Symbiosis Between Sportsmen & Farmers

Perhaps this year more than most years, those of us who are sportsmen are realizing just how much we depend on farmers for our success.   So far, at least in this area of Minnesota, pheasant hunting has been mediocre at best.   Deer hunting has also proven to be one of the most frustrating experiences in memory.   Yet, even though farmers don’t carry out their activities with sportsmen in their foremost mind, both groups depend heavily on one another to reach their production goals.

Obviously when the corn is not harvested early in the hunting season it gives those of us who hunt deer, pheasant and other critters who like to hide in the fields a distinct disadvantage.   While stalking in corn can certainly be an effective hunting technique, it is not one that is necessarily always the safest or the most desirable.

On the other side of the coin, the farmer is generally impacted by wildlife as they sometimes inflict a great deal of damage to the crops.   In fact, recently a research study was released by Purdue University that suggested that raccoons and deer together contribute to as much of 95 percent of a farmer’s total crop damage.   Not much surprise, if you ever try to walk a corn field next to woodlot you will see a great deal of downed stalks and half eaten cobs of corn.   The culprits are generally those masked bandits and deer whose population is only kept in check by hunters, disease or passing cars.

Tonight I walked outside to the mailbox and I paused for a moment just to observe and listen.   I could hear the powerful grind of tractors and combines active in most directions.   I could see the distant lights scurrying across the fields as most farmers realize the number of harvest days are dwindling.

This year as a firearms deer hunter I played my cards all wrong.   Most years, if I am lucky, my renter has removed most, if not all, of the corn on this farm.   Not this year.   Even during the second season hunt the corn was almost complete in the fields impeding the hunt.

I suppose the obvious question to wonder is why?   Why are the farmers slow getting their crops out this year?   Well, to sum it up, it has a lot to do with energy prices.   When a farmer harvests the corn and places it into storage it has to be at a very specific moisture content or the crop will rot.   Corn that is stored for the better portion of a year or longer needs to be handled properly.

Yet with skyrocketing energy prices a farmer simply cannot afford to artificially dry the corn before placing it into storage.   For every percentage point of moisture that must be removed from the corn kernels it means money out of the farmer’s pocket.   The other option is to let the corn sit out in the field and dry down naturally.   Sometimes this works well, and sometimes it works better in theory than in practice.

It’s amazing how we are at the mid-point of November and I would estimate that at least 40 to 50 percent of the corn is still out in the fields.   Sure, it is being harvested on a daily basis and if the weather holds by the end of the month it will be nearly gone, but so, too, will most of the hunting seasons.

Am I complaining?…yea, I suppose so.   I get to spend such few days afield each fall that I would like them to be with perfect conditions to maximize my chances.   Still, I accept the fact that I must take the good with the bad.   When you hunt in an area that depends heavily on an agricultural industry…you soon realize that your success or failure in the fall can depend largely on how the farmers are succeeding in getting their crops removed.   To an extent, sportsmen and farmers co-exist in a relationship that depends closely on each other.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.