The recent DEER CLASSIC is now in the history books. Despite severe cold, snow, wind, more snow, exhibitors and the public turned out in force to fill Hy-Vee Hall and the basement of Veterans Auditorium with exhibits. More than 300 booth spaces were rented to vendors with just about everything imaginable related to hunting in one way or another. And when the doors opened at 3 p.m. last Friday, people started to stream in. By the close of the show last Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., approximately 20,000 people passed through the ticket taker doors.
As today's photo illustrates, deer were the main focus for the event. Since whitetail are the only major big game species that is found in Iowa in abundance, it stands to reason that decades of interest and enthusiasm would culminate in a special show just for this animal. The Deer Classic has been going on for a long time. However during the past decade, Iowa Show Productions, Inc. based in Waterloo has improved the standard of the overall show to a high level particularly for the visiting public. Behind the scenes preparations for a huge exhibition such is this is a year long process. What the public sees is the best part, the tip of the exhibit "iceberg" while all the planning and preparations needed to pull it off go largely unnoticed. A great tip-of-the-hat to the entire staff of Iowa Show Productions for a job well done. And I might add, this scribe is just one of many that devotes considerable time before, during and after the show to help make the Deer Classic a classic act.
Here are a few numbers to think about regarding Iowa deer and the trophies brought to the show. For the 2014 event, hunters entered 245 deer of which 47 had large enough antlers to allow them to be candidates into the prestigious Boone and Crockett record books if the owner so desires to do so. A bit of comparison with past years shows a decrease in entries from 2013's show. During 2013, there were 361 entries but only 45 potential Boone and Crockett candidates. The decrease this year can be speculated in part due to adverse weather and bad road conditions in many parts of the state that forced some deer head owners to wait until next year. Another factor is that Iowa's deer population is way down. Hunters saw fewer deer and thus a much smaller percentage of large antlered bucks. A third factor affecting the overall deer numbers was the drought enhanced disease called EHD, a disease transmitted to deer by an insect called the midge. It tends to affect big buck deer and their vulnerable antlers during the velvet stage. A rich blood supply feeding the antler growth is easily penetrated by the insect. Whatever the mix of factors, big buck entries at this year's Classic were way down.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
This very impressive mount of a whitetail deer was entered into the big buck contest at last weekend’s Iowa Deer Classic at Des Moines. The deer was taken by Kirk Robinson in Polk County during the 2012 season. It was scored at the 2014 Deer Classic and came in at 152 3/8 in its category for typical archery deer. It was not one of the top five of the final leader board tally for this category. However, it does represent the fine quality of deer brought to the show this year. A total of 245 deer were entered in the big buck contest. Forty seven of those were large enough to be eligible for entry into the Boone and Crockett record books.
A bit more of a comparison shows 2012 big buck show entries at 288. For the year 2011 there were 348 entries. And records show that 2010's entries were 329 deer. These records are just that, records of what hunters brought to the show. For a variety of reasons, late February weather in Iowa being one factor, how many deer see the show floor is a bit of a gamble. But Iowa deer hunters are a devoted crowd that truly likes there outdoor pursuit of whitetail deer. And that is why the Deer Classic is such a strong pull every year.
Coming next weekend is the local DUCKS UNLIMITED banquet. The place is Marshalltown's Impala Ballroom where the 40th annual membership festivities will be staged. The date is next Saturday, March 15. Tickets are still available by calling Rich Naughton at his cell number 641-328-0124. Bring yourself, and neighbor, your spouse and of course invite anyone remotely interested in wildlife and the outdoors. Tickets purchased before March 11 still get in at the early bird price of $45 per adult. At the door tickets will be $50. Spouse meal tickets only are $20. Youth ages 16 or under are $30.
There will be 17 firearms available for auction bidding and/or in some cases going to a lucky person who has their prize ticket drawn at random. All night long there will be prizes big and small given away. And of course there will be silent auction items and live action items to help raise money for Ducks Unlimited projects in Iowa and across the range of waterfowl migration flyways. Outdoor enthusiasts and waterfowl hunters know how precious wetland habitat is. They know how precious upland nesting habitat is. Without financial contributions from wildlife organizations such as DU, state natural resource agencies would be hard strapped to leverage additional monies for wildlife improvement projects. This scribe urges you to step up to the plate and support DU locally. Thank you.
WATERFOWL FEET are interesting beyond just the appendages use for walking or swimming. Adult mallards display their brightest breeding plumage and bright orange-to-reddish legs and feet as part of the seasonal reproductive cycle. Feet are also a thermoregulation device to help maintain correct body temperature. This is done via counter-current circulation, a heat exchange system between blood flow to and from the heart in conjunction with whatever the outside air or water temperatures may be. Waterfowl can adjust blood flow to their feet to keep warm. Or they can pull the feet into the body feathers during really cold air episodes. They can stand on one leg at a time while the other leg is tucked into its feathers.
Dabbling ducks have feet and legs located near the body center for balance to ease walking. This allows for improved feeding ability on dry land or in very shallow water. They nest on dry land and can spring immediately into the air to avoid predators. Diving ducks by contrast have legs located far to the rear of their bodies. Walking is difficult on land. In the water it is big advantage for diving and swimming. Diving is one way they escape predators. Diving is where they find food within submergent vegetation. The trade off is that to take flight, diver ducks must make a long surface run before lift is obtained. Once airborne, the feet are pulled up close to the body to streamline their shape for more efficiency in the air, just like an airplane. Waterfowl feet are also used as rudders to help steer during flight. And at landing time, feet brought down serve as drag to reduce speed. Just before landing, spreading toes make even more drag. Waterfowl don't have to "think" about such things, they just do it instinctively. Mom Nature has it figured out for waterfowl.
Spring and summer CAMPING is popular. How popular? Well, most camp sites in Iowa State parks are reservable via use of Internet registration systems set up by the DNR. The reservation window for Memorial Day camping is closing fast. As of last week, six state parks had all camp sites spoken for where full electrical hook ups are offered. The "no-vacancy" sign will likely go up soon at many popular state parks for big weekend times. There are some campsites without full hook ups. For more self contained units, this is an option. Not all campsites are reservable. Parks do maintain between 25 and 50 percent of the electric and non-electric sites for first come first served basis. Information on Iowa State Park camping can be found online at www.iowadnr.gov. Look for links to the reservation page.
Option No. 2 might be closer to home. Check out the County Park system across Iowa at www.MyCountyParks.com. A directory is available for purchase at the Marshall County Conservation Board's Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm. There are some tremendous county facilities for weekend getaways that can be explored. Just talking about camping means we have hope for spring and summer weather returning. Robins will vote for that I'm sure. So will people.
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.