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Ducks: Wetland signature species

February 27, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

DUCKS UNLIMITED's local Iowa River Chapter will host their 36th Annual membership banquet tonight. As always, this festive gathering of conservation minded water-fowling enthusiasts is one of the must attend activities during this snowy 'cabin-fever' time of the year.

Tickets will be available at the door for $45. DU committee members have assembled a top notch line of gifts, art works, guns and local raffle prizes to keep things interesting during the evening. Your attendance and financial support is a great way to assist all wetland conservation work on the land where it really counts. And year after year, conservationists and hunters keep paying the bills through required license fees and voluntary contributions to conservation minded private nonprofit organizations. DU thanks you.


Article Photos

The Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp features the Long-tailed Duck for the July 1, 2009 through June 30th, 2010 time frame. All waterfowl hunters are required to have this signed stamp in their possession in addition to all other appropriate state licenses and fees. The artist that painted this winning stamp entry is Joshua Spies of South Dakota. Local waterfowl enthusiasts will be meeting tonight at the Regency Inn at Marshalltown for the 36th Annual membership banquet and fund raiser for Ducks Unlimited.

Federal DUCK STAMPS have been around since 1934. It was on March 16, 1934 that President Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. The whole purpose of the stamp was to raise dollars and to designate those funds for only one use: acquiring wetlands for what is now known as the National Wildlife Refuge System. It has been proven time after time that sales of duck stamps increase when the public is informed of how the revenue generated is used.

Jay N. "Ding" Darling, a conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, was appointed the head of the Duck Stamp Program. Darling's pencil sketch of mallards set to land was the first duck stamp. Darling had deep Iowa connections as a long time feature in the Des Moines Register newspaper as he covered local and state politics. His deep understanding of natural resources and conservation issues helped him make the point many times about good land stewardship practices.

The duck stamp is in reality part of one's permit to hunt and is a receipt for payment of fees. While it may be easier to say 'duck stamp' than its official title of "Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp," it must also be recognized that just calling it a duck stamp is inaccurate. The real beneficiaries of the dollars from the stamp sales are lots more than ducks. It also includes all waterfowl including geese, swans, brant and literally hundreds of other wetland dependent species of furry and feathered critters that need and use wetlands.

The first federal stamp in 1934 cost its buyer one dollar. In 1949, it went to two dollars. Ten years later in 1959 it went to $3. 1972 had the cost change to $5, $7.50 in 1979, $10 in 1987, $12.50 in 1989 and $15 in 1991. For every $15 fee paid today, $14.70 goes toward wetland acquisition and conservation. Just 30 cents is used for administrative costs.

Collectors of duck stamps do have several avenues to check and use as reference. One is the National Duck Stamp Collectors Society. Pay your dues of $20 and get their newsletter, membership card and lapel pin. Then you can learn what is common or really rare, easy to acquire or very expensive if available at all. For those in the know, grandpa's old hunting licenses from decades past, if he kept them, should not be thrown away. Words to the wise.


The National 2010 PHEASANT FEST is well under way in Des Moines this weekend. This is a tremendous opportunity to see all things related to the ring-necked pheasant. Many breeds of upland bird hunting dogs will be shown plus booths with vendors of every description of goods related to land management, hunting, shotguns, clothing and much more.

An important thing to keep in mind is that high pheasant numbers have a big correlation with long term grassland USDA programs. So, as much as we Iowan's yearn for times past when pheasants seemed to be everywhere, today's reality of farm programs paints a far different picture. How much more evidence does one need than to think of a strip of Iowa land equal to 8 miles wide and stretching from Davenport to Council Bluffs representing conservation reserve land contracts that expired in recent years.

To learn more about long term land habitat programs, attending this year's Pheasant Fest is just one way to find out how to make any small parcel of land friendlier for pheasants. I hope you will make time to attend Pheasant Fest.


Marshalltown's CITY DEER archery hunt ended officially on January 31st. Twenty nine deer were taken by bowhunters. A long term severe cold weather time frame hampered hunter's ability to stay on stand for long periods of time. But overall, this first hunt did make a small dent in the population. Time will tell in the long term how to improve the system.

Deer task force committee members want to do just that. They have and will continue to discuss options to increase the number of city qualified bowhunters, increase the landowner list of places where hunters may gain access, and continue to educate all citizens of how this program will help reduce urban deer. Marshalltown's first year experience proves it can and does work when based upon good data and cooperation between archers, property owners and DNR wildlife biologists.

There will always be 'hot spots' in Iowa urban centers that need extra attention. Many deer have learned where to go to avoid hunting pressure. Urban centers are just one such place. So are some county and state parks. Additional special archery hunts in these places are continually reviewed and adjusted to reflect the role they play in overall statewide deer population trend lines.

Locally, the number of city qualified archers can increase. Working with DNR education programs, the next field day for Bowhunter Education has been set for May 15th, 9 am until noon, at the Izaak Walton League grounds south of Marshalltown. An additional field day in mid September, date not yet set, is planned. To gain access to the course, any interested prospective city bowhunter must take and pass the on-line Bowhunter Education Course. Go to

When successfully taken, a voucher to that effect is printed. This voucher is the admission ticket to the field day. When the field day work is passed, an annual proficiency test of 20 arrows is conducted. Then all the paperwork can be taken to Marshalltown's Park & Rec. office to be issued a City Urban Deer Permit. This permit ID card will allow the hunter to purchase city deer hunting licenses at the General Store.

For details on how the process works, feel free to call Roger Kaput, evenings, at 753-7446 or Garry Brandenburg at 488-2382.


PHOTO CONTEST winners for this past year now have their entries on display at the Conservation Center at the GrimesFarm. So take time this winter to visit the Center as see how local photographers recorded images of wildlife, people and places. All the photographs can be viewed for the next several weeks. So also take a close look at all the other natural history exhibits at the Conservation Center. As a place close to home, this is an easy cabin-fever buster activity.


The next Nature's Story Hour for preschoolers at GrimesFarm & Conservation Center is Wednesday, March 3 from 10 11 a.m. The theme for this session is "Home Tweet Home". Bring your little ones out for fun stories and activities.

If we still have snow, let's make the most of it! The Marshall County Conservation Board invites you to a Last Chance Snowfest on Saturday, March 6 from 10 a.m. Noon. Bring the family to the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center to hit the trails with cross-country skis or snowshoes and warm up inside the nature center with hot chocolate. Bring your own equipment or there will be a limited supply available for use.


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.



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