Wonder of Wildlife Museums = excellence

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — This past week, July 21-23, the Boone and Crockett Club held its 31st Big Game Awards Exhibits and conservation conference at the Bass Pro and Wonders of Wildlife Museums in Springfield, Mo. This was an opportunity to spend quality time at the 350,000 square foot museum complex to learn more about the history of conservation to save species from extinction. All the exhibits, and especially the three year cycle of awards presented by the Boone and Crockett Club, came together to host hundreds of attendees who are members of B&C. The National Collection of Heads and Horns filled one entire exhibit hall, which was a replica of the original Heads and Horns display from the Bronx Zoo of 1906. The multitude of the highest quality exhibits and a fantastic multi-story aquarium were central drawing cards for all the tourists including conference attendees.

The Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium certainly lives up to its reputation. From first person reports this scribe has listened to, and numerous advertisements promoting one to see for yourself, a destination of travel to Springfield, Mo., was well worth my time and effort.

All I can say is that the experience of seeing these great conservation stories and exhibits is nothing short of the highest quality natural history displays you can imagine. The road trip from the Marshalltown area to Springfield is about 420 miles, a long but quite doable drive down Highway 65 in Missouri.

I combined my planning to coincide with the 2022 Boone and Crockett Club membership meeting and the 31st Big Game Awards ceremonies. I made extra time available to view each natural history exhibit within the 350,000 square foot facility by arriving one day early.

That idea worked out perfectly as my day one was the day prior to B&C meetings. That allowed me lots of casual time to meander through the hallways of each themed exhibit. Every exhibit was terrific, informative, and superbly displayed in a setting depicting the true-to-life habitats of each and every species. Factual and easily readable display signage helped every reader gain knowledge of what they were looking at.

Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops founder, is the person who held his business and close ties to nature and all wildlife as the central theme to help people learn more about the natural world. The store facilities alone are worth the visit, filled with quality merchandise, and interspersed with multiple wildlife exhibits.

The architecture of the store features huge timber frame logs to convey a feeling of always being in a high class backcountry lodge. That atmosphere for all shoppers is a key component to the success of Bass Pro facilities everywhere. Customers in all Bass Pro stores have a keen interest in many outdoor activities, so why not create stores that build on that need, desire and passion to be an outside person?

At Springfield, expansion efforts through the years have included a series of museums adjacent to the main store. And into those exhibits were placed some of the most outstanding wildlife stories, record-setting game animals, and the history of the conservation movement in America that started with people like Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, Charles Sheldon and many others.

These people had visions of what America was, what was in danger of being lost, and they helped devise plans to halt over exploitation of all natural resources. It was not easy, but it worked.

From those humble beginnings came the Boone and Crockett Club formation in 1887. B&C sought for and obtained from hunters a buy-in on the principles of fair chase, sportsmanship and habitat management. Through those early efforts, Yellowstone National Park was established, and so was Glacier National Park and Denali National Park in Alaska.

This was also the time for the beginning of the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System. Funding for many wildlife programs came from a steady source of money, excise taxes on sporting equipment sales from hunting and fishing, through an Act of Congress titled the Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act (named after sponsors Pittman and Robertson).

Iowan Clay Lacey worked in Congress to pass the Lacey Act, making it illegal to transport game and fish across state lines if taken outside the parameters of legal, regulated takings. Add to this the Federal Duck Stamp program which added funding dedicated to waterfowl and all migrating species of birds that relied on wetlands, and the beginnings of modern game and fish laws were set in place by the states.

Bass Pro and the Wonders of Wildlife Museum captures the true picture of America’s wild game and fish resources in a modern day well managed science-based system. If you put this facility on your to-do list of places to visit, you will not be disappointed. You will be inspired.

You will gain appreciation for those who fought the fight over a century ago, and you can become a part of the support in America today to sustain conservation traditions well into the future.


The first members of the Boone and Crockett Club set about the tasks of formulating a viable organization to promote conservation and management of wildlife. Those early pioneers had witnessed the unregulated slaughter of wildlife. Examples included feathers for ladies hats, bison for their hides, meat and bones, and waterfowl by the barrel for shipping to markets in Chicago, Pittsburgh, or New York.

The seemingly endless supply of wildlife was not endless. People with great foresight knew that a long term program of sustainability had to be the endgame. However, that would take a lot of education, time, money and legislation at federal and state levels to instill a conservation ethic into the fabric of hunters and fishers.

Today, the mission statement of the B&C Club reads as follows: to promote the conservation and management of wildlife, especially big game, and its habitat, to preserve and encourage hunting and to maintain the highest ethical standards of fair chase and sportsmanship in North America. A records program uses a standardized system of measuring big game animal horns and/or antlers so that the score derived is on a fair and equal footing for comparison within a species.

Both typical and non-typical methodologies are employed to not create an advantage of one over the other. In other words, comparing apples to apples. The basis of scoring horns or antlers lies in two factors: mass and symmetry.

Mass refers to the volume of bone or keratin. Symmetry refers to how closely one side is duplicated on the other side. Subtle differences are to be expected. The closer each antler or horn is to an imagined mirror image of the set, the better.

Non-typical antlers get credit for unusual points or frame construction after the basic typical features are established. Only animals taken in fair chase can be considered for entry into Boone and Crockett records. Fair chase is an attitude and a way of life based on deep seated respect for wildlife.

Scores alone are not the main objective. Scores help document the successes of conservation policy, of wildlife management practices that ensure the population remains in good health and condition, and in proper balance with the habitat wild critters require for their life journey. Without good habitat, improved habitat, and careful off take from the population, animal populations would be subject to wide swings in numbers and not be in balance with the carrying capacity of the land.

Overall, the combination of Boone and Crockett Club triennial awards for entries taken during 2019, 2020 and 2021 at a setting like Bass Pro Wonders of Wildlife was a perfect fit. Even the youth hunters who entered trophies had their own special Friday night banquet, Generation Next, to receive recognition for big game.

Twenty seven youth, boys and girls under age 16, told of their hunts for white-tailed deer, mule deer, cougar, black bear, pronghorn, and Rocky Mountain goat. Congratulations to the Boone and Crockett Club, to Bass Pro and to all the young hunters and adult hunters that traveled from far locations to participate and view award ceremonies.


Next on my list for this week is a correction. A Hunter Safety class is coming up soon in August. Last week I had the dates incorrect. The class times are Thursday, Aug. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. and then on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 8 a.m until 4 p.m.

The error was mine alone, so an apology is offered. Registration is online, and the Marshall County class at the Izaak Walton League does have and always did have the correct date. This class is for any age person who wants or needs to become certified in hunter safety.

However, prime ages for this class are 12 and above. A certification from Iowa is honored in all states. Therefore, once this class is attended and the test successfully passed, that proof can allow a young person to purchase hunting licenses once they reach age 16 or above.


Bird migration never ends. It just has spring and fall peak times with other less notable movements during summer and winters. Well, now comes a system of radio tracking that allows quick and easy detection to learn about long distance patterns for birds, bats or even some insects.

It involves placing a small tag on the animal. The tag is lightweight but powerful, lasting up to 10 years. It emits a radio signal every few seconds. Receivers are carefully located at ground sites with good elevation and internet connections.

A grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided the funding. Each base station can detect two discrete frequencies via four antennas, and they are automated so signals can be detected 24/7/365 all across the world.

Iowa has had 20 detections so far. One notable bird was a Lesser Yellowlegs, a shore bird. It was tagged in the nation of Colombia on April 19, 2022. Then it was detected again in Costa Rica on May 4 of this year, then in Kansas on May 7, and later that same day, it was in Iowa on a Missouri River wildlife area for only two minutes. The bird flew all the way to the high Arctic to nest.

Recently, this same bird was on its way southward in late July 2022 when a radio station in North Dakota got hits on its receiver. The lesser yellowlegs passed through southeast Iowa, and its next signal was from a station in North Carolina! This bird is on its way back to Colombia, and it is not being a slow poke about how fast it flies. It did all this in three days!

To tune into the internet to follow bird, bat or insect travels, go to motus.org. Databases are automatically updated. Technology for wildlife studies is getting sophisticated and much smaller and lightweight. Now, tracking can be automatic without the need to try and recapture the critters.


Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.Contact him at: P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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