Why does Natural Lands conduct hunting?
First, a little background about our land stewardship philosophy. Our first priority is to steward the land we own with a goal of restoring habitats and fostering diverse ecosystems for plants and wildlife to thrive. This takes a lot of hands-on work by our team of land stewards, who are experts in their field. It is not a matter of passive management; without active management these properties would be dominated by invasive plants with little for native insects—the foundation of the food web on which we all depend—to eat. We’ve learned a lot about managing large tracts of land over the decades… in fact, we even wrote a book about it.
With 100 deer per square mile, our Reineman Preserve is a jarring combination of tall trees and low, green grass, with nothing in between.
Photo: David Steckel
Populations of white-tailed deer in our region are about 10 times greater than the land can support them. This is an unsustainable level and will mean the forests as we know them will disappear as hungry deer eat all the native species, leaving only non-native plants to grow and take over.
For example, more than 100 species of native wildflowers have become extinct as a result of deer browse. The resulting lack of cover, food, and structural diversity within our forests has undoubtedly reduced populations of birds and other wildlife as well.
Here’s an article we wrote about the impact of white-tailed deer on our region’s ecology, as well as on human health.
Is it safe to visit the preserves during hunting season?
Natural Lands has operated our controlled hunting program without incident for decades. Hunters must apply to participate in the program, complete regular training and proficiency testing, and comply with strict safety protocols.
Preserve visitation and hunting do overlap, though our hunters are generally more active at dawn and dusk and they avoid hunting near hiking trails (as hikers scare away deer). Some visitors chose to wear blaze orange during their visits, though it is not necessary. As always, dogs must be kept on leash and stay on trails.
What types of hunting do you allow?
Depending on the hunters and the season, there may be both bow-and-arrow and shotgun hunting on the preserves.
Have you considered alternatives to hunting?
Although there are effective techniques (tree shelters, fencing, repellents) for deterring deer access to vegetation, they are costly and simply shift the problem to neighboring properties. Numerous studies have proven that removing deer through controlled hunts is the most practical and effective means for addressing this problem. The rules governing Natural Lands’ hunting program place an emphasis on removing does from the population. Doe harvesting brings populations to tolerable levels more quickly than a random removal strategy.
I have additional questions. Whom should I contact?
For more information, please contact our Wildlife Management Coordinator, Josh Saltmer.