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Farmers weigh how to deal with deer poaching their crops

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The challenges that confront Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama farmers never seem to go away. A drought of almost historic proportions last year has been followed by a wetter than normal 2017.

Farmers who got their corn and soybeans in the ground early have reported outstanding crops but now that the early corn is ripening, another impediment to a bumper crop has raised its antlers — deer.

A ride through the 77 acres of corn in fields off U.S. 411 South between Rome and Cave Spring that Bill Davis leases shows how deer have shucked the corn on the stalk and nibbled away at the kernels.

Davis, of Leesburg, Alabama, leases the acreage from former State Representative Paul Smith. He rode through the field with Smith to assess the damage Monday morning.

Just about every stalk on the south-facing edge of the property — thousands of feet — had been damaged. Now the deer are working their way in.

“I’ve got about $400 an acre in this corn,” Davis said, which includes seed, fertilizers, pesticide and fuel for his machinery. “This was the best crop we’ve had in a long time.”

That portion of the crop eaten by the deer takes a cut out of his profits, but there are some ways of dealing with the problem.

One of the means is an application to the Department of Natural Resources for a special nuisance deer crop damage permit to hunt some of the animals and reduce the population.

Department of Natural Resources Region One Game Management Supervisor Chuck Waters said that typically special crop damage permits allow the farmer to hunt ten deer.

“They’re for antlerless deer only,” Waters said. “If they take 10 and still have problems we can talk about it.”

Permits are valid through the harvesting of the crop.

Davis explained that the yield for his crop ranges from 75 to 200 bushels per acre.

He wasn’t sure how much damage the deer have done to this point.

Irwin Bagwell, who farms acreage adjacent to the Smith property said he’s seen a little more damage to his soybeans from the deer than corn this year.

“It hasn’t been what you’d call wholesale damage, but you can tell they’ve gotten in there,” Bagwell said.