A weed is a plant out of place. A dandelion might be a very desirable plant in my garden if I use its leaves for a salad, but it is not a plant I want in my lawn. If I find it in my lawn nobody complains if I try to kill it.
I left a 30-foot tall pine trunk standing in my back yard as a wildlife tree. As the insects devour the tree, the birds feed on the bugs. I enjoyed watching the woodpeckers drilling their nest into the pine trunk, nesting and raising their young in the tree. That’s why I left the trunk there.
The very same birds are a nuisance if they start hammering holes in the eaves of my home. I am prohibited from killing them. I don’t even want to kill them. I just want them to stop destroying my house. I want them to feed where I want them to feed.
After all, I went out of my way to provide them a perfectly good pine trunk. I know the birds don’t know about or appreciate my effort. They are just birds being birds. And I am a dad being a dad. I have a right to protect my property and provide a home to my family. I make no apologies for that.
This is different from a residential community deciding what to do about deer that are eating their azaleas. Deer browsing on azaleas do not interfere with a homeowner’s ability to earn a living and pay his bills.
Those same deer browsing on an azalea nursery’s inventory are a different thing entirely. When they forage through the nursery those deer are causing economic losses to a business that employs people and feeds families.
If the deer browse my wife’s pansies out of the flower pot right next to the doorbell on the front porch, as happened this spring, nobody loses a paycheck, goes hungry or cannot pay their bills.
Losing a pot of pansies is a minor irritation and I now know better than to leave pansies out unattended overnight. What we are allowed to do about nuisance wildlife depends on the impact they have on our lives. Eating a pot of pansies on a residential porch should not be a capital offense for a deer.
However, if I am a farmer and have $800 invested in each acre of soybeans, losing one acre of beans to deer grazing wipes out the profit from the 16 acres they did not eat. It does not take long to go bankrupt farming if you let the deer treat your fields like a giant food plot. Deer browsing on a hunter’s food plot is to a farmer’s field what the wildlife tree I left for woodpeckers is to my home.
I encourage one, I can’t abide the other.
We recognize the right of people to earn a living from the sweat of their brow. When wildlife species become an economic burden to a farmer, business or industry, they don’t just go out and bang away at them. If deer become too numerous around a farmer’s fields they can be harvested during the normal hunting season.
However, if the plants are in the field, letting the deer eat their fill is not an option.
Looking at all the options, controlling deer in the middle of the crop growing season is usually most economically accomplished by harvesting by rifle.
Standing in the middle of the field with your arms raised to the sky chanting “Deer Be Gone! Deer Be Gone!” in a loud voice while spinning in a clockwise direction just does not work.
Growers, the sane ones anyway, apply for a permit from DNR for harvest of a specific number of deer. This is yet another opportunity to climb on my soapbox and yell as loud as I can about the consequences of Americans becoming disconnected from the land.
Far too many people over the age of 12 see all deer as Bambi. There are consequences to removing the apex predators from an ecosystem.
We knocked out the bear, wolf, panther and American Indian from the top of the food chain and replaced it with Europeans. We did a great job of controlling deer populations to the point that the white tail deer was close to extinct in Georgia. DNR has managed us back into a healthy deer herd. Part of that management is balancing deer herd development with the economic engine of the state — agriculture.
A major tool in managing the deer population is hunting. If you don’t like hunting, fine, don’t do it. Those who do hunt are providing a valuable service to all of us and to the deer herd.
Whether hunting during the regular deer season or off season under a special permit, many American hunters use the opportunity to help feed the hungry.
Since 1993 Georgia Hunters for the Hungry (GHFTH) has been donating harvested venison to Georgia food banks. GHFTH is a partnership among the Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Food Bank Association.
Last year the Walmart Foundation donated $35,000 to support the program. The donation paid for processing 20,000 pounds of meat to serve 60,000 meals throughout Georgia to the hungry through Georgia’s food banks.
It seems to me to be an elegant solution to a real world problem. Help protect the food supply, help keep the Georgia deer herd healthy, help keep an American family farm in operation, help keep a business solvent in difficult economic times, and help feed the less fortunate the healthy protein they need.
As usual, the American farmer and the American hunter – those with the closest ties to the land, rarely get the thanks or respect they deserve for doing the right thing. Lucky for us, they don’t do the right thing for praise or adoration from us. It’s hard wired into them. It goes back to character: doing the right thing when no one’s looking.
It used to be a pervasively American thing. Don’t worry. You wouldn’t understand.
Gardner lives in Keller and is the UGA extension agent for Glynn County, serving South Bryan.