From the top down

The GUN SEASONS for DEER will be here next weekend, Dec. 7. Hunters during shotgun seasons are the primary tool in the biologists tool kit to bring down the population of deer in Iowa. An estimated 140,000 hunters will partake in the hunt during Iowa’s two shotgun seasons. License sales from past years are pretty good indicators of what to expect in 2013. First season licenses sold will likely be about 58,000. Second season shotgun deer license sales will be about 40,000.

As of mid-week this last week of November, the total number of deer killed by archers, early muzzle loaders and youth is above 26,000 animals. By Dec. 22, the total will be pushing 100,000, an excellent reduction percentage for Iowa. Marshall County deer hunters have made the mandatory harvest report for deer taken and the total mid-week was 86 does, 88 bucks, 17 button bucks and 1 shed antlered buck. A shed antlered buck is the term applied to an adult deer that appears to be a doe. Only after the shot is the determination made that the antler pedicels show evidence where the bony antler had been. This mistaken identity is not too common early in the season. Later in December or until Jan. 10 for later archers or later muzzle loader hunter is the time when the percentage of antlerless deer that fall are found to be shed antlered deer.

The top five counties for deer harvest reports reflect the habitat for the region that holds more deer. On this list are Clayton with 936, Warren at 829, Linn at 768 followed by Allamakee with 739. Picking up the last of the big five is Madison County showing 625 deer. The low five list Ida at 17, Pocahontas at 23, Calhoun at 25, Grundy at 26 and Osceola at 40.

DEER MEAT DONATIONS are available for hunters that take one deer for themselves and then donate additional deer to Iowa’s HUSH program. HUSH stands for Help Us Stop Hunger. HUSH program is now starting into its second decade, a success known nationally. Many other states have contacted Iowa officials with intent to duplicate the program for them. It works like this. A hunter can take a deer, or two, or more, to a participating locker plant near them. The meat is processed into all venison burger, two pound packages. The Food Bank of Iowa then coordinates collecting the valuable venison meat for distribution to local food pantries.

Since its inception, Iowa hunters have donated more than 56,000 deer to the program. Donations peaked in 2007 at about 8,000 animals. During 2012, 5,281 deer were HUSH deer. “The steady decline in number of deer donated directly parallels the size of Iowa’s deer herd” said Jim Coffey, DNR HUSH Program Coordinator. “As the size of the deer herd is reduced, hunters should work with local land owners to harvest the number of deer that is acceptable. If they are not seeing the number of deer they expect, it may be time to pass on taking an extra doe.”

In Iowa, 89 locker plants participate in the HUSH program. They deserve a pat on the back for being a team player in deer management. Without an outlet for deer, hunters would be inclined to take fewer deer, the opposite effect required for proper doe deer taken from the population.

DEER ANTLER SCORING will take place in 2014, the date is Feb. 18. The place will be the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. The time will be 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. Bring a deer to the meeting to get an official score of its antlers. Information will be offered on the techniques used by qualified and certified measurers to compare the animals symmetry and mass. Measurements are noted and then totaled to gain a final score. Any antlered whitetail from a recent hunt or one from grandfather’s home taken a long time ago is welcome to attend.

There is a new movie out as of Nov. 22. It is called Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In part because of the original movie Hunger Games, the popularity of archery has increased. Locally archery has expanded in school programs across the nation and in Iowa. In fact, Iowa DNR will be giving away a brand new Matthews Genesis bow valued at $200. To enter the drawing, watch the movie, save the ticket stub and then go on-line to for instructions. Entries must be postmarked by Dec. 31. The drawing will be held in January 2014. Sponsor for the bow is the Iowa Bowhunters Association’s National Archery in the Schools Program Foundation.

Iowa has is own cast of archery stars, each doing excellent work on their part to instill vigor into the competition. Miranda Leek of Des Moines is the current indoor and outdoor champion, a member of the 2014 Senior US National Archery Team and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team for women’s recurve archery. Bridger Deaton of Otley is a member of the 2014 Senior U.S. Archery Team for men’s compound bows, after his team placed silver in Wuix, China at the 2013 World Archery Youth Championships. Matt Stutzman of Fairfield won a silver medal in 2012 at the London Paralympics. Currently, more than 2,500 elementary through high school student athletes participate in Iowa’s National Archery in the Schools program. There is a lot more to this program than just bows and arrows. At the 2014 Iowa Deer Classic, a shoot off competition will be held in Des Moines. The kids are excited about their sport where everyone is a player.

GREEN CASTLE’s future plans for a possible new and improved RV camping area will be discussed on Dec. 3 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Come to the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center to make comments and provide input about the design and amenities for the proposed campground. Green Castle was acquired in 1977. Since that time, lots of things have changed. Recreation closer to home is one big note on the playsheet of things to do. Campers with RV’s are looking for great places to travel to for recreation. Come see what might be possible.

CAMERA enthusiasts are reminded to enter photos by the end of January for the 2013 Photo Contest sponsored by the Marshall County Conservation Board. Categories are Scenic Natural Resources, People and Natural Resources, Native Wildlife and Native Plants. Winners will get $20 gift certificates. Contest rules and details can be obtained by calling the MCCB at 752-5490. One can also use the web site, then click on Departments, then Conservation, and lastly Annual Photo Contest. The works submitted in past years is awesome. Many great works are submitted. Yours could be the winner for this year.

THANKSGIVING was Thursday, a time for family gatherings and lots of fine foods. During that holiday, the American Automobile Association estimated that 43.4 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more. The average round trip was 600 miles. More than 90 percent went by car or truck. Ten percent traveled by air or train. The U.S. has 4.1 million roads, more than any other nation in the world. Interstates make up 47,000 miles of these roads.

This scribe likes back roads, the path least traveled. If my spousal unit and I have a destination in mind, I may purposely drive back roads that maximize the potential for wildlife viewing. No speed records are set in these forays. Scenic value is terrific. Few cars of trucks or other on coming traffic is another advantage. My Iowa Sportsman’s Atlas gets a good workout. So does my camera and long lens. I hope you will take back roads on purpose too.

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.