Iowa Deer Classic next weekend

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Deer and everything deer-related is coming to Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines March 2-4. Hundreds of exhibitors will have booths to show their products, services or newest offerings for fall hunts, new hunting clothing, bows, guns, portable deer blinds and equipment. This show is always a hit for outdoor enthusiasts. And of course there will be lots of taxidermy mounts of deer on the Hall of Fame row to marvel at.

THE IOWA DEER CLASSIC returns to the show floor of Des Moines’ Hy-Vee Hall next weekend. Mid afternoon on Friday, March 2is when the show doors open for the public. The show continues through Saturday and into the mid afternoon hours of Sunday with a total public draw of about 20,000 people. There is something for everyone, adults and kids, and one of the situations is having enough time to try and see it all. Deer are popular big game animals in Iowa and this show helps illustrate the huge economic impact deer and deer pursuits have in our state.

A set of display boards will have this years contest entries on display. Judging is based on the Boone & Crockett scoring system by a cadre of people specifically tasked with putting accurate tape measures to the antlers of critters Iowans bring to the show’s competition. Archery taken deer use the B & C scoring system under license with official entries eligible for submittal into the Pope and Young Club records book. Once scored, each category for type of hunting weapons used, and men’s, women’s, youth divisions will see the leader board change places as new entries fill the ranks. Well over 100 deer will be on shown on contest row.

Another Deer Classic standard is the Iowa Hall of Fame display row. Exceptional deer mounts from past years are welcomed back by invitation. These superb examples of Iowa deer never fail to keep a steady line of observers on hand to admire row upon row of big antlers. And every deer has a story its owner can attest to answer the questions of how, when and where the hunt factors came together to allow the hunter to take the animal.

Kid activities abound including shooting a bow and arrow, a BB gun, see some live animals to have a picture taken with, face painting, and arts and crafts. Instructional workshops and seminars are held in one of three big conference rooms in the lower level of Hy-Vee Hall. These educational opportunities feature big name personalities who are recognized for their prowess in the deer hunting world. See all you can make time for at the 2018 Iowa Deer Classic March 2-4.

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The majority of buck deer will soon loose their antlers. These true bone growths out of the top of their skulls will get weak at the bases and fall off. Every male member of the cervidae family (moose, elk, caribou, mule deer, whitetail deer) does this. A new set of antlers will begin growing in earnest come April and May. Continued growth throughout the summer will stop by late August or early September. This new set of antlers will prove to be an effective advertisement to others of the species about the health and vigor of the owner. Mating rituals in late October and early November will help determine the future of next spring’s crop of new fawns.

Antlers are not horns. Antlers are true bone and is one of the fastest growing tissue known. A lot of energy is drawn from within the animal to help supply the calcium and other nutrients that contribute to new antlers. Spring and summer browse of various plants are major suppliers of new food sources that contain the vitamins and minerals for the animal.

Horns, by contrast, are retained. Horn tissue continues to add from the base of the skull. It is made of keratin. Horns are found on bovine type animals such as bison and wild sheep. As a horned animal lives to old age, its horns may reflect years of growth to make them longer or larger in diameter. The skulls of some species such as big horned sheep are so well built that they can withstand terrific head butting during rutting time. You may have seen television nature shows of big horned sheep striking each other head first in powerful slams. No lingering effect or harm comes to these hardy sheep species.

Our common whitetail deer’s antlers grow from an area of the male’s skull called the pedicle. The attachment is strong from spring’s first budding growth well into the fall and winter months. However, come the end of February and March, longer day length causes lowering levels of testosterone in the bodies of bucks. As these blood chemistry markers decrease over time, the tissue in the pedicle becomes weaker until the point comes when an antler or the antlers set may simply fall off. This process can happen quickly; being seemingly firmly attached one day and fall off a few days later. A buck in good physical health may retain his antlers a bit longer, however, nature has a plan in mind for even the biggest most noble bucks to loose the headgear.

Active deer hunters will soon be returning to the forests, grasslands and winter cover areas to look for the antlers male deer have lost. A casual stroll through deer habitat may turn up several single antler specimens. Many antlers go unfound by people. They are found by rodents who will gnaw on the bone for its calcium content. In nature nothing goes to waste. The little mice and chipmunks inhabiting a forest floor will eventually find antlers and over time consume the entire thing. Look for gnaw marks on any antlers you may find this winter.

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The SNOW LINE across North America is what is holding back snow geese and other migrating waterfowl at this time. In the Midwest, the snow line is now over northwest Kansas, southern Nebraska, central Iowa and into northern Illinois. South of this line are millions of snow geese anxious to move north with each lengthening day. We all know that late February and March can have very unpredictable weather events. Warm spells may allow the geese to fly north to wherever the snow line happens to be. A sudden change in the weather with a huge winter blast of cold air and more snow will force the geese back south to wait it out. This back and forth struggle will not last forever. Winter will break, Spring will slowly gain an upper hand and add more strength. Snow geese will adapt just like they have for millions of years.

At this time snow goose concentrations are building in southern states and as far north as Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. Plenty of geese remain in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Any place without snow is where they may be found. Numerous web sites will tell you where the geese are now. And one way to know that information is to look at snow cover maps for North America. It is interesting to watch a computer map undulate up and down across the United States as each day and week sees snow growth in one area and melting zones in other places. By this time next month, geese headed north will be high in the sky honking to each other. We humans on the ground will take note and listen to goose music filtering through the airwaves. We can only hope that the snow line we have to contend with is moving north also.

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Last Tuesday, Feb 20, was the date any ice fishing shelters had to be removed from state public waters. Sometimes the deadline is extended due to severe lingering cold with no warm weather spell in sight. However history has told us that mid-February marks a change to lake ice strength. Fishing shelters that fall through the ice must still be removed at the owner’s expense. Removing ice shelters is just one more little sign that spring will get here. Or we could ask a sleeping groundhog what his idea might be. I think he will sleep on it for a few more weeks.

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“What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it — would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have.”

— Ralph Marston, American writer

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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.