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Deer forecasts for 2011-12 season are being formulated

April 2, 2011

CITY DEER hunts are going well despite some severe cold weather last winter that kept archers away. Plus deer have adapted to moving to areas where deer hunting pressure is less. Hunting deer can sometimes seem like a chess game of moves and countermoves. Persistence is the name of the game to help control deer numbers. Many other Iowa communities have learned the long term value of urban deer control.

Iowa deer depredation biologist Bill Bunger calls the city's effort to date a good start even though the deer taken out of the population is minimal. More pressure on deer by authorized urban archers is needed. He anticipates a similar license allotment for the coming year.

During Bungers observations from the helicopter last January 15, scattered groups of whitetails were found in all three sectors of Marshalltown. A grid pattern is flown to help eliminate bias from one survey to another. The northeast quadrant had 77 deer in a 1.9 square mile area for a count of 41 deer per square mile. This is down from 2009's flight of 62 deer per square mile, or 34 percent decrease. In the northwest quadrant, 89 deer were observed for 22 per square mile for a 39 percent downturn from 2009. The southwest area had 101 deer which represents a 20 percent reduction.

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For the third year, doe deer will be the focus of the urban deer hunting inside the city limits of Marshalltown this coming fall.  Archers took 15 deer within the city limits during the 2010-11 hunting season. Aerial surveys by the DNR this past winter showed a count of 267 deer compared to the 2009 flight when 388 were seen. A total of 44 doe deer have been harvested during the 2009 and 2010 hunts combined.  That means approximately 97 deer, adult does and their potential fawns, have been removed from the equation.

For Iowa as a whole, the trend line for deer populations is going down. Marshall County's anticipated antlerless quota for 2011-12 hunting season will be 300, down from 500 last year. More and more counties have reached management goals and therefore quota reductions and a possible end to the November antlerless season is likely. Last year 127,094 deer were reported harvested statewide. However, the report rate compliance was only 84.5 percent. When this correction is factored in, the actual deer killed was more likely around the 150,500 mark.

Here are some additional summary statements pertaining to Iowa deer.

1. DNR management decisions are based on good biological data collected from harvest and research, aerial and officer conducted spotlight surveys, and stakeholder surveys. Road kill data from the DOT is also used.

2. Statewide, Iowa's deer herd is declining and population goals have been reached in many areas.

3. Of the 20 Wildlife Management Units in the state, 12 are at or very close to goals, 7 have declining deer numbers and 5 need more deer killed to bring the trend line down.

4. Statewide, postseason deer populations have been reduced 33 percent.

5. Resident deer hunters have done an excellent job of responding to the call for increased taking of antlerless deer. Iowa ranks among the top states in percentage of doe deer killed for the last six years.

6. Antlerless harvest is a crucial part of deer management but is often overlooked or underutilized by individuals who feel they are practicing quality deer management principles or trophy management on properties they own.

7. Some of Iowa's highest deer densities occur on properties with restricted accesses that are 'managed' specifically for deer. Some of these lands have deer densities of over 80 deer per square mile. On average, most other places in the state are well under half that amount.

8. There is no scientific evidence that supplemental feeding/minerals benefits Midwestern whitetails in anyway. This is not the case in southern states where the soils are poorer due to eons of time whereby rainfall has leached out many minerals. Iowa soils are pretty well naturally balanced to provide calcium and phosphorous.


PRAIRIE BURNS, the controlled management type, will be conducted in April by staff of the Marshall County Conservation Board. For public viewing, the week of April 18 is when a night prairie management burn is slated at Green Castle, one mile south of Ferguson. The actual evening will be determined on short notice due to weather conditions. Listen to KDAO and KFJB for updates or call the MCCB at 752-5490.

Prairie fires have been naturally occurring events for millennia. Indians also burned the grasses often as they managed the grass for grazing herds of animals such as elk and bison. Iowa's 'natural' landscape can be said to have been altered by mankind for thousands of years prior to European settlers ever thinking about coming to Iowa. A prairie fire at night is spectacular as the flames eat away at last years above ground dried big bluestem, switch grass and Indian grass. Below ground, the plant's roots remain alive and well.


Today from noon until 5 p.m. the public is welcome to view displays of taxidermy art at the Regency Inn near Highway 30 and 14. Admission is free so come on out to inspect high quality work by some of the best artisans in this craft. There will always be a surprise special critter or two that is unfamiliar to the viewers. Check it out.


Last Saturday's FUN NIGHT at the Tama County Conservation Board was indeed just that, fun for all. After a great meal, a special informative program called, "Bobcat of Iowa" was given.Radio collared bobcats proved how far ranging they may be as GPS tracking kept a log of places visited as the cats roamed southern Iowa hills and dales. Later that evening, an auction raised money for a new display yet to be built.


Here are some tidbits of humor to contemplate. These questions are actually questions asked by the public on comment forms collected in out national parks.

At the Grand Canyon, authorities may still be scratching their heads when they read...."Was this man-made?" "Is the mule train air-conditioned?" And "So where are the faces of the Presidents?"

At Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, these questions were noted . "How much of the cave is underground?" "So what is this - just a hole in the ground?" "What is in the unexplored part of the cave?" And finally, "How many ping pong balls would it take to fill this up?"

Yellowstone National Park "Does Old Faithful ever erupt at night?" "How do you turn it on?" "When does the guy who turns it on get to sleep?"

Conservation education needs will never end as long as questions like the above are posed by some people who have no clue about the natural world.


Here are a few activities that Marshall County Conservation have coming up on their calendar.

Preschoolers and their adult(s) are invited to listen to fun nature stories, take a walk and explore nature's wonders for Nature Story Hour. Join us on the first and third Wednesdays each month. March sessions will be held April 6 from 10 - 11 a.m.

Uncle Ike Nature Program for grades first through fifth (family members welcome), will be held on April 9 at the Izaak Walton League Grounds (2 Miles south of Iowa Ave on So. 12th/Smith Ave). The program is cosponsored by the MCCB and the Izaak Walton League. This award winning program is FREE. "Exciting Cycles of Nature" is this year's theme. The April 9, 9 to 11 a.m. session is called "We Cycle," Is there enough to go around? Discover how you can help the Earth by using the 3 R's.


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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