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Published November 06, 2009, 01:58 PM

Say a prayer for the farmers

Farming is a struggle even in the best of times but this fall the harvest has tried the patience of the most patient.

By: Brian Hansel, Wadena Pioneer Journal

Farming is a struggle even in the best of times but this fall the harvest has tried the patience of the most patient.

October is supposed to be the big harvest month in Minnesota but for many farmers, harvesting in October was like pushing an elephant up the stairs. Rain and snow and cold wind that does not dry crops — that was October.

September’s warm days gave many farmers a good corn crop. The warm weather helped the cobs fill out. Corn can take the elements so if it has to sit into November it can — but sooner or later the weather has to start cooperating.

Soybeans are another story. They are meant to be harvested in October. It might not be too great a leap to say that a lot the soybeans still in the field will stay there unless the weather straightens out. Crop insurance adjusters will be busy.

How does all of this affect the hunter? You will get your answer beginning this weekend. Cornfields are escape cover for wildlife. I was driving home Wednesday night and as I passed a cornfield two fawns jumped out of the corn. Their sudden appearance startled a rooster pheasant into flight from the same field.

I expect to see combines rolling this weekend as my daughter and I hunt deer. We have 60 acres of soybeans stilling sitting on our farm and the renter is going to be out there if the weather is good. At this point he does not have much of a choice. Will this help or hurt our deer hunting chances? It is probably not important. We will not starve if we do not get deer — but this is our once-a-year chance. There is also a good chance that the farmer will not starve if he cannot harvest his bean crop. But he does not want to be holding on auction sale next spring.

The harvest has been late before. One year a farmer renting land from a friend of mine combined his cornfield the night before the firearms deer opener. The next morning the deer were everywhere. It turned out to be one of the best hunting weekends my friend’s family had ever seen. It could have been the worst.

There are other kinds of harvests going on in the fall beside the farming kind. My brothers-in-law, who farm near Henning, were disappointed this year when the permit area they live and hunt in was changed from intensive to management. Hunters can take up to five deer in intensive areas. They are allowed only two in management areas.

The DNR has sophisticated models that the follow in determining the deer population in a permit area. What the DNR does not have is ag bags, which are stuffed with chopped corn to feed cattle. Guess where the deer are feeding as fall turns into winter?

My in-laws are not after five deer apiece but the more deer that they, and other hunters in their area can harvest, means that much less depredation.

Worse than the deer are the raccoons. These little masked bandits rip into the ag bags with their claws to get at the corn and for some reason, which is really annoying, they prefer the corn in the middle of the bag.

Hay bales are also popular with deer. We used to live near the Orwell Game Refuge southwest of Fergus Falls. One very cold winter evening at dusk we decided to take a ride. There was an old farmer who had hay in a shelter right down the road from us. As we sat on the highway and watched they came filing out of the refuge — dozens and dozens of deer. They followed the same path through the snow. Their destination was the old farmer’s hay shed.

Another farmer I know had stacked his round bales up one winter in a field about a half a mile from his farmsite. It was a tough winter with a lot of snow and he could not get them out. The deer really worked those bales over. They ate a lot of the hay and urinated on the rest.

Most of the farmers I know do not dislike wildlife but they lose a lot of income each year to them. They are their reluctant benefactors. So say a prayer for the farmers.

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