Otter Creek Marsh a valuable asset

OTTER CREEK MARSH is a state wildlife management area located adjacent to the Iowa River east of the Tama/Toledo area of Tama County. The entire complex of wetlands and bottomland forests contains a bit over 3,800 acres. The wetland pool portions have about 1,600 acres of open water and associated areas of emergent aquatic vegetation. From a wildlife point of view, this is a perfect place to live. From the human wildlife enthusiast point of view, it is a perfect place to visit.

Hunters do visit Otter Creek Marsh often during all the fall waterfowl seasons. It is a magnet for migrating birds that need a place to stop, rest and feed. Refuge areas of the wetland complex offer full time protection. Huntable pool segments are the sites where a man, his dog and a few decoys will wait patiently for a flyby of ducks. It is a tradition each fall for a dedicated waterfowler.

Wildlife observers also use designated observation platforms or enjoy long hikes along dike edges with binoculars, camera and eyeballs alert for everything from mink, otter, muskrat, beaver, raccoon or deer. Birds of all kinds are too numerous to list them all. The obvious big birds of the marsh include Bald Eagles. The nesting pair of eagles raised three eaglets this year. Those young eagles are now learning the skills needed to survey as a bird of prey.

Additional big birds of Otter Creek include Sandhill Cranes. Five or six pair are known to have called the marsh home this summer. One pair of Sandhills raised two young (colts). Two other pair raised one colt each. Not too far away in a portion of the bottomland timber, a Great-blue Heron rookery was established this year. A heron rookery may contain a dozen or more tree top nests in one very localized site.

Today’s image of Otter Creek Marsh was taken July 17. It was a clear calm smooth as glass type of day to be flying. My observation advantage of being 1,000 feet above the ground allowed this scribe to capture the moment. And I’m glad to share this image so that you the reader can get the big picture of how a wetland complex like Otter Creek is a valuable asset for wildlife.

TEAL SEASON is slated to begin in early September. The proposed dates have been advanced for the approval process. As proposed, the special teal season will be three weeks long this year, from Sept. 6-21 in all zones, north, south and Missouri River. Other species of ducks seasons will open Oct. 4 however depending upon the zone, end dates vary. Do look up the specific dates for the zone applicable to you.

Fall seasons for other species of game birds and mammals is also fast approaching. Like it or not, summer will go fast and the onset of fall weather will soon become a reality. Canada goose opener date is Sept. 27th (north zone) and Oct. 4 (south zone). Other September seasons list doves, both Mourning and Eurasian Collared, Sept 1 to Nov. 9; Woodcock Oct. 4 to Nov. 17; Snipe Sept. 6 to Nov. 30; and Rail Sept. 6 to Nov. 14.

A full listing of the waterfowl regulations is available from the DNR website. All the recommendations for the 2014-15 time frame are based on the assumption that the 2014 federal migratory bird hunting regulations will be the same as they were in 2013.

DEER hunting within special city, urban or some state park segments are slated to begin in mid-September also all across Iowa. The need for constant and consistent pressure on deer numbers in areas where the pressure needs to be applied is an on-going wildlife management goal. Marshalltown’s city deer hunt has been operational for at least five years. Archers have taken a good number of doe deer to help reduce the problems associated with too many deer.

For 2014-15, the proposed special regulations for Marshalltown City will allow for 60 antlerless licenses to be sold to qualified bow hunters. Of course one must realize that those archers will not fill all those 60 slots. A fairly predictable statistic is that 25 to 35 percent of those 60 licenses will result in a doe deer harvest. For every doe deer taken, that means she and her potential fawns are not around to grow the herd. It is tried and true wildlife management system with more than two decades of successful history in many of Iowa’s largest cities.

While 60 tags will be offered to qualified bow hunters in Marshalltown, the buffer zone along the northern edges of the City will have an additional 40 antlerless tags. The buffer zone is where deer can easily move into or out of the City. Even though the Iowa River borders the north side of Marshalltown, it is no barrier whatsoever to deer movement. This scribe has personally witnessed deer crossing the river, both directions, to go where they wanted to travel. Usually hunting pressure outside the city limits can result in deer moving to areas with little or no pressure, in this case into the city.

Statewide deer quotas for each county have been proposed for 2014-15. Since most of Iowa has reached a level or goal for holding deer numbers steady, these county quotas reflect where deer hunting pressure on female deer is still needed, and where it isn’t required anymore. The easiest way to describe areas where doe deer are still above goal is the Mississippi River border counties, all southern Iowa counties in the bottom three tiers, and several southwest counties bordering the Missouri River. Central and northwest Iowa will have zero additional antlerless deer licenses. Marshall County’s antlerless tags will be limited to 150 for the 2014-15 season.

Iowa’s Natural Resource Commission has approved changes to the proposed 2014 seasons.

Included in the list are these points:

1. Eliminating the January antlerless season;

2. Reduce antlerless quotas;

3. Restrict hunters in 27 northwest or north central counties to only take antlered deer during the first shotgun and early muzzleloader seasons; and

4. Legalize the use of crossbows during the late muzzleloader season (as required by House File bill 499 that became effective July 1).

BECOMING AN OUTDOORS WOMAN workshop registration is now open for the September 19-21 event to be held at Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center. The workshop is an excellent opportunity for women ages 18 or older to try a wide variety of activities they may never have had the chance to experience, said Julie Sparks, coordinator for the event.

“We have top notch instructors, class size is kept small and the setting at Springbrook is excellent, particularly in the fall,” she said.

Workshop topics include basic fishing, fly fishing, bird watching, archery, beginning shotgun shooting, motor boat skills, geocaching, canoeing, stand up paddling, Dutch oven cooking, nature photography and more. Registration fee for this excellent program is $150 and that cover food, lodging and materials. Call 515-281-6159 for details or email: julie.sparks@dnr.iowa.gov

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

– Stephen Covey,

American writer and educator.

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in fish and wildlife biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA. 50005.