Tangled tines tell the tale

TANGLED TINES from battling deer happens. Most shoving matches between male white-tailed deer using their antlers usually ends with the dominant buck proving his superiority. The winner chases away the loser. No antlers are locked together. Additional proof of buck deer fights is also evident periodically when a hunter notes a broken time, a piece of missing antler resulting from the power of a previous clash between rival deer. The broken tine base may be rubbed smooth at the point where the break happened. One can only imagine what the missing tine would have looked like by comparing it the opposite antler.

Locked antlers are not the usual way things go for buck deer. If hunters do come across two deer locked together, and still alive, a “rescue” of sorts may take place by sawing off one antler. The freed but exhausted deer finally find their feet and run away to live another day. Video clips of these types of actions can be found on various websites. The video clearly shows how intense the deer battle had been, and the potential dangers to the hunter rescuers while attempting to free the animals. At other times, one deer is already expired while the other is alive but unable to drag its now dead companion away. Total exhaustion eventually will claim the life of both. Or the battle can attract coyotes who take full advantage of a free meal. And it is common in those deer locked antler battles to find both animals dead in the water of a pond, creek, or river. Drowning may also claim their lives as the battle area finds it way into a creek. Unable to get out of the steep creek banks, and water covering their heads, the bucks are doomed.

In today’s photo of locked antlers, this scribe made a rough estimate of the size (measurement) of each antler set. The largest was a 5 x 6 that would have tallied the score sheet at 162 3/8. It had an inside spread of 19 6/8 and very good mass to the antler beams. The smaller 4 x 4 scored 132 0/8. Inside spread was 18 1/8. Both deer were well matched. For them the battle to prove who was strongest ended with both losing their lives. Another observation of note: These deer probably died during the fall of 2012, not 2013. The amount of flesh remaining on the skulls and lack of any articulating skeletal remains indicate the deer had been in the creek for a long time, submerged and unseen. Local snapping turtles, small fishes and other organisms had a banquet meal to feast upon. Sad as it is, it is part of nature’s way. Nothing goes to waste. All is recycled.

For the Emmet and Olivia Widtfeldt it will be one more memory to record into their scrapbook of adventures at Grandpa’s farm in Iowa. Tangled tines tell the tale.

BALD EAGLES are hatching their young right now. All across the Midwest and many other places where Bald Eagles have taken up residency, nests were built, eggs laid and now the young eaglets have emerged. At Decorah, the remoter camera has monitored the nest all day and night for the last several months. The camera will continue to document the life and growth of the young birds. The camera will also record the outstanding parental skills of the adult eagles as they work together to feed themselves and the growing family. The adults have their work cut out for them. And they have proven their ability to get the job done. Young eaglet number one hatched on April 2 at 9:22 a.m. Number two emerged from its egg shell on April 3 at 11:29 p.m. And number three made its appearance on April 7 at 10:42 a.m.

Local BALD EAGLE NESTS are probably right in sync with their counterparts in Decorah. To observe a Bald Eagle pair, travel to Hendrickson Marsh located west of Rhodes. From the parking lot at the boat ramp, look west-southwest into a tall cottonwood tree. The time to do this is short as the emerging leaf buds will soon produce foliage to hide the nest. Use binoculars or better yet, use a spotting scope held tight to a tripod or car window mount. Zoom in on the nest and observe your own version of eagle parenting. Do not approach the tree. Stay in the parking lot.

Hendrickson Marsh is partially filled with spring snowmelt and rain water. This wildlife oasis is home to lots of critters. Waterfowl are using the area as intended. And one bird that likes the marsh is the common coot. The common coot also happens to be a great meal-on-wings for eagles. Eagles can become quite adapt at dive bomb attacks on coots. Coot energy is transformed into eagle life. It is the ages old predator-prey relationship story of the cycle of life.

Hendrickson Marsh was named in honor of George Oscar Hendrickson (1890- 1961). He was born May 25, 1890 in Earlville, Iowa. He received his B.A. in 1921 from Iowa State Teachers College, now UNI, and his Master’s degree in 1926, and Ph.D. (1929) from Iowa State College, now Iowa State University. He was a faculty member and instructor at the ISU Department of Zoology and Entomology from 1925 1930. He was promoted to Assistant Professor and served in that capacity from 1930-1945. His titled changed to Associate Professor 1945-1951 and then the next step was Professor 1951-1961. His work during those times centered on research on animal ecology and wildlife management in Iowa. He wrote over 200 articles for publication in scientific journals. And he co-authored several editions of College Biology textbooks.

Dr. Hendrickson passed away on March 19, 1961. Hendrickson Marsh, a natural glacial depression in the landscape of southwest Marshall and southeast Story County, was named in honor of George O. Hendrickson when the land was purchased in the mid 1960s by the Iowa Conservation Commission, today known as the Department of Natural Resources. Hendrickson Marsh has a total of 821 acres of public land managed by the Wildlife Bureau headquartered out of the Saylorville Unit.

PRAIRIE BURNS under controlled conditions are a great tool in the tool box for grassland management. On the right day, at the right time and with wind slight to calm, an experienced fire crew can properly and safely conduct a burn to improve the vigor of grasses and forbs. Most controlled fires conducted in late March or early April are way ahead of any ground nesting birds that may use the area. Fires burn only the dry top vegetative matter from last year’s growth. The new grass growth points are safely tucked away right below ground level. They will soon re-emerge with warming sunlight, rains and longer day lengths. A prairie needs periodic fire to allow the land to remain prairie. The two go together.

Fire is as much of a part of the prairie landscape as grass. They evolved together. Before settlement in North America, tallgrass prairie covered 170 million acres from Texas to Canada. Frequent fires, some ignited by lightning or native peoples, maintained grasslands, destroying shrubs and trees except along wetter stream channels. In North America today, less than four percent of the native prairie remains. In Iowa the number is much lower, less than one-tenth of one percent.

Sometime this week at the Grimes Farm, a controlled prairie burn will take place. The exact time will be short notice event dictated by weather conditions. The staff of the Marshall County Conservation Board will be ready when the conditions allow. The public is welcome to observe from a safe distance. Do bring a camera. Record part of the life cycle of prairie vegetation renewal. Call 752-5490 for details and to get a better idea of the time for the planned burn.

TROUT arrive today at Sand Lake. The time is 11 a.m. Expect 1,800 rainbow and 200 brook trout to be emptied from the DNR Manchester hatchery truck. Brook trout will be the special prize fish this time. Present the brook trout to the staff and take a pick of several door prizes furnished by local businesses. A trout fee and 2014 fishing license is required for most of the fishing public at an area where trout may be caught.

Thought for the day: “Anytime you can turn the doorknob and go outside is a good day.” -The late Wes Schierman, a former USAF fighter pilot, and prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton prison camp from September, 1965 until his release on February 11, 1973.

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.