Farmers and Hunters Aim to Help Each Other
Alleghany County Farm Bureau member Bill Ebert described himself as semi-retired, still raising a few head of beef cattle, but they are only a fraction of what he once had on his 200-acre spread bordering the Little River.
One afternoon, Ebert observed a 30-acre hayfield that’s one of his primary plots to grow winter feed and noticed plenty of grazers that weren’t Hereford or Black Angus cattle.
“I counted 23 deer out in that hayfield,” Ebert recollects.
To help control the deer population, Ebert has allowed a select band of individuals to hunt on his property. One is a former neighbor. Another is a trusted friend.
“I’m kind of selective as to whom I allow to hunt,” Ebert says. “I keep it in mind that I’m more inclined to let people who are familiar with an agriculture setting.”
The relationship between farmers and hunters is what Brad Howard, the private lands coordinator for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, strives to build on farms and other private property throughout the state.
Howard has a particular fondness for North Carolina farmers. Growing up in southern Iredell County, Howard hunted on his uncle’s property, which was one of the last remaining dairy operations in Mecklenburg County.
“I was taught from my first days carrying a gun that you did what he said,” Howard says. “If you were dove hunting in a field, you did not shoot toward the milk barn. That would get you stopped. I was trained very early that you abide by the farmer’s wishes.”
Stationed in Hickory and coordinating with regional personnel throughout the state, part of Howard’s job description is to foster ways hunters can help to maintain healthy levels of North Carolina wildlife within land that is some of state’s most fertile.
“A nice working farm is probably some of the best hunting land you can access,” Howard says. “Let’s face it, farmers are farming that land because it’s very productive land. They’re making a living growing things on that land to sell. The productivity of the land as it relates to crops is often very similar as it relates to wildlife.”
With that land being in such high demand by both the farmer and the hunter, Howard often recommends that the landowner communicate precisely where to hunt and what places or activities are to be avoided.
Howard tells farmers to “be clear about your expectations. If something happens, discuss it. Perhaps it wasn’t intentional.”
And when in a group of hunters, Howard has a complementary message.
“Seems like good manners, but you don’t go into someone’s house and flop down on their couch with muddy boots, kick back and start watching TV,” Howard says. “A farmer’s land is almost the same as their home. You respect their land.”
The Thrill of the Snipe Hunt
Timmy Jones only wanted to do one thing for his 12th birthday – go hunting.
Timmy begged his father for weeks. “Can we please go hunting, Daddy? Grandpa took you, didn’t he?”
Timmy’s father made the wish come true and said they would go hunting on his birthday.
“So what are we going to go hunting for, Daddy?” Timmy wanted to track down bear or deer.
“We’ll go snipe hunting,” Timmy’s father responded. “It’s easy to hunt for bear or deer. You get a snipe – you’ll be a real hunter.”
Timmy desperately wanted to prove he was a real hunter. “I’ll bet I get 10 snipes on the first day,” Timmy told his father.
Timmy’s birthday arrived. He and his father went out snipe hunting, but didn’t see a single one.
“Guess you’ll have to keep trying,” Timmy’s father told him.
Years later, Timmy’s son wanted to go hunting, too. Timmy knew instantly what to do.
Timmy patted his son on the shoulder and said, “There’s nothing like snipe hunting.”
Members Join Hunters Helping Kids
Some Farm Bureau members are involved in training programs so the next generation can flourish outdoors.
Hunters Helping Kids is a national non-profit organization started in North Carolina aimed at curtailing misbehavior and promoting safety and climate conservation. One of the newest chapters is in Duplin County, and Farm Bureau members Keith and Karen McGee helped it get off to a roaring start this year.
The chapter’s fundraising banquet this past June drew more than 600 attendees, the largest draw Hunters Helping Kids has had in territory that stretches from New York to Texas.
“We have gotten a lot of support from the area.” Keith McGee says. “In my opinion, it’s not just about hunting. It can teach them things about life, conservation and how to take care of themselves.”