Cover Photo Courtesy of Matthew Paulson Photography
The connection between hunting and agriculture can be easily overlooked at first glance. In reality the bond between farmers and hunters is beneficial and necessary. It is important to keep conservation in mind when thinking of either of these groups. Farmers’ work 24/7 365 to ensure their land is as good as it can possibly be, to achieve maximum yields and in turn maximize profits. Ethical hunters devote their lives to protecting our natural resources and ensuring the sport they love is around for future generations to enjoy, harvesting that giant buck or limit of waterfowl is a nice bonus at the end of the day.
When thinking about the vast differences in these two lifestyles it is important to keep our natural resources in mind. With the current grain prices, growing machinery, and pressure to harvest as many bushels as possible; it is easy for farmers to remove an old fence row, push a timber line in to get that extra few foot of tillable, remove a patch of trees entirely, or plow under that old (insert conservation program here). As agriculturists it is important to keep future generations in mind. Sometimes it might make sense to leave that old CRP (conservation reserve program) or HEL (highly erodible land) as a conservation area; even after the check from Uncle Sam stops showing up in the mail. This land may qualify for other government conservation programs, this list list can also be found on the IL DNR website. Many times these types of terrain are unproductive anyway with high risk of erosion and low yield potential. While you are doing cost analysis on adding these acres to your tillage program be sure to take into account the value of conservation and wildlife.
Some people might think “if I don’t leave anywhere for the deer to live then they’ll stop eating my crops.” This isn’t true; by removing deer habitat they will begin bedding in the field itself causing massive yield impacts. Others may enjoy seeing the deer and don’t want them to be hunted. It is crucial that non hunters understand that a hunter’s goal is NOT to wipe out a species. By harvesting some of these animals it relieves pressures of overpopulation, reduces risk of disease spread such as CWD (chronic waste, disease also known as Mad Cow in bovine), and improves overall heard health. If we take care of our resources we will never stop seeing these animals. It is important to work together with people from other walks of life; rather than turning down that hunter that asked for permission, out of fear of lawsuit. Sit down and talk with them and develop a management plan, set boundaries, and express any concerns or rules. Most modern hunters are grateful for any opportunity to enjoy nature. You can find a liability release from for landowners at the Illinois DNR website. It is time to work together, create management plans, and keep the resources we have at our fingertips healthy. Maybe that guy you let hunt will even drop off some tasty meat for you at the end of the season.
My name is Nestor Vincent Gutierrez, I am a senior here at Western Illinois University. I am pursusing a major in agriculture science and a minor in Spanish. I hope to work in international agriculture or conservation after graduation.