Diligence a constant ingredient for conservation

FALL is here. Hurray! Leaf color changes are close at hand. Cooler air will follow also. Hunting seasons are opening for many species with more to come. Fishermen should not put away their gear since fish still need to eat. Migrating birds will grab our attention as they wing their way southward in advance of winter. It is all part of nature’s plan to prepare for winter. Birds fly south to places where they can find food. Trees, the deciduous species, will soon drop their leaves that provided food during the year. Now that daytime sunlight is getting shorter, the trees heed the signal to prepare for winter through dormancy.

FISH. Coming soon to Sand Lake …. more rainbow trout. Fall trout stocking will begin Oct. 11 across many sites in Iowa. The DNR fisheries bureau folks have been working on this program for many decades. It is only recently that Sand Lake was added to the list of release sites. At 11 a.m. on Oct. 11, the trout truck is expected to arrive with 2,000 rainbow trout. Water temperatures have lowered enough to allow trout to survive into the winter season.

Anglers will need a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or posses trout. The daily limit is 5 per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10. Children age 15 or younger can for fish for trout with a properly licensed adult, but they must limit their catch to one daily limit. The child can purchase a trout fee which will allow them to catch their own limit.

IOWA RIVER water quality data and testing this summer has this to say. Sampling found mercury above advised consumption levels in bass and walleye. The Iowa DNR and the Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommends that individuals should not consume more than one meal (6 7 ounces) per week of bass, walleye or other predator fish caught from the Iowa River from the upper end of Coralville Reservoir at Highway 218 in Coralville upstream for the next 178 miles to the dam at Iowa Falls in Hardin County.

Mercury is a naturally occurring substance. It is also associated with some industrial processes. Fish accumulate mercury and other substances in their muscle through feeding. Here is the important part for people to note. Only prolonged and regular consumption of fish with above guideline levels of mercury can lead to health issues. One would have to eat these fish every day all day for weeks on end to get into the range of potential problems. Most people have a widely varied diet that does not concentrate on fish-only meals. One meal of wild caught predator fish per week is fine. Pan fish such as bluegill and crappie are less likely to accumulate mercury to adverse levels. Applying a lot of common sense to what we eat avoids the problems a single source of energy provides.

LEAF COLORS will be making trees appear very colorful this month. Northeast Iowa can expect leaf color maximums now until mid-October. Central Iowans will see the peak the first through the third week. Southern Iowa tops out the second week of October to the end of the month. As day length gets shorter, trees release a chemical called phytochrome. This slows down chlorophyll production and allows trees to go dormant. The loss of chlorophyll (which is green) allows the colors of the leaf to show. Leaf pigment is also influenced by the amount and acidity of sap in the trees. More acidic sap gives trees more reds and brighter colors. Less acids tends to offer colors that are duller and more yellow.

A local drive during mid-October to view leaf color would entail the back roads of Marshall County. Try an excursion east of Marshalltown on East Main Street into the western portions of Tama County. This hilly country landscape is rich with oak, elm, maple, cottonwood, basswood, hickory, ash, hackberry and more. Similar scenes of leafy beauty can be found at Grammer Grove, the Forest Reserve, Arney Bend, Timmons Grove and the entire ridge line of Mormon Ridge. Check these routes for your self on any day you wish to explore the riches of the landscape. By all means do not do so without a camera.

There are six recognized general forested regions across the United States. We live in the Central Hardwood Forest Region. Here the dominate tree types have shown a greater decrease than any other region due to the large percentage of agricultural land. However, there still remain large quantities of high grade hardwood timber along water courses, hilly terrain or at specific tree farm operations. Oak-Hickory is just one type of specific forest label applied to many upland areas. Maple-Basswood applies to many floodplain timbers. Managed correctly for production, wildlife interests, or other long tern desires, trees will be around for a long time. New growth from natural reproduction added to what people may plant insures that trees will always be an important part of our landscape.

OCTOBER FIRST was the opening day of Iowa Archery Deer Season. Approximately 60,000 bow hunters will be out and about to strive for the opportunity to see deer up close and personal without the deer being aware it is being watched. This scribe will be one of them, enjoying the great times outdoors to spot and stalk, or wait patiently in a tree stand for a passing deer. My first bow killed deer was in South Dakota’s Black Hills in October, 1966. I’ve not missed a year since. And I do not intend to miss any future years if at all possible. Bow hunting offers some top quality time outdoors to listen, observe and hopefully be in the right place at the right time to harvest a deer. As in all types of hunting, there are no guarantees. But what a thrill when it all comes together. Great venison meals await me all winter long as just one reward from my hunts.

All hunters need to subscribe to the basic tenets of hunting legally, in fair chase, with huge quantities of ethics applied to each adventure. There is no shame in doing the right thing. Conservation officers continually strive for all people to follow the rules, hunt according to the published regulations and thereby not have to worry about getting a ticket for an infraction of law.

POACHERS CAUGHT: Take this case as the flip side of legal. The case started with a call to TIP (Turn in Poachers) hotline, to report a suspected infraction of Iowa hunting laws. The tipster called to ask if Jesse Bolin, 31, of Tarkio, Mo. had a non-resident Iowa archery deer license. He had just killed a buck deer along the border, possibly in Iowa. Conservation Officer Deb Howe followed up and began her investigation. It all started with the poachers in this case filming the taking of big buck deer. Greed entered into the equation as a trio of men gave into temptation along the Iowa-Missouri border area.

Howe worked with Missouri Conservation officers, U. S. Fish and Wildlife officers, Kansas officers and many other Iowa game wardens to put the case together. They collected enough evidence to enable a search of the residence of Jesse Bolin. The investigation expanded to include Bolin’s younger brother Paul, 28, also of Tarkio, Mo., and Steven Cole, 33, of Hamburg. During the search of Cole’s residence, officers found 23 illegally taken deer racks, twelve turkey beards and spurs, deer meat, pheasant meat plus ducks and geese awaiting taxidermy. At the Bolin residence officials seized the deer he killed in Iowa, bow and other archery equipment, a double bull blind and a video camera. Cole admitted to taking the Iowa buck, then purchased an archery tag after the fact. He had also been purchasing resident licenses in both Iowa and Missouri. Since he lives in Missouri, the Iowa licenses were obtained illegally.

Cole pleaded guilty in Page County to two counts of unlawfully harvesting turkey, being over the limit of turkey, unlawful taking of a buck deer, no valid turkey license, no valid hunting license, no valid archery license and habitat fee. He was fined $10,400 just in civil damages. In Fremont County, Steven Cole pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of a buck deer and unlawful possession of waterfowl and wild turkey. His total civil damages were $1,900. He was also sentenced to two years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Jesse Bolin pleaded guilty to unlawful taking a buck deer, no valid hunting license, deer license or tag. He was ordered to pay $1,200 in penalties and fines, perform 100 hours of community service in Waubonsie State Park and forfeit his hunting equipment seized by the DNR. Jessie Bolin is (or was) a police officer in Mound City, Mo. Jessie’s hunting privileges were suspended for one year. Cole’s hunting privileges were suspended for three years. Both face suspension of all hunting privileges in 40 other states precisely due to Iowa’s signatory as a Wildlife Violator Compact state. Information is shared with other DNRs in those 40 states to prevent game and fish violators from hopping across state lines to avoid suspensions in their home state.

A grand salute and hats off, plus a well deserved pat on the back, to all the conservation officers that helped bring this case to court. That kind of hard work is important. It sends a signal to the few that want to cheat the law that other legal, ethical and concerned sportsmen and women are watching. Legal hunting activities in the field are expected and demanded by the public at large. There can be no toleration or winking at illegal acts of any kind. Sportsmen want to preserve their hunting heritage for the future. Game law enforcement is part of the mix to keep some people on the straight and narrow. To call in a TIP to Iowa conservation officers any time of the day or night, note this number: 1-800-532-2020. Thanks for doing the right thing.

CONSERVATION ISSUES will be discussed at an upcoming REAP meeting on Thursday evening, Oct. 10 at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. REAP is the acronym for Resource Enhancement and Protection. It is a statewide program for natural resource project development based on local needs. Legislative appropriations to this account offer participating entities the opportunity to obtain grant funds to initiate well deserved projects. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and will go until 8 p.m.

REAP program history has a 24 year run. During that time, throughout Iowa, REAP program dollars have funded nearly $300 million in projects for cities, counties, state parks, water quality, habitat improvements, roadside prairies, historical development and conservation education. More than $43 million of that has gone to city park and trail projects. In the four county area of Hardin, Marshall, Tama and Poweshiek, REAP funds have totaled $8.3 million during the last 24 years.

To learn more about the REAP program and how it enables cities, counties and state agencies to offer special project enhancements, do plan on attending the local REAP meeting on Oct. 10.

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.