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Deer hunting season prompts MFB to promote 'effective' agreements between farmland owners, hunters
Farmers should consider size of antlerless herd when working with hunters

Contact: Rob Anderson, (800) 292-2680 ext. 2046

LANSING, Oct. 2, 2003 - With this week's opening of deer hunting, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) aims to have farmers and hunters work together to reduce crop damage caused by wildlife and the spread of animal diseases.
How farmland owners can work with hunters to effectively manage deer is a focus in the Sept. 30 issue of MFB's newspaper, the Michigan Farm News. The publication is available online at


"We developed this special section for two reasons," said MFB Legislative Counsel Rob Anderson. "One, we wanted to demonstrate that we are working hard to properly manage wildlife from our end.
"Secondly, we wanted to inform our members about how to effectively use hunters to manage problem deer herds. The critical point here is 'effective' agreements. It's our goal to have farmers re-evaluate how effective their existing agreements are and seriously consider implementing agreements if they haven't done so already."
Allowing more than one hunter on farmland property is among the recommendations outlined. While hunters may seek exclusive rights to hunt on farmland, one hunter may not harvest the number of deer desired by the farmer.
"I think you can safely have more than one hunter for 200 acres," said Mike Bailey, wildlife section division manager with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in a Michigan Farm News interview. "If you want to decrease the herd, you'll need additional hunters. It's not logical for a farmer to lease land to one person per 200 acres and then complain about too many deer."
Kent County dairyman Andy Hagenow allows multiple hunters on his property by working with the local neighbors who cooperate with each other for safe hunting practices.
"On opening day of gun season, everybody wants to hunt," said Hagenow, a district director on the MFB state board of directors. "I don't want to let more people go. I've had a handshake deal with the neighbors for 15 years now. They stop in and talk to us about who will be there. They take the effort to be sure that everyone knows each other's hunting habits, and that makes all the difference."
Anderson said farmers should also feel empowered when making agreements with hunters and not feel shy about clearly outlining their expectations.
"Farmers may not understand that they can be specific in their hunting expectations," he said. "For instance, a farmland owner has the right to tell a hunter accessing his land that he expects the hunter to shoot a specific number of antlerless deer or to shoot a doe before harvesting a buck."
Hunter anxiety over harvesting antlerless deer for fear of thinning next year's crop of bucks is an inherit problem in the state.
"When the deer population was low, especially in the southern part of the state, the idea was to protect the reproductive females, and that initiated the bucks-only mentality," Bailey said. "We need to educate the hunters to the fact that in many cases, we need to kill antlerless deer to make the herd better and to better manage the ecosystem."
For farmers who are gun shy about entering into agreements with hunters due to liability concerns, Bailey said landowners generally cannot be sued for an injury sustained during a "legal outdoor act" unless there is gross negligence.
Farmers seeking more tips on how to establish successful agreements with hunters should call Anderson at (800) 292-2680, ext. 2046.
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