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Hunting safer than many other sports

December 10, 2011

WARM CLOTHES is exactly what humans needed this week during the shotgun hunting season. With lots of rain last Saturday, hunters still made the trek to the forest, farm field edges and fencerows to see if and what they could locate. Overall it appears that statewide shotgun deer hunters took about +/- 40,000 head out of the herd. The grand total of all deer taken to date is near 70,000 in Iowa, spread out over 55,875 square miles of the Hawkeye State.

Today marks the beginning of shotgun season number two and this season runs from Dec. 10 through 18. Estimated 50,000 deer hunters will take to the field in second season. A general impression from first season deer hunters is that they are seeing deer, just not as many as in previous years. Biologists watching the numbers are thinking that a ten percent reduction in number of deer killed is what the final tally will be. Time will tell.


Article Photos

Staying warm means eating. For this Cardinal, sunflower seeds are part of his diet this winter to keep his metabolism levels on track for the season.  Birds can fluff up their lower layers of feathers to create dead air spaces to act as insulation. The system obviously works for this species and many others that are year round resident critters of Iowa.

Game Wardens do want the deer hunters to be safe. Already this year, at least five non life-threatening gun shot wounds have happened to people. The accidents happened in many cases when other hunters were so focused on shooting at a running deer that they did not properly anticipate what was beyond the target.Plan ahead and know where other hunting party people are posted.

Take note of these safety related numbers. Hunting is still a very safe sport to pursue. Don't let anyone ever tell you different. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. data, hunting ranks third in safety when compared to 28 other recreational pursuits. Firearms hunting accidents are 0.05 percent, or about 1 injury for every 2,000 participants. Camping is safest at 0.01 percent. Next is billiards at 0.02 percent. Golfing comes in at 0.16 percent or 1 injury per 622 participants. Tackle football topped the list at 5.27 percent or 1 injury per 19 participants. Other sports more dangerous than hunting are bowling, running, jogging, mountain biking and water skiing.

Here is another way to compare safety standards of outdoor sports. A person is 11 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball, 19 times more likely to get hurt snowboarding, 25 times more bicycling, 34 times more if playing soccer and 105 times more if football is your thing. Firearms use by hunters constitutes just 1/2 of one percent of all unintentional injuries that end up fatal.


Here is a wildlife fact for you to think about. Wildlife cannot be stockpiled. Populations go up and down but seldom out of control. For game animals, the annual 'overabundance' from the past spring and summer must meet the reality of a long cold winter with reduced cover and reduced food. Hunting reduces the numbers to something more in line with what the land can sustain. And these actions of wildlife management still assure a breeding population sufficient for next year.

For most wildlife that we observe, numbers stay relatively the same year after year. We are not awash with blue jays, cardinals, song sparrows or red-tailed hawks. All wildlife must cope with weather (good or bad) and weather in itself is a great leveling tool of nature to take the weak or ill out of the mix. Even quail, those fastest of small game birds, have an annual mortality rate of 75 to 80 percent whether hunted or not.

It is apparent that hunting is a useful part of today's side game management practices. By teaming habitat improvement with carefully regulated seasons and bag limits, our professional conservationists set guidelines/laws/regulation so that hunters take only the surplus of game populations.


TRUMPETER SWANS, at least 17 of them, were seen earlier this week at Sand Lake, one mile east of Marshalltown. These free flying birds made a stop to rest and feed in local picked corn fields. And there were also many hundreds of Canada Geese with those swans. Two captive Trumpeter Swans are at Green Castle as part of an on-going cooperative program with the DNR. The success of the swan program is something to cheer about. Iowa has lots of free flying now because of work started over 20 years ago.


CANADA GEESE have at least 13 different vocalizations they use to communicate. They have gravelly sounding gronks, moaning murmurs and sharp high-pitched honks. Canadas can use their 'alphabet' of voice ranges to show contentment, to greet each other, find food or warn others of danger. They understand what they say to each other and that is what counts.


The ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION has several Iowa chapters. However, at their national convention in Las Vegas on Feb. 2-4, they will auction off a unique item. It is a custom walnut coffin, with elk antler handles and camo bedding.The coffin is custom made by BNG Finish Products of Etna, California. A mountain scene is etched into the inside lid along with an elk outline art work. This is for the elk hunter that wants to take it with him/her on the final day. Proceeds from the sale go toward support of conservation projects of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.


While we are having cold weather in the northern hemisphere now, the opposite is true in the southern hemisphere. In 2007, this scribe went on a plains game bow hunt to South Africa. The owner of that outfitting service sent a Christmas Card e-mail to me this week. He reports high 90s temperatures at his location, a normal happening at this time of year south of the equator. Winter is their summer season. His safari operation has never seen snow.


The Marshall County Conservation Board invites students in grades 6th, 7th, and 8th to kick off the winter break with a tropical trip to the Reiman Gardens Butterfly Dome in Ames as a part of the Junior Conservationists program. Registration is now open for the Dec. 22 field trip which will run form 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost for the trip is $5 and students should bring a lunch and water bottle. Space is limited and scholarships are available. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED by December 16 by calling the Marshall County Conservation Board at 752-5490. A permission slip will be sent to participants.

Participants will explore the tropical paradise filled with up to 800 live butterflies of 80 different species, view the butterfly nursery to observe chrysalises and emerging butterflies, and explore the "Snug as a Bug" exhibit.

For more information and to preregister contact the Marshall County Conservation Board, at 752-5490.


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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