This past weekend was opening day of the 2018 deer season. There were three trophy bucks harvested with a bow which marks the best opening day that we have ever had. If you have been following the “Spring Creek Coop” for the last few years you might think that we have always had world class hunting success like this. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In 2008, we had just ended another painful deer season where we had not harvested a single trophy buck. This was the 10th year in a row with countless hours in the woods and nothing to show for it. I remember like it was yesterday when we sat down and said “We either have to figure out a solution or we are going to have to find a new hobby.” The problem at that time was that we were the only hunters in the area that were practicing trophy management (Allowing bucks to reach an older age class before harvest). Hunters are confined to property lines but free range wild game are not. Therefor if one property is practicing proper management and the adjoining property isn’t, all the efforts are for none. And to make it worse, no one was communicating, which made everyone extra trigger happy assuming the worst from their unknown neighbors.
During the brain storming session a friend of mine name Zach Thwaite said, “Why don’t we start a coop (AKA Cooperative)”. There were small examples of adjoining land owners in other areas of the country that had joined forces in an effort to cooperate in their trophy management efforts. It was worth a shot. In the off season we made some hats, t-shirts, signs and created a pamphlet with an initial mission statement and goals. Then we started reaching out to a few of the adjacent landowners and invited them to the first “Spring Creek Coop” annual meeting at our farm. In our initial conversations every local person assured us that there was no chance that it would work, but a few reluctantly showed up.
The coop started in 2009 with the just a few landowners that made an agreement to work together and communicate with a shared mission of creating a better hunting experience. The hunting didn’t improve the first year but the communication and cooperation did. Once everyone knew that the neighbor wasn’t going to shoot a younger buck, it was easier for them to pass on it as well. By the second year the group had gotten bigger and we started to see the first glimmer of results. In year 3 almost every member of the coop harvested their biggest buck ever. The number of acres continued to grow and the results kept getting better.
We went from the worst results imaginable 10 years ago, and now the Spring Creek Coop is the most successful deer hunting coop on earth today. We now have between 15,000-20,000 acres working together and we have created lasting friendships that we would have never created if not for the coop. Here are a few take a ways that I hope you can learn from and apply:
- Nothing great can be accomplished without a group of people that are working together towards a shared vision. When everyone is pulling in a different direction you get nowhere.
- You catch more flies with honey. When working with other people, it is always better to be patient and kind, especially in the early stages while the vision is still forming. My Dad, who is now known as “The Godfather” of the coop, taught us this principle.
- Great things take time. In my experience, it takes 1 year just to figure out what you are trying to do. It takes 3 years to see any tangible results. It takes 10 years to look back and realize that you have really done something special.
It would have been so easy just to chalk it up in 2008 and make the excuse that it would be impossible to turn things around. I am so thankful that we didn’t and I am so thankful that all of the members of the Spring Creek Coop gave were willing to give this thing a shot. Let’s keep raising the bar as we make the impossible possible.