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Gobbler's wake up calls greet forest mornings

April 10, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

WILD TURKEYS are hardy birds. Through the worst that last winter weather could throw at them, they survived. Tracks in late winter snows and recent tracks in soft silt covered soils from recent retreating high water attest to the fact that this wandering big game bird is alive and well.

Iowa regulations for gun hunters of wild turkeys have four seasons, the first of which starts Monday morning and goes through the April 15. Season two is April 16 through 20. The third is April 21 through 27 and lastly season four is April 28 through May 16. Archers have the flexibility of no restrictions on dates. Of course their success rate is minor in comparison to the take by gun hunters.

Turkey hunting tales are wrought with frustration of the ones that got away, hung up out of range or simply eluded the best that mankind could use to out-fox this very alert bird. Yet sometimes when it all comes together, a big tom will be so mad at a jake decoy near a hen decoy that he is blazing for a fight. Throwing all caution to the wind, he comes in strong only to be met by the hunter's arrow or wad of shotgun pellets. On average, 40 percent of the turkey hunters this spring will take a turkey home to eat.

Article Photos

T-R Photo by Garry Brandenburg
A young male (Jake) wild turkey searches a forest edge for the source of the calls emanating from this authors ground blind. He never figured it out. The opportunity was perfect however to capture some images of this handsome bird. In a few years, he will be fully mature, have a longer beard and be ready to do battle with other Toms. The Iowa wild turkey season begins Monday morning at 30 minutes before sunrise.

Wild turkeys are successful in much of Iowa due to lots of live trapping and relocation efforts in the 1980s. Marshall County birds got their start about that time with releases of four toms and 10 to 12 hens at Grammer Grove and the private timber north of Le Grand. They have done quite well with a complete distribution up and down the Iowa River valley. The efforts were assisted by the National Wild Turkey Federation that furnished transport boxes for DNR wildlife crews.

The NWTF is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973. Estimated wild turkey numbers in the U S. was 1.3 million birds. Today the estimate is at least 7 million. The NWTF raises funds through local banquets in chapters in all the states. Projects vary from state to state but rest assured, habitat is the number one task of planning, planting and managing resting areas, trees and water sources.

Youth education ranks high also with scholarship programs, youth shooting sports and workshops. Land purchases are a top priority too. Volunteers are essential helpers on habitat projects, assisting Wheelin' Sportsmen who hunt from wheelchairs, assisting on research programs and at hunter safety classes.

Fact Box

T-R Photo by Garry Brandenburg

A young male (Jake) wild turkey searches a forest edge for the source of the calls emanating from this authors ground blind. He never figured it out. The opportunity was perfect however to capture some images of this handsome bird. In a few years, he will be fully mature, have a longer beard and be ready to do battle with other Toms. The Iowa wild turkey season begins Monday morning at 30 minutes before sunrise.

All this work is the result of the passion for wildlife and the passion for the pursuit of this legendary game bird. It is a wildlife success story beyond question. Make this year the time to give the wild turkey your time and attention. Caution: you may get hooked on turkeys.

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While the wild turkey is a big bird and conspicuous, other big birds are passing through the area. This author has spotted several NORTHERN HARRIER hawks as they worked the grasslands at the Marietta Sand Prairie. Flying low over the vegetation, these raptors search for birds, mice or frogs. A white patch of feathers on the top base of the tail is a diagnostic field note.

The other big bird is the SANDHILL CRANE. It is a tall bird of about 34 to 48 inches tall with wingspans of 73 to 90 inches. Their color is dull gray with a dark red patch of feathers on its forehead. Otter Creek Marsh in Tama County always has a few pairs take up residency in the cattail areas of the refuge portion of this 3,000 plus acre state wildlife area.

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SKUNKS are out and about. The most common by far is the stripped skunk, that black and white critter well known for its bad smell. It has a cousin, the Eastern Spotted Skunk, an Iowa endangered species. It is rare indeed. I recall seeing several early during my career in Marshall County, probably in the mid-1970s. Even then I was amazed that I even got to see them. Fast forward to April 2010, when a trapper friend was driving along the highway and he saw a dead skunk on the road. It looked different. Indeed it was different, a spotted skunk. Evidently this critter, in spite of low numbers in the population, is not down and out. It will be interesting to see if it is making a comeback.

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Register your BOAT before the end of April. This is the end of the three year cycle for renewal or new registration for watercraft. Registration fees are based on the length of the boat and how it is powered. A typical canoe using paddle power only costs $13.25. Add a power motor and the fee is $23.75. Boats with motors, depending upon overall length, have fees ranging from $23.75 to $151.25.

There are more than 7,000 watercraft registered in Iowa and they are used on more than 300,000 acres of water. Boat operator education classes are mandatory for young people ages 12-17 if the motor is 10 horsepower or greater or any personal watercraft (jet ski).

To renew your boat, see the County Recorder at the Marshall County Courthouse M-F from 8 am until 4:30 pm. you may call the Recorder if you have specific questions at 641-754-6355 or the Iowa DNR at 515-281-5918.

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The MCCB staff will be attempting to conduct controlled fires on prairie lands as soon as the weather permits. At least some portion of every grassland area under their management will receive the benefits of fire to enhance the growth of grasses and kill woody vegetation encroachment. With old grass cover burnt off, the new shoots will respond fast to warming soil as the power of the sun increases. Grassland birds are a big beneficiary of this work. A public viewing opportunity is set for the week of April 19 at 7:30 pm at the GrimesFarm. The actual day must remain flexible due to weather and wind conditions that will allow for a safe burn. Call 752-5490 as the possible date draws closer.

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ELMER KUNKEL's passing has left a gap in the conservation leadership of the MCCB. He served for more than eleven years and helped guide decisions that brought about additional lands to the Marietta Sand Prairie, the Iowa River Wildlife Management Area, The Hollingsworth Timber near Bangor, the Conservation Center and the Green Century Farm wildlife area. He was a good thinker and knew much about the practical side of business and how it could be applied to conservation efforts. He will be missed.

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The 40th anniversary of EARTH DAY is fast approaching. The MCCB will feature a display "Get Out and Celebrate!" at the Marshall Town Center from April 16 22. Discover fun nature activities for yourself or the whole family. On April 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the display will be staffed and door prizes and a limited number of free tree/shrub seedlings will be given away. There will also be anniversary cake and a reading of Where the Wild Things Are at 1:00 p.m.

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On the lighter side: "You can either complain that rose bushes have thorns - or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses." Anonymous.

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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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