Hunting enthusiasts practice ‘quality deer management’
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Ron and Jeanne Beam and their sons, Pete and Sam, follow deer for more than hunting. They get to know the deer on their 124 acres south of Little Falls, watching them from year to year.
“About half the property is wooded,” said Ron, a United States Fish and Wildlife Service worker at Crane Meadows. “The rest of the acreage is oak savanna, with some open prairie, wetlands and lowland brush.”
Ron grew up just one mile south, hunting. He rifle-hunted deer on his family’s farm and the property where he now lives.
“We shot whatever we saw,” he said. “There were usually 15-20 people in our hunting party and we made deer drives.”
It wasn’t until he was 17 that Ron first bow hunted, and then he and his brothers hunted together or Ron went out alone.
“Now we hunt with bow, rifle and muzzleloader,” he said. “We hunt all three seasons unless we tag out.”
Jeanne didn’t grow up hunting, even though her brothers and her dad hunted. She had never been hunting until she and Ron were married.
“I had no choice,” she said with a smile. “But I sat with and him I liked it, both rifle and muzzleloader.”
The year Jeanne got her first deer, she also scoped herself on the forehead, hitting herself with the rifle’s scope.
“I was in the emergency room by 7 a.m. on opening morning,” she said. “I needed six stitches, but the nine-point deer was waiting at home.”
Undergirding the Beams’ philosophy about hunting is their dedication to using “quality deer management” (QDM), something Ron started doing in about 2000.
“It’s important to us to let the smaller bucks go — to let them get bigger,” Ron said.
“We manage our bucks so we end up shooting mature bucks, and not small-antlered deer,” said Sam.
QDM is a multi-faceted approach to hunting that involves the cultivation of quality deer (bucks, does, and fawns), quality habitat, quality hunting experiences and quality hunters.
If the Beams take deer they don’t need, they give to friends who didn’t get one or to others in need who maybe don’t hunt.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has designated the Beams’ property as an intensive harvest area. But they conscientiously manage the deer on their property so they don’t take anywhere near the number of deer allowed by the DNR.
The Beams enjoy watching their deer. They have several trail cameras stationed around their land. They had one natural water source and dug two additional ponds.
“We plant about eight food plots using corn, soybeans, rapeseed, turnips, clover and alfalfa,” said Ron.
“Last year, I sat for 12 hours in a stand and saw 40 deer,” he said. “I passed up some smaller bucks. We’ve gone years without shooting a buck — you have to be fine with that to use QDM.”
The Beams’ use QDM wherever they hunt.
“We hunt geese, pheasants, turkey and small game like squirrels, grouse and rabbits,” Pete said. “We’ve hunted in North and South Dakota and Montana.”
Two years ago the family was invited by friends to be part of a youth hunt in Wyoming. Pete and his buddy, Wyatt, had antelope tags.
“People are very generous with youth,” Ron said. “We’ve taken kids deer hunting and turkey hunting who don’t have much opportunity to hunt. They have to have firearm safety first.”
They hunt along with family and friends too. Ron and Jeanne’s nephew, Adam Theis, often stays with them during hunting season.
“Hunting as a family is really enjoyable,” Ron said. “My dad, Roman, will be 75 in November and he still hunts. My mom, Kathy, hunts turkey with my dad.”
Ron’s brothers, Rick and Jim, hunt just down the road and they all get together afterward at Ron and Jeanne’s house.
“We tell stories, make chili and just enjoy the camaraderie,” Ron said. “No matter what, we do have fun.”
“There’s always a story,” Jeanne said.
“What Jeanne and I have done is introduce the kids to a lot of different hunting so when they get old enough to choose, they can do whatever their passion is,” said Ron. “These guys have been in deer stands since they were three years old. They like to see the deer.”
“We’ve shown them the right way to do things,” said Jeanne.
Pete already much prefers bow hunting.
“It’s the challenge,” he said. “I got my first deer with a bow at the Camp Ripley Youth Hunt when I was 12.”
Bow hunting is also Sam’s favorite.
“I got my first deer with a bow in Eastern Morrison County when I was 10,” he said. “My challenge is staying in the deer stand for a long time, so I bring plenty of snacks.”
Which deer stand is used changes, depending on a number of factors.
“It’s different depending on the direction of the wind,” Pete said. “We try to minimize human scent in that area.”
“We use climbing stands, ladder stands and permanent stands,” Ron said.
“I have the Taj Mahal of deer stands,” Jeanne said. “It has carpet, big windows and a propane heater if I need it.”
All of the experience and observation the Beams use while hunting doesn’t guarantee a successful shot, though.
“Sam was all by himself up in a stand last year. The buck would have been in the record books,” Ron said. “But the trail cameras showed that no one got it.”
When Pete and Ron were out during muzzleloading season and spotted two bucks coming over the hill at them, a shot in the distance scared both deer away.
“I shot one of them a week later,” Ron said. “We found a shed rack from the other about two months after that.”
A deer rack is as unique as a human fingerprint. New racks are grown each year, and although they are larger every time, their conformation remains the same.
The Beams all keep a sharp eye out for ‘“sheds” while moving around outside.
The quality deer management that Ron and Jeanne have taught the boys is being passed along to other hunters.
“I convinced a friend of mine to use QDM,” Pete said. “It changed the way he hunted.”
“It takes a lot of self-restraint to pass up a 3-year-old, to let him be a 5-year-old; not everybody can do that,” Ron said. “It took me many years to get there. We’ve had a lot of great encounters with large deer we haven’t gotten.”
In addition to the trail cameras, the Beams videotape while they are in their stands. Film of one particular hunt has gone much further than their living room.
Pete’s harvest of an eight-point buck in 2011, was shown on “Matthews TV” with Dave Watson on the Outdoors Channel.
Pete wraps up his love of hunting with his commitment to QDM, “It’s my choice to pass up a deer. He’ll be bigger in a year,” he said.