Turkey feasts coming soon

WILD TURKEYS know how to survive and thrive if given adequate habitat coupled with modern scientific wildlife management. The system involves coordination with state departments of fish and game throughout the nation as National Wild Turkey Federation members put fund raising activities together annually to conserve places where turkeys live and open lands to hunting. Since hunting is one huge conservation tool, putting funds in the right hands to do the most good, will help keep wild turkeys at sustainable levels. This is proof that private/public partnerships can work.

This fall, a few wild turkeys will be hunted and taken as a side benefit of those who are deer hunting. Deer habitat and turkey ranges overlap considerably. One is not always seen at the same time but the possibility is very good. This scribe has seen both deer and turkey from my tree stands or ground blinds. My camera will attempt to catch either one if the situation dictates a good photo in the making. Otherwise I leave the camera in my backpack and ready my bow for a close encounter. I can attest to the fact that it is not easy, and certainly is no guarantee that the hunt will go like I want it to. But overall each outdoor adventure is fun, exciting, a learning experience, and beats any cough-potato alternative.

Thanksgiving is only 12 days away. Turkey meat will be on the menu for numerous family gatherings. A wild turkey might tip the scales at 12-20 pounds on average. Domesticated turkeys usually come in heavier. Regardless, the meat properly prepared is good, no make that great, as savory morsels of this food nourish our human needs. The average American eats 18 pounds of turkey per year. More turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving Day than Christmas and Easter combined.

Ben Franklin’s preference for our national bird was the wild turkey, not the bald eagle. Perhaps it is best the Bald Eagle won the coin toss, as one negative is that wild turkeys could be domesticated. In contrast, the Bald Eagle is a free spirit always, not tamed, independent and ready to defend itself and its territory. I like both birds. And I really like the eagle as our national symbol.

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Hunters this fall, as of mid week, have taken statewide more than 435 wild turkeys during their primary deer hunting field journeys. With respect to deer harvest numbers, last Wednesday’s reported 21,592 animals going home with a hunter to eventually fill the home freezer. Come of those deer may be donated to Iowa HUSH program, which stands for Help Us Stop Hunger. Participating locker plants process the deer meat which ultimately arrives at food pantries or facilities that feed people in need.

Marshall County deer youth hunters, early muzzleloader hunters and archers have tallied 47 doe deer, 87 antlered bucks, and 2 button bucks for a total of 136 deer.

Looking at how deer harvests compare to 2014 using November 1st data, the numbers show similar kill rates. On Nov. 1 last year the number was 14,115. For 2015 the number was 14,616, for a very slight increase of 501 animals. The number of licenses available for early muzzleloader are limited so while the licenses sold were about eh same, the take was 9 percent higher. This might be accounted for by the fact the MZ season was six days later in October. Youth deer licenses and/or disabled hunters was about the same. Youth harvest rate was lower in 2015. However, a youth that did not take a deer during the youth season may use their deer tag during other firearm seasons. When all is said and done, youth deer harvest will be very close to 2014 levels. Bow hunter licenses are also close to the numbers sold in 2014. Archery deer season ends Dec. 4 and reopens on Dec. 21 through Jan. 10, 2016.

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DEER HIDES are being collected again this year. Hides will be prepared by tanning and returned to veterans. The veterans make leather kits and fingerless wheelchair gloves. More than 16,000 deer hides were collected by Elks Lodges in 21 states during 2013-2014. Vets made 3,100 fingerless gloves, 9,300 square feet of craft leather plus 33,000 square feet for kit material. The value of this exceeds $400,000. Marshalltown Elks Lodge number 312 will put out collecting barrels at the end of November at Kwik-Star on South 6th Street or at East Side Tire at 1206 East Main. Bowhunters can freeze a cleaned hide and deliver it one of the above sites during late November or early December.

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The WIND BLEW mid week with tremendous force as the battle between intense high and low pressure systems moved across the Midwest. Western Nebraska saw snow. Eastern Nebraska and western Iowa had rain and it all moved east in a big hurry. High winds damaged lots of property, hail pelted the ground and rain water filled streets and creek drainages.

November weather in all the Midwest is a transition time. The weather can change very quickly from warm and balmy Indian Summer conditions to winter-like in a big way. What we witnessed on Wednesday last week, and during the night of Wednesday and Thursday as high winds assaulted us, is typical of the types of changes we can expect. Nice one moment and not so nice in a few hours time.

Nov. 11, 1940 was a weather event of extreme changes. Very warm and balmy conditions prevailed early on the Armistice Day memorial time. Mother Nature had other plans. This time she had packed both barrels with heavy loads of wind, rain, sleet, snow and blizzard white-outs over the landscapes of the Midwest. When the full furry of her wishes came crashing down, people took notice. Many survived. A lot of people died. It burned a deep memory into the minds of those folks still with us who were old enough on Nov. 11, 1940 to understand the gravity of the situation before them.

Waterfowl, ducks and geese, knew that something big was happening way up north. The took wing and flew south ahead of the approaching cold front. Many got as far south as they could and settled into wetlands, marshes, rivers and streams. They were exhausted so they landed to wait out he storm. Since Nov. 11 was during the peak of duck hunting season, many duck hunters who were watching the sky saw tens of thousands of ducks in the air, a mass gathering like nothing they had ever seen. The opportunity to hunt during this manna time did not go unnoticed. Hunters waited and watched as the birds descended into wetlands and other water sites. The hunting was good, too good.

The unfortunate part was the balmy warm conditions at the start of the day would not last. Temperatures went from 60 degrees to below freezing in a matter of a few hours. The intensity of this air temperature drop to come was not sufficiently headed, if the hunters even knew about it. Concentrating on hunting, they were unprepared for the ferocity of rain, sleet, snow and strong winds. Many hunters were dressed lightly for warm conditions, not for the arctic conditions they would have to endure during a long cold night outdoors. Weather forecasting and public warnings of bad weather conditions was not what we know today. That is the way it was.

By the time the storm abated, more than two feet of snow had fallen. Winds drifted snow into huge road closing traps for vehicles and the people in them. Drifts of snow 20 feet high were not uncommon. Thousands of farmer’s cattle perished, incalculable amounts of poultry – including more than a million Thanksgiving turkeys died. In the Midwest, 160 people lost their lives to the sudden storm. Hundreds more suffered frostbite or frozen limbs. On Lake Michigan, three huge freighter ships sunk due to wind and huge waves of water taking their crews to their deaths.

On an island on the Mississippi River of northeast Iowa, a father and two sons were equally mesmerized by the continuous flights of ducks in the air. But they stayed on the water a bit too long. Realizing they could not get back to shore and safety, they were stranded on an island. Their little duck boat was not the craft needed to brace against the huge waves on the Mississippi backwater. So they tried to make shelter under the overturned boat. One boy was an active athlete and in good condition. He ran in place all afternoon and all night long to keep from freezing. He survived but lost both legs below the knees. His father and other brother froze to death.

So this November, remember that the weather can change quickly, just as it always has and as it can and will do again. In these modern times, weather forecasts can help save lives through a variety of communication devices, radio and television. That was not the case on Nov. 11, 1940.


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, Iowa 50005