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Thursday, May 31, 2012

WHEP Training catchy title to grab your attention today!  I am plum worn out!

Larry arrived about an hour earlier than the 4Hers.  He brought along his assistant-Hailey, and his dog-Clover.  We walked around our property to talk about our wildlife and determine some needs that we could use for a mock habitat evaluation.  Of course, I loved it because it helped me to see how we were doing with our property.  The thing I was most concerned about was the pond and surrounding area.  I was told that the pond looked great.  To throw some pond habitat vocabulary at you...Larry told me our pond had good turbidity (the clearness of the water, level of sediment in the water).  He also said that our dam was clear of most issues that would cause serious damage (such as dying trees along the banks).  The vegetation growing around the sides of pond were not inhibiting the use of the pond or lacking (which could cause erosion issues).  The only real issue for our pond was a lack of population survey and no available water control structure.  We then talked about the possibility of other targeted species on the property.

This took about an hour to assess the property at a very surface level.  He and Hailey went off on their own to determine what they would discuss with the 4Hers.  This was just in time for everyone else to arrive.  We discussed the judge's scoring sheets and what was expected of them for the afternoon.

Once we got started, we spent a majority of the time discussing the format of the contest and score sheets.

The different components found on the contest are:

  1. Wildlife Identification (10-30 questions of identification for animals in region, including scat, distinctive animal markings, juvenile, adult, footprints, bird calls)
  2. Wildlife Knowledge Quiz (10-30 questions, straight from the handbook; multiple choice questions)
  3. Recommendations of Wildlife Management Techniques (either 8 posted questions for the property or filling in chart for targeted species)
  4. Written Wildlife Management Plan (must be written in complete sentences in paragraph(s) for seniors, as well as detailed property sketch showing the techniques used in plan)
  5. Oral Defense (judged on poise, speaking ability and ability to discuss questions asked of them about management plan designed)
Then we reviewed the management plan from our last contest.  This was VERY helpful!  Larry went to a lot of trouble to NOT embarrass the 4Hers for what they had done before.  He wanted to use this opportunity to teach them about their strengths and then focus on how they could improve.  He really was sensitive to their dignity and I was thankful because the poor things had to deal with MY lack of knowledge to show them the way!

We learned so much from this review.  I think we had already covered a lot of the plan basics since our last contest.  However, he seemed to make more sense explaining the basic procedure to use to write the plan.  Of course, he has done this a MILLION times over compared to my few measly attempts, so he should be able explain it better.  After all, that is the reason we asked him to come help us!

So, here are the basics:

Plan Background
  • State the species to be managed (found in scenario given).
  • State the management objectives (found in scenario given).
Plan Development
  • State habitat requirements for each species to be managed (found in handbook for each species without regard of the others or presence-food, cover, water).
  • Evaluate the habitat and state what is present and what is lacking for each species to be managed based on management objectives (DO NOT state issues if they are not discussed in the scenario!!).
Plan Implementation
  • State what management practices to use for each species to reach the management objectives stated above. (Give actual management techniques from our list for the species, now connecting all the targeted species.  Also, state how the technique will be used.  Explain when and where each practice will be implemented with the effect it will have on the land and wildlife whether it is beneficial or non-beneficial.)
Plan Evaluation
  • State what will be done to realistically monitor success. (How will you decide if your plan is working?)
This plan is written as a team effort during contest.  The team must also present a sketch of the property to include as much of the detail of the written plan as possible.  The team will not have a property map, so the sketch is from their memory of the property and the scenario.  We also learned that once the team is told the directional position of a key feature on the property, they must orient their sketch to this direction (usually north).  The sketch should also include a key in order to allow a more detailed approach to understand the property and the management techniques determined.

After all of this information about the contest, we headed out on the property to practice.  We went to our Boot Pond (shaped like a boot!) and determined that the targeted species was the bluegill.  Even though there are several possibilities to manage this species, only two of these skills were used.  This was very helpful because we have a tendency to mark ALL the possibilities.  The team needs to remember to ONLY include the practices that relate to the property and the circumstances.

While we worked on choosing the appropriate techniques, Larry reviewed most of these techniques to explain what circumstances would be needed to choose the stated technique.  For instance, delay crop harvest is only referred to when discussing grain or hay crops.  And, wildlife damage control is only used as a method when the targeted species is damaging humans or their property.

This is only a small part of what we learned!  I have notes all over my papers.  I will need a few days to sift through it all.  It was a good workshop.  We were all exhausted at the end of the day.

The main thing I learned is the need to focus on what is given in the handbook.  It is easy to look for other sources because it is so interesting and helpful.  However, the first year should be spent with the book.  Later years can be spent learning more in depth information.

I hope every one gained from our experience.  We will have a small team get together for the State contest in June.  I hope to blog about this after we are done.  Looking forward to the trip to Alpine after Round Up.

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