September transition to fall is on its way

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG A rooster pheasant close up view from several winters ago helps to illustrate preliminary results of an upcoming DNR roadside upland game count survey. According to Todd Bogenschutz, DNR Upland Wildlife research biologist, Iowa’s pheasant population is holding steady compared to recent years over most of the state. Exceptions are for portions of south central Iowa and southeast counties where roadside counts were showing a decline. Based on this year’s August roadside count, Iowa’s statewide average is 17 pheasants per 30 mile route.

PHEASANTS, a most colorful upland game bird, are making a strong effort to stay the course of survival. While our own incidental travels in Iowa and along its backroads may allow for a random sightings of hens or roosters, this is far from a scientific analysis. It is however refreshing to see the quick dash of a hen pheasant crossing a roadway when and where we might least expect it. Knowing that pheasants are wide spread over the Marshall County landscape, even if not in spectacular numbers, gives hope to this fall season hunter’s hopes.

In about one week’s time from now, the DNR official roadside survey results will be published. A summary shows numbers on par with last year over most of Iowa. As noted in the photo caption, lower numbers in southern and southeast Iowa brought the statewide average down to 17 per route from 20 per route last year. Overall, hunters should continue to explore good habitat sites everywhere in the state. Good habitat cover for nesting and predator avoidance close to reliable food sources will increase chances for success regardless of where hunters may go.

Pheasant harvest is down in part because of one simple factor, some folks have just decided not to go hunting. If statistics from last year offer any insight, the overall harvest of roosters could be as much as 400,000 statewide if hunters put in the extra effort to try. In 2018, pheasant hunters numbered about 86,000. Trend lines indicate that for 2019 fall rooster hunts, only about 50,000 hunters will partake. The population can easily withstand more pressure if hunters make that choice. Iowa’s pheasant season dates are Oct. 26 through Jan. 10, 2020.

QUAIL sightings during roadside counts have a different story. Quail numbers appear to be down about 36 percent. Iowa’s best quail habitats are across the southern two tiers of counties bordering Missouri. The Northern Bobwhite Quail is a much smaller bodied critter than the pheasant. What it lacks in size is made for up in fast flying speed and ability to hide well in heavy brushy cover. A covey of quail hiding in the thick stuff will explode with a blur of wings as each bird goes in a different direction. This behavior means a hunter, or ground predator, must stay focused on one bird and not be distracted by the scattering covey. Season dates on quail are Oct. 26 through Jan. 31, 2020.

RABBIT, specifically the cottontail rabbit population is doing well. On Mother Nature’s food chain, lots of rabbits means some will serve as prey for fox, coyote, hawks and eagles. Hunters find the cottontail fits the definition of ‘fast food’ when trying to pry them loose from brush piles or weedy fence line cover. Rabbit hunting is one game species that is attractive to young hunters being mentored by observant adults. In 2018, an estimated 20,500 rabbit hunters did take more than 123,000 rabbits. A large investment in equipment is not needed. An do note that rabbit meat is lean, low fat and popular table fare. Rabbit season is Aug. 31 through Feb. 28, 2020.

SEPTEMBER is a transition month regarding the slow and inevitable change into fall season. During this month there are several anniversaries I’ll note for you, all fitting into some category of earth history, natural history or weather related changes to expect. So get ready for this wide variety of past happenings. When did Iowa have its latest 100 plus degree day? Answer: air temperatures in Glenwood reached 103 F on Sept. 28, 1953. The average killing frost date in northern Iowa is Sept. 24. Average means that in some years frost can happen before that time or later. Every year is different.

Regarding rain events, Iowa had its largest one day rainfall of 21.70 inches at Boyden on Sept. 18, 1926. Earthquakes are rare in Iowa, at least those we can feel. However on Sept. 27, 1909, eastern Iowa felt the earth shake a bit. An Oklahoma centered earthquake on Sept. 3, 2008, was felt in western Iowa.

And now, switching to snow, hopefully a long way off, it did snow six inches in western Iowa on the 16th in the year 1881. The story behind this weather event began with a low pressure system in south Texas on the 14th. At first the storm moved to Louisiana, then went north to Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin before moving west and south into Iowa and Minnesota. Air temperatures in Des Moines were 80 degrees on the 14th, fell to 58 on the 15th and just 46 on the 16th. But in northern and western Iowa, the cold air of Canada mixing with the moist warm air from the south created snow. Algona got four inches of snow in the morning of the 16th, and its weight broke tree branches. Elsewhere, snow was reported as quite heavy at Creston, and several inches of snow fell between Des Moines and Atlantic, IA. It was a widespread snow that did melt quickly the next day.

On Sept. 25, 1942, snow in measurable amounts fell across Iowa with up to four inches recorded in Allison in Butler County. There have been other less defining moments of snow during September in the years, 1895, 1912, 1938 and 39, 1942, 1961, 1985 and 1995. Let us hope this part of natural history does not repeat itself anytime soon.

ALASKA VACATION highlights will be the program for all Izaak Walton League members, guests and anyone interested in learning about the 49th state. Tom Ohlfest will present a slide show at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the Ikes clubhouse as part of the Ikes membership appreciation function. A potluck supper will be served. Then after supper, Ohlfest will tell of the journey he and wife Mona enjoyed from June 28 to July 11. The trip began at Fairbanks, then to Denali, a train to Whittier and finally a big boat down the inside passage of waterways to Vancouver, BC. This will be a do-not-miss-it program and you are all invited.


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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