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Pheasant make themselves secretive

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Caught in the act of trying to stay camouflaged, or thinking it was invisible in the snowy weeds, this Ringneck Pheasant Rooster was in the right place at the right time to get its picture taken. To satisfactorily accomplish the task of obtaining this photo, I had my camera and long lens already set for light conditions so all I had to do was focus and snap off a few frames. I will also state emphatically that good luck played a huge part as timing was critical. No matter how you slice it, you all get to enjoy today’s image of a rooster that escaped detection by hunters on opening day Oct. 26.

PHEASANTS are a hardy bird if given half a chance by both good habitat and good weather. In order to survive, this species needs lots of both factors. Later than usual farm crop harvest conditions may be one factor in hunter’s not seeing many pheasants on opening day. That will all change later this month and over the course of the winter season to come. Once large amounts of snow accumulates on the ground, and crops are out, pheasants tend to congregate into and near habitats where their survival stands a better chance.

To celebrate pheasants and habitat long term improvement, Pheasants Forever chapters of Marshall and Tama County held their fundraising banquet last night at the Midnight Ballroom. Since this story had to be submitted prior to this event, I’ll have a short summary to comment about for you to read next Sunday. These banquets area always fun to attend, lots of friends meet and greet, shake hands with and tell stories (most of which are true). Watching the kids in the group participate in prize distribution and winning their own kids contests is just one highlight for the night. By the time its all over, several thousand dollars will be added to the kitty to be used for habitat projects within the area.

PF is made up of volunteers who are dedicated to the cause of wildlife habitat improvement. The people who join PF are also volunteers when they pull out cash, a credit card or put on gloves and work clothes to get their hands dirty to plant grasses, trees, shrubs or food plots to help make life possible for pheasants. A big salute and tip-of-the-hat to all who are members of PF. Your efforts are appreciated. There are approximately 150,000 members of PF and its sister organization Quail Forever nationally. Of the money raised, well over 60 percent is used on habitat improvements, 24 percent toward land acquisition, 7 percent for public information and awareness programs, 5 percent on conservation education and youth activities and one percent for specialized equipment to put habitat on the land.

Pheasant habitat is best if winter cover plantings of evergreens, shrubs, cattails and native grasses can be established. Food sources include corn, soybeans, sorghum and even all kinds of weeds. Nesting cover works when a combination of native grasses, undisturbed brome and alfalfa, plus various forbs exist. These habitat conditions allow for improved nest success. And it really helps if a mild winter with less than 30 total inches of snowfall should be our luck. This last factor we will only know after the winter season ends in March or early April of 2020.

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NOVEMBER has lots of weather related choices to give us. Like it or not, we can take them in stride, accept and adapt or complain. The latter will not change anything. Mother Nature may just sock it to us…again…or not. I’ve written in past years of November events in history, most notable being the Armistice Day Blizzard (now more commonly known as Veterans Day) of Nov. 11, 1940. A well organized low pressure weather system developed in Canada and made its way into the Midwest. Conditions went from balmy to frigid in a matter of hours. This event caused the death of more than 160 people in the Midwest, many of who were hunters caught unprepared for this drastic weather change. To research this topic, one can get lots of stories of heroism, survival by thin margins and of course death. Check it out for yourself. All is interesting to read.

Other November things to look forward to include duck migrations. Historically this week tends to be the big push of waterfowl through Iowa. Every year is a bit different. Look for large numbers of waterfowl to find places like area wetlands, marshes and even Sand Lake as stopover sites. Waterfowl populations on average, are up about 56 percent since the 1970s, in part a testament to the hard work of waterfowl hunter-conservationists to restore and protect habitat for birds of many species, waterfowl, shorebirds and other smaller sized critters from Yellow-headed blackbirds to Marsh Wrens.

The first two weeks of November are prime for deer movements. Bucks are looking for receptive does. So deer will be almost anywhere at any time of the day or night. When driving, be extra alert. If you are an Iowa bow hunter, be extra alert also. There are big antlered bucks, a few, and lots of smaller antlered bucks all trying their best to find mates. It is programmed into a deer’s brain at this time of year with reduced day time lighted hours and increases in hormone levels in both males and females. There is no other way for a new crop of fawns next late May or early June without the rut taking place now.

Do turn back your clocks one hour today to reflect central standard time. This is for humans, not for wildlife. Wild critters have already taken note of shorter daylight hours and longer night time hours. Later in November, near the 17th and 18th will be the peak time to observe Leonid meteor showers high in the night time sky. Look for this celestial event if cloud cover is absent. Earth’s passage through its orbit around the sun allows for us humans to periodically see things like this that are so far away. It happens each mid November.

Iowa’s furbearer seasons opened Nov. 2 at one minute after midnight. Common furbearing animals include coyote, raccoons, muskrats, beaver and otter (where allowed in southern Iowa), red fox, badger and bobcat (again where allowed primarily in southern Iowa). Trappers and hunters of furbearing critters need to know and follow regulations as printed in the Iowa 2019-20 regulations booklet. Dedicated trappers may participate in a survey from the Department of Natural Resources. This collection of data helps biologists and all trappers to learn more about these animals. The survey is a type of diary of effort expended, animals seen or taken and quantity of animals on the landscape. Questions about this survey can be addressed to Vince Evelsizer, furbearer wildlife research biologist, by calling him at 641-357-3517.

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The 2020 WALLEYE DERBY dates are already locked in for July 31 and Aug. 1-2 at Kettle Falls Lodge north of Milaki, Ontario, Canada. Contact Denny Baker, of Ames, at 641-751-4484 to learn more about this fabulous fishing expedition and how to sign up now. Baker has been offering this event to Iowans and people with Iowa roots for more than 30 years. It is well worth your time if you have ever had a trophy walleye fishing trip on your bucket list.

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“How beautiful leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”

— John Burroughs,

naturalist and nature essayist.

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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.