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Deer hunts = dear memories

February 18, 2012
By GARRY BRANDENBURG , Times-Republican

SCORING ANTLERS will be topic of discussion and education next Tuesday night. It is always interesting to see what the local area hunters were able to take during the past season. Rick Trine, DNR Wildlife Management Supervisor, will be present with several sets of deer antlers to illustrate typical and non-typical growth patterns of antlers. He will explain the basic rules for scoring and answer any questions people may have about the process.

The story behind today's deer photo is interesting. The hunter that took it was Wayne Bills. It was the fall of 1974. He had been invited to go on a deer hunt with acquaintances into Hamilton County. For Mr. Bills, it would be his first ever deer hunt. His partners put him on stand and told him "stay here and watch for deer. We will make a push of the timber from above you." With that bit of instruction, Wayne did as he was told. He waited and he watched diligently. Not too much later, he sighted several deer coming toward his location. Carefully he raised his shotgun and shot the buck. No big deal, that was easy.

When his hunting partners finally arrived on the scene, they were amazed at what they saw, one of the biggest whitetail deer of all time, lying dead at the feet of a very novice hunter. At the time, Bills did not recognize the uniqueness of the situation. Because he was a first time hunter, his buddies assumed nothing spectacular would happen. They were wrong. It proves the point that anyone can and sometimes is the right place at the right time when a big buck shows himself. It is nice when that happens.

Article Photos

Antler measuring will take place this Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm. Anyone can bring in a set of antlers, mounted or on the skull plate, for taping and recording the numbers on a formal tally sheet for the State of Iowa. Today’s photo is from a deer taken more than 30 years ago in Central Iowa. Good taxidermy work pays off as this mount still looks fresh, clean and lifelike.

The buck Wayne Bills took was later measured for the Boone & Crockett Club record book. It is one the nicest 5 x 5's in the world with a net score of 201 4/8ths. This rack has 4 tines of 13 inches or longer. The longest tine was 14 and 4/8ths inches long. A brow tine had actually had some of its length removed because it was broken off. It is speculated that if the brow tine would have remained intact equal to the other brow, this deer may have been a new world record. Fate has many surprises.

Deer antler scoring Tuesday night will not likely yield any record busters. However another truth of deer hunting is that the size of the antlers, although nice, usually becomes secondary over time to the quality of the hunt and good times spent with friends or family. Anyone who wants to see how antlers are scored is welcome to attend the Tuesday night program. See you there.


Iowa's DEER CLASSIC is next weekend in Des Moines. The best of Iowa deer will be on exhibit. It is worth the effort to see if you have never been there. So go for it, make it a must do thing, take a friend along that likes to deer hunt, and enjoy the show, learn a bit, and meet lots of friends.


Here are some points to ponder ... and remember ... concerning wildlife related issues, past, present and future. It is called the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Sportsmen from the United States and Canada developed this set of guiding principles for managing wildlife resources. It contains seven segments. One: Wildlife is public property. The government holds wildlife in trust for the benefit of people. Two: Wildlife cannot be slaughtered for commercial use. This policy eliminates trafficking in dead game animals. Three: Wildlife is allocated by law. Every citizen is good standing - regardless of wealth, social standing, or land ownership - is allowed to participate in the harvest of fish and wildlife within guidelines set by lawmakers. Four: Wildlife shall be taken by legal and ethical means, in the spirit of "fair chase", and with good cause. Animals can be killed only for legitimate purposes - for food or fur, in self -defense, or for protection of property. Five: Wildlife is an international resource. As such, hunting and fishing shall be managed cooperatively across state and province borders. Six:Wildlife management, use, and conservation shall be based on sound scientific knowledge and principles. The last point, number seven states hunting, fishing, and trapping shall be democratic. This gives all persons - rich and poor alike - the opportunity to participate.

For the forward thinking 'inventors' of the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation, they are to be commended for a job well done. It has served all state conservation agencies well, as they work through issues at their respective locations to attempt to safeguard natural resources, manage those assets and enforce fish and game laws to reduce illegal takings.


Each year at tax time, I advise my tax preparer to put some money into the "Chickadee Checkoff," the program to help raise money for the Fish and Wildlife Fund. I do it gladly because I know where the money goes. I do it gladly because I want some of the non-game species of Iowa to get help where needed for habitat issues that affect them. In 2010, the number of people donating to the Checkoff was up slightly to just under 8,000 people. This number is a mere 0.5 percent of Iowa's taxpayers. But what they gave amounted to $127,000 dollars. Make sure your tax preparer knows of your interest in the program and make him/her show you the numbers.

The Wildlife Diversity Program within the DNR uses the funds to work on programs like Peregrine Falcons, Trumpeter Swans and Osprey. There are many other critters that benefit from the work on those less glamorous or less charismatic members of the wildlife scene. This scribe urges you to help the Wildlife Diversity Program to the greatest extent you are comfortable with. I thank you.


SPRING weather seems to be early this year. I have to be careful because the Midwest and Iowa have a reputation of surprises concerning weather. So anytime we get in a rut and think we know what is going to happen, Mother Nature pulls her ace out her sleeve and says ... "watch this you puny little humans." We've been stung in past years during March and April with blizzards of record setting proportions. I'll agree the likelihood seems faint at the moment. Being skeptical of the weather in Iowa is a good thing.

Right now, eagles are tending nests. Red-tailed hawks are getting serious about nesting also. Owls are already sitting on eggs. Hatching time will usually coincide with spring weather, less snow and the ability of these birds of prey to find their food for themselves and the family. Eagle watchers will have an additional camera watching over a site near Lake Red Rock. Check it out at


"Words that soak into your ears are whispered ... not yelled." -Anonymous


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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