Christmas trees are about to be dismantled. Ornaments will be tucked away for another year. Memories of family and friends will linger long into 2013 with new photographs and those useful gifts that were once so neatly wrapped under that tree. Good times were had by all. Except perhaps a few Christmas tree poachers that is.
Who would steal a tree from a nice grove or tree farm? A thief with a severe lack of brain power, no conscience and mischief on his mind. It happens every year someplace in the this country. Consider this. What happens if that stolen tree is brought indoors, placed in a stand, decorated and then, little by little, the room, no the whole house, starts to stink? Blame the stink on fox urine spray placed on the targeted trees by the rightful owners. That is exactly what was done earlier this month in many places to ward off tree thieves.
Something had to be done to save the windbreak trees that had just got a good start in life. Lovingly planted, watered and mulched, the conifer trees would grow in time to make a windbreak and beautify the landscaping for the homeowner. Then one day, you notice a gap in the trees. One of the 7 to 8 year old white pines, spruces or concolor firs is gone, cut off during the wee hours of the morning by thieves. There is a fix is to prevent more trees from being stolen.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY CAITLYN BRANDENBURG
Finishing off a walnut, this snow bound fox squirrel endures the snow and cold weather under a thick fur coat. Its hairy coat is so well insulating that snowflakes on its head are not melting. Winter wildlife watching is easier with snow on the ground.
Here is what the Marshall County Conservation Board staff did for several years at some of your park and conservation areas. I directed the staff to mix up a concoction of fox urine purchased at a trapper's supply house, mix it with some glycerin and a bit of water, and spray all the trees that we thought might be too attractive to thieves. Sometimes we "forgot" to place the sign nearby that said ... beware, trees protected with stinky fox urine. At other times we did post the sign. Tree thievery went way down. Somebody someplace had to learn the hard way that the free tree was going to smell once inside a warm house. Outside the fox urine spray would likely go un-noticed in the cold winter air ... except to all the real foxes ... who must have wondered how big the 'invader' fox was that came and marked an entire 6 or 7 foot tall tree!
You can recycle your natural Christmas tree. Save it for a temporary addition outside next to the bird feeder. Use its braches to hold pine cones filled with peanut butter mixed with bird seed. It works. Or another idea is to turn it into mulch for the flower bed or other landscaping needs. People with a farm pond can collect several trees, wire them together tightly, then sink them with several attached concrete blocks through a hole in the ice. Fish will use the trees as cover to hide in.
This late fall, the local Izaak Walton League sold 44 trees for Christmas. They already have plans to purchase and plant several hundred white pine in the spring of 2013 as a compliment other trees they already have invested time and energy to grow. In about six years, the new trees may be of sufficient size to be ready for Christmas 2019. Christmas tree growers have to plan way ahead to plant the initial stock for their own market. An entire tree farm could have six to seven or even eight different age classes of trees, depending upon species and time to grow them big enough for you or me to purchase. As in any business, there is a big investment of time and money up front before the first tree sold brings in some cash. Just something to think about.
DEER seasons for shotgun No. 2 ended on the Dec. 16. Iowa deer hunters took an additional 7,100 +/- deer to bring the grand total for 2012 from all seasons, to date, to about 94,885 animals. There will be additional deer taken by late muzzleloader hunters and archers. The late January rifle season in southern Iowa will add a few more deer to the grand total.
I visited with a friend in Grundy County who's daughter asked her dad about bow hunting this fall, her first deer hunt ever. She got the bow and all the right gear set up just for her. She did a bit of tree stand time with dad and/or near her dad's stand. Opportunities to take a doe or small buck came and went. She told her father the deer were too small. She'd wait. Well, she was patient and when a good sized antlered buck came by on a subsequent hunting foray, she arrowed the critter just as she had planned. Good job.
Deer Story number two: A local man asked me to green score his nice buck taken in Marshall County during the second season. He sure is proud of it. I would be too. This deer is one that people only dream about. When asked if he knew about this deer in advance, had scouted it, knew its habits and all that stuff so he could be in place to shoot it, he said "no." He was just in the right place at the right time, on public land, waiting and watching when he saw doe deer. He was about ready to pull the trigger on the doe when he noticed off to the side, a very nice 10 pointer. Quickly he reset his sights on the buck, squeezed the trigger, and the buck dropped. It's green score is in the 150 plus range. Sixty days or more drying time will have to expire before I put the official measuring tapes to work.
This scribe is also an official measurer for the Pope and Young Club, a widely respected conservation organization and the official records clearing house/records keeper for any of the 29 species of North American big game animals taken exclusively with bow and arrow. I have been a measurer since July 2004 which allows me to interact with archers about their hunts, the animal they want to honor in the record books, and to promote the P &Y Club in all of its education and conservation programs. I have measured white tailed deer, mule deer, elk, Quebec caribou, Woodland caribou, Elk, moose and black bear. Not too many Iowans I know have been to the arctic to take Musk Ox. But should that happen, I can run the tape for official scores on that species too. It is fun to do.
Last week's photo of the Eurasian Collared Dove brought some comments. Where did they come from was one question. Actually this bird is relatively new to the United States. They made their way here on their own from the Bahamas where several birds escaped from a pet shop during the mid 1970s as a result of a burglary. The pet shop owner then released the remaining 50 birds to go where ever they wanted to fly. Fly they did ... all the way to Florida. From Florida, they have spread all the way to the west coast and most midwest states. It does not seem to like the northeast part of America. Anyway, the collared dove is larger than its cousin the mourning dove by about one-third. They can drink water with their heads down, as if drinking from a straw. Other birds have to get a bill of water, raise their head and then allow the water to flow into its throat. You can expect the collared dove to be a regular visitor to any well maintained bird feeding station.
I'll see you next year. HAPPY NEW YEAR.
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.