When we first started restoring the farm I decided that we wouldn’t allow any hunting on it. We have other property where I can hunt and allow others to hunt, but I thought we’d allow our main farm area to be a type of wildlife preserve.
I now realize how naive I was. Just as I learned it’s not possible to live this life without dealing with predators, I’ve learned that we also can’t live it without dealing with the wildlife that competes with us for food.
Every year the biggest threat we face to our crops is not the weather or insects, but wildlife. Every day I go out I know there is a chance that deer destroyed our gardens overnight. Last year deer wiped out our cantaloupes and peppers and severely damaged our watermelons and okra. Raccoons and groundhogs destroyed our sweet corn. I have a neighbor who is a conventional vegetable farmer. He was literally driven out of business last year by deer (with help from squirrels and bears).
We’ve been fortunate so far this year. Aside from a few bites out of our squash, watermelon and cucumber plants, the deer have left our gardens alone (maybe because they’ve been so busy eating our cover crops). But I see them nearly every day and they’re poised to strike at any time. Likewise the groundhogs, who add insult to injury by undermining foundations.
My attempts to shoot the groundhogs have been largely failures. Partly because I simply don’t have time to sit and wait for them and partly because I don’t always hit them when I do. Of course if they’d just be reasonable and limit themselves to the vast supply of food available to them that isn’t growing in our gardens, I’d be happy to live and let live. But they can’t be reasoned with it seems.
Once in a rare while I manage to catch one in a trap. But they’re too smart to go into the trap most of the time. And why should they when there’s so much delicious stuff to eat in the gardens. Yesterday a trapper friend taught me how to use a more effective trap. Maybe now I’ll be able to turn the tide and persuade them to live and eat elsewhere.
As for the deer, we’ll keep using all the deterrents we have. Maybe they’ll have mercy on us.