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Ducks Unlimited banquet Feb. 29th

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Waterfowl habitat across Iowa is a big deal for Ducks Unlimited chapters all over Iowa. Just the data from 2018 tells of 11 projects accomplished on 931 acres and an investment of $1.4 million. Historical data in Iowa since the beginning of DU assisted habitat work shows 78,524 acres conserved and a total investment of $31,198,928. Please note on the state map where each yellow dot represents a project that received DU help. The red star in north central Iowa along the Winnebago River was a 2019 DU assisted to acquire 59 acres next to the river. It is part of a long range plan for 1,100 acre wildlife area of prairie and wetland complexes. The red star in Emmet County helped with a new pump and water management system in Jensen Slough adjacent to Ingham Lake. An additional red star area in southern Polk County, on the upper end of Lake Red Rock’s Banner Flats Wetland to rebuild a berm and water control structure destroyed by past flooding. You may also note one blue star project in Sac County. This restored five prairie pothole on the Samper Tract of Kiowa Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Hurray for DU and hurray for cooperative projects.

DUCKS UNLIMITED members of the local Iowa River Chapter will gather for the annual fundraising banquet on Feb. 29 at the Impala Ballroom in Marshalltown. People can expect fine food, a list of door prizes, an excellent array of auction items and games to play and at least 17 sporting firearms that some lucky ticket holder will win.

Tickets to attend can be obtained from Rich and Micki Naughton by calling them at 641-328-0124. Call early, sign up a friend or family member, especially a young boy or girl who likes to become more outdoor savvy. Doors to the Feb. 29 event open at 5 p.m. Food and the program begin at 7 p.m.

When all Iowa DU chapters hold their wide variety of events from banquets to ice fishing derby to BBQs and sporting clays, the money they raise all goes to a good cause. Looking ahead for 2020 projects, DU in a private partnership with Purina, specifically Nestle Purina PetCare Company, will work to improve 1,600 acres of wetlands and grasslands across Iowa in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The project sites are near Clinton, Davenport and Fort Dodge.

There are other Iowa DU projects associated with Living Lakes Projects in Dickinson, Emmet and Wright Counties. DU assisted Big River Projects will focus funds and on the ground work in Lucas, Benton and Louisa Counties. Across the nation and all of North America DU has about 620,000 adult members and 44,000 youth members. Mexico has 4,600 members and DU Canada has 137,000. That adds up to a lot of support for work on the ground to enhance habitat and help raise money to make it all possible.

IOWA DEER HUNTERS harvested 93,969 animals during the 2019-20 seasons. This is approximately 14,000 less than one year ago. Overall, the deer herd reduction went about as expected even with a few challenges that arose that were beyond any human control. One of those challenges was an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease that caused thousands of deer deaths. This disease is spread by an insect, specifically a midge, that thrives during hot dry weather. The bite from an infected midge can take a deer down quickly, a matter of days in fact. When a hunter finds a dead deer that has a body in what appears to be excellent condition and is near water, the suspect cause is the midge.

Deer also have another bad actor, it is chronic wasting disease. It takes years to manifest itself. Deer that may have it in its initial stages do not appear unhealthy. Later they may become thinner of body as they slowly decline due to a brain prion disorder. This disease is always fatal. And in Iowa during 2019-20, CWD was found in four new counties; Woodbury, Winneshiek, Fayette and Decatur. During the past seasons, Iowa DNR submitted more than 7,000 tissue samples of which 43 came back positive. Area meetings are planned to help inform landowners and hunters of best practices Iowa and other states are using to manage surviving deer and plan for the future.

Deer numbers in Iowa is not all doom and gloom, quite the opposite at this stage. Tyler Harms, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist, has a good handle on the Iowa deer herd, what works, what doesn’t and what the habitat can support. The system of county quotas is not perfect but is a management tool to try and keep overall deer numbers in balance with biology and human tolerance levels. One tool that bow hunters assist with is an observation survey. Dedicated archers keep note of deer observed each time they venture out on a deer hunt. And they also record other critters such as raccoon, bobcat, feral house cats, otter, Wild turkey, coyotes, red fox, gray fox, opossum, striped skunks and badgers.

The number of deer bow hunters observe and respond to on the survey parallels the harvest data. Somewhat fewer deer were recorded and in the end, fewer deer were taken by hunters during all seasons. The goal of DNR deer biologists is to harvest between 100,000 and 120,000 animals each fall. And this is in line with a legislatively created deer advisory committee who update legislators each year. Harms stated that “our deer population has rebounded from EHD events in past years and expect the same to happen as 2020 progresses. From our perspective, we manage the population for the long term. Impacts that happened in late 2019, while significant, are likely a short blip on the horizon.”

Deer harvest during 2019-20 show that Iowa habitat varies widely across the map. Excellent habitat reflects larger county-by-county harvests. Three counties had take offs of more than 3,000 animals, five counties had deer takes of between 2,000 and 2,999, and 33 counties had harvest of between 1,000 and 1,999. That leaves 59 counties where deer killed by hunters was less than 999. The highest deer kill report was from Clayton with 3,886. The lowest deer report was from Grundy with 106.

One sign of SPRING to come is the need to remove ice houses from Iowa’s public waters on or before Feb. 20. After that date, and if a winter warm weather event happens that traps ice houses on the ice, the expense of removing them rests entirely upon the ice house owner. This can get expensive if an ice house falls through the ice. So a word to the wise is to remove ice houses soon. Last Thursday would have been an ideal day…if you were dressed and prepared to fight Mother Nature’s wrath. In the meantime, enjoy this nice warm winter weekend.

Here is a quote that has application to many things, including biology: “Correlations can not demonstrate a primary cause.”

— Fred Hoyle

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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.

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