Green Castle improvements continue with silt removal

GREEN CASTLE’s silt removal work is going well. Marty Malloy and Jeremiah Manken, staff members of the MCCB, were able to use rented heavy equipment for the initial stages of soil moving. The process so far has shaped five new jetties in the upper reaches of the lake bed. Lots of additional depth is being brought back. Islands and submerged islands have also been built. Once water refills the lake next year, there will be a new habitat for fish, and lots of new access points for people.

This fall and winter, additional excavations will be accomplished by contractors. Soil from the lake bed is being placed in several disposal sites nearby. Some of these sites are potential future locations for park amenities being discussed by the Marshall County Conservation Board. The silt will be located and shaped to help with future camping development plans, and will include a specific parking area for boats near a future boat ramp. There is a lot of work yet to be done. A great start has been made. About 500 dump truck loads of dirt have been taken out so far. At least that much more is expected to be removed during the next several weeks.

This fall and winter, those new jetties and shore line areas will be armored with stone and other concrete materials. One thing for sure is that water and wind wave action, once the lake water is back to normal pool elevation, will try to move loose soil back into the lake. A defense against wind derived erosion will be rock and rubble placed in such a way as to diffuse the power of the waves.

If any area fishermen have not taken note of all the new fish habitat structures already set in place near the main lake body should do so soon. Take pictures. Take notes. Memorize where the structures are so that when the water does return, lures and lines can be cast over likely places to hide and hold fish. We can see the structure now. Once water submerges them, it will be a mystery of their exact locations.

Mike Stegmann, Director of the MCCB, told this scribe he intends to apply for an additional fish habitat grant soon. Funds from that grant, if approved, will allow for continuation of all the above noted items and allow for several more site specific improvements related to silt removal. He emphasized how a project of this size and scope takes time and lots of planning. Patience is required on the part of the public. Working with Mother Nature guarantees that the project will move at her pace and at her discretion. No instant gratification here. The long-term outlook for Green Castle is excellent. Stay tuned.

TRUMPETER SWAN cygnets at Green Castle are adult size now. From their hatching date in June of this year to now, they have made impressive growth. Although they are adult sized, they still have lots to learn and live through to make it to adulthood in a few years. There were six cygnets hatched this spring. Four have made it to this stage. All are capable of free flying and will be allowed to do just that. They will probably take wing during late November to explore the area and even take up with other migrating swans to travel to new locations. November will see lots of migrating ducks, geese and swans in the sky. I hope you lift your eyes to the sky to watch them. Enjoy.

Central Iowa received some much needed rain this past week. It was nice to listen to the pitter-patter of raindrops on tree leaves, and see the land soak up the moisture like a dried sponge.

But a different kind of “rain” also fell this past week. Leaves! Yes, raining leaves as they dropped from the branches of trees. Leaf rain intensity picked up every time a stiff breeze blew through the forest. That was the scene this scribe observed while deer hunting from my tree stand. Raining leaves are nice. The contrast between Oct. 1 and one month later marks a classical turning point in the season of fall. Trees are entering dormancy as they prepare for another winter. Leaves are no longer needed. Sunshine and day length are not sufficient for leaves to do their photosynthesis work. Thus the leaves loose the green color, become golden yellow, gold, red or brown. Leaf petioles become weak and detach easily, especially if a wind rustles through the branches. Result: Raining leaves.

Trees loosing leaves allows this bowhunter to see further into the forest. Views once blocked in early October are now beginning to open considerably. In a few short weeks, when all the leave have fallen, my views will extent even more. The extra sight lines allow me to observe many wildlife forays as they partake in their survival routines. Rambling raccoons, inquisitive opossums, pileated woodpeckers cavorting about all bring a smile to my face as the story of the natural world opens before my eyes. Deer move about, most too far away from me, but every so often, a close encounter will start to take shape. When it happens I’ll be ready, I think.

This week, during one of my outdoor forays to the forest, a great horned owl flew into the tree top where I have a deer stand. It did not know I was there. I could peak out from behind the tree trunk and see the owl high above me. Since no deer were nearby, or so I thought, I used the opportunity to do an owl experiment. Using my lips to create a subtle mouse-like squeak, the owl turned its head to focus on the potential free meal. Well, it studied me. I studied the owl. It moved its head slowly to attempt to find the mouse. The owl finally figured that I was too big to be a mouse, lost interest and flew away. When I returned my attention the ground and a nearby deer trail, three deer were standing at 20 yards, focused on me. I had been distracted at the wrong time and I missed the opportunity to tag a deer.

Since my original archery deer hunting career’s beginning in October, 1966, I learned a lot. And the deer continue to teach me how easy it is to be humbled by their silent and stealthy ways. So it goes in nature. While I’m trying to stealthy and unobserved, it doesn’t always work that way. Given enough time, however, this scribe will eventually be in the right place at the right time to properly place an arrow on target resulting in a quick and efficient kill. I’ll tag the deer, bring it home, clean it and transform its energy from its meat into life sustaining energy for me. That is the game of life. I love to live it.

A TROPHY is something we hang on the wall, right? Well, not necessarily. An avid duck hunter may have a canvasback duck mounted for display, a fisherman that big walleye or bass, and hunters of big game are disposed to do the same with their trophies. However most trophies are not on the wall. They are located within their memory banks of numerous early marshland outings during waterfowl seasons past. Fishermen remember just about every excursion to a lake, pond or river. The hours of effort expended to be outside where nature rules the days are part of the mystery. That also includes hours and hours of boredom interspersed with a few short moments of off-the-wall excitement when the duck or goose fell to the shot, or the big fish struck the lure, or the big buck appeared at the right place at the right time.

Record books are great, they have their place. It took this scribe 39 years of bowhunting before his first truly big antlered deer fell to my arrow. That deer and my name are in the record book. What is not in the record book, and never will be, are all the other hunts where doe deer have fallen. What is not in the record book and never will be, is all the effort of time, expense for gear and clothing, or time spent in forest or field learning about wildlife. The measure of the hunt is I think proportional to the effort expended so that when an animal does fall, it represents an enormous host of factors that only the hunter can truly appreciate. Those memories are trophies too. And I cherish those memories every day. Every day I hunt I add memories. Those memories are my ultimate trophy.

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.