"Green" Practices Not New to Deer Managers

By Brad Herndon

On October 11, 2007, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In addition to this prestigious award, Gore also received a check for $1.8 million for his work in alerting the world to what he considers the dangers of global warming. His film, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Academy Award in 2007, and his book by the same name has sold millions of copies.

That does not mean, of course, that all people are convinced of the validity and degree of global warming that’s being preached today. Certainly I’m not convinced. Still, when you consider that Indianapolis, Ind., set an all-time high temperature for October with a 91-degree reading Oct. 8, 2007, it makes you think.

In 2007, Louisville, Ky., also recorded its highest October temperature: 93 degrees. Those temperatures can lead people to believe that global warming is well on the way — until you research and discover that most of the all-time October highs that were being replaced were recorded in the 1930s.

Another interesting weather statistic occurred in the 1930s, when it snowed every month in Indiana. Residents in Indiana that summer were sure the end of the world was occurring, and the churches were packed. Of course, the next year was hotter than the hinges of Hades. Weather changes.

I won’t dwell on global warming any more, except to say that right now, it’s a “hot” subject and that is probably the main factor fueling the current green movement.

On Oct. 9, 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City made a big presentation because the city was going to plant one million trees. Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, is also “pumping up” the green movement. His solution? Driving environmentally friendly Hummers like his, which run on biofuel and hydrogen fuel. On Feb. 13, 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to spend $150 billion to create so-called “green-collar” jobs to create more environmentally friendly energy sources. As I write this, there are polls being conducted about the presidential seekers  called, “How Green Is Your Candidate?”

Before I hyperventilate, let me pause and state that I believe residents of this Earth should take care of our land and its resources in a responsible manner. I don’t believe in littering our highways or destroying wildlife with chemicals, as we did with DDT years ago. I believe in maintaining clean water sources, planting trees for shade and many other ecologically sound activities. I also believe we are instructed by the Creator to have dominion over the birds of the air and animals of the land, and have the privilege of eating and managing these resources.

I’ve noted how many famous people — all politicians — are really into the green movement. Politicians do this because they want to push what most voters want to hear. What they say and do behind the scenes, however, does not always match up.

In my opinion, hunters too often get left out when it comes to giving credit to folks who truly take care of the land. We are frequently portrayed as uncaring killers of wildlife, rapers of the land and dangerous thugs slinging bullets in all directions with blatant disregard for safety. We’re even considered a danger to ourselves and children. It’s common to see laws passed that do not allow children to hunt until they are 12 or 13. These laws largely assure that youngsters will have other interests rather than hunting by their teen-age years.

Some groups tell us we shouldn’t be eating meat, and others condemn us for even cutting a tree. Well, with all that being said, let’s answer a question, “are hunters and deer managers green?”

The same week Bloomberg was basking in the limelight because his city was planting one million trees, a landowner in Iowa was diligently managing his land. The landowner was Bill Winke, a contributing writer to this magazine.

In five days, Winke planted about 500,000 white oak acorns, plus a few walnuts. All seeds were planted on 22 acres along field edges too steep for effective farming. In addition to the seeds, he also moved 80 cedar trees into this area and topped it off with 40 apple trees. The red and yellow delicious apples are excellent eating and drop in September and October.

Without question, what Winke did will benefit man and wildlife for decades, while helping stop soil erosion in the area. This is only one of many management tools Winke is using to improve and preserve the natural habitat and wildlife on his property. By the way, Winke is a hunter and deer manager, and what he is doing is about as green as you can get. Winke, though, didn’t end up on Good Morning America, on the Today show or in The New York Times. His local paper didn’t even give him a write-up.

Winke, in fact, is just one of many hard-working hunters who make significant  contributions to quality game management and conservation in a humble, low-key way. Jon Cullen Stahl, a good friend who lives a few miles away, is another such individual. Cullen and his wife, Laura, were among the first folks to build a nice home on a scenic hill near Seymour, Ind. Today, thereare many other homes surrounding their home. Their property stands out in stark contrast to the other properties, however.

Although I call the Stahl’s property a wildlife sanctuary, others might call it a thicket. The homes around them are generally well maintained and have pretty manicured lawns. The Stahl’s home and yard have the same slick appearance, but the nine acres bordering their yard contains food plots, thick bushes that provide cover, food and nesting sites for birds, blackberry and raspberry thickets, pine and hardwood trees and much more. Hundreds of birds nest on their property each year. They always invite us up to pick from their abundant berries, and we have eaten many a cobbler and jar of jelly because of their generosity. Despite its small size, deer, turkey and coyote sightings are fairly common on their property. Hummingbirds and hawks share the airways, and snakes slither through the grass. It’s nature as it should be. The Stahls, by the way, have been managing their land this way for decades.

In addition, Stahl recognized the importance of owning his own deer woods years ago, and purchased 120 acres of bottomland in 1974. A few years back, he added another 40 acres. He now has several acres of food plots on his land, which contain clover, oats, brassicas and other food sources. Through the years, he has selectively timbered his land to keep the native vegetation in prime shape for wildlife. He has also planted fruit and oak trees. And a few years ago, he added a five-acre wetland that now contains fish, turtles, beaver, mink, otters, herons and a variety of ducks, geese and other wildlife.

If we were to give an award to a family for living a green life in regards to taking care of the environment, certainly the Stahls would top of the list.

It was very cold last night in southern Indiana. This morning, I got up and raised the blinds on our windows. After breakfast, I came out to my office to do some “green” research. On a Web site comprised mainly of younger people, one person noted that you could actually save money on your heating bill by pulling your blinds down on cold days and nights. Imagine that!

On another site, folks were promoting the breakthroughs made in the design of green buildings. One complex in Boston, it noted, was designed to have grass on the roof, which would hold water, thereby preventing runoff and eventually water erosion.

I immediately thought of the home my wife, Carol, and I have lived in since 1964. It’s a quaint little log house built from hewn poplar logs back in the 1930s. It’s 960 square feet. Yes, you read that figure right. It has had a metal roof on it from the time it was built. The gutters from the roof converge at a corner of our house, and the downspout drops into a concrete box, taking the rainwater into a cistern that contains an old hand pump.

Moreover, all the rain that falls on our roof is conserved in the cistern. In summer, we pump the cool water out to water our flowers and other plants. And if the rural water system we are on ever breaks a main, we can simply pump out water from the cistern and go on with life. Interestingly, years ago, many country folks had a water barrel under every drip on their house and outbuildings so they wouldn’t lose a drop of precious water.

Consider also that we own 14 acres and cut enough wood from trees that die each year to heat our house. Our yard is full of tall, beautiful hardwood trees that serve as a windbreak in winter and cooling shade in summer. In 1963, we purchased a new Volkswagen bug, which got 35 miles per gallon of gas. Every vehicle we have owned since then has gotten gas mileage at least that good.

Although I’m not sick, as I think about these things, I’m beginning to feel a little “green” around the gills. Oh, did I mention I’m a deer hunter and deer manager?

On the property we lease, I discovered years ago that the government allowed the establishment of food plots on land set aside in the Conservation Reserve Program. The Whitetail News had the foresight to let me write about this subject, and as a result, many deer managers have since established food plots on CRP land — and these plots have immensely benefited wildlife.

The past few years, wildlife managers, hunters and other groups have pointed out to the federal government that some types of grass planted on CRP ground prevents soil erosion but has no value to wildlife. Because of this, the federal government has encouraged removing strips of these grasses in CRP fields. The landowner can then let the strips grow in native habitat or plant warm-season grasses.

On our leases, the farmer killed part of this unproductive grass in strips two years ago. This past fall, ironweed, ragweed, butterfly weed, Queen Anne’s lace and a variety of other native plants, flowers and grasses formed a dense stand ideal for a variety of wildlife. Rabbits now are evident, ground-nesting birds love it and deer browse in the strips. In December, I flushed a covey of 18 quail from one of the strips. Again hunters had a positive effect on wildlife and nature.

I could continue naming hunters and deer managers who have benefited wildlife and nature. Some plant food plots and trees. Some establish or preserve wetlands. Others build ponds and waterways. Some establish tree shelter belts that benefit wildlife, prevent soil erosion because of wind, save on home heating bills and much more. This list of how hunters and deer managers benefit the environment and wildlife could go on
and on.


We kill about 10 whitetails, five turkeys and 30 or 40 squirrels from one of our leases each year. We also pick mushrooms there, and gather nuts and berries. All of this food is consumed by our family and friends. And the next year, we get to do it again, almost without cost. This scene occurs on thousands of properties throughout our great land each year.

By harvesting nature’s bounty each year, think how much energy hunters save that might go into growing, harvesting and distributing this amount of food. Also, consider that many hunting groups adopt a highway and pick up trash along a certain stretch of road all year. Hunters are also involved in conservation groups, such as the Boone & Crockett Club, the Pope & Young Club, Pheasants Forever, Quail Unlimited, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Through these organizations, they contribute vast sums of money that go into the preservation and purchase of land, and the restoration and management of wildlife.

The purchase of state hunting, fishing and trapping licenses also contribute heavily to wildlife and nature management. The Pittman-Robertson Act, pushed by hunters and other conservationists and passed in 1937, places an 11 percent tax on archery, shooting and hunting equipment. It has raised nearly $5 billion for conservation. The federal aid in the Sport Fish Restoration Act, referred to as the Dingell-Johnson Act, was modeled after the Pittman-Robertson Act to create a parallel program for fishing resources. It should also be noted that hunters and other conservationists were instrumental in getting the Federal Duck Stamp program passed in 1934. It has raised $671 million thus far that has been used to preserve more than 5.2 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States.

Obviously, I have proven that deer hunters, deer managers other hunters and trappers and fishermen are “green.” I am, however, a strong proponent of the truth — the whole truth. For years, we had not had any problem with trespassers on our property. This past year was different. Currently, we have three cases pending. One is for trespassing, one is for night poaching, and the third is for illegally trespassing during daylight and killing a buck on our property. All of these hunters, by the way, had a legal deer hunting tag.

What I’m saying is that not all deer hunters are good people. Certainly, when it comes to conservation and wildlife, I’ll put hunters up against any other group, and I believe we will come out the winner. That said, I believe we must continue to cleanse our group through TIP programs, education and other means. Today, folks in politics — especially politics on the national level — have the lowest confidence rating in history. It’s obvious why this has occurred: Untruthfulness, pork-barrel projects, and fraud and deception have become the norm rather than the rarity. By educating and policing our ranks, we can avoid falling into that tragic trap.

In closing, I want to stress the importance of working together with other groups whenever possible. I really don’t have a problem with someone being a vegetarian; I just want them to be fair and accept the fact that eating meat is also an acceptable diet. I also don’t have a problem with someone who wants to let their woods grow into beautiful mature timber long into the future, provided they also realize that when someone like Stahl selectively harvests his timber, it provides the maximum benefit for wildlife and nature.

Moreover, I value the non-hunter’s view, too. Hunting is not for everyone. An anti-hunter who is unfair, though, I disagree with. Although they profess to conserve, preserve and save all things, they in fact are killers of wildlife and destroyers of nature, just as we all are to some degree.

For example, on September 20, 1957, migrating birds flew into the Eau Claire, Wis., television tower, killing about 20,000 warblers, thrushes, tanangers and other birds. Who was responsible for this wildlife being killed? Hunters, nonhunters or anti-hunters? We all know the answer. They were all responsible. Likewise, in 1988, in Indianapolis, Ind., a sewage treatment plant malfunctioned. Undetected for eight hours, thousands of gallons of raw sewage poured into Williams Creek and then the White River. As a result, about 14,000 fish died. It makes no difference on whose pollution these fish suffocated — that of hunters, nonhunters or anti-hunters. Because of their existence, these people were unintentionally killers that day.

I am privileged and thankful that the Whitetail Institute of North America gave me the opportunity to defend hunters and deer managers to prove they are instrumental in promoting sound conservation practices and game management. Further, I can show that hunters and deer managers were “green” years before it became the fashionable thing to do. I’m also appreciative to the Institute for allowing the complete truth — not just one side.

Get Invoved >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>By keeping up on issues, contributing sound advice, and getting involved in local, state and federal politics, hunters can be instrumental in taking care of wildlife, land and, most important, people living on the land. As you know, many bad laws are passed. For example, in the midst of increasing gas prices, my home state of Indiana recently introduced and passed legislation that increased the speed limit on interstates in the state from 65 to 70 miles per hour. Higher speeds mean increased fuel consumption, higher insurance rates and a higher death rate. I guess a few lost lives aren’t important — as long as it isn’t a friend or member of your family.

Picking up litter along highways is a dangerous and possibly fatal endeavor. Beverage containers make up about 40 percent to 60 percent of all roadside litter, yet only 11 states currently have a “bottle bill” in effect.

States with bottle bills have a 34 percent to 64 percent reduction in total roadside litter, and they recycle 2.5 times as many beverage containers as nonbottle-bill states. So why don’t all states have a bottle bill? Could it be because of lobbying efforts by certain types of manufacturers? You be the judge.

Like me, you might have a list of pet peeves regarding taking care of the beautiful land in which we live. Take action on your beliefs, for you can make a difference in this world. As hunters, fishermen and gatherers, we can have more positive impact on taking care of our land and wildlife than any other group of people. This is true because we spend so much time in nature teaching our children and grandchildren how to hunt, fish and gather. In the future, they will hopefully manage, conserve, preserve, use and enjoy what they love so much, just as we do.