Last updated: August 19. 2014 8:50PM - 665 Views
By Guy and Judy Gardner

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Wildlife is an important aspect of the land that farmers must manage. If left unchecked, wildlife can reduce your farm’s bottom line. If managed, wildlife can provide a substantial amount of new farm income. Recreation is an activity people are willing to pay for, even in hard financial times. Hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, and nature photography are each recreational activities that people are willing to pay to do. The sale of services associated with these activities - catering, on-site lodging or camping facilities, and guide services - can further expand income potential. A 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation reported that in North Carolina, hunters spend $224 million on hunt-related trip expense, which can revitalize your local community as well.

Private lands that are convenient and accessible, have high quality habitat, and low sportsmen densities, are “ideal” in the eyes of a sportsman. Relaxation, the opportunity to view and hunt a variety of wildlife species - deer, turkey, rabbits, ducks, squirrels, dove and/or quail, and group camaraderie made more enjoyable because basic creature comforts are provided, are also key. The more amenities offered, the higher the income potential. Facilities don’t need to be fancy, just safe and comfortable. Depending on the conveniences provided:

• Day hunts typically range from $75 to $350 per day

• Annual hunting leases start at $7 or more per acre

• Camping and lodging facilities at $20 per night and up

• Bird watching and nature photography

• Fishing pond tours formed thru cooperatives with neighbors

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimate that $30 million is lost annually by North Carolina row crop farmers alone, with the vast majority of that loss caused by deer. Managing the number of doe in your area is the key to managing deer populations. Setting and achieving doe harvest goals every year will offer the greatest impact in this case. Doe harvest goals in farming communities are usually more aggressive than the average number of deer a hunters need for their own families, however. To achieve these goals it’s important to have a community network in place. North Carolina Hunters for the Hungry ® can help.

NCHFTH now offers two new programs that make delivering ground venison to those in need easier than ever. A 6 x 12’ mobile cooler is available at no cost to qualified groups to collect, cool, and transport donated deer to the nearest NC Hunters of the Hungry Processor. A Community Deer Donation Program will also help qualified groups set up a local cooler for easy hunter drop off of extra deer harvested More information about these innovative programs can be found online at www.nchuntersforthehungry.org or by calling Guy and Judy Gardner at 919 250-8441 or 919 608-3386.

Attend A Free Workshop: Aug. 26 Columbus County Cooperative Extension Office in Whiteville

Topics will include farm visit ventures, timber management, hunting program development, and various assistance programs being offered to get you started. Speakers include the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Farmers Manage Deer program, a sponsored project of the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, the NC Cooperative Extension, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and NCDA’s Agritourism. Meet at 45 Government Complex Rd, Suite A, Whiteville, NC 28472. Register by calling 910 640-6605.

(Editor’s note: Guy and Judy Gardner are managers, NC Wildlife Federation, Farmers Manage Deer Program.)

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