WILD TURKEYS are our largest game bird. They are tough rascals able to endure cold winters, hot summers and predators big and small. They survive in part due to habitat that has been preserved by hunters willing to put their money where their mouth is and support long term science based wildlife management programs that help wild turkeys and many other species of critters.
Trapping live birds and relocating them to other suitable habitats has been a long term activity of the Nation Wild Turkey Federation. Nationally, live trapping this past spring tallied the 200,000th wild turkey. This happened when volunteers captured more than 15 Gould's wild turkeys in southern Arizona in Coronado Canyon. Number 200,000 was one of those 15 that were later released into Gardner Canyon, an area with suitable habitat but no turkeys.
Marshall County's eastern wild turkey stocking began in the mid-1980s with captured birds from southeast Iowa brought to the Le Grand area and to Grammer Grove County Park. In each of the two releases, 10 hens and four toms spread their wings when NWTF boxes were opened and the birds took flight. Their success has allowed that initial group to expand up and down the Iowa River valley. Today's hen turkey photo is the result of those stocking efforts nearly 25 years ago.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
A hen turkey suns herself during a mid morning break from her nesting duties. Wild turkeys are a wildlife management success story in Iowa. To help celebrate that accomplishment and help raise dollars for future ‘on-the-land’ conservation programs, the local National Wild Turkey Federation’s Mid Iowa Tom Callers will host a Hunting Heritage Banquet on July 16 at the American Legion Golf Course lower level meeting room. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., dinner is at 7 p.m., and prizes and auction items will round out the evening. All aspiring or current turkey hunters of all ages are encouraged to attend.
Wild turkey populations were very low in the early 1900s. State natural resources departments cooperated with turkey advocates to make habitat available and to reintroduce this native bird back to areas where it had traditionally ranged. There are more than 7 million wild turkeys today, making it the second-most popular game bird species in the USA. America has 2.5 million hunters who pursue turkey each spring. Hunting these big birds now takes place in 49 states plus areas of Canada and Mexico.
To capture wild turkeys, the invention of propelled nets, which are cast above a group of feeding birds, allow for the safe mass capture of the flock. In 1973, the NWTF was formed as a private partner to assist state DNRs with funding for land and equipment to trap the birds. This allowed for an impressive expansion of turkey re-introductions. Today, wild turkeys occupy 99 percent of all suitable habitat in North America. The focus now centers on improving and conserving upland habitat, essential to sustaining healthy populations.
A National Wild Turkey Federation membership is a great way to support the organization. Participation in the local banquet is a way to be active in on-going conservation efforts. NWTF also has the youth program called "Jakes." Women are represented too with "Women in the Outdoors." Special needs hunters get represented through "Wheel'n Sportsmen" whereby these folks get outside to hunt this impressive game bird. Since 1977, NWTF banquets and other fundraising events have brought in more than $4.6 million for research and have allowed wildlife agencies to leverage additional dollars at approximately a 3 to 1 ratio. Locally, the Iowa River Wildlife Area acquisition several years ago was made possible in part by a very generous donation from Iowa's NWTF. That is a job well done.
The NWTF banquet is next Saturday night at the American Legion. Tickets will be available at the door starting at 5:30 p.m. For advance ticket info call Michael Thronton at 641-202-7024 or his cell at 816-294-3302. Member of the NWTF can buy just the meal for $15. An annual membership and meal is $45 per person or $60 per couple. Youth "Jake" tickets are $20. Sponsor tickets will cost $260. I'll see you there.
The Decorah BALD EAGLES got a lot of computer video time this spring. Now that the three eaglets have flown away and are learning how to make a living on their own, here are some interesting statistics to share. The first egg was laid at 5:33 p.m. on Feb. 23; the second on Feb. 26 at 6:42 p.m. and the third and last on March 2 at 6:47 p.m. Hatchings took place on April 2, 3 and 6. The nest is 80 feet above the ground in a cottonwood tree. It is six feet across and four feet deep. It is estimated to weigh about 1,000 pounds! The adult pair of eagles have been together since 2007-08. She was 4 years old at that time. They successfully hatched and fledged two eaglets in 2008, 3 in 2009, 3 in 2010 and 3 in 2011. Thanks to the Raptor Resource Center for a job well done.
As for another big bird, I tried counting the TURKEY VULTURES either roosting or going to roost earlier this week during pre-sunset on the tall communications tower located west of Marshalltown on West Main Street Road. I quit at 75. More birds were circling to find a perch. There has got to be a lot of white-wash on the tower frame. Turkey vultures are part of nature's clean up crew. They all have a job to do. Evidently vulture life must be pretty good. How many vultures have you counted? I'd like to know.
The Marshall County Conservation Board invites the public to "Bike Linn Creek" on Wednesday from 8:30 10:00 a.m. Participants should pre-register by Monday by calling the Marshall County Conservation Board at 641-752-5490. The group will meet at the GrimesFarm (2359 233rd St.) and bike on the Linn Creek Recreational Trail. The distance ridden that morning will be determined by the participants. Naturalist, Diane Hall said, "Come enjoy the sights and sounds of nature along the bike trail as we take a leisurely, morning ride."
Linn Creek Recreational Trail is a hard-surfaced linear trail which is 7.98 miles between the GrimesFarm and Riverview Park. Trail users can observe views of river bottom timber and marshes as well as prairie grasses and wildflowers.
The Marshall County Conservation Board announces registration is open for the "Wild and Woodsy Nature Sketching" program to be held at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center (2359 233rd St.) on July 20 from 6:30 7:30 p.m. Local artist, Anita Gummert, will instruct participants in simple nature sketching techniques. Participants should bring a lawn chair or blanket, small sketchpad and a pencil; colored pencils and/or watercolors are optional. The program will include both indoor and outdoor sessions. Marshall County Conservation Board Naturalist Diane Hall said, "Let nature inspire your creative side!" There is no charge for this program, but participants should pre-register by July 15 by calling 641-752-5490.
Advice from a Loon: Spend time at a lake; Enjoy a good swim; Call your friends; A little color goes a long way; Surround yourself in beauty; Enjoy time alone; Dive into life.
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.