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Hunters young and old take Tom turkeys

May 1, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

WILD TURKEYS are smart lots of the time. And sometimes it may appear they are not too smart. No matter how one analyzes hunting this game bird, it is never a given that the hunter will come home with a bird. In fact, the bird is very well equipped by mom nature to survive the rigors of the weather and to detect out-of-place situations or hunter movements that will send the turkey running for cover.

The left photo is of 7-year-old Tyler Polley of Brookfield, Mo. His first turkey, a Jake, was taken at 36 yards with the mentoring guidance of his father Ken, a native Marshall County man originally from Haverhill. Tyler took his bird from a ground blind using his Mossberg 20 gauge youth model shotgun. The gun was a birthday present when he turned 7 from mom and dad, Ken and Nancy Polley. Ken Polley is a Missouri State Game Warden for his North Central Missouri territory located in Linn County about 40 miles southwest of Kirksville, Mo. Grandparents are Dennis and Marilyn Polley of Haverhill.

Center photo today is 11-year-old Nicholas Stegmann. Parents are Mike and Janet Stegmann of Marshalltown. Mike mentored his son to help take his first turkey on April 24. Nicholas used a Mossberg 20 gauge to put the bird on the ground. The turkey had 1/2 inch spurs and a 9 1/2 inch beard. Nicholas attends GMG School where he is a fifth grader. His father Mike is the MCCB director.

Article Photos

Tom turkeys this spring had better be on the lookout for young hunters. Seven year old Tyler Polley, of Brookfield, Mo. hunted with his dad Ken and took a nice Tom on April 10, near their home in Missouri.

The last photo, on the right, is a youth with many decades of experience. John Mills of Marshalltown is a retired employee of Fishers. With the help of a mentor to get him to and from hunting areas, and in place at the hunt site in his wheelchair, John was able to take a nice Tom in Harrison County. The tom weighed 22 pounds and had 3/4 inch spurs.

Congratulations to all these hunters for a job well done. There will be many tasty meals of tender turkey meat to share with their respective families.

Iowa's turkey seasons end on May 16. By that time, approximately 11,000 tom turkeys will be taken statewide. It is interesting to note how year-to-year statistics keep track of the take. In 2009, youth turkey hunters killed 6 percent of the birds. First season tallied 15 percent, second at 24 percent, third season was 12 percent and fourth and last season had 35 percent. To date, Iowans in all seasons have taken more than 7,000 tom turkeys. By season end, between 10,000 and 12,000 birds will be part of the harvest report system records. Marshall County turkey hunters have 30 harvest reports entered so far.

Nationally, there are more than 7 million wild turkeys. Another fact is that some turkey hens bumped from their nest by people hunting mushrooms means a lost nest. She will not come back after the people have gone away. The best turkey woods or grasslands are those left alone by people.

Fact number two: Turkeys DO NOT seek out pheasant, grouse or quail nests to peck at them to destroy the eggs or eat the young. (This is a late night bar room rumor told by unknowing people who just like to talk. Sorry, if the shoe fits, wear it.)

Hear are some other whopper tales, all untrue. Turkeys die during rain storms because they look up and drown. (Another late night bar-room conversation).

Turkey numbers are being controlled by DNR stockings of rattlesnakes and coyotes. The rattlesnakes are supposedly placed in balloons and dropped from aircraft at night. The air filled balloon cushions the impact on the ground. (Don't ask how someone blows up the balloon, let alone gets a live rattlesnake into an un-inflated balloon, then keeps the rattlesnake calm enough to prevent it from striking and breaking the balloon. Go figure this one.)

All these reports, and many more tall tales, are from a long list of weird reports given to the National Wild Turkey Federation. The NWTF staff gets these off-the-wall stories all the time. What the NWTF does do is operate on sound biological facts of habitat management. The NWTF, since 1985, has spent more than $258 million dollars upholding hunting traditions and helping to conserve more than 13.1 million acres of land for wildlife habitat. There are NWTF chapters in all 50 states with nearly 600,000 members in the states and 16 foreign countries.


On the migration list of May first arrivals, look for Bonaparte's Gull, Eastern Nighthawks, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Catbirds, Wood Thrush, Eastern Yellow Warbler, Bobolink, American Oriole and Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Lots of other neo-tropical birds will follow soon as they migrate north from South and Central America. Keep the binoculars handy at all times with a good bird book to verify what you see.


Many migrating birds are now returning to Central Iowa. Bring your lunch or a snack and join MCCB Naturalist Diane Pixler on Thursday, May 6 from 9 to 11 a.m. for a Brown Bag Bunch Birding Hike at the Heart of Iowa Trail. Meet at the Rhodes Trailhead.


Registration for several upcoming MCCB programs opens May 3. Nature Friends is for preschoolers age 3 to 6 and an adult. Parents, grandparents or guardians engage in fun nature activities with their preschooler that can continue at home. It will be held June 10, 15, and 17 from 9 to 10 a.m. at various county parks. Cost is $8 per child.

Uncle Ike Day Camp is for students who have completed grades first through fifth. For this year's session, "Trash to Treasure Adventure," participants will adventure through the recycling process, go on a scavenger hunt, visit the landfill, and have fun turning trash into all kinds of treasures. Dates are June 30 July 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Izaak Walton League grounds. Cost is $15 per child.

Adventure Camp for grades sixth through eighth is Aug. 9 11. Camping out, Geocaching, star gazing, kayaking, wildlife watching, outdoor cooking, wild edibles and more will take place at the GrimesFarm Conservation Center and various county parks. Cost is approximately $100.

Register for these programs by calling the Marshall County Conservation Board offices at 752-5490. Space is limited for each of these programs.


A short reminder of the Bow Hunter Education Field Day to take place on May 15 from 9 a.m. to noon. This is for those interested in taking part in the Urban Deer Hunt in Marshalltown this fall. Participants must have completed the online part of the course at

Registration for the May Hunter Safety Class also opens May 3. The class will be held May 20, from 6 to 9 p.m. and May 22, from 8 a.m. 4 p.m. at the Izaak Walton League grounds. Students must be 12 years of age or older and attend both sessions. You can register by calling 752-5490 or online at Have the student's birth date and social security number ready.


IOWATER, Iowa's statewide volunteer water quality monitoring program, will host an Introductory IOWATER Workshop at the Tama County Nature Center located at Otter Creek Lake, rural Toledo on Aug. 28. For more information, please contact Bob Etzel, Tama County Conservation Board Director at 641/484-2231 or email at


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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