Farmers, or anyone involved with agriculture, can tell you one thing about Mother Nature; she can be an a$$hole sometimes. I believe Mother Nature has a dirty little mind and has some kind of a grudge against farmers because it seems like we are always experiencing tornadoes, hail storms, floods, droughts, wind, disease, pestilence, and early frost to name a few. Thank God we do not experience these disasters every year, but there is one disaster that sneaks in from behind and stabs us in the back when we think the coast is clear from the weathers elements: wildlife.
If you ever talk to a farmer what are the two sure things that he/she hates the most? Meteorologists and deer. I’ve heard the nicest Christian farmers cuss out a Meteorologist for never being correct about the weather, and witnessed many farmers come up with crazy ideas on how to eliminate their deer. Squirrels, crows, bears, turkeys, beaver, raccoons, geese, hogs, groundhogs, and skunks love to give us gray hair by turning a perfectly good field of crops into a dump. Most animals, such as deer and raccoons, like to just rip the seeds off the plant and eat them that way, but due to animal height disadvantages or maybe for entertainment they also rip the entire plant out of the ground. Squirrels, crows, geese, and turkeys also like to eat mature crops when they are full-grown, but these animals do most of their damage in the spring by digging/pecking the seeds out of the ground not long after they have been planted. Bears, groundhogs, feral hogs, and skunks like to destroy crops a different way. Since they usually don’t always eat the crop itself they either root up the soil the crops are planted in or decide to smash the crops by making a bedding area inside the field. And then there’s beaver, who will actually cut the corn stalks completely off to use for shelter or food. No matter which way they prefer to do it, wildlife destroy our crops more than any tornado or wind storm ever could.
Wildlife damage causes a huge financial loss to farmers. In 2001, U.S. agriculture suffered a $944 million loss due to wildlife damage with $619 million of it coming from crop field losses. Those numbers have recently skyrocketed due to the rising population level of certain species. Each year in the past decade feral hogs have caused $1.5 billion worth of damage by rooting up pastures, levees, and destroying crops mostly in the southeastern part of the United States. Each year Wisconsin experiences $37 million worth of field damage just from deer, and Pennsylvania estimates around $30 million worth of damages. I know a stubborn farmer when I see one and most have made a valiant attempt to control the problem. Farmers have many methods to control wildlife damage to their crops; fencing, repellents, canine control, trap and release, and my personal favorite hunting. Most of these methods cost a lot of money, but the most effective way to terminate the problem is to exterminate. Just like the quote says from the great Ronald Postin,
“the only good deer is a dead deer”.
On my family’s farm there are only two ways to deal with the wildlife problem; my 12 gauge shotgun and my Mathews bow. Everyone in my family has a responsibility on the farm; my dad and brother do the actual farming, my mom does the cooking, and my job is to put a dent in the local wildlife population. I don’t mean to brag, but I feel like I have the best job out of everyone, and since my dad can’t hit the broadside of a barn if he was standing in the barn, it only makes since that I am given this responsibility. Deer are my main target in the fall since they like to wreak the most havoc on our corn/soybean fields. Geese are also a huge problem on our farm. When corn/soybean plants are 3-4 inches high they like to eat everything off the plant but the stem, and they have been known to decimate fields that are close to their ponds. I trap raccoons and beaver in the winter; raccoons are like deer and like to make a huge mess by ripping down cornstalks and beaver have actually tried making beaver dams out of our cornstalks that they cut down and drug to their nearby ponds. Turkeys are my spring target. After a field has been planted turkeys love to walk along the rows and peck the seeds out of the ground before they ever have a chance to germinate.
I was excited to write about this topic because I have so much experience with this issue. I have been dealing with and controlling wildlife problems all my life and I have developed a huge amount of honor and pride from doing so. The fact of the matter is, wildlife need to eat just like humans, but we prefer them not to eat our food. As farmers, we must learn how to share the land with wildlife and deal with their nuisance. Farmers must tolerate wildlife the best way that they can, but at the end of the day growing crops is how we obtain our money and provide for our families. Wildlife take this away from us and make it difficult to grow a good crop. Farmers have enough problems the way it is with other farmers, businesses, and weather. Wildlife problems just add to much fuel to the fire that is already burning hot. I believe in sharing this land with wildlife, but in reality it is a very difficult thing to do.
My Name is Evan Postin, I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University, and I am majoring in Agricultural Business. I grew up on a corn/soybean farm in central Illinois and showed livestock. My passion is hunting, and I dream to one day hunt different species all over the country and world.