This is the IOWA DEER CLASSIC weekend in Des Moines. With well over 20,000 people coming through the doors, this show speaks well for the interest associated with whitetail deer. For 2011, there are more exhibits and more room to shop. One can plan hunting trips with outfitters from all over the USA, Canada or Africa. Continuous informative stage presentations and seminars are being offered. In addition, the Big Buck contest, a 300 Archery tournament and the National Archery High School Championships will conclude today. Special guests include Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Chuck Adams, Wayne Carlton and many more.
Classic Antlers by Klaus is the name of just one exhibit. Ten of the most amazing whitetails ever seen are on display. One deer is named the Minnesota Monarch due to it being the largest set of shed antlers ever found, scoring in the upper 290's! The other deer on display are from across the state of Iowa, Illinois and Canada. An additional activity is the live animal display in the Polk County Convention Complex with a live grizzly bear, a 700 pound black bear, cougars, wolves and coyotes.
While Iowa may be known for its big deer, not every tree has one of those big bucks hiding behind the branches. The reality is that Iowa has a good population of deer for which the overall population is being managed to hold it within socially acceptable limits. A small percentage of bucks survive the rigors of weather, hunting and using their own cunning ability to stay out of the limelight. When they survive it to old age, for deer that is 5 to 7 years of age, some impressive antlers can grow. Every year, some hunter will be in the right place at the right time to take a buck that will make a truly impressive trophy. Those trophies and the memories that go with it are part of the draw for Iowa's Deer Classic.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
The 2011 Iowa Deer Classic is underway this weekend in Des Moines. A wall of deer mounts will be on display at many locations plus a huge array of products and services related to the outdoor adventures of deer hunting. This is one of the premier winter “cabin fever” great get-aways for Iowa sportsmen, women and kids. Come join the fun at Hy-Vee Hall.
Every hunter knows that it does not take big antlers to qualify a deer as a "trophy." That first doe deer or a first fork horned critter taken while sitting with grandfather along an old weedy creek bottom are just a few examples of the long lasting memories that deer and deer hunting history is made of. In the end, the memories of a fair pursuit of the whitetail, legally taken and with high ethical standards of conduct during the hunt will last longer than the deer head on the wall.
RIVER ICE went away last week. A few ice jams worked in favor of spilling excesses into the floodplain of the Iowa River valley. The river has settled somewhat back into its banks without ice in one of the earliest ice-outs for an Iowa winter. The likelihood of river ice reforming in any significant thickness between now and the end of March is very small. Thus the transition to spring will be eased a bit by the lack of river ice from this point forward.
Ducks and geese are starting to filter northward, no big pushes yet, but just enough to tease and excite the heart and eyes of outdoor adventurers. Now is the time to watch for more Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Snow Geese, and an assemblage of ducks as spring relentlessly gathers strength. As usual, birds of prey will follow the geese, looking for an injured bird to capture and eat. A good number of bald eagles can be found wherever the geese are concentrated during resting time.
What is one of the hardest birds to decoy? It would be an adult Snow Goose, one that has a few years migration experience. Ask any dedicated Snow Goose hunter and you will get many stories of things that did not go well compared to those that did. To lure them into range takes lots of hard work, lots of decoys, good planning and luck. When it all comes together, the sight of Snows or Ross's Geese with cupped wings making a low final pass to land next to you is awe-inspiring.
Due to the overpopulation of Snow Geese and Ross's Geese, the tundra habitat in the areas west of Cape Churchill, Manitoba have been severely depleted and degraded. The ripple effect of habitat changes affects other wildlife too. In general, these geese are in very good body condition from eating well over the winter in the coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana. For the past several years, a special 'conservation order' from the US Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized spring goose seasons for light colored geese. Those seasons run through April 15th in Iowa.
Seeing thousands of geese of any species is always a thrilling sight. Concentration points include areas such as Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri or the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa. Both are prime places to seek out spring waterfowl in large numbers. On the right day, one need only step out your backdoor, no travel needed, and raise binoculars to the sky and listed to the honking of huge flocks headed north. The sound of honking geese stirs the imagination of land bound people today just like it has for centuries in the past. When it happens, soak it up and enjoy.
OUTDOOR JOURNEY for GIRLS camps are getting organized for this summer. The local chapter of Pheasants Forever will assist with full or partial scholarships for most attendees. Camp activities are held at Springbrook State Park near Guthrie Center on June 15 -17 and Aug. 3 - 5. The three days, two nights schedule introduces girls ages 12-15 to a wide variety of outdoor skills in a supportive and fun learning environment. It is a hands-on type of learning experience.
Instructors for the camp include DNR officers, biologists, county naturalists, soil specialists and Iowa State personnel. Activities include canoeing and water safety, fish identification, archery, furbearers, firearm safety, conservation management, camping outdoors, orienteering, game care and cooking.
Outdoor Journey is sponsored by the Iowa DNR and Iowa Women in Natural Resources. The local contact person for the Marshall County area is Steve Warden, Pheasants Forever Youth Coordinator. Call him at 641-485-3422 to obtain an application and investigate potential scholarships for this fun summer activity.
Do remember to attend the March 12 annual membership banquet for the Iowa River Valley Chapter of DUCKS UNLIMITED. The Regency Inn at Marshalltown is the place, 5 p.m. is the time for the doors to open, and 7 p.m. is the time for serving the meal. DU and its many functions across the USA help raise much needed funding to assist in wetland conservation programs. You can help by joining DU. A ticket for the 2011 event will cost $40 if purchased before March 5. At the door the price is $45. This year, 13 very nice sporting arms will be given away to lucky raffle ticket holders. Call Rich Naughton at 752-7197 for advance tickets.
Many education activities are being held in March by Marshall County Conservation.
A Brown Bag Lunch will be held March 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the GrimesFarm with the topic on Hunts Highlights. Bring your lunch or a snack and join the naturalist for an informal program.
Junior Conservationists for sixth through eighth graders will be held on March 16 from 2:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. The session is called "Branching Out" and will teach you how trees benefit us and how you can help. If you are interested contact the Conservation Center at 752-5490 for a permission slip and to register.
Uncle Ike Nature Program for grades first through fifth (family members welcome), will be held on March 12 at the GrimesFarm Conservation Center. The program is cosponsored by the MCCB and the Izaak Walton League. This award winning program is FREE. "Exciting Cycles of Nature" is this year's theme. The March 12 session is called "Animals Go Round," Do animals always stay the same? Explore the natural changes some animals make during their lifetime.
Preschoolers and adults are invited to listen to fun nature stories, take a walk and explore nature's wonders for Nature Story Hour. Join us on the first and third Wednesdays each month. March sessions will be held March 2 and 16 from 10 to 11 a.m.
Wit or wisdom? Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
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.