Wildlife observations are always a special treat for this author. Whether from the vantage point of my silent hideout in a pop-up camo blind, a quiet trek along a woodsy trail, or hours of standing in a tree stand overlooking an Iowa woodland, those times I'm outside are some of the most electrifying experiences a nature buff can experience.
To be fair, I must tell you that a huge number of hours are spent in the above mentioned situations in order to be ready and available with my camera and/or bow. Time sometimes drags by slowly with not a lot happening regarding wildlife sightings. But when it all comes together, what a treat indeed. The usual fare is deer, but intermixed are other wildlife sighting to add to my ledger: fox, coyote, fox and gray squirrels, raccoons, muskrats, mink, chipmunks, voles, shrews. Birds are always present too. They are all treats for my eye and this list includes bald eagles, egrets, herons, Pileated woodpeckers, hairy, downy, red-headed and red-bellied. Little birds on my list include brown creepers, nuthatches, many fall migrating warblers, crows, pheasants, wild turkeys and just last week a few robins. All are nice touches.
So far this year, I've spent about 120 hours on stand just for the fall hunting seasons. More time will ensue this winter and spring inside pop-up blinds with my camera in tow. Hours of sitting and waiting will be required for a few moments of camera shutter overload as I try to collect images better than the ones I may already have on file. In my opinion, wildlife photography is first of all fun. Two, it provides a time to observe at close range the life of the critter. And third, it is a primer for and a continual test of my skills and endurance for next falls hunting seasons. Wildlife is my excuse to get outside.
T-R PHOTO By GARRY BRANDENBURG
Gray squirrels are not as numerous in the central part of Iowa as they are further east. However, this species does have a small presence in the Iowa River Wildlife Area and other sites within the Iowa River valley. Its Latin name, Sciurus carolinensis, denotes its major range as the entire eastern half of the United States. If a major food shortage occurs in a particular year in its hardwood forests, this species has been documented to ‘migrate’ to wherever it can find food. Its range overlaps with the fox squirrel we commonly see.
If you need and excuse to get outside, do remember to take a camera and record images of the natural world or people enjoying it. Then consider entering the best images in the PHOTO CONTEST sponsored by the Marshall County Conservation Board. This popular program has been on-going for many years and always brings out an interesting array of locally made images for the judges to ponder.
This contest is open to any amateur photographer. The deadline for entries is Feb. 4, less than a month away. Any outdoor related theme from the past year in Marshall County in the following categories: People and Natural resources, Scenic Natural Resources, and Native Wildlife. Each photo entered will cost $3and must be mounted and unframed. After the winners are picked, awards will be presented at a special Chili supper at the Conservation Center For details on the photo contest, contact the MCCB at 752-5490 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall hunting seasons are winding down but are not over. In fact, the season runs until the end of January for squirrel, quail, partridge, raccoon, opossum, fox and ruffed grouse. Trapping seasons also go to the end of January for coyote, mink, muskrat, weasel, striped skunk, badger, opossum, fox and raccoon. Cottontail rabbit season goes to the end of February. Hunters and trappers know that their 2010 license will expire on Jan. 10. A new license for 2011 is required after that date.
Southern Iowa late season deer hunts will be on the agenda for antlerless only deer until Jan. 30. Center fire rifles may be used in the southern two tiers of counties. Deer numbers are being controlled by hunters. High population areas are getting extra attention. So far, Iowa's statewide deer kill is over 113,000 animals. Marshall County hunters have taken over 880 deer.
The leading county in Iowa for deer harvests is Clayton (northeast Iowa near the Mississippi River) with nearly 4,600 animals registered as required by the licensing system.
Whoever said there are no pheasants needs to follow the Marshall County Conservation maintenance staff for a few days while they conduct land management duties. While removing some interior fences at the Marietta Sand Prairie recently, lots of observed snow tracks and actual sightings of ringnecks took place. Pheasants need several relatively warm dry springs, good nesting cover, and long term winter survival cover. If Mother Nature will allow this to take place for about 3 years in a row, pheasant numbers will rebound.
To check out more on pheasants, the National Pheasant Fest exhibit and show will take place in Omaha, Neb. on Jan.28-30 this year. This exhibition rotates state to state in all upper Midwest locations. Iowa's turn will return in a few more years.
On Jan. 17 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the Marshall County Conservation Board will hold a Full Moon Tower Hike. Enjoy a moon lit hike up to the observation tower at the Grimes Farm and take in the view of the moonlit country side from the observation deck. Dress warmly.
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.