Fall is fantastic

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Deer are just reason that outdoor enthusiasts like the fall season. Seeing deer interact with each other is always interesting as people strive to learn more about make makes them tick. Hunters can and will dream about a potential trophy animal in the right place and the right time. But other fall features strike our fancy during October including tree leaves turning into a wide array of beautiful colors, prairie grasses reflecting golden tones at sunrises or sunsets, and cooler water at area lakes urging fish to go on feeding surges. Cooler air temperatures of an "Indian Summer" are nice while they last so people need to make the most of every fall opportunity to enjoy being outside.

FALL is fantastic, fun and an exciting time to be outside. Dress warmly for the conditions of the day and let nature be your instructor, mentor and guide. Some activities are easy to do from the window of your home. Leaf color watching will work. Fall bird migration at the backyard feeder will work. Better yet is to make an outside voyage to a county, state or city park to take a hike with binoculars to observe all that is changing in the natural world. Hike slowly along a trail to listen carefully and watch diligently as little birds skip about the ground surface as they hunt for bugs or flit about in the tree branches. A fall bike ride on an area trail is an excellent opportunity to go outside. Floating the Iowa River to do a bit of fishing will be worth the effort. Or if one is a hunter, fall seasons are open or will soon open depending upon the species being sought.

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LOCAL LEAF COLOR of our deciduous trees will likely peak in the next week to ten days. And although lots is made of the long road trip to Northeast Iowa or taking a scenic highway route along the Mississippi River to see the trees, there are a lot of local short drive opportunities worth your time. I’d suggest and highly recommend a venture to Grammer Grove, a Marshall County Conservation area located 3-4 miles southwest of Liscomb. Grammer is noted for many landscape features and the park amenities that enhance your experience. First of all, it has rolling upland hills of oaks, hickory and walnut trees to grace hiking trails. Second, a picnic shelter awaits your chance to grab a bite of the sandwiches you packed. Third, never go to Grammer Grove without binoculars and a good bird identification book. Fourth, explore a variety of hiking trails on the uplands, bluffs and bottomlands on your way to view the Iowa River. Fifth, look for and find the huge granite boulder in the southeast corner of the park. Thousands of years of natural soil erosion by a tiny stream nearby has exposed this Kansan glacial age deposited rock. Hundreds of school kids during past science field trips have seen this huge boulder, climbed to its top, and temporarily claimed to be mountaineering enthusiasts. Sixth, if you want to find quiet places, try the tall pine tree grove located northwest of the shelter house. A hiking trail will take you there after a short traverse. Thick beds of pine needles under the pines makes for soft steps and a super quiet place to enjoy. Seventh, at the pines west edge overlooking the bottomland from the bluff top, watch the sky for migrating birds, especially birds of prey. Many eagles, hawks, and falcons will fly south using the Iowa River valley as their guiding landmark. Leaf color may have been the primary reason you go to Grammer, but you will find many more reasons to stay. It is part of enjoying the Fall season.

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DEER HUNTING by area archers is on-going at this time. Marshall County data from the state’s running tally of mandatory harvest reports mid week showed ten deer taken so far. Statewide over 3,200 deer have been taken by youth in their season opener, bow hunters, and starting yesterday, the early muzzleloader season. This author was shown one image of a youth hunter from Tama County who was in the right place at the right time to take a very tall antlered white tailed buck. It has a impressive non-typical right side double main beam arrangement while its left side was completely typical with tall tines.

Today’s feature photos is from the Iowa Taxidermist Association show of 2015 where this mount of the deer won first place in the Master’s division. A deer of this caliber is nice to see. If you are hunter it may be the dream opportunity of a life-time if your shot is true. And then memories live on for your lifetime as you recall all the details of how it came to be your time, your place, and your trophy to be proud of.

Iowa has a good deer herd statewide. A few very impressive bucks with antlers scoring more than 200 inches may be taken. However, it pays to be realistic as there is not one of these monster bucks hiding behind every bush or tree. They are far and few between as it takes many years for his body size to mature, usually anything over 5.5 years of age or more, for antler size to reflect his longevity. Much more common will be nice antler sets scoring much less but still very representative of what Iowa can produce. Today’s deer image is just such a case.

Scoring white-tailed deer antlers is a way for people and especially hunters to compare that mass of bone material that grew out of the deer’s skull pedicles. A new set of antlers grow each year. Last years antlers may still be laying on the forest floor undiscovered by man but probably discovered by chipmunks or squirrels.

The Boone and Crockett Club is a non-profit organization of big-game hunters founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt. In 1949, an official committee of B&C members tackled the job of finessing and improving the basic system of antler scoring of North American big-game animals to be more comprehensive, equitable and objective. They succeeded. The results is a standard reference that is fair, impartial and honest. It rewards symmetry of antler sets in both typical and non-typical growth patterns. A typical B&C white-tail minimum score is 160 for an award, 170 or more for the all-time category. Non-typical minimums are 185 for an award and 195 or more for the all-time slot.

A record book is published by B&C every three years and every six years all-time qualifiers are added to the on-going all-time records list. Archers have a similar system called the Pope & Young Club record book. Minimum white-tail deer scores to get in the book is 125 or more for typical antlers. Non-typical antler minimum is 155 and the rack must have at least fifteen inches of non-typical antler inches to get into this category. For a bit of clarification, typical antlers are defined as having all points coming off the top of a its main beam. Non-typical antlers can have all of the former plus odd points growing at weird angles, or drop tines, or other “non-standard” growths. A P&Y record book is published every two years. And the reason the minimum scores are lower than B&C requirements is the nature of difficulty required to get close to an big-game animal with bow and arrow. Rifles or shotguns on the other hand are long reach weapons.

Any deer antler set can be officially measured only after at least 60 days of dry time at room temperature. Official B&C scorers have had to attend special instruction courses to be certified for that club. Likewise, Pope and Young Club members also attend a measuring class of their own and upon graduation are entitled and certified to score any of the 29 species of North American bow killed big game animals. Scores prior to the 60 day drying time are called “green score” to reflect an estimate only of what the animal’s antlers, or for horned species, will likely be. This author is a certified Pope & Young Club scorer.

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DEER sometimes make tragic errors as they move at this time of year. Deer can and will make unpredictable moves near highways and other roadways and collides with vehicles. Many times the deer is severely injured and has to be put down, its meat salvaged if possible. Other times the deer dies outright at the scene as the result of its major injuries. While driving your car or truck this fall, be aware of possible deer movement at any time of day, especially at early evening and during the night time. Accidents with deer are usually completely spontaneous happenings. Try to slow down but do not swerve out of your lane of travel.

In Oklahoma just last week, a record book large antlered deer died not from a legal hunter but from its late night impact with a vehicle. The situation took place near Edmond. When a conservation officer arrived the following morning, he was shocked to see the huge antlers of this buck. It was ‘green scored’ by a B&C member as a non-typical with a score of 236 and 3/8ths. The Oklahoma Wildlife Department will use the antlers as part of an educational display at outdoor shows and events. Be careful out there.

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PHEASANTS FOREVER will hold their fund raising banquet on Nov. 4 at the Central Iowa Fairgrounds activity building. The chapter members representing Marshall and Tama County always put on a great gathering for pheasant hunters with games, great auction items and fantastic food. Tickets purchased before Oct. 30 are $65 per adult or $25 for youth age 17 or less. Ticket prices go up after October 30 so be aware and buy them early. Call for tickets to Steve Armstrong (641-751-1668) or John Fox (641-751-4487). Banquet admission includes dinner, meeting new and old friends, chances on door prizes, raffles and a one year membership with Pheasants Forever. And your money assists with habitat projects and conservation education efforts.

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TROUT will be released on Oct. 20, at noon, at SAND LAKE located east of Marshalltown. Iowa DNR Fisheries staff will have a truck from the hatchery to unload between 1,000 and 2,000 rainbow trout. Come see the fish releases and give an opportunity for your kids or grandkids to catch some of these finny animals. A trout stamp (fee) is required for those old enough to need a fishing license in order to possess trout. A daily limit of five trout is what the regulations allow. Fall fishing is fantastic.

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“There is nothing that is more beautiful, more fulfilling and potentially life changing as simply observing nature.”

— John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology


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.