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Published: Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 11:27 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 11:32 a.m. CDT

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Tree stand safety

Bow hunters preparing for the upcoming season should check all their gear to make sure it is in proper working order, especially tree stands and safety harnesses, before heading to the timber.

“Falls associated with tree stand use are the most common hunting incidents during the bow season,” Litchfield said. “Hunters should always wear a safety harness and use caution when climbing.”

Megan Wisecup, supervisor for the DNR’s recreational safety program, said there are a number of tips hunters can use to prevent injury when using a tree stand.

“Make sure to select a tree that fits the tree stand recommended limits and follow the three point rule of tree stand safety – always have three points of contact to the steps or ladder before moving,” she said.

“That could be two arms and one leg holding and stepping on the ladder or one arm and two legs in contact with the ladder before moving. And remember the elements – the rain, frost, ice or snow can cause steps to become slippery so check the security of the step before placing your weight on it.”

Other safety tips include using a haul line to pull gear and the unloaded firearm or bow to the stand and hunters should never climb with anything in their hands or on their back.  When exiting the stand, use the haul line to lower the gear on the opposite side of the tree.

“Get familiar with the safety harness. Read the instructions for it and for the tree stand itself so you know how to use it properly and know its limitations,” Wisecup said.  Falls from tree stands are required to be reported to the DNR if a person seeks medical attention for an injury received while entering, exiting or sitting in a stand.

“The basic rules of tree stand safety don’t apply to just bow hunters, but to firearm hunters using an elevated device or stand,” she said.  “We want everyone to be safe out there. The goal at the end of every hunt is to arrive home safely.”

Bowhunter class

The bow hunter program is designed to teach bowhunters safe and ethical hunting techniques and to install responsible attitudes toward people, wildlife and the environment. Participants learn more about tree stand safety and urban bow hunting.

A field day portion of the online bowhunter class will be held on Oct. 7, in Vinton. The class has room for 30 participants. To sign up for the course, go to www.iowadnr.gov/training.

Deer moving

As autumn days grow shorter, Iowa drivers are urged to keep a cautious eye on roadsides. In the coming weeks, whitetail deer will become more active as the ‘rut’ or breeding season approaches.

The early harvest also removes standing crops. As a result, deer are on the move to more wooded or brushy areas. And finally, with shorter day length, our peak driving times coincide with sunrise and sunset, when deer are active, traveling between food and cover.

Although deer vehicle collisions increase in the fall with the increase in deer movement, the good news is that over the last decade the rate of deer/vehicle collisions has declined significantly. The decline is a result of actions taken by the DNR to reduce Iowa’s deer population; primarily through hunters harvesting more does.

The reduction was the intent of Iowa legislators in 2003 when they instructed the DNR to reduce deer populations. Those goals have been reached in most counties and are close to being met in remaining counties.

Deer vehicle collisions are down, even though Iowans drive an estimated 4.3 billion miles more (18.6 billion/2011) than 20 years ago.

“Last year the rate of deer killed in Iowa was down from the peak years of 2004 through 2006 and is actually similar to levels reported from the mid-1980s to mid-90s,” says Tom Litchfield, forest wildlife biologist for the Iowa DNR.

“It is important to consider the number of miles driven, when looking at vehicle-deer mishaps; in particular rural miles,” emphasizes Litchfield. “Insurance industry figures often overlook the fact that most miles driven on Iowa’s highways are in rural areas where most deer live.”

Drivers can reduce the chance of hitting a deer by remaining alert for deer crossing the road and by scanning road shoulders, especially near creeks and wooded areas.

Reducing speed slightly will also increase the amount of time the driver has to react if a deer appears on or near the road. This is especially important around dawn and dusk, when deer are more active.

In the unfortunate event that a collision cannot be avoided—it is usually safer to slow down as much as possible and hit the deer, than to veer into oncoming traffic or leave the roadway.

Turkey season

Iowa’s turkey population likely benefited from an early nesting season and dry spring and summer, which is good news for turkey hunters who should expect to see more birds when fall turkey hunting seasons open next month.

The archery only fall turkey season mirrors the archery deer season: Oct. 1-Nov. 30, then closes for the shotgun deer season and reopens Dec. 17 to Jan. 10, 2013. The gun-bow fall turkey season is Oct. 15-Nov. 30.

The fall turkey seasons are often passed over while hunters pursue deer, ducks and pheasants, but it provides a good opportunity to bring kids into the sport because being noisy is one of the ways to hunt them.

“The most productive way to hunt turkeys in the fall is to find a flock, break them up by either running at them, or sending the dog in or let the kids run at them. The key is to get the birds flying in as many different directions as possible,” said Todd Gosselink, forest wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“Turkeys are flocking birds so they will want to get back into a flock.  Once they are dispersed, get the camo on, sit down, wait a few minutes and then begin to call them back,” he said.

But leave most of the spring calls at home. Calling in the fall is different than in the spring.  “It sounds like ‘kee-kee’ and you can mimic the call with a diaphragm mouth call to bring them in. It’s pretty exciting,” he said.

Deer bowhunters and pheasant hunters should consider picking up a tag as well, Gosselink said, not because they plan specifically target turkeys, but more as an opportunistic harvest.

“Hunters who will be around wooded areas and our wooded riparian corridors in Iowa’s more agricultural areas may have the opportunity to shoot a turkey this fall,” he said.

“The fall season is long which allows hunters some flexibility and helps with taking kids because there is time to find flocks and you can go when the weather is nicer when the kids have off from school,” Gosselink said.

With all the activity in the forests and fields, hunters should plan to wear blaze orange when they head to and from the field.

Fall turkey hunting has similar shotgun and bow hunting regulations, with the exception that in the fall, hunters may harvest a bird of either sex.  In the spring, it’s bearded bird only. Rifles and muzzleloading rifles are not allowed and shotguns must be between 10-gauge to 20-gauge. Bow hunters are under the same broad-head restrictions for turkey as they are for deer.

Harvest must be reported through the harvest reporting system by midnight of the day the bird is recovered.

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