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Keeping the hunting dog sharp is a year long effort 

August 28, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER are still with us, pun intended. For more than 60 students at the last hunter safety class for the year last weekend, held at the Marshall County Izaak Walton League grounds, they had the opportunity to watch a very well trained dog find, point and fetch game birds or decoys. Dogs trained to work with mankind in all kinds of tasks are a distinct pleasure to see. And the dogs enjoy knowing what to do and when to do it as their intense training has prescribed. At the end of the day, the reward for the dog is a warm dry bed, good food and well earned pats on the head for a job well done. The reward for the hunter is great companionship and game not lost.

Duck or goose hunting ventures are where many dogs are used to help the hunter get the game back to the shooter at the blind, boat or cattail lined shore. A swim in icy cold water is not the impediment to the dog that it would be for the shooter. Likewise, pheasant hunters can count on the olfactory powers of the dog to find birds, point them and locate them after they burrow into thick grassy vegetation.


Article Photos

Nici the dog returns to shore at the Izaak Walton League pond last Saturday during a noontime demonstration of how a well trained dog can assist a hunter in retrieving game birds. Nici was trained by Joe Furrow to heed all voice commands and/or combinations of whistle signals. Fall hunting seasons will soon arrive. Hunters with a well trained dog can make the hunt so much more effective and pleasurable.

PHEASANT ROADSIDE COUNTS are wrapping up with the details being compiled during the next few weeks. Locally, a few pheasant routes made by Rick Trine, DNR Central District Wildlife Supervisor, tell us what we may have already suspected: low numbers of birds with hint of determination to pull off nests even during very trying times.

A final summary and analysis of the 2010 fall roadside pheasant routes will be published soon. Trine has heard from other biologists to confirm that most routes have very low numbers of birds. Too much rain and subsequent flooding were big factors. Grassland habitats converted to crops was a huge factor.

In one of Trine's routes in Grundy County, the numbers were double from last year but still low. Pheasant chicks ranged in size from obviously late hatched nests to well grown young of the year from the earliest hatches. The latter would have come from nests before all the big rains began. The former would speak to the determination of hen pheasants to try and try again to bring off a successful nest. A biological fact of pheasants is that they have only one successful hatch for the year. They do not nest again for a second or third attempt. What people see as various sized pheasant young is the first successful hatch for that particular hen pheasant. She is done for the year after that first hatch.

This author can attest to the range of pheasant chicks he has seen from small to large. If Mother Nature were to smile on us during the next three years with relatively warm and dry spring weather, pheasant populations would respond to the best of their ability in any available habitat.

A new nest of pheasant eggs needs 23 days of incubation. The average nest size is 12 eggs. In good weather, biologists estimated 40 to 60 percent nest success. Of those nests that hatch, only 50 percent will live through the first winter, with or without hunting figured in. Pheasants do best (survival rates of up to 95 percent) with a mild winter in good habitat to see the next spring. Survival rates drop to 20 percent if winter weather is severe combined with poor habitat.

Iowa's pheasant season will begin on October 23 and 24th for youth. The main season begins on October 30th at 0800 and ends each day at 1630 (4:30pm) through January 10, 2011. Daily limit will stay at three rooster birds and a possession limit is 12 on or after the fourth day.


DUCKS UNLIMITED's annual TRAP SHOOT and fundraiser event is tomorrow, Sunday August 29th at the Marshall Gun Club located west of the Marshalltown airport. Preliminary rounds begin at 1100 for practice. Two rounds for score will follow. For $30, you can enter this fun event and help the ducks and their habitats. Anyone is welcome to try their hand at splitting clay birds out of the sky. The entry fee includes a noon lunch. Help DU with your attendance.


This years FEDERAL MIGRATORY BIRD STAMP features a widgeon as painted by artist Robert Bealle. The stamp is available at major post offices for $15 and is a required item in addition to a state hunting license and state duck stamp fee to hunt any migratory waterfowl or bird such as woodcock. The effective date of the widgeon stamp is July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

Federal Duck Stamp dollars are used to purchase wetlands and other valuable habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System, which benefits many different birds, mostly non-game, and other wildlife species. For more than 75 years, waterfowl hunters and stamp collectors have been the mainstay of the Federal Duck Stamp program, providing much needed revenue to conserve the most important wetland and grassland habitats. All avid birders, hunters or not, would do well to purchase a Federal Migratory Bird Stamp. This is truly putting your money where it counts the most and does the best work.


The new wetland complex at the Iowa River Wildlife Area along the Sand Road is working well to do what was intended. Tall grasses surround the shallow water basins. Great blue herons, white egrets, wild turkey and local ducks and geese use the area now. Early migrating blue wing teal are on its waters right now. Look for more to come as the fall season approaches. Binoculars or spotting scopes from a car window in the new parking lot will provide just the right vantage point to observe many wildlife species. Enjoy


Here is a bit of bird trivia: Chickadee males and females look alike to us humans. However, the birds can see the light spectrum in portions of the ultra violet range. To them, boy and girl chickadees look different. I guess that is all that counts.


Registration is now open for the MCCB's Canoe/Kayak & Cook program scheduled for Saturday, September 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy a short float on the Iowa River by canoe or kayak followed by an outdoor cooking demonstration at Three Bridges. Pre-registration is required by Friday, September 3 by calling 752-5490. Bring your own canoe or kayak or reserve through the MCCB (single kayak $22.50, double kayak or canoe $27) Cost for cooking demo is $4 per person.


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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