As I put this column together, the first shotgun deer season is over and we're four days into the second shotgun season.
There's a lot - an awful lot - of deer moving around out there. The first season guys really scattered them out. That first season opening day I was on a hill overlooking Department of Natural Resources (state ground) land south of what used to be the Woodard Feed Company and deer were running in all directions. Hunters were trying to push them foreward and the deer were running out the sides of the drive unnoticed.
The Tunnel Mill and Bells Mill area sounded like there was a small war going on. Lots of shooting early on. I talked to a number of hunting groups from the Cass Center and Woolstock area and then down around Stratford and the story is the same. The first hour was like gang busters. Deer were everywhere. Nearly every group had filled half its tags. For a short time after the opening hour, things went great.
Then the wheels came off and things started to go south. The bottom fell off. To begin with, it was foggy. Fog dampens noise. That's good. Fog also cuts visibility. That's bad. No snow; dry weather and a very war, day is not good news for deer hunters. But it cold have been worse. I think hunter success ran about 45 percent, and that's not bad with all things considered.
Surprisingly, there was a large number of coyotes killed. One hunting group ended up with 12 coyotes. Almost every group saw coyotes and almost every group shot at least one. A deer hunting party in the Bells Mills area told me it was like a coyote hunt than a deer hunt. It was the most number of coyotes shot and killed in one day that I?know of.
Dean Lee corned me the other noon at the local Dairy Queen to tell me he'd seen an enormous flock of snow geese set down at Beemer's Pond. I grabbed the binoculars and spotting scope and dashed out there. They were still there. The next day they were gone, but about 20 or so trumpeter swans came in ... having dropped down out of the heavy fog. Beemer's Pond right now is hosting an enormous number of Canada geese, many of which can be seen feeding in the nearby fields.
I like that place ... there's always something different happening out there. Friday, a rooster pheasant walked right up to my van while I was parked in the parking lot. And last week there was a ?"Krider's"?red-tailed hawk hanging around the north end of the pond. The "Krider's"?hawk is an almost all-white version of the common red-tailed hawk. It's uncommon and usually is seldom seen east of the Missouri River. It's a hawk of the western plains.
Doug Marchel left a nice message on my telephone answering machine. advising me of a dead deer south of Webster City on the Beach Street road (west side of the highway) with four bald eagles feeding on it. They were still there as of this recent weekend ... one juvenile and three adults. What a sight. It's not that often that one sees four eagles together in this part of the country.
Here comes another firestorm. Another deer disease, EHD, otherwise known as epizootic hemorrhagic disease, has affected a large number of Iowa deer across the state, especially in southern Iowa with a considerable number of farmers reporting having found dead deer on their farms because of it. It will be interesting to know how many hunters report their harvested deer as having the disease. Deer biologists are watching the situation closely.
Often, about 5:30 in the afternoon, I sit at my desk and try to remember where the day went. I think I know. You'd have to be two degrees off plumb not enjoy this weather, but honestly, I've been waiting all fall for the wind to go down. I've been waiting day in and day out for a calm day. I've been trying to get down to the Izaak Walton rifle range to get one of my rifles zeroed in, but it seems like the wind is always roaring in from the north or south. Since the range runs east and west, that means there's always a horrible crosswind. The problem is, when they were handing out patience, I got tired of waiting in line and left without any, and what little I have is wearing thin. It's been the windiest spring, summer and fall I've ever experienced, and I'll probably have to wait for some cold winter day to zero that rifle in. Shooting over a cold concrete benchrest is not one of my favorite things.
And now, have a good weekend.