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Shotgun deer seasons a primary management tool

December 3, 2011
By GARRY BRANDENBURG , Times-Republican

SHOTGUN DEER SEASON number one begins today, Dec 3rd. This method of hunting is very popular with hunters and is the primary method in the tool box of wildlife biologists and managers to hold the overall deer population in check. It is a delicate balancing act; to strive for enough deer but not too many deer. It is similar to walking a tight rope across the Grand Canyon on a windy day for DNR officials. It is easy to slip off the rope and fall. If history is any indication of the stories to come after the 2011-12 season is over, there will plenty of finger pointing by every special interest (non-biologists and Legislators included) into what went wrong. They will have their version of easy solutions to what is in truth a complex situation. The biologists get it pegged about right year after year. We have to give them credit.

However, the big picture everyone should focus on is what went right...and continues to go right in regards to management of the deer herd. Facts: Deer numbers have been brought downward from the highs of 2005-06 each and every year since then. Special urban and state or county park area hunts are on-going and have helped thin deer in 'refuge' areas. Many counties in Iowa are at desired management levels now and undoubtedly more will join those ranks in the future. Areas of southern Iowa with more deer continue to get extra attention including a January rifle season. DNR biologists and managers deserve a pat-on-the-back for staying the course to apply sound science based methods on deer control.

Landowners get a good 'feel' for wildlife surviving on their lands. Dale Garner, DNR wildlife bureau chief calls for hunters and landowners to work together to adjust the number of doe deer taken in any one area. Those sentiments, plus biological fact finding, will help paint a new picture of the surviving deer herd going into the spring of 2012. When all the numbers are in from the mandatory deer harvest registration system in late January 2012, plus any aerial counts this winter and the spring 2012 spotlight survey, there should be good correlation to confirm on-going downward trend lines for deer. The 2012-13 deer season recommendations will take all the above into account as the DNR strives to manage the deer herd.

Article Photos

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Wild turkeys may be one bonus sighting by Iowa shotgun deer hunters this weekend. This group of about 40 turkeys was captured by this scribe’s camera earlier this week along the Iowa River bottoms. Fall turkey license holders state wide have taken about 700 birds primarily as a bonus during youth, early muzzle loader or archery deer seasons. Statewide deer numbers from all seasons to date indicated nearly 33,000 animals taken out of the population. Now it will be the shotgun deer hunter’s turn to apply pressure to take the majority of deer this season.

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Rules and regulations for deer are important; both for the safety of hunters and for keeping lawful fair chase elements in place. Deer hunters need a formulated a plan with others of the party. Be safe; know where all the hunters are going to be. No deer is worth an injury or death to humans. A deer hunter may only carry their own license. Party hunters need to communicate well to insure all deer taken have sufficient tags for those deer. Buck deer should be tagged on the antlers, doe deer on the leg. A youth deer license holder with an unfilled tag may hunt during one of the shotgun seasons. However, the youth must follow the weapons restrictions in place and be under direct supervision of a licensed adult. Youth must take their own deer, i.e. no party hunt rule here. All deer must be reported to the deer harvest reporting system by phone or on-line, report is easiest via the computer.

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This scribe has, as of mid week, 103.5 hours of tree stand time. My comparison of deer observed last year to this year for the same number of hours shows some interesting numbers. Although non-scientific, I did use scientific methods to keep all my data an apples-to-apples approach. During 2010-11 deer season, with the same 103.5 hours on the books, I tallied a total of 179 sightings for an average sighting per hour of effort at 1.73. For 2011-12 season, my deer sightings per hour of effort is at 1.43, or a reduction in deer numbers of about 17 percent. That is my own personal data, not to be extrapolated to any other locations.

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A WHITE DEER, a doe, died this past week along Interstate highway 80 in Jasper County near Baxter. It had been struck by a car. It had been seen many times during the last several years and literally hundreds of calls were made to game warden Kirby Bragg about it. People were always curious about this white deer. A set of brown colored fawns were born to her last spring. Her white genes may be carried on through her offspring. Deer that are predominantly white cannot be taken by hunters, the result of legislative action several decades ago. This is an example of a law based on emotion, not biology.

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EAGLE watching takes on a new perspective when you see one below you. Last week while indulging in an Iowa River foray in this scribe's aircraft, I set the flight controls for slow flight at an altitude of 500 feet. In this configuration, it gives me time to more carefully observe the land below. That is when it happened. A mature bald eagle with its wings outstretched drifted silently below me as we safely bypassed each other in the shared skies of Marshall County. Neat stuff indeed.

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We are only five days away from the latest sunsets for the year, 4:38 pm from December 8th through the 11th. On December 12, sunset will be one minute later. As for sunrises however, the times do not level out until Jan. 2 through the 7 at 7:39 am. On Jan. 8, sunrise will be one minute earlier. Officially winter solstice in on December 22nd, 2011. I like Christmas time for all the family get togethers, shared fun and the fact that day lengths are only going to get longer for the next six months.

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Remember, real CHRISTMAS TREES belong with the season. Get your real tree at the Izaak Walton League this weekend, or next or until December 18th last day. Cost is $25 for non Ikes members.

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The Marshall County Conservation Board announces the opening of registration for "Sprucin' Up", an Evergreen swag making workshop to be held Dec. 6 from 11:30 a.m. 1 p.m. at the GrimesFarm and Conservation Center (2359 233rd Street). This event kicks off the winter Brown Bag Bunch series. After lunch, Marshall County Conservation Board naturalist Diane Hall will introduce participants to a variety of evergreens such as pines, spruces, firs, and cedars and how to tell them apart. Participants will then have the opportunity to make an evergreen swag to take home. Participants should bring their own lunch, gloves, and pruners. Pre-registration is recommended by calling the Marshall County Conservation Board at 641-752-5490.

The GrimesFarm and Conservation Center is located at 2359 233rd street off Highland Acres Road between Iowa Avenue and West Lincoln Way.

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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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