A month-long effort to scare deer from a series of alfalfa fields has been deemed a success. The basics of this endeavor were covered a month ago in this column.
An e-mail was sent to Washington Master Hunters on June 16 indicating the possible need for volunteers to haze deer from alfalfa fields south of Sprague. Last year the landowner had as many as 140 deer in his fields, which made his third cutting un-harvestable at a cost of around $10,000.
Wild critters belong to the State of Washington, therefore, Fish and Wildlife needed to fix the problem. When wild critters cause damage to crops, the state is responsible. One way to fix the problem is to pay the landowner for the damage. No state agency has excess or surplus money, so another solution was desirable.
One tool available to Fish and Wildlife is the legion of Washington State master hunters. Certified master hunters must complete 40 hours of volunteer work during the five years their master hunter permit certification is active. Then they must re-certify for another five years, providing another 40 hours of volunteer work during the next certification period.
Hunters working to achieve master hunter status are called applicants. They must complete 20 volunteer hours during the nine months they are working to become a master hunter. In addition the applicants need to pass a comprehensive exam, attend a crime observation course, prove shooting proficiency, pass a criminal background check and sign a Master Hunter Code of Ethics Agreement.
Volunteer projects have included conducting a target shooting survey in the Wenas Wildlife Area, assist with the youth pheasant clinics on Sept. 17 and 18 in the Whiskey Dick release site and in the Sunnyside area, elk fence construction in the Ellensburg area and assisting with day to day operations at the Bob Oke Pheasant Farm.
The project of chasing deer off alfalfa fields fits well into the volunteer scenario. Several master hunters responded and Fish and Wildlife Conflict Specialist Candace Bennett provided monthly schedule in responding master hunter’s e-mail. And thus began my stint of this type of volunteer service.
My partner on several hazing operations was Kim Weishaar, a master hunter applicant and second grade teacher from Ritzville. Plus my friend, Jim Hergert, would tag along to make sure I didn’t fall asleep driving home.
Jim and I would leave Moses Lake at 6:30 and arrive at the hazing at 8 p.m., just as the sun was setting. A black plastic tub was located at a hay shed, the rendezvous site for hazers, held all of the equipment,
This equipment consisted of whistles, a paint gun, air horns, spotlights and 12 gauge rubber buckshot. Kim used the paint gun with professional skill. The air horn also worked well.
We learned to drive the edges of the fields, which required little walking in the fields where rattlesnakes may be on the prowl. On my last day of hazing, a morning stint this time, I hazed 27 deer out of the fields between 2:30 to 5:30 a.m.
The final numbers only tell part of the story. Participating were 16 master hunters or applicants for a total of 49 hazing trips and 240 hours. The average number of deer hazed from the fields was 16, with a range of zero to 54. The total number of deer counted was 605. This is not a different deer count, just individuals, as some of the deer may have been counted on other nights.
The landowner offered a damage deer tag to Kim. I tagged along as she went after hers. She made a great shot, hitting the doe in the chest with the animal looking at her. Yes, I was offered a tag and notched it.
There have been hunters critical of me harvesting animals while using a damage tag. This doesn’t bother me one bit. In fact, I’ll help you participate in the future. Here’s what you do: Apply to become a master hunter. Work to complete all of the requirements.
Volunteer to help with the hazing. Drive to and from the hazing area, which consumed three hours on each of my hazing trips. Expend several hours hazing on each trip. Spend $45 a trip in gas, about $270 in my case, and $22.50 on a damage tag. Contact me if you are interested.
The landowner was thrilled as his alfalfa was standing tall and his third cutting would begin in a couple of days.
“You master hunters are something,” he said as the two of us visited at the edge of a field.
This hazing operation was a success, saving Fish and Wildlife a ton of money and providing master hunters and applicants the opportunity to achieve their needed volunteer hours.
“Due to your successful efforts, this project will become a model for other projects in the area,” Bennett said in an e-mail.
The hours are only part of the benefits received from this project. New friends were discovered, Kim, Candace and the landowner; this was a chance to spend time visiting with an old friend, Jim Hergert; a fresh deer is in the freezer; my self-esteem is glowing with the realization of accomplishing a good deed.