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Deer Classic brings out top animals for review

March 13, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

The recently completed IOWA DEER CLASSIC is now history. But what a point it made with those in the deer hunting fraternity. The best of Iowa bucks were brought to the event for display for the Friday through Sunday March 5 - 7th time slot. More than 25,000 people went through the doors to visit with 275 booth vendors, to look at the Big Buck Contest entries, see 92 invited deer mounts at the Iowa Whitetail Hall of Fame, and to watch the archery competitions for Archery in the Schools participants. Literally everything related to deer and deer hunting was on site to see, touch and check out for how it may work for ones own needs.

The Big Buck Contest is what brought Travis Hamilton of Columbia, IA to the show. His archery taken non-typical whitetail is a classic tale in itself of how fickle deer hunting can be. Pre-season trail cameras at several locations kept Travis busy as he got to know what deer were working the areas he prefers to hunt. One trail camera, more than one and one half miles from his ladder stand, captured a foggy morning image of a big non-typical. He never saw the deer again in any pre-season scouting hikes. In fact, Travis never expected to see the deer again. He was more interested in a big ten pointer that was a much more frequent visitor to the area close to Hamilton's ladder stand.

However, on the rainy early morning of October 2, 2009, the ten pointer was a no show. A bit later that morning, Travis heard a slight sound of deer footfalls behind him in a deep ravine. Glimpses of antlers told him it was a buck. Any deer on the ravine bottom trail would come up to the top edge of the gully and briefly stop to survey the surroundings before advancing. Knowing this, Travis got himself ready and pulled his Hoyt bow to full draw to await the arrival of the deer.

Article Photos

Travis Hamilton and his wife Merilee Ann, above, are very pleased with the second place award for men's non-typical deer award at the just completed Iowa Deer Classic event. In addition to Travis's deer which scored 244 6/8ths, his deer was also voted by the Iowa Taxidermists Association as the 'Most Unusual' due to its asymmetrical configuration. More than 300 deer were entered into the Big Buck Contest and were on display on the lower floor of Vets Auditorium.

When the deer topped out on the trail, it stopped. Travis's arrow was instantly on its way and a solid hit was made. Only now the realization began to set in as he realized that the buck he had just arrowed was indeed the deer he never thought he'd see again, the one from the far away trail camera site.

The deer was allowed to walk off slowly. Returning in the afternoon with a friend, Travis was able to find the deer, tag it and now see first hand how big and very unusual this non-typical deer really was. Fate had dealt him a hand, and he played the cards just right to take a really impressive Iowa deer. And now as the result of his entry in the Big Buck Contest, he had a second place trophy and an additional trophy for 'most unusual.'

This author is very familiar with the Hamilton's due to the fact that they are relatives of this author's wife's side of the family. It was during a Thanksgiving day family reunion last November that Travis and I set the plans in motion for me to score this deer for the Pope & Young Club (archery taken deer). I also arranged for a Boone & Crockett scorer to assist so that we could submit identical scores to our respective organizations. No matter how you slice it, a deer of 244 6/8ths is definitely a trophy to be proud of, particularly if it was a deer one never thought they would be able to take. Call it fate or good fortune, the result is a dedicated archer putting his knowledge and skill to work to take a very nice Iowa deer. Good work Travis. And good luck in 2010.


Melissa Ream Schussow is a Marshall County gal and dedicated hunter. Her big buck was taken during the shotgun season on her parent's land on Mormon Ridge. While on stand, she noted deer leg movement through the thick pine trees. As the deer moved along the trail and closer to her location, it was time to settle down and concentrate on the moment of truth. The deer approached a fence and got ready to jump the wires. Melissa's heart shot was right on. The deer continued only a short way before it went down in a tangle of corn stalks. With venison steaks in the freezer, and an Iowa Deer Classic record of 165 5/8ths on the wall, Melissa will assuredly be looking forward to deer season in the fall of 2010.


At Cedar Falls this weekend, at the Eastern Iowa Sports Show at the UNI-DOME , local outdoors person will receive awards for big fish. A "2009 Iowa Big Fish Angler" print by artist Rick Morkel will be given to three Marshall Countians. Sam Brintnall of Marshalltown for the 2 pound, 2 ounce 11.5 inch Bluegill he caught in a farm pond. Rob Christensen hooked a 3 pound, 2 ounce Crappie that was 18.3 inches long. This fish came from a farm pond in Madison County. And lastly, Dennis Steele of Albion set the hook and pulled in a 31 inch long channel catfish.

More than 680 Iowans caught trophy fish in Iowa waters and registered them with the DNR. Any fish bigger than the minimums is eligible for recognition. The fish must be weighed on scales certified for accuracy and a witness must sign the application. Look for the species list and minimum weights in the DNR fish regulations booklet.

The UNI-DOME location for this weekends sports show is open today from 9:30 am until 8 pm. Sunday hours are 10:30 am until 4:30 pm. Admission is $6 per adult, youth ages 10-15 are $4. Kids age 9 or less are free.


The IOWA TAXIDERMIST ASSOCIATION will hold their annual meeting and display of member's art works on the weekend of March 27-28th in Marshalltown at the Regency Inn. Public hours at the show are on the 27th from noon until 5 pm. Local member of the association and perfectionist taxidermist of waterfowl is Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He will have several entries in the competition. The ITA has members who are amateur and professional from Iowa and close by Midwest states.

On Saturday, March 20th, from 9 to 11, at the Conservation Center at the GrimesFarm, Mike Stegmann will demonstrate his methods of performing taxidermy on a bird. He will answer questions and provide hints to anyone interested in possible taxidermy work for themselves. This program is intended to be a fun time and a learning time to see how a mounted bird actually comes together to reveal its intricate form and feathered markings. Waterfowl mounts are coveted trophies for the goose and duck hunter.

Last year's ITA show had over 200 mounts that included deer, black bear, a Bengal tiger, turkeys, fresh and salt water fishes, pheasants, raccoons, fox, snakes and many others. Do bring your camera. Do talk to the artists one-on-one. Ask questions and learn how this craft has progressed through time to become more and more exacting in its attention to detail. Enjoy.


WATER, water everywhere. It is spring snow melt time. Area creeks and the Iowa River are responding accordingly as water volumes concentrate. The official flood stage in Marshalltown is 18.0 feet on the Corps of Engineers gauging station on the highway 14 bridge. With a heavy and thick snow pack gradually receding, there is lots of water to cause us temporary discomfort or altered routes of travel in the weeks to come.

When newscasters tell a story of the river at a certain level, and what kind of impacts that may have, consider these general benchmarks based on history. This author collects the data and has a big file to draw upon to relate what we may expect when Mom Nature shows one of her wild cards in the form of flooding along the Iowa River. At official flood stage of 18.0 feet lowland flooding is just beginning. The river is bank full and spilling out along the edges in several places.

A river stage of 18.4, or there about, is when water goes over highway 330 south of Albion. Expect the DOT to close the road to all traffic. At about 19.0 feet, expect highway 14 north of Marshalltown to go under. Expect DOT to close this road too. Local folks know that North Center Street that leaves Marshalltown toward the KDAO radio station, is a higher grade and is the last road north of town to ever get closed. It takes a record flood similar to June 13, 2008, when the river gauge was at 21.79 feet, to have water over North Center. The record flood of 2008 also had the road down to one lane north of LeGrand.

So plan ahead. Have essential items on hand at home. Listen to official statements from DOT, law enforcement, or emergency management personnel. The reason is simple. Mom nature rules. We humans can only adjust and adapt.


BOATERS like water, usually at normal flow levels on rivers or lakes. Fishing is on their minds for times when the water warms and fish start to actively feed. However, this is a reminder that April 2010 is the time to renew boat license registrations for the next three year period. April 30th is the deadline to do so without penalty. The County Recorder's office is the place to accomplish this bit of paperwork. Fees remain unchanged from those established in 2007. Get the job done early and attach the new sticker to the canoe, boat or personal watercraft well ahead of the time you plan to use it on the water.


"Windy Weather" is the topic for Nature's Story Hour on Wednesday, March 17. Stories and activities for preschoolers are presented the first and third Wednesday of each month at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center from 10 11 a.m.

On Friday, March 26, bring your lunch and join the naturalist at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center from 11:30 a.m. 1:00 p.m. for a program on "Natural Pest Control".


Today's Joke: Being a frog isn't as bad as it seems. Whenever anything bugs them, they eat it.


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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