DEER are on the minds of lots of hunters this month. November is a magical time of cool air, frosty mornings and increasing movement of deer due to the breeding season. The "rut" as it is known to deer hunters, is primarily caused by the shortening of day length. The amount of daylight is less each day which triggers subtle chemical changes in its brain. Doe deer will cycle and buck deer will seek them out. It is nature's way.
Iowa shotgun seasons for deer begin Dec. 1 5 and the second half starts Dec. 8 16. Shotgun deer hunting is when the bulk of Iowa deer herd reduction work gets done. Up to this time, youth hunters, archers and early muzzleloader hunters have taken about 15,000 animals statewide. In Marshall County the deer taken number about 125. Within the city limits of Marshalltown, approximately 13 deer have been removed. That is 13 doe deer and their potential twin fawns for next spring that will not be living in the City. The city deer season goes through Jan. 29.
Managing Iowa's deer herd numbers is not simple. There are a lot of so called "coffee shop experts" who want easy answers to complex situations. The best advice for the public is to rely on professional wildlife biologists who have the knowledge, credibility, facts and long term trend line data that is science based and worthy of serious evaluation. I vote for the latter.
Melissa Ream took this nice whitetail buck on the last day of the early muzzle loader deer season, Oct. 21. She used a .50 caliber Hawkins to take the deer. The buck has about 15 measurable points. However, like all potential record book entries, a 60 day drying time is required before an official calculation of its antlers can be made. Whatever the eventual outcome, a very good hunter was in the right place at the right time this fall to take an excellent trophy deer. Congrats.
Iowa's deer numbers have been specifically managed to bring population trend lines down from the high point of 2005-06. By regulating the doe deer harvest goals and adding incentives for places such as southern Iowa with late season rifle hunting, the long term process of bringing deer numbers toward the mid 1990s levels are being achieved. This was a goal agreed to and set by a legislative committee more than ten years ago. The DNR needs to be allowed to implement those strategies to obtain population goals in more and more counties.
The next phase of deer management is to maintain herd levels where the goal has been reached. To do so, according to Dale Garner, Chief of the DNR Wildlife Bureau, hunters need to work with landowners and adjust doe deer kills in line with field observations. It can be done and will work. Accurate deer harvest reporting is the law and it is also an essential tool in the tool kit for biologists. It is in the long term best interest of Iowa deer hunters to fully cooperate with harvest reporting requirements. Just do it. It is easy.
The BOONE and CROCKETT CLUB has issued its 125th anniversary list of the top 125 counties in the USA for big game records. They have data going back to 1830 that has long been used by conservationists to gauge outstanding habitat, recruitment of game animals into older age classes, and sustainable harvest objectives. B & C also strongly endorses sound science based wildlife management and fair chase hunting. While many western stated dominate the entire list, Iowa gets noted. Allamakee County ranked 80th place with 34 typical whitetail deer recorded in the books. Clayton County is ranked 98th with 30 typical deer. And in southeast Iowa's Van Buren County with a ranking of 120th, 19 non-typical deer were submitted for B & C entries. These records reflect the best of the best. You will be able to see some of these trophies at Iowa's Deer Classic in early March, 2013 in Des Moines.
An interesting tidbit of information concerning MOUNTAIN LIONS was reported from central Illinois recently. A trail camera alleged to have recorded the image of a cougar walking a trail during the wee hours of the morning. Illinois conservation officers checked to out and all seemed to be authentic. Well, not so fast. The photo on the trail camera is now being evaluated more closely since an identical photo of a cougar from Wisconsin in 2011 is on record. How could two identical photos show up at different location in different years in different states? Authorities will check out to see if some high tech mis-information games are being deployed via the internet. Until the truth comes out, this incident is on hold. I'll bring you up to date when the facts come to the surface. Just be aware of the potential abuse of internet cyberspace communications.
FURBEARER SEASONS open at 8 a.m. Saturday for trappers to attempt to take critters such as raccoon, opossum, badger, striped skunk, coyote. mink, muskrat, weasel, fox (red and grey), beaver, otter or bobcat. As for otter and bobcat, the season has a quota and when that number is reached regardless of date, the season for these two critters closes. Page 21 of Iowa's hunting regulations booklet shows the map of counties in southern and western Iowa where bobcat may betaken. As always, proper licensing is required. Traps must be properly tagged.
Otter and bobcats must be reported to the local conservation officer within 24 hours of capture. Trappers do a great service for everyone when they remove critters that have the potential to become true pests. Raccoons fit this definition easily. In fact, for 2011, 326,368 raccoons were removed from the overall population. There is no reason to think that 2012 will be any different.
Dry weather conditions over much of Iowa this summer will require trappers to use water in rivers, lake margins or local ponds. Survey data on otter and bobcats has shown that these species could support additional takings. The bobcat quota did increase from 350 to 450 but retained the one animal per trapper limit without regard to whether it is hunted or trapped. Otter quota is at 850 for 2012. Iowa has about 17,000 fur trappers, up from 14,000 in 2009.
WATER at Green Castle lake south of Ferguson is dropping steadily. The draw down tube built into the spillway makes it easy and safe to let water out. It will take the lake down about 9.5 feet and leave a much smaller pool to manage. The 16 surface area lake will get reduced substantially. And in so doing, the fish will be concentrated and will no place to hide. The primary purpose for the lake drawdown is to facilitate the removal of common carp. Unfortunately all the fish are going to go from anglers first, then later on DNR fisheries application of rotenone poison in 2013. Local fishermen should take advantage of Green Castle's lowered water to take legal limits of game fishes.
While the lake is low, stake beds from previous lake work are being exposed. So to are pallet box frames, tire pyramids and hollow tube catfish nest sites. Fishermen should map the location of these fish structures now so that when the lake is eventually refilled, you will know where they are. As silt within the lake is exposed and dries, attempts to remove it will be evaluated. The Marshall County Conservation Board will study all feasible means to improve the lake bed for future better fishing. Stay tuned for more as time passes. And see for yourself what the lake bottom looks like as it continues to drop daily.
UNION GROVE STATE PARK is set to have additional protection for its watershed. A significant area of land above the lake is to be acquired through the generous donations of 54 people. The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is serving as the fundraiser clearinghouse for the project. The landsite itself lies to the north of the lake and is responsible for 40 percent of the watershed intake to the lake. Land management techniques will be installed to hold water before it has time to run off into Union Grove.
The lead donor for this important watershed improvement is the Lake & Park Holding Corporation with a leadership gift. Eight other donors of $1,000+ level will be recognized in signage at the site. Additional gifts will be welcomed and used for native grassland restorations. The INHF anticipates the land transfer to the Iowa DNR this winter. Restoration will take place in 2013. And the land will be open for public wildlife viewing, hiking and hunting. Good job everyone!
Ask the Game Warden: Who must one show a hunting, fishing or trapping license to? Answer: Any conservation officer, state or county; any state trooper, county sheriff's deputy, or landowner/tenant. Remember that license fees paid are the main source of funding for wildlife and fisheries programs. Those funds leveraged with other state and/or federal cost share dollars make conservation possible on the land where it counts.
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.