October is prime time to be outdoors
OCTOBER is prime time to be outdoors. So many transitions are taking place in nature during the fall season. Cooler weather tops the list. Farmers grain fields are progressing toward harvest. Tree leaves will soon burst forth is a wide array of colors. Nut bearing trees like walnut, hickory, chestnut and oaks are into full tilt production. Animals that like to eat these tree seeds have not let this go unnoticed. Hibernating mammals are stocking up on food and/or body fat to endure a long winter sleep in the not too distant future. Bird migrations are beginning to peak again as the inevitable southward journey to warmer climates is a call that cannot be denied. It is October.
People have been waiting all year for this October. And it seems like October 2018, though now in the history books, was our “prime time” to do things outdoors. It came and went fast. Well, now it is here again so we’d best make the best of it. It only lasts for 31 days. And a lot can happen in October’s 31 days. For example, did you know that the average killing frost for southeast Iowa is the 19th. That’s average….meaning that every year can be a bit different, earlier or later frost times. A killing frost is defined as air temperatures in the high 20’s for several hours even if the daytime air temps quickly rebound into the 30s or 40s or more. Oct. 28, 1925 was the earliest known sub-zero air temperature of -5 F at Little Sioux.
In the 1980s, Marshall County and other central Iowa areas experienced a heavy wet snow event. Big gobs of snow hung onto tree limbs and leaves. Leaves had not yet fallen. Snow was heavy enough to break many tree limbs. I was there observing and photographing while snow on trees golden with fall leaves. And while I took pictures, off in the distance all over the forest, loud cracks of breaking branches would permeate the day. A mess of broken branches was left behind.
Our history book of weather events also tells of Oct. 31, 1991 when a Halloween Blizzard struck Iowa. Lots of snow, up to 16 inches in northwest Iowa, and accumulating ice elsewhere caused havoc for people and wildlife. Ice accumulations from Clarinda to Forest City shut down many activities. It was followed by bitter cold.
That type of weather is usually an exception, not the rule. Warm sunny Indian Summer nice warm weather tends to be what we can expect. And when Mother Nature smiles for us during October, we had better be prepared to make the most of it. We know November is coming. That is why October is prime time.
FALL FISHING is high on the list of lots of folks. Many species of fish can sense the colder air and cooling waters of rivers, lakes and ponds. It is their time to feed as fast as they can to prepare for a long winter of inactivity. If your fly line, baited hook or dazzling lure is to be used, October is a month to make sure fishing lines stay wet as many days as possible. A nice sunny day with warm October air is perfect. Head to Green Castle Recreations Area and its 16 surface acre lake. Fish from shore or from a canoe or kayak. Explore the bays and numerous underwater fish habitat structures. Keep trying, keep fishing and see what bites. Fall fishing tip: Since the water may be a bit cooler, work the action of your lure slower. And work any underwater structure habitats a bit longer before moving on to a new setup.
DEER numbers in Iowa are very good. Hunters can expect a fall season, either archery now or gun seasons later in December, to be quite similar to previous years. That being said, deer have other issues beyond human control to deal with. One disease of deer is called Chronic Wasting Disease that takes years to show up in the deer’s body condition or behavior. A normal looking and normal acting deer may or may not have this malady. It is known in several northeast Iowa counties or southern counties where CWD positive tests have let biologists know about this problem. Most deer do not have CWD. Still, biologists do collect lymph node samples from deer in every county and even more deer in affected counties. Those samples are sent to labs for evaluation. Special deer management zones are in effect for 2019 in Dubuque, Allamakee, Clayton, in northeast Iowa and in Wayne County in far south central, the Corydon zone. Additional late deer quotas will be in effect into January of next year to help thin the deer herd even more than traditional hunting seasons will take.
Another deer disease that takes a healthy animal to its death is just a few days goes by the acronym EHD. It is a hemorrhaging disease caused by the bite of midge. Dry hot weather is perfect for midge populations. And since that is what we have had lately, biologists were not surprised to hear of and get reports of deer in apparent good health being found dead. The disease causes the deer to develop an extreme thirst so it goes to a water source. EHD deer may be found in streams, ponds or rivers. Tyson Brown , Iowa Conservation officer, called me to let me know that central Iowa counties of Marshall, Tama, Story, Jasper have all had reports of EHD deer deaths. Colder weather seems to be the best we can hope for to let this insect vector go away.
In Michigan, Department of Natural Resource reports of tuberculosis in some deer, and that in 2017 a Michigan man became infected by the bacterium for TB after field dressing a deer. TB may be found in cattle, bison, elk and deer. Contracting this disease, bovine tuberculosis, is rare, accounting for less than two percent of cases in the U.S. People can get it by drinking or eating unpasteurized dairy products or by contamination from bovine body fluids or tissue. TB can be treated in domestic livestock and in humans.
The good news is that while it is good to be aware of the above, most deer are healthy animals and the meat is safe to consume. What Iowa deer hunters use for their own personal use tops the list. Additional deer they may take are also utilized by gifting the deer to folks who want a deer but cannot physically go deer hunting. In addition, Iowa’s HUSH program, is a method for area food banks to get donated venison meat. HUSH stands for Helping Us Stop Hunger. Hunter deer licenses include a small percentage of the cost to be used to pay participating meat locker operations to cut up and grind deer meat into two pound packages of deer burger. Other states may have similar programs under a different name but for the same purpose. FHFH is another name that stands for Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Overall these are excellent programs to utilize nature’s meat protein sources for everyone’s benefit.
Mark your calendar for Nov. 2. That date is when Pheasants Forever Banquet time is for the Marshall-Tama County PF chapter. The location has changed for 2019 to the Midnight Ballroom, 1700 S. Center St., Marshalltown. Tickets purchased before Oct. 28 cost $65. Youth age 18 or under is $25. Tickets can be secured from Steve Armstrong 641-751-1668 or John Fox at 641-751-4487.
“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”
— Frank Herbert, writer
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.