Sportsmen and women who have been hooked by the bug to hunt wild turkey are ready and eager to get another season started. In Iowa this year, an expanded youth turkey season begins today and runs through April 15. Therefore two weekends are possible in 2012. Iowa law sets the age of under 16 years as qualifying for youth license status. An adult mentor must be with the young person, must also possess a valid turkey license, regular hunting license and a habitat fee (if required). The mentor assists the youth by providing supervision or calling, but cannot carry or use any weapon. That part is up to the youth.
Todd Gosselink, DNR turkey research biologist, knows that this year's early spring has tended to push up the activity level of tom turkeys. However it is the hen turkey that still calls the shots and decides when mating and nesting will start. Her que to begin is primarily based on photoperiod - the amount of daylight. On April 16, the day length in Marshall County will be 13 hours 24 minutes and increasing quite rapidly by about two to three minutes each day. By the end of fourth season on May 20, day length will be 14 hours and 44 minutes.
Hen turkey seek out potential nesting sites early and decide which is best for them later. When a final site is found, it will be a shallow depression in leaf litter and moderately dense understory settings. She must be able to detect predators from the ground or air before they get too close. Once all her eggs are laid, perhaps up to 10 or 12, incubation begins. All the work of nest selection and incubation is done by the hen. Eggs need about 26 to 28 days to develop. Even while the hen is sitting on her eggs, she talks to her poults by soft clucks. Nearing hatching time, this voice recognition is being imprinted on the young turkeys. It is an important part of the hatching process and is critical to survival of the young. Imprinting is so important to this bird to help enable it to develop well from poult to adult. Social bonds are also established within the first 24 hours of hatching. If the young can survive all ground or avian predators for the first six weeks of life, they will greatly increase their ability to make it that first year.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Question: How does one get this close to a gobbling tom turkey? Answer: Make the image of a stuffed bird at a taxidermist convention. That is what this scribe did last weekend at Marshalltown’s hosting of the Iowa Taxidermy Association. Today’s photo helps to illustrate the detail of a tom turkey’s head that most people never get to see. For some folks, including youth turkey hunters starting today, they may get to inspect a big gobbler after a carefully made shot. April 16 is the beginning of the regular first season for 2012 in Iowa.
Iowa has the Eastern Wild Turkey. Other sub-species include the Rio Grande, Merriam's, Gould's, Ocellated and Osceola. A grand slam is considered a hunt sequence whereby a hunters must travel to many different habitat locations each season in order to get a bird. It takes a lot of time and money to pull it off but it can be done.
Restoration work in Iowa for wild turkey has been very successful, just one hallmark of conservation achievement. In 1979 at a turkey hunting seminar attended by midwest biologists, they hoped for but never dreamed the project would rise to the success we know and accept on 2012. This bird is very important recreationally and it is expected that 10,000 tom turkeys will be taken statewide. This number is well within the parameters for sustaining populations of this biggest game bird. If you or your family member have a turkey hunt story to share, send it to me at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005. I'll attempt to work the story into future articles. Thanks.
April is the month when lots of new things seem to pop out of the ground or appear overhead in the sky.
For ground related items, morel mushrooms are high on the list of delicacies offered from Mother Nature's pantry. Springing from the ground are new forest wildflowers, seedlings and insects buzzing around. The sky will soon have additional migrating birds to watch and listen to. Ponds and backwater areas will begin to echo with the sounds of frogs; Spring Peepers, Western Chorus Frogs, Tree frogs and Leopard Frogs. Add bullfrog croaks into the mix too. Tree leaves are bursting from swollen buds. Hawks and owls have babies to feed. Rabbits will soon bring off new broods if they can avoid daytime hawks or night time owls. Everything is alive and eager to get on with the tasks of living in a new year.
EARTH DAY activities are being planned for your participation on April 21, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., at the Conservation Center and the Grimes Farm. At 10 a.m., a futurist scavenger hunt using handheld GPS units will take place. One can bike or hike to find hidden treasures caches within the park and/or along trails. Pre-registration is required before April 18 as group size is limited. Call 752-5490 for details. At noon join the naturalist as she explores neat methods to save resources. At 1 p.m. join other MCCB staff to help replace storm damaged trees. An incentive to participate includes free hot dogs to eat and free tree seedlings to take home.
Spring is a time to get out and about in county parks. Enjoy the picnic sites, camping areas, fishing areas, boat ramps, or hiking trails in forest or prairie. A complete list of all Marshall County Conservation Board lands is available in a brochure/handout publication that can be obtained from at the Conservation Center. Specific handouts for specific areas of interest may better suit you so pick those up also.
A reminder to park users is this: The basic rules and laws that apply are meant to insure protection of the park and its resources. There are valid reasons of conservation that come first, and some allowed public activities that are compatible with the site come second. Motorized off-road ATV's and dirt bikes do not fit into this equation. There is a place for these machines, specifically the ATV park located east of Marshalltown. If you see inappropriate activity of any kind in a county park area, call the communications center at 754-5725 so they can dispatch appropriate law enforcement officers to the area. Do your part to help protect your natural areas.
This week, on short notice, a planned PRAIRIE GRASS BURN may happen at Green Castle Recreation Area. There is no way to schedule in advance a day or time. Since Mother nature rules the scene anyway, all that management crews can do is be flexible to conduct the burn when all the safety factors are in order. Stay tuned to local radio announcements about fire management that you will be allowed to observe from a safe distance. Fires and prairies are as old as history. To see it in action is quite an experience.
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.