Fish & Game

FISH & GAME numbers and trend lines of population dynamics is full time work for Iowa DNR wildlife biologists. At research stations, data is collected and the numbers are crunched to help provide an overview of how any wildlife population is doing. Iowa’s winter weather has a lot to do with the survival of many critters. Mild winters and under 30 inches of snow gives a big boost to hen pheasants and gray partridge. If the following spring weather is not too wet, pheasants can cope more easily. Good habitat sites with tall permanent grasses are essential for upland game birds. Even in areas with intense agricultural operations, pockets of habitat and roadside ditch vegetation has value. So lots of factors apply to how any species of wildlife tolerates and thrives under these circumstances.

Last Tuesday, Tyson Brown’s last roadside survey route was finished under ideal weather conditions. Those conditions call for light winds, heavy dew from the night before and mostly clear skies. Upland game birds will seek out Iowa rural gravel roadways as places to escape the moisture of last evenings heavy dew. New sunshine helps to dry the feathers of pheasants, quail, and gray partridge. While drying off, observers conducting the survey use binoculars to identify and count critters. This scribe was fortunate to accompany Brown on his route as an extra set of eyes. And, of course, my camera and telephoto lens was an essential piece of equipment to capture today’s image of a young of the year hen pheasant.

On this particular survey route we began north of Albion and worked our way north and east to finish a few miles southeast of Grundy Center. Here is what we observed: Seventeen pheasants, adults and young about two-thirds adult size. All were feathered out enough to discern male and female. On the gray partridge side, five birds were noted. We took note of one cottontail rabbit, four deer, one red fox and one bald eagle. This survey data is just one of two hundred survey routes designed to sample of kinds of Iowa landscapes east to west and north to south. Later this fall, range and distribution maps will help paint a picture of relative abundance of all upland game animals.

Private landowner sightings of wild turkeys is also being collected. Just one item called into me so far noted three hen turkeys and ten little poults trailing behind. Young turkey survival is an important indicator for this fall’s overall population and next spring’s opener for bearded turkey hunting. You can learn more about all the above in person in real life right now during Iowa’s State Fair. See the folks at the west side brick DNR building with its large aquarium system displaying all kinds of Iowa fish species.

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THE IOWA STATE FAIR began Aug. 10 and ends on the 20th. Be sure to check it out and enjoy all that Iowa has to offer. The DNR building will host fun-filled, family friendly educational exhibits, shade trees, sitting benches and lots of critters to view. Inside will be personnel available to answer questions you may have related to natural resources. There will be Hike, Bike and Paddle Zone, Watch and Learn Zone, Stay and Play Zone, In Your Home Zone, and opportunities to visit with conservation officers. You can even purchase any licenses you may need for this fall (Aug. 15 is the beginning of deer tag sales). There will live reptiles, and some taxidermist mounted game birds or mammals to view. Do check out the schedule for programs offered every day such as Dutch Oven cooking, Paddling Iowa, the right tree for the right place, Cooking and cleaning fish, live animals like a trumpeter swan, reptiles and amphibians, Wounded Warrior healing through hunting program details, training a new hunting dog, tree diseases, ground water information, farm pond management, junk art, volunteer opportunities and bringing technology indoors. Check it all out and have fun.

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Every year, the Iowa DNR is allowed to auction off a 2017 or 2018 non-resident DEER TAG as a fund raiser for a special cause. Just one example will benefit Iowa’s TIP program. TIP is the acronym for Turn In Poachers of Iowa, Inc. Go on-line to Iowa Non-resident Deer Tag Auction for details. In the past these hunts have brought in as much as $10,000 or more. One-half goes to the DNR wildlife bureau and the other half goes to the sponsored cause, in this case TIP of Iowa, Inc.

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A new booklet publication is out now and available at most DNR electronic license vendor sites. It includes the regulations one needs to know about 2017-18 hunting, trapping, and migratory game birds. For instance, page six is a summary of migratory bird seasons for either the north Zone, South Zone and Missouri River Zone, all tabulated out in easy to read format with season beginning and ending dates. Do be sure to follow up with specifics by reading pages 19-25.

Deer hunting info begins on page 6 and more details are listed from pages 29-37. Fall turkey info is on page 8 and more data is provided on pages 40-41. Best advice: Get a copy and read it carefully. Most avid hunters of upland game birds, migratory waterfowl, deer or turkeys already are familiar with most of the need-to-do stuff regarding your particular passion. But there are always a few quirks and specifics to get informed about. Do not let you uniformed opportunity be wasted if a conservation officer and you have a discussion that could lead to a citation. Know before you go is a good motto.

When it comes to FISH & GAME issues and how they are funded, I’ll review a bit of where the money comes from and where it goes. According to Chuck Gipp, DNR Director, there are two primary sources of revenue regarding hunting and fishing. They are license fees and federal excise taxes returned to Iowa. First off, are the fees charged to those who purchase licenses to hunt, fish, trap. Now the second source enters the picture and this is federal excise taxes on firearms and ammunition known as Pittman-Robertson) with additional from sport fishing management and restoration known as Dingell-Johnson. The federal allocation goes back to the states and is used by Fish, Wildlife and Law Enforcement bureaus to provide quality diverse resources and to ensure the laws and rules are followed.

In 1996, 88 percent of Iowa voters approved adding the Fish and Game Trust Fund to the State Constitution, creating a fund that can only be used for fish and wildlife purposes. This fund does not pay for trails, campgrounds, state parks or state forests. The revenue trend is going down. It brought in $66 million in 2011 and is now down to $58 million in 2016. Even though the legislature has provided some funds for specific projects, the bulk of Iowa’s work to support wildlife and fish habitat, management and research has been supported by those who buy a license to fish, hunt or trap. So if you are so inclined, a good deal that helps tremendously is to purchase your fishing, hunting or trapping license. You’ll enjoy the outdoors as always and know your license money is going to a good cause.

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Wrens can be busy bird when feeding their young nestlings. An observer did the job of taking careful notes, It was found that one bird made 1,217 feeding missions in the space of 15 hours 45 minutes. This give meaning to the term “busy as a bird.”


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 P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.