First duck season opens today

With fall in the air many of the Iowa hunting seasons are beginning to open for various species. Some have already opened like dove, squirrel, rabbit, archery deer, goose and some have closed like the special teal only season back in September. The first of the regular split duck season in Iowa will open statewide today and will close at different dates depending on what zone you are in. The different zones were established to maximize hunter encounter with ducks as they migrate and spend time in the state. The zones are primarily north and south of Highway 30 as it crosses the state and the Missouri River zone. See the IDNR Waterfowl regulations for information on specific zones and regulations. To hunt waterfowl in Iowa you not only need your regular hunting license and habitat fee but also a state migratory bird fee and Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. These special fees are used to purchase and enhance wetland areas that not only provide habitat for ducks and geese but many nongame species like shorebirds, eagles, song birds and a myriad of other wildlife species.

Identification of each duck species is key to waterfowler’s success. Not only do waterfowlers need to know their prey in hand so they know if their limit is reached but also identification on wing is essential so an over limit or protected species is not accidentally taken. There are many field guides available both in hard copy and on line to teach people ID of waterfowl. Duck ID can be determined by wing plumage and one of the best guides is found at www.flyways.us. The best way to learn however is in the field watching ducks and identifying before a shot is taken. Like anything, practice practice practice is the best way to learn. Many experienced waterfowlers take time every spring to go afield to watch ducks on their northward migration and hone their ID skills. New hunters to the sport many times will tag along with an experienced hunter to teach them these ID skills.

Waterfowl hunters are sometime lucky to harvest a bird that has been banded with a metal numerically coded leg band. Hunters are encouraged to report the numbers on line or via toll free phone number which are both found on the band along with the birds ID number. This data helps resource managers determine how many birds of a given species are taken, how long they live and what migratory routes they use. The data will in turn be used to help set season length and bag limits in the future. Banded waterfowl harvested in central Iowa have been known to travel from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Florida. Some locally banded Canada Geese have been known to live to almost twenty year of age. Without hunters reporting a harvested banded bird this information would remain a mystery.

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A decade ago, many statewide and local partners worked to add 212 acres Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve. The goal was to plant local seed and over time connect the preserves native prairies. The restoration is nearly complete on the 229 acres complex. From 1-4 p.m. today, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Marshall County Conservation Board will be hosting a public prairie seed harvest at the Marietta Sand Prairie, 1744 Knapp Ave., Albion. The public is invited to join. Please meet at the main parking lot on Knapp Ave. This local seed collection will enable the final seeding to happen this December. No experience is necessary and staff from both the INHF and MCCB will be on hand to direct you to what specific seeds to collect. Please wear long pants, sturdy shoes, gloves and bring re-fillable water bottles.

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This Wednesday Oct. 7 from 12-1:30 p.m., you can learn to identify the different species of hawks and other raptors as they migrate through central Iowa. Bring your binoculars and lawn chair and join the Marshall County Conservation Naturalist and volunteers at Grammer Grove 2030 127th St., Liscomb. This hawk watch has been held for many years at Grammer Grove and a surprising number of individuals and a variety of species have been accounted for. Species seen through the year and can show up at any given migration day include common ones like Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles to less common like Peregrine and Prairie Falcons and Golden Eagles.

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The Iowa DNR will again be releasing 2000 Rainbow trout at Sand Lake this coming Friday, Oct. 9 9 at approximately noon. Anglers are reminded that in addition to a regular Iowa fishing License you must also possess a trout fee if you intend to fish for trout. The limit is five trout per fee and only youth under 16 years of age can share a trout fee with and adult. Youth can purchase a trout fee and catch and possess their own limit.

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The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, then next best time is today.

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Mike Stegmann is the director of the Marshall County Conservation Board.