DEER SEASON numbers continue to be added to the statewide crop reporting system. As of midweek, 14,240 deer were noted and recorded on the Iowa DNR website where county-by-county totals are recorded. Marshall County deer hunters took 20 hinds, 34 antlers and 2 bucks for a total of 56. Allamakee County is first in Iowa with 394. Allamakee is our northernmost county. -is which borders Minnesota and the Mississippi River with a view east of the Wisconsin River. Ida County hunters have reported only 9 deer so far. A wide range of habitats across Iowa are the reasons for the high and low numbers of deer.
At the end of all deer seasons on January 10, 2022, deer hunters using archery equipment, muzzleloaders, shotguns, or centerfire rifles will take approximately 110 000 deer. This number is consistent with historical trends. And that number seems to be the right balance between the biological carrying capacity of the earth and the social carrying capacity of what people will accept.
OBSERVATIONS OF A TREE a wide variety of wildlife activities are a bonus that every deer hunter, especially archers, can expect every time they go out. Any archery hunter can tell you the wait is long. Many hours go by without much happening. It accompanies the territory, as is to be expected. The hunter is there for the deer, but what happens otherwise is not without incident. Many times any deer activity can go from zero passing deer. They just weren’t around at the time.
In other places on the stand, deer may be all around, some close or less close. Even so, observing the behavior of these four-legged critters adds to the pleasure of being outside snuggled up against a tree watching everything that is going on. Other wildlife creatures going about their daily chores add to the fun of being in the wildlife element.
Birds of all kinds make appearances. I particularly look forward to the appearances of large woodpeckers, as this large crow-sized bird pecks through tree bark in search of bits of insects or larvae to eat. Large woodpeckers are loud and recognizable among themselves. Small peaks like the down and its big cousin the hairy make appearances. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are also notable for their sounds and flight patterns. Many other small warbler-type birds flit around the branches and never seem to stand still. They are always on the move.
During my more than five decades of sitting in the trees, there have been many memorable encounters with wildlife. The best of the best is watching a red-tailed hawk soar straight towards me, or the tree I was in. I remember seeing his image getting bigger and bigger as he got closer. What I didn’t know at the time was that this raptor was just changing locations. I could have sworn he was coming to investigate my slight head movements. Instead, the great hawk intended to find a new perch. This perch was an old branch of a dead tree on the other side of the tree I was in. It landed just six feet away, folded its wings, and began to investigate its new location. As I carefully, silently and slowly looked at my head a bit for a better view, the hawk had no idea I was looking at him. For the next few moments, it was me and the hawk in the same tree. And then when the hawk finally turned its head towards me, it realized that those two big eyes watching it were human. It did. The red tail took its frightened flight away from me.
I have seen small, pointed-headed hawks snatch a small bird in the air, come and land nearby to pluck feathers, and finally grab beak-sized pieces of meat to eat. I have seen vultures gather in swarms to feast on a raccoon carcass on a sandbar in a river. I’ve seen bald eagles hover overhead and occasionally land on top of the tree I’m sitting in. And owls with silent wings periodically came closer to inspect that big bump in the tree, me, to see what it was, only to turn extinct at the last second.
At ground level, the groundhogs waddled around its newly dug burrow entrance. Raccoons also pass by from time to time, even climb the tree I am in, until they realize that the tree is already occupied. Then they do a mad dash higher up the tree or a quick exit down the tree. The squirrels get curious and inspect this camouflage bump sitting in the support. Field mice even came out of a hollow maple branch site to run around the bark of the tree at arm’s length. Their large black eyes are well suited to nocturnal insect and seed hunting activities.
The weather is constantly changing. Remarkable sunrises and sunsets are to be seen. These colorful sky patterns engrave new memories of time spent outdoors. Then, when a new morning arrives in broad daylight, fog can slowly move in and out, blocking and then exposing new views of the prairie or forest. It is magic. With beautiful calm or light winds come other cases with strong winds and cold air. Obviously, dressing properly for the weather elements is essential to staying warm and dry. I have been to a tree in the past with no snow on the ground. However, by the time I got off when it was time to leave, enough snow had fallen to whiten me and the earth. As I continued my walk out of the forest, I noticed deer footprints made moments before leaving delicate impressions of their recent deaths.
During 2021, new outdoor memories will be added to each hunter’s album. Each will be unique and special, reflecting great snippets of time spent outside hiking, hunting, canoeing, fishing or any other trip that will motivate you for tomorrow. Enjoy.
TRAIL CAMERAS remain a popular device that hunters can choose to use as silent recorders of what is happening. Deer hunters now have a wide variety of styles and options that record the meanders of animals day and night. These recording devices tell a story of what, when and where the hunter can thus get information about who is using that particular trail. Backup camera options have progressed and improved functionality over time to even send cell phone messages to your device of what’s going on right now, or what just happened.
Hunting organizations have recognized the element of fair hunting which is essential for the ethical harvest of wild animals. Unfair advantage should not be used as the ultimate method of taking big game creatures. Recognizing that surveillance cameras can be used responsibly or not, two nationally recognized organizations implemented a policy statement before a big game record could be accepted. These organizations are the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club. Here is the actual wording of the policy.
Using the tracking camera: “The use of any technology that provides real-time location data (including photos) to target or guide a hunter to a species or animal in a way that elicits an immediate (real-time) response from the hunter. is not allowed. “ The key word here is immediate. How will this play out in real life scenarios?
In most cases, the images from surveillance cameras are simply recording what has happened and in the field of view of the lens. The hunter then examines a memory card or cell phone picture and notes the time, date and location of an event. By the time a hunter takes time off work or goes to a deer farm, the incident that has been recorded is just a historical moment in the past, not a “right away, right here” event. In other words, the recording did not elicit an immediate response. No big game just waits for a hunter to arrive. They hear, see or smell humans long before that human approaches. And they wander away along a path when they feed or seek shelter in their daily movements.
Hunters know that deer take multiple trails to get from point A to point B. In two weeks, a surveillance camera will likely take enough photos of all deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, bobcats, coyotes, etc. skunks, possums or wild. cat that resides in that particular habitat area. When a hunter’s actual downtime takes place, all he knows is that in the past wild animals have passed this location. There is no way of knowing if this setting for a hunter will provide an opportunity while they sit and wait. Responsible hunters and ethical hunters know that the odds are strongly in favor of the wild animal. Using wood skills to outsmart a savage creature requires a lot of hard work, good timing, and even a bit of old-fashioned luck. When all of these factors come together, and if a wild creature is legally and ethically dispatched by your bullet or arrow, the hunter can claim the respectful praise of family and friends.
NOVEMBER is upon us. During this month before the onset of winter, the position of our earth’s orbit is such that the duration of direct sunlight on the northern hemisphere is shorter and shorter. For those of us living in Marshall County, the day length on November 1 was 10 hours and 22 minutes. On November 30, the day length will be exactly one hour shorter at 9 hours and 22 minutes. Those 60 minutes are equivalent to an average loss of two minutes per day. I know you are delighted with the shorter days. Daylight saving time ends today, November 7th. Set the clocks back one hour.
“You can delay, but time won’t, and time lost will never be found. “ – Thomas Edison