sent questionnaires to the more than 500 active farms in the county to gauge their problems with deer.

    Of the 200 farmers who have responded, 42 said they had stopped growing some crops, and 14 said they were renting less farmland this year because of deer. The farmers reported an average deer-related crop loss of 20 percent, but vegetable producers say they have lost half of the crop.

    "The problem is getting worse and worse," said state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery), who helped organize last week's meeting. "One way or another, there needs to be less deer in Montgomery."

    Garagiola conceded that it could be difficult for county and state leaders to agree on a solution that satisfies everyone.

    Last spring, Duncan considered introducing a bill in Annapolis to expand the county's two-week firearms deer hunting season, but natural resources officials rejected the plan.

    Peditto said a better option would be to allow hunting on Sunday during the firearms season. Two years ago, the General Assembly passed legislation that allowed Sunday hunting for the first time since 1723 in seven rural counties. Montgomery was exempt because local legislators believed the woods should be reserved for non-hunters on Sunday.

    "There really is no difference in my mind between taking a deer on Saturday and taking a deer on Sunday," said Peditto, who said the county could increase its deer harvest by as much as 25 percent if it allowed hunting on the first Sunday of the firearms season.

    Mindful of the intense opposition from animal-rights groups and outdoors enthusiasts, including equestrians, county officials said they will probably not support Sunday hunting. But county leaders say they are open to the idea of allowing hunting on more public land. Last week, the natural resources department began studying whether hunting should be allowed in more state parks in the county.

    State officials have also promised to study whether to extend the department's crop damage program to hay producers. The program allows farmers to hunt deer on their land to avoid crop damage, but hay producers are not eligible.

    Farmers are also pleading to have a processing plant constructed in the county so they have a place to take harvested deer. The crop damage program mandates that the slain deer be used as food. But farmers say the animals often spoil in the summer before they can get them processed at the nearest plant, which is in Frederick County.
  2. MikeK

    MikeK Well-Known Member

    Let's not shoot them deer and use them for food - it's more humane to let them get hit by a car and die on the road and injure some humans and cause the insurance rates to go up even more.

    Once those 'assault weapons' are legal again watch the deer population decline. Perhaps there's some hope for MD yet.

    You'd have had to been there to understand.
  3. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Deer are needed on the Eisenhower Ranch at Gettysburg. Ike started a small apple orchard and just couldn't get it right. Wound up buying his apples from a fruitstand. The trees still produce but a Ranger told me they aren't very good. So, there's plenty of apples on the ground and on the trees. I suppose we could bring a couple in to clean up and then move them off the farm so they can be "cleaned up." Hmmm... tastes just like apple fed venison.
  4. SunBear

    SunBear member

    Morally, of course, it is much more natural for about half of them to starve to death long about January than for them to be eaten like the prey animals they are. :barf: :what: :cuss:
  5. El Tejon

    El Tejon Well-Known Member

    County officials will propose a plan?:confused: :rolleyes:

    Here's a plan: shoot the stupid deer. Nothing like the grand old American tradition of waitng around and letting government fix things.:rolleyes:
  6. mtnbkr

    mtnbkr Well-Known Member

    What do "assualt weapons" have to do with anything? MD deer can't be killed with a bolt action 30-06?

  7. CatsDieNow

    CatsDieNow Well-Known Member

    Woodchucks love soybeans. One den will eat an acre of beans. He's probably got a rodent problem too.
  8. 2nd Amendment

    2nd Amendment member

    It's amazing what can be accomplished by ten farmers, some spotlights and several lever actions in the dark of nite. :banghead:
  9. MrMurphy

    MrMurphy Well-Known Member

    There's actually bowhunting groups where guys on their days off sit in tree stands around people's houses etc where lack of hunting due to law has caused a deer boom, eating up people's bushes, lawns etc... they see the deer, whack. No more problem deer.

    Similar thing here. Put a hunter or two in a stand on each farmer's field. After two or three deer get whacked in that area, they'll learn.
  10. dsb

    dsb Well-Known Member

    :confused: :confused: :confused:

    Someone buy this fella a clue!
  11. mtnbkr

    mtnbkr Well-Known Member

    They have a group like that in Northern Va, or at least they used to...

  12. Atticus

    Atticus Well-Known Member

    "Montgomery was exempt because local legislators believed the woods should be reserved for non-hunters on Sunday."

    The firearm deer season is two weeks? Those other groups can't give hunters access to the woods for one or two Sundays ?? :confused:
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2004
  13. SteveS

    SteveS Well-Known Member

    Huh!!?!?!? I'm no wildlife biologist, but I don't think that having more food will decrease the gestational period of a deer. I am curious as to what a humane way to deal with this problem. Maybe we could just reason with the deer...ask them nicely to stop it. Or we could just do nothing until the farms go under and then the deer could starve from a lack of food. This guy was a big help.
  14. Can'thavenuthingood

    Can'thavenuthingood Well-Known Member

    The Humane way to deal with this is to run the Fund for Animals out of town. Deputize the hunters, go out there and harvest the deer.
    Take them to the schools for the school breakfast and lunch programs, give the kids some of that new fangled "W" ketchup and call it Bambi day.

    Or "Bambi's" for life. Or Bambi feeds the poor.

    "Kids get rare delicacy as Bambi sacrifices self for the children"

    Corn fed venison has just got to be scrumptous. And tomatoes and pumkin eaters too.
    The deer are vegetarians, who could complain?

    And think of all the wasted enrgy in petrol used to replant. Energy better used in the Yugo's and SUV's.

    It's the city council and county supervisors where it starts.

    Run the do-gooders out of town.

  15. longrifleman

    longrifleman Well-Known Member

    By the time the population gets to this point there is almost certainly some reduction in the long term carrying capacity of the forest due to elimination of the deer's favorite/most nutritional forages. Because of the stupidity of the politicians/animal rights dufusses(dufi?) the number of deer will need to be reduced below the normal numbers to alow the habitat to recover. So much for their caring about the animals.
  16. Darkside

    Darkside Well-Known Member

    Is there a local Hunter for the Hungry org. nearby? There must be a "soup kitchen" that could use the meat.

    In 1984-86 a friend of mine was having the same problem on his land. His father received permission for the local game warden to shoot any deer he found on his land. We killed 20-30ish deer. We were told by the GW not to touch them but to leave them lay and rot or call him and he would tag it and drive it into town for a "needy" family. After about the 7th or 8th call he asked if we would at least drag them to the side of the road for him.:D

    We must have kept at least a few families in meat that winter.

  17. MikeK

    MikeK Well-Known Member

    mtnbkr - It was an attempt at a joke. Garagiola was pushing for MD's own assault weapon ban last year. I do believe that you may use a rifle in far western MD, shotgun elsewhere.
  18. mtnbkr

    mtnbkr Well-Known Member

    Sorry, I was humor impaired this morning. :p

  19. Environmentalists have had a similar impact on the left coast. They have obstructed clearing dead trees from forests. Idiots. Has made forests virtual tinder box. When it burns, it really burns.

    That's what happens when we, the people, allow this kind of trash to dictate public policy.

    Same with the anti hunting garbage.
  20. cookhj

    cookhj Well-Known Member

    see, in most places in VA, farmers can get DMAP/DCAP tags and go spotlighting for deer on their property to thin the herd. sounds like that's what they need up in maryland.

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