Drought and hunting

How does drought affect your fall hunting?

And the answer is: It affects it a lot, and we’re seeing the effects of it right now. The National Weather Service deemed 2012 the hottest year so far, on record since record keeping began in 1872. And calendar year 2013 wasn’t far behind. As of Aug. 5, there were 27,042 temperature records broken or tied this year (2012), according to data from the National Climatic Data Center. In March alone, 7,755 daily records were set or tied and 4,420 record were broken or tied in July. Most of the country suffered from record-setting heat waves and drought.

Well, here we are, 2013 is winding down and Iowa’s rivers are at record-setting lows for three years in a row and there’s no end in sight. In the winter these river and streams freeze clear to the bottom. Fish cannot survive in an environment like that. One winter is bad enough, but three is worse. Holes and deep spots in the river can hold some fish, but not many. They soon die off from a lack of oxygen. We’ve had wet springs. Too wet. It takes pheasants three years to make a comeback after a too-wet spring. But we’ve had three wet springs in a row. That alone should be the handwriting on the wall.

What about timer and forest wildlife? Our mast producing trees are in s survival mode, shedding the mast and in most cases, their leaves early. Mast (acorns, pumpkins, turnips, etc.). Because of our drought, the deer are congregating near water sources, making it easier for midge flied to infect them with EHD. Carcasses are often recovered near water. Fawn mortality goes up. And deer congregating near water holes makes it easier for predation. But one of the big problems of the drought is the loss of free-flowing water in many streams and creeks.

It’s not all bad news – for whatever the reason, turkey brood counts are up – way up. And turkey numbers should show larger than usual flocks because of the positive hatch we’ve had. Plants and shrubs have failed to flourish on the timber floor, creating less cover for deer and turkeys but more forage area. Very few soybean fields were bailed for feed, so there’s more waste grain left for the wild creatures. There normally is more soybean waste than corn waste and both deer and turkeys and pheasants thrive on soybeans. On the other hand, Conservation Reserve Program fields often have been bailed for feed, leaving no escape cover, so visibility may be a bonus for hunters. Humans aren’t the only predator in the field, however. Higher visibility is a benefit to four-legged predators as well.

And with water in short supply, mosquito populations decrease. That’s a plus for everyone. The operative word this fall is water. Find water and you’ll find game. Wait – There’s more. Low-water conditions caused by drought – in ponds and lakes – can be a huge bonus for fisherman, especially fall anglers and winter-time ice fishermen. You may not know exactly where the fish are, but you know precisely where the fish are not. They’re out there in the deeper water because that’s the only water that’s left. Low-water conditions serves to concentrate fish. Not just one or two species, but all the fish. Seldom do we see fishing as good as it is right now, and it’s that way because low water has forced the fish to bund up and are no concentrated in the deeper end of the lake or pond. In the long run, drought conditions not only affect hunting, but fishing as well.

Trail talk

I ran into Ron Keigan the other night at the American Legion chili and oyster soup supper. Geez, that brought back memories. Ron and Vic Weaver taught me how to bow hunt. That was a long time ago – back in the olden days. And back then, I knew nothing about bows, arrows, broad heads or bow hunting in general. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m still using the same Bear recurve bow with 50-pound pull and the same old aluminum orange-colored Hoyt arrows and broad heads today that I used way back in the 1970s.

Nowadays, all the bow hunters are shooting compound bows. But Ron tells me he’s going back to an age and era before mine. He’s going hunting this fall with one of his old longbows. Now that’s ancient. But a lot of tournaments have been won and a lot of deer and bear have been shot with those old longbows. Semper Fi.

And now have a good weekend.