PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
HOW TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP IN MAINTAINING A CO-OP
"You are simply trying to find common ground on your management styles for wildlife. It could be deer, quail, or turkey, but usually this opens dialogue and allows for a great conversation."
NATIONAL WILDLIFE COOPERATIVE
knocking on doors
Meeting your neighbors can be a daunting task this day and time when we all interact through texts and emails on our phones. Many times, your neighbors want the same thing you do: a quality place to hunt while providing for the wildlife on their land. It comes down to communication styles, and how to approach the situation. The beauty of co-ops is, you're not asking for hunting permission, you are asking to work together while maintaining autonomy as a hunting property. Once you explain that you are not trying to gain hunting permission, this will relieve some of the initial apprehension surrounding your conversation, and your neighbors will let their guard down some. You're not trying to intrude on their hunting, their property, or even their decisions on how to hunt. You are simply trying to find common ground on your management styles for wildlife. It could be deer, quail, or turkey, but usually this opens the dialogue and allows for a great conversation. If it doesn't, don't sweat it. Don't be pushy, let the rest of the community become a part of it, and most neighbors will come around eventually when they see everyone else joining.
once you agree - don't look back
Once you talk with your neighbors, and they want to join you in forming a wildlife management cooperative, what is the next step? Start with exchanging phone numbers or emails to stay in touch. If you are the point of contact for your neighbors, maintaining a simple excel spreadsheet with: member Name, physical address, email, acreage, phone number, and names or number of people that hunt that property will allow you to gain critical data on hunter density within your co-op, names to form a social media group, and a total acreage estimate as your co-op grows. When you have the basic info on each co-op member property, maintain this data and update it as needed. You will be glad you have this information if you plan to hold local meetings.
keep in touch with each other
Maintaining open lines of communication after your initial meeting is critical, especially if you are not a resident landowner. If you don't live on the property, asking a co-op neighbor to "look out for your property" is an easy way to maintain communication while building a local relationship. If you are a resident on your co-op lands, or live close, exchanging trail camera photos via text or email is a great way to remain in touch with your co-op members while breaking down some of the most common barriers that hunters like to set up. Letting your co-op members know that you trust them enough to share intel is a great way to build meaningful friendships and help gain a clear picture of wildlife populations or deer age structure that you catch on trail cameras.
Likewise, most hardcore white-tailed deer managers are very hesitant to share photos of their "hit-list" bucks, or even their younger bucks with potential, in hopes of keeping them a secret. Some believe that discouraging their neighbors from hunting as much - if they don't know a larger buck is in the area - will help their chances of killing their target trophy. I like to think about this situation a little differently. If your neighbors know what is out there, they are more likely to pass on your younger deer in hopes of harvesting that mature buck. And if they harvest that buck (instead of yourself), you just formed co-op members for life. They will respect you, appreciate you, and have a bar set for future experiences they want to achieve as part of your co-op. Always think about this when interacting with your neighbors, they usually want the same outcomes as you do. Giving up one mature buck to a neighbor is an opportunity to gain a co-op believer for life.
putting the pieces into motion
Cooperatives are like anything else - they take effort to do them right. These don't just "happen." Co-ops are the future of wildlife management, and it will take individuals like yourself to take the initiative to form a co-op, talk to your neighbors, create a contact list, host a meeting, and make your community a better place for wildlife. Taking the pieces provided in this basic co-op guide will help you start your journey in forming or growing your very own wildlife co-op. We will be adding to this guide as we go to provide an all-inclusive information guide on starting, maintaining, and growing a co-op. This information is a joint effort between the National Wildlife Cooperative and the grassroots co-ops we intend to aid.
When a group of landowners uses these basic principles to form a co-op, the wildlife cooperative that forms not only helps member hunters and landowners, along with the wildlife populations that call that land home, but it helps wildlife conservation efforts. Documenting your co-op with the National Wildlife Cooperative provides an avenue to help grow your co-op by connecting with others just like yourself. We intend to help you "put the pieces together" as we continue this journey. Providing information, consultation, and data management for co-ops across the United States.
By: National Wildlife Cooperative Partners
engaging co-op members over time
Cooperatives are not a race. It may take years to grow, and it may be just getting a single person added to your co-op that helps catapult you to new heights with their connections. For this reason, it is important to keep co-op members engaged throughout the year. A great way to achieve this is to form a closed facebook group for your co-op. In here, any member can post about habitat management they are conducting, they can ask for help on a prescribed fire, they can share trail camera photos, and they can get to know their neighbors without the worry of everyone else seeing. This can help increase cohesiveness, as well as help co-ops plan meetings or dinners to go over any goals for the upcoming year.
Most co-ops will have a meeting each year to go over their previous success, future goals, and just to catch up and grab a bite to eat with friends. These meetings are not necessary to be a cooperative, but they can help you feel more connected to neighbors. Face-to-face interaction is invaluable in your quest to maintain a viable wildlife cooperative. Utilizing your email list, phone numbers in a group text, or Facebook group will aid in holding a meeting. Providing a meal that everyone can sit down and enjoy may be the best money you spend all year on wildlife conservation.