Wildlife banquet season in full swing

DEER are still on the minds of hunters. Last fall’s experiences are still vividly etched into their memory banks. And those experiences include all those long periods of inactivity when deer were not moving interspersed with a few moments of heart-pounding excitement when a deer came closer, and closer, still unaware of the human predator close by. Hunters know the feeling well as an adrenaline rush fills his veins. The pulse rate goes up and all the senses kick into overdrive. The focus is intense on hopefully being able to make a clean shot.

Deer hunting stories of all kinds will be told and retold next Saturday night, Feb. 23 at the annual banquet of Whitetails Unlimited at Marshalltown’s KC Hall. All the guests will enjoy the fellowship of fellow outdoorsmen and women during a fun evening of fine foods, games and raffles. Raising money for conservation projects within Iowa will be the goal. Sharing memories from a field comes with the evening at no extra charge.

Iowa deer hunters this past season reported taking 115,608 deer. Marshall County hunters hunters accounted for 900 of that total of which 425 were doe deer, 373 were antlered bucks, 92 button bucks and 10 bucks that had already shed their antlers and were mistaken for doe deer. This is a typical ratio throughout Iowa in every county. All in all, the hunts went well. Hunters cooperated with landowners to take a good number of animals. There still remains a good population base to carry over into 2013. And knowing the biological ability of deer to refill their ranks as the birth of fawns takes place in May, there will be another good supply of deer come this fall. DNR biologists know the trend lines of population deer dynamics. They will use that knowledge to offer scientifically based projections for all the seasons of 2013. Many Iowa counties are now at a desired deer population base-line. To maintain that kind of population level is accomplished through regulating the specific number of antlerless doe licenses for each county.

What builds trust into Iowa’s deer management program? First, sound science. There is no substitute for as accurate data concerning numbers of deer taken each fall. If hunter are involved in the collection of data, they will be less likely to criticize what they submitted. Iowa does a good job in this area. Second, biologists with feet on the ground spending time with the stake-holders who are landowners in addition to the hunters. Tabulating the data is required which takes place with the help of computer programs. But the real work is done in the field, not from the office. Game surveys and face to face discussions go a long way toward trust. Third, facts presented to policy makers so that emotional issues are avoided, and political motives are not allowed to rule the day. That is this scribes take on it. And I’m sticking to it.

IOWA’s DEER CLASSIC is coming up quickly on March 1, 2 and 3 at Des Moines Hy-Vee Hall and Veterans Auditorium. This is a big show that easily will draw more than 20,000 people through the doors by its end on Sunday afternoon. Exhibitors from many states will be present as well as a host of Iowa based products, services and deer hunting related equipment or accessories. Friday afternoon of March 1 is when the doors open at 3 p.m. And Friday is ladies night with free admission. Otherwise a normal admission ticket will cost an adult $12. Kids ages 10 15 cost $5. Kids under age 10 are admitted free. The entire Deer Classic experience includes seminars, archery in the schools competition, big buck contests, 3-D pop up archery range, and lots of clothing, stands, or potential places to plan a vacation/hunt. This is a great show to put on ones list of do-not-miss.

The WILD GAME BANQUET held last Tuesday evening at the Fisher Community Center was a big hit. Thank you to the Marshall County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League for hosting this excellent event. An auditorium full of people had no trouble finding friends to talk with and lots of excellently prepared wild food to choose from. The serving table included fish such as walleye, northern or even buffalo. Alligator meats were also on the menu and were excellent. Raccoon meats added to the line-up in addition to deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, and others I’ve probably failed to mention. All was good. No one complained of being underfed. The evening finished off with a slide show about traveling to Iceland. This show is awesome and is professionally put together by Ed Siems and Teresa Vokoun.

The Izaak Walton League will be active again in 2013 to offer its facilities and grounds for conservation education programs, clay bird shoots, hunter safety classes just to name a few. The Ikes have a shotgun clay bird shooting area, and a rifle range with 25, 50 and 100 yard targets. An archery range with elevated tower is also available for members to use.

This is also the season for other outdoor conservation organizations and their annual fun nights and banquets. Coming up on March 9, at the Impala Ballroom on West Lincolnway in Marshalltown, DUCKS UNLIMITED will host its 2013 get together. A buffet meal will be served at 7 p.m. However, the doors open at 5 p.m. for early birders to begin the night enjoying games and over view of the many raffle prizes. Tickets are available by contacting Rich Naughton at 707 Maytag Rd, Marshalltown.

Ducks Unlimited is a private nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to wetland habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. DU started officially on Jan. 29, 1937 when they officially incorporated. Today they have members world wide with the majority located in North America.

ICE FISHING houses on the ice of Iowa’s lakes need to be removed on or before Feb. 20, or ice melt, whichever happens first. I suggest watching mother nature’s deck of cards to see if she is going to place an ace on the table. A warm weather spell means the ice will weaken. Prudent actions by anglers is to remove the gear before you have to go fishing for your submerged and expensive gear. One Iowa angler lost his vehicle in northern Iowa to weak ice this winter. Extracting a car or truck from a lake bottom calls for specialized methods. Add very expensive to the bill that will be presented for this service.

WALLEYE season closed at Iowa’s Great Lakes on Feb 15. It will reopen at one minute past midnight on the morning of May 4. If one catches any walleye during the closed season, the fish must be immediately released unharmed. The fish will need some rest time as spring spawning times arrives for walleyes.

Make sure to stop by the CONSERVATION CENTER at the Grimes Farm to take a peek at the great photos submitted for the 2012 photo contest. The winners have been selected in each of 4 divisions. All the photos are great and reflect a fantastic array of outdoor experiences by the folks who love the outdoors in Marshall County. Keep up the good work.

Lastly, a big thank you to all former members of the local BIRD CLUB, officially once called the Central Iowa Ornithologists. For more than 50 years the club members have met and shared the fun and excitement of birds and birding during once per month meetings and programs. Times have changed. They may meet informally in the future but not as an organized club. The club has agreed to dissolve. Its small financial holdings were donated to conservation. Birding is an active participation endeavor that claims to have 51.3 million participants in the United States. Some are so intense in their birding adventures as to buy an airplane ticket to some far away place just to see a rare sighting of a unique bird. Keep those binoculars handy all the time.

“The worst part about being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” – Lily Tomlin

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.