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Using permaculture for wild game habitat

 
Posts: 34
Location: North Idaho
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I've recently started a new blog on how to utilize wild game as a sustainable resource mainly by using wildlife management, permaculture and homesteading strategies to create ideal habitat in order to increase the total population of game animals on a property.

I believe that if we could manage wild game habitat in much of the same ways we manage livestock in a permaculture system then we could greatly increase the production of wild game and use it as a sustainable food source.

I've written a few blog posts on this subject already and would appreciate any input you would like to give. I am a passionate hunter and homesteader and I'm using these strategies on my own property. Let me know what you think.

https://hunterseden.blogspot.com/

 
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Have you seen or read about the other shotgun method? Literally loading seeds in a shotgun shell and shooting them onto the land.
 
Travis Campbell
Posts: 34
Location: North Idaho
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Lol I have not. Does that actually work? Seems like you would need some very durable seeds.
 
pollinator
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I have not made any special attempt to attract wildlife to our property. None. I have worked to improve the soil, planted some season-extended forage, and... that's it. The wild animals will find a resource. In fact, they are such a nuisance I am fencing them out to a great extent. I shot a deer an average of 45 minutes into the hunt. That's not even hunting that's just shooting.

Concentrate on the soil and the wildlife will be there. IF I concentrate on any wildlife, it is the amphibians and lower animals. They have made a huge difference in the overall velocity of nutrient cycling. To some degree I feel the exclusion is necessary, the deer are terrible compared to herd animals for mob grazing, they eat all the candy and select for the unpalatable stuff, then poop in the woods. If I exclude them in certain areas, I think it will accelerate the restoration (provided sheep or goats are in there). Then at times I can reopen areas for the deer. Turkeys laugh at my exclusion. If it was one or two deer I would consider that a benefit, but I am probably supporting 400-500 lbs of deer per acre, which is crazy and butts against the carrying capacity of the land unless mob grazed.

I would suggest that the density of whitetail deer at this point is detrimental. They should be considerably thinned. We have eradicated the predators (I know I have because they eat my chickens). This means we need to either get herd herbivores on the land or accept CWD and albinism and tick diseases. We need to introduce other animals as competition for the deer. This is more intensive management I know but we have a whitetail monoculture for the most part. I'm against monoculture. LGDs eating the deer could be a predator equivalent but I'm not there yet.

I remember seeing an old bird feeder in the garage. This is a failed idea. I just got rid of it this week. We need to encourage a variety of fauna- snakes, possums, birds, etc. The last thing we need is more f-ing whitetail. IF you are putting in areas to draw them in and fill your freezer, I have some great ideas. If your are making a feed plot to make big antlers and allow 2 fauns per doe each year, I'm not interested. When you have filled your freezer and larder, make sure your friends fill theirs. I will put together a thread about how I process a deer quickly using no electricity. This may translate, and may not in your area, but I am convinced they are a huge problem. We need to act like apex predators and take huge numbers until they become practically scarce.

Short version, I don't think you can regenerate the soils with deer unless they are intensively hunted year-round. Turkeys are a different topic. Sorry if this is harsh...
 
Travis Campbell
Posts: 34
Location: North Idaho
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It sounds like your property has a high overpopulation of deer which is not necessarily the same as having a high deer density. What matters is if there is enough high quality habitat to support high deer numbers. The carrying capacity of the land has to be high enough to support the deer population otherwise the deer will gradually overbrowse the habitat and over time the the carrying capacity will decrease. You want the deer population to be just at or below the carrying capacity of the land. So in your case yes I agree you should definitely harvest more deer from your property.

I am not interested in hunting deer just for big racks, while I can definitely appreciate a mature whitetail bucks headgear, I am mainly in it for the meat. A lot of people seem to forget that deer are actually made out of food. This is great because unlike domestic sources of meat they take care of themselves. All I am trying to do and what my blog is focused on is creating ideal habitat for the deer and other game species so I can get a fairly high production per acre of meat. I think game species are potentially a more sustainable way for meat production if done right. And like you talk about in many areas deer numbers are way too high for what their habitat can support and this causes many problems for people, especially if they're trying to grow plants. Well to me this is another example of the problem is the solution. It's like "oh no what are we going to do with all this high quality, tasty, free range, self propagating, sustainable meat running around?" To me the obvious answer is to take advantage of the resource and eat it.
 
wayne fajkus
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As we don't buy meat, deer is a key meat for us. We harvest a minimum of 3 per year. I have said this before, deer is less work over a year than the sheep we raise for meat.  I would say i may be on the verge of overcrowding because the city is moving closer, leaving less habitat.  But the hiway in front of my land thins out the numbers pretty fast.

The joke at my place is if you see a legal buck, shoot it. If not you can find it dead on the hiway in the morning. By the afternoon it will be dead and headless.
 
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Hi Travis,

I am actually studying this very thing right now.  I'm glad I found this post, and will be readying your articles ASAP.  Do you have a newsletter for your blog?

I agree with you, I think we can really boost wildlife on our lands with permaculture practices.  The common theme I am seeing offered is using roundup ready seeds, fertilizer, roundup, rinse repeat.

If you ever want to bounce ideas off of someone, or exchange ideas, let me know.

Chris
 
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I have bedding areas (thick brush and small trees that I cut half way through and bent over so the growing tips hit the ground) along with scattered feed plot seeding places between the bedding areas.
I do hunt, but only for meat when we want some venison, rabbit, squirrel, quail or turkey. I don't hunt racks, never have because that is how I was taught, we take the old deer that are past their prime and would probably die soon anyway or the ousted lead buck.
I prefer to have bucks that have good genes and those guys are left alone. In Arkansas we can take six deer, does or bucks, I have never filled a limit because I just don't need that much in the freezer.

I have always thought using permaculture techniques was the best way to encourage wildlife, I am currently seeding our tall, seed bearing native grasses to try and bring more quail onto our land because they have lost so much habitat from people trimming their fence lines, so I never touch the ten feet along them.
I also have a new area that is getting meadow grasses and plants that the critters use for winter and summer food.

Redhawk
 
Tj Jefferson
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Travis, I reread my comment and it was harsh. Sorry about that, no excuses.

Why I am not fond of the deer in a nutshell and prefer domesticated animals:
1) they selectively browse, and don't trample like I desire, or move as a mob
2) they are overpopulated and sickly- in most of the country (reference CWD/albinism- all over the place)
3) they are a major tick source (probably THE major one by many factors) and we have terrible tick-borne disease rates around here
4) I can't legally harvest them most of the year, and 5-6 deer take up a ton of freezer space (although I am processing into biltong and salting/curing)
5) they are very lean, and have little usable fat, and in the same amount of butchering time I can obtain more usable meat
and the biggest-
6) from an environmental perspective, having deer mostly predated by vehicles (which is where most deer statistically die in basically every eastern state), they cause a huge amount of pollution. The majority of a vehicles' CO2 cost is in manufacturing, not fuel. I know the body shop guys around here and the deer keep them in business- like tattoo shops around army posts. Yes the insurance pays the dollar cost of the damage (and I pay in insurance) but the unaccounted cost of CO2 is very high. Per our local state patrol, we have about 150,000 deer hit per year, which is the same number as hunting, and we have more hunters here than most states. Depending on the year we have ~20,000 vehicles totalled. My estimate is that the cost of fencing for sheep (for instance) is much lower.

What I like about them:
1) as you say, they are native, renewable, free range, non-GMO etc
2) They have pretty broad palate around here
3) Low maintenance except for the stuff I am trying to establish that they kill
4) predators not a big deal

If we had common sense hunting, where you could harvest on your land in a longer season, I would probably feel different to some degree. I rely more on other meat sources than I would if I could just shoot a deer when we were running low. I end up giving away maybe 4-5 quartered deer a year, limited mostly by the number of people who only want little 1# packages. I am training some people on my street to butcher, and then maybe we can make some serious headway.

What I am doing for soil improvement, deer or no, is to plant future soil fertility. I have big-podded thornless honeylocusts (recommend Hershey or Ashworth) that will drop pods all winter, and gradually feed the soil food web. I am using bulk rock dust to remineralize at a bargain price. I am increasing the moisture holding capacity immensely with earthworks and Dr Redhawk's methods to increase subsurface carbon. This allows me to eat whatever shows up- squirrels, turkey, rabbit, deer, quail- you name it.

The guy who began this was Alan Savory, who is a giant. HE concentrated on the domestic animals, using them as mobs, and the wild animals have increased as the soil increased. This is crucial- the wild animals no longer effectively create soil in most of the world, we don't have herds packed in by predators. I fully subscribe to his hypothesis. At first the wild animals need to be decreased in population, of there isn't enough vegetation to support mobs economically.


 

 
Travis Campbell
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Location: North Idaho
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Chris Ray wrote:Hi Travis,

I am actually studying this very thing right now.  I'm glad I found this post, and will be readying your articles ASAP.  Do you have a newsletter for your blog?

I agree with you, I think we can really boost wildlife on our lands with permaculture practices.  The common theme I am seeing offered is using roundup ready seeds, fertilizer, roundup, rinse repeat.

If you ever want to bounce ideas off of someone, or exchange ideas, let me know.

Chris



Hey Chris that is interesting that you also are studying this. I do not have any newsletter for my blog yet but maybe one day.  What kind of studying have you done and what have you found out? I'd be interested in sharing notes.
 
Travis Campbell
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I have bedding areas (thick brush and small trees that I cut half way through and bent over so the growing tips hit the ground) along with scattered feed plot seeding places between the bedding areas.
I do hunt, but only for meat when we want some venison, rabbit, squirrel, quail or turkey. I don't hunt racks, never have because that is how I was taught, we take the old deer that are past their prime and would probably die soon anyway or the ousted lead buck.
I prefer to have bucks that have good genes and those guys are left alone. In Arkansas we can take six deer, does or bucks, I have never filled a limit because I just don't need that much in the freezer.

I have always thought using permaculture techniques was the best way to encourage wildlife, I am currently seeding our tall, seed bearing native grasses to try and bring more quail onto our land because they have lost so much habitat from people trimming their fence lines, so I never touch the ten feet along them.
I also have a new area that is getting meadow grasses and plants that the critters use for winter and summer food.

Redhawk



That sounds pretty cool what you're doing on your property. On mine I'm mainly focused on creating perennial food sources such as nut, fruit and browse trees and shrubs. A byproduct of this is that it will also create cover. My property is mostly meadow at this stage so I'm trying to grow more cover rather than cut trees to create it but in your situation I definitely think what you're doing is the way to go. One big thing in the deer hunting world right now is the creation of "food plots" to create an artificial food source for deer. It's very common for hunters to use conventional farming practices to create these plots using tilling, herbicides and pesticides.  I think however there could be a way to make a high quality food plot type of area that would be more of the permaculture version. This is something I'm personally very interested in however I have only just barely started researching the idea. The problem would be in finding an ideal seed mix which is hardy enough to a certain area and establish and reseed itself naturally without any human intervention that would also be able to handle the foraging pressure of wild game as well as be ideal nutritionally. I think a mix of annual and perennial grasses and forbs would be ideal for this. This would vary massively by climate and geography.  I think if done correctly it would be maintaince free and self sustaining. The only thing one might need to do every so often would be to remove encroaching woody vegetation. This could be accomplished by occasional mowing, brushhogging, etc. And even then ideally you would not even want to have to do that. But this is just something big I'd like to experiment with in the future.
 
Travis Campbell
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Travis, I reread my comment and it was harsh. Sorry about that, no excuses.

Why I am not fond of the deer in a nutshell and prefer domesticated animals:
1) they selectively browse, and don't trample like I desire, or move as a mob
2) they are overpopulated and sickly- in most of the country (reference CWD/albinism- all over the place)
3) they are a major tick source (probably THE major one by many factors) and we have terrible tick-borne disease rates around here
4) I can't legally harvest them most of the year, and 5-6 deer take up a ton of freezer space (although I am processing into biltong and salting/curing)
5) they are very lean, and have little usable fat, and in the same amount of butchering time I can obtain more usable meat
and the biggest-
6) from an environmental perspective, having deer mostly predated by vehicles (which is where most deer statistically die in basically every eastern state), they cause a huge amount of pollution. The majority of a vehicles' CO2 cost is in manufacturing, not fuel. I know the body shop guys around here and the deer keep them in business- like tattoo shops around army posts. Yes the insurance pays the dollar cost of the damage (and I pay in insurance) but the unaccounted cost of CO2 is very high. Per our local state patrol, we have about 150,000 deer hit per year, which is the same number as hunting, and we have more hunters here than most states. Depending on the year we have ~20,000 vehicles totalled. My estimate is that the cost of fencing for sheep (for instance) is much lower.

What I like about them:
1) as you say, they are native, renewable, free range, non-GMO etc
2) They have pretty broad palate around here
3) Low maintenance except for the stuff I am trying to establish that they kill
4) predators not a big deal

If we had common sense hunting, where you could harvest on your land in a longer season, I would probably feel different to some degree. I rely more on other meat sources than I would if I could just shoot a deer when we were running low. I end up giving away maybe 4-5 quartered deer a year, limited mostly by the number of people who only want little 1# packages. I am training some people on my street to butcher, and then maybe we can make some serious headway.

What I am doing for soil improvement, deer or no, is to plant future soil fertility. I have big-podded thornless honeylocusts (recommend Hershey or Ashworth) that will drop pods all winter, and gradually feed the soil food web. I am using bulk rock dust to remineralize at a bargain price. I am increasing the moisture holding capacity immensely with earthworks and Dr Redhawk's methods to increase subsurface carbon. This allows me to eat whatever shows up- squirrels, turkey, rabbit, deer, quail- you name it.

The guy who began this was Alan Savory, who is a giant. HE concentrated on the domestic animals, using them as mobs, and the wild animals have increased as the soil increased. This is crucial- the wild animals no longer effectively create soil in most of the world, we don't have herds packed in by predators. I fully subscribe to his hypothesis. At first the wild animals need to be decreased in population, of there isn't enough vegetation to support mobs economically.



 



No worries. I'm not the type to get upset of comments on the internet so it's cool. I actually enjoy the criticism because it helps me think of problems that haven't been brought up before and helps me strengthen my position.  

I would however like to go through your points and kind of give you my thoughts.

1. Deer are definitely mainly browsers and would perform a role ecologically more like goats. As far as trampling vegetaion I think elk and especially bison would perform that function better. Now obviously having wild bison run through people's property would probably not be the best the way society is currently set up, however my vision is for one day wild bison to expand there range back into to plains and people who own land there to manage their property for bison so they can hunt them. It might be a pipe dream, but my ideas run to their full course would lead to something like this. Even feral cattle could be a good idea in certain situations although that is a big discussion as well.
2. In some areas deer are definitely overpopulated and this leads to disease and poor herd health but ideally we would UKld be managing them better to reduce them to sustainable numbers.
3. Again ticks are a problem because of deer overpopulation.  If this is addressed the tick problem would largely take care of itself.
4. It is true regulations create issues when it comes to wild game harvest but if my ideas were more common then it would likely lead to better hunting regulations that would take into consideration these issues.
5. Deer meat is naturally lean however their fat source is concentrated more under the hide and inside the abdomen. This fat is usually not the most palatable however which is definitely a fair point. My solution to this would be to diversify your wild game meat to include game with better sources of fat like bear and duck. Even beaver and raccoon have a very rich edible store of fat that could be utilized. Diversity is key. I encourage managing properties for all game species not just deer. Deer is just the easiest for most people to relate to since it is the most commonly hunted game animal and that's why I mention it more.
6.This one is definitely an interesting point. My view is that in 15 to 20 years most cars are going to be electric so I think this won't be as much of an issue. I think on major highways we should put barriers or fences to keep the larger wildlife off.  Making sure to add wildlife over/underpasses every so often. And on more minor roads I would just advise people to drive slower haha. Maybe with autonomous vehicles these types of crashes will be reduced. I'd say it's probably likely.

These are great criticisms though. And I appreciate you taking the time to give me your opinion. It's a great thought exercise and helps me hone my views more.
 
pollinator
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Tj Jefferson wrote:





Thanks for sharing, great video!
 
Chris Ray
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Hi Travis,

I have been reading a lot at QDMA and Mossy Oak Gamekeepers, to familiarize myself with common methods.  They both have good information, but neither uses permaculture practices.  

I have a friend of a friend with almost 200 acres here in Minnesota, who is pretty open to my ideas.  We've got plans on planting fruit and nut trees, opening up some of the canopy and removing competitor trees where there are oaks.  He has several 1/4-2 acre fields that he wants to plant food plots.  He's an old-timer and wants to disc, fertilize, round-up everything.  I'm still a permaculture newbie, and am still trying to figure out how to handle food plots. so far I'm suggesting things like clover, chicory to improve the soil, and provide food for the game at the same time.  

creating bedding habitat, and places for the deer to winter is another area I am trying to study.

I could go on and on.  What things are you learning about now?

Chris
 
Travis Campbell
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Chris Ray wrote:Hi Travis,

I have been reading a lot at QDMA and Mossy Oak Gamekeepers, to familiarize myself with common methods.  They both have good information, but neither uses permaculture practices.  

I have a friend of a friend with almost 200 acres here in Minnesota, who is pretty open to my ideas.  We've got plans on planting fruit and nut trees, opening up some of the canopy and removing competitor trees where there are oaks.  He has several 1/4-2 acre fields that he wants to plant food plots.  He's an old-timer and wants to disc, fertilize, round-up everything.  I'm still a permaculture newbie, and am still trying to figure out how to handle food plots. so far I'm suggesting things like clover, chicory to improve the soil, and provide food for the game at the same time.  

creating bedding habitat, and places for the deer to winter is another area I am trying to study.

I could go on and on.  What things are you learning about now?

Chris



That sounds awesome and is basically exactly what my blog is about. One of the goals of my blog is to link the worlds of permaculture with the world of habitat management for wild game such as those in the QDMA community.  I see huge value in both, but also certain issues. In permaculture it is almost all focused on creating systems for vegetable, fruit and nut production for people and also raising domestic livestock. However it largely ignores the renewable food resource of wild game that to me could possibly be a more sustainable food resource than domestic livestock due to the fact that they largely can take care of themselves so that a system geared towards the production of wild game meat would require far fewer inputs. No fences, no supplemental feed, no housing or animals shelters, etc. Also I think if we gear some of our food system towards the production of wild game then this would help improve the habitat of many other wildlife species, some of which are threatened by loss of habitat.

And then there is the Issues with QDMA. The big one being that they use conventional methods of agriculture and forestry to shape wild game habitats focusing on putting in huge costly and potentially damaging inputs like fertilizers, herbicides, irrigation, etc. To me this all seems like too much work to maintain. I would much rather work with nature by using permaculture principles to develop very high quality wild game habitat that is largely self sustaining and would require very little inputs over time.

But yeah it sounds like you're interested in the same things I'm writing about. I'd reccomend reading all of my blog posts because I think I pretty much cover most of the things you want to do on the property you are working on. You can also comment on my blog and I will respond back if you have any specific questions.  My goal is to help others start doing what I am since there really isn't very much trial and error that's been done yet on these ideas. It's a lot of theory right now, but I am pretty convinced that it could be extremely valuable once implemented. To me it has been proven that permaculture techniques work when it is compared to conventional agriculture so why couldn't it work with creating high quality wild game habitat as well?
 
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