TURKEYS can be tough birds to hunt. Excellent eyesight and excellent hearing combine to put this critter on survival mode most of the time. But in the spring, when territories and mating urges are prominent, tom turkeys can make mistakes. It is never easy but when it all comes together, they are vulnerable. Such was the case when special hunting blinds are made available at DeSoto NWR for qualified hunters. With the assistance of Howard Messerer, Mills was set up to try again for Iowa's largest game bird. With a hen and tom decoy set up, a bit of calling and waiting, it was too much for a wild tom to ignore. He came to investigate. Now this particular Tom turkey will be awaiting the cook stove at the Mills home for a future turkey dinner. Congrats John on a job well done.
Statewide, tom turkeys have been finding new homes in the freezers owned by hunters. As of now, well over 6,000 turkeys have been reported. Marshall County hunters have at least 27 of that count. Several northeast or eastern Iowa counties top the list as far as numbers are concerned. Allamakee has 205, Clayton with 235 and Jackson has 226. Many other counties have more than 100 birds each on their list.
Turkey seasons continue with the fourth season dates of May 2 through May 20.
John Mills of Marshalltown took part in the handicapped hunt at DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge in western Iowa recently. Special blinds have been established for handicapped access to allow hunters to continue to enjoy spring turkey seasons. Mills took this 22 pound tom turkey at 18 yards while it was preoccupied within very close range of the gobbler decoy in the background of today's photo. Mills took the bird at 6:15 p.m. on April 22.
Another big bird, in this case a CANADA GOOSE, has made her nest in the top of a storm broken tree at Marshalltown's Riverview Cemetery. It is not untypical for geese to find safe perches for nest sites, even in trees, rocky ledges, on top of muskrat houses, artificial nest boxes on top of steel posts or other odd places. When it comes time for the cygnets to leave the nest, they will have something in common with their wood duck cousins, a free fall to the ground. Due to their light weight and heavy down covering, they will bounce like ping pong balls for a bit before following mother to water. It all works out okay.
Last week this scribe attended the dedication of the new wildlife observation platform at Otter Creek Marsh. The deck is shaped like the outstretched wings of an eagle, in this case a 48 foot wingspan eagle. It is an impressive deck with several informational panels with photographs to tell the story about wetlands and wildlife. Otter Creek Marsh has about 3,600 acres of land and seasonally flooded water areas.
Approximately 40 people showed up along with a bus load of kids from the Meskwaki settlement. Bill Horine of Nevada was one guest speaker who spoke of his early adventures with Bald Eagles in Iowa at a time when it was quite rare to do so. Representative of the Iowa DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also made brief comments. Otter Creek Marsh is part of the core area for the Iowa River Corridor, a 45 mile long stretch of private and public lands from Montour in Tama County to the Homestead area of Iowa County. Within this corridor, a designated Bird Conservation Area, it is possible to see and document over 238 species of birds. That would take a lot of looking but it can and has been done.
The Iowa DNR, USFWS, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Audubon and others are working together to keep this habitat suitable for many birds and other wildlife. A great benefit to all people and wildlife is the cleansing effect marshes and wetlands have to work as a filter to clean up runoff water.
Here is another example of intense bird watching activity. In Texas yesterday, April 28, a special team of observers attempted to set a new record for the most species of birds seen in one 24 hour period. Five people from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology worked a triangular area the San Antonio vicinity, to the Hill Country and then east to Galveston. Sponsors have pledged financial support of the Lab in excess of $250,000 if they can see more than 264 species of birds. Top on the list will be feathered critter like the Rufous-capped warbler in the Hill Country, a species typically found from Mexico south into Central America. Fewer that 50 documented records exist for this bird in Texas. We will see in the near future if they were successful. Stay tuned.
MUSKIES are big predatory fish of the Great Lakes region of Iowa. In form they resemble a northern pike only much bigger when adult size. For those that dedicate their fishing time to muskies, it is known of the fish of 1,000 casts, meaning that one will do a lot of casting before a strike may happen. Iowa DNR fisheries personnel at Spirit Lake have finished collection of muskie eggs for this year. They have learned how to successfully raise this prize fish to stockable size.
Catching muskies happens in conjunction with netting of walleye when egg gathering time happens each spring. Muskies have a sex ratio of about one female for every three males. From the eggs collected, approximately 1.2 million, only 40 percent wil be viable and about 35 percent will hatch. For muskies, this is excellent. From that, 4,000 muskies will be grown to stockable sizes of 11 to 14 inches at the Rathbun hatchery in south central Iowa. Iowa has an excellent track record of growing these fish, enough so that they can trade muskies to Missouri, South Dakota, Nebraska and Michigan in exchange for Channel catfish, walleye, smallmouth bass and yellow perch.
During alternate years, those 11 to 14 inch muskies will be stocked at Spirit Lake, West and East Okoboji. Clear Lake, Brushy Creek Lake, Big Creek, Three Mile Lake, Pleasant Creek Lake, Lake McBride and Lake Sugema.
Mark May 19 at the date to attend an excess equipment sale by the Iowa DNR at the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Pre-registration starts at 7 a.m., doors open at 8 a.m. for inspection, and the sale begins at 9 a.m. There will be 550 firearms for sale, plus archery equipment and tree stands. Many of the items were court ordered forfeitures from violations of Iowa conservation laws that game wardens seized as part of their investigations. All items will be sold as is. Permits to purchase will be needed in advance from your home county Sheriff's office.
If you are interested in native plants for landscape work or flower bed, contact Diane Hall at the Conservation Center to sign up P3, Praire Plant Propagation. This program will take place on May 10 from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Grimes Farm. Pre-register by May 4 by calling 752-5490. The program will cover the basics of identification, seed collection, plant propagation and other landscaping tips.
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.