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Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 12:56 a.m. CST

Fall colors

Leaf viewers may have a good year to see vivid colors this year, according to Jeff Goerndt, the State Forest Section supervisor at the Iowa DNR.

“I think we’re going to have a good fall color year because of the weather we’re having,” Goerndt says. “You get the best and brightest colors when you’ve got the kind of fall weather we have now where you get sunny days and crisp, cool nights.

Typically, the best fall colors are in Northeast Iowa, but there are some good areas in Central Iowa too, says Goerndt.

Leaves will change across north Iowa between the last week of September to the second week of October. Central Iowa will see leaves changing from the first to third weeks of October. Southern Iowa will see leaves change from the second week to the end of October.

What changes where is subject to weather. How vivid and how long leaves remain is also determined by weather.

As days get shorter, trees release a chemical called phytochrome. This chemical slows down chlorophyll production and allows the tree go dormant. The loss of chlorophyll (which is green) allows the colors of the leaf to show.

Leaf pigment is also influenced by the amount and acidity of sap in the trees. More acidic sap gives trees more reds and brighter colors. Less acidic saps gives trees duller and more yellow colors.

Leaf watching season can be cut short by drought and/or strong wind events.

“Drought can also cause the colors to be less brilliant,” says Goerndt. “When trees are stressed, the leaves tend to turn brown and fall off. In areas where there’s severe drought, we’re seeing early leaf drop.”

The DNR has a fall colors hotline which can be found, along with other information, at: www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/Forestry/ForestryLinksPublications/FallColor.as

Tree stands

An estimated 50,000 archery deer hunters will climb into treestands in Iowa, and an untold number will fall.

One in every three hunters who hunt from a treestand will fall at some point in their hunting career, and of those, 75 to 80 percent occurs while ascending or descending the tree.

Nationally, 300-500 hunters are killed annually in treestand accidents and another 6,000 will have treestand related injuries.

Tree stand incidents are one of the leading causes of injury to hunters. The DNR urges hunters to utilize the following safety tips:

• Always wear a full body harness, also known as a fall arrest system, when you are in a tree stand, as well as when climbing into or out of a tree stand. Make sure it is worn properly. Treestand harnesses have an expiration date and should be replaced when they expire and/or if a fall occurs.

• A safety strap should be attached to the tree to prevent falling more than 12 inches.

• Always inspect the safety harness for signs of wear or damage before each use.

• Follow the 3 point rule of tree stand safety.  Always have 3 points of contact to the steps or ladder before moving.  Be cautious that rain, frost, ice, or snow can cause steps to become extremely slippery.  Check the security of the step before placing your weight on it.

• Always hunt with a plan and if possible a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.

• Always carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, personal locator device and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach even while you are suspended. Watch for changing weather conditions. In the event of an accident, remain calm and seek help immediately.

• Always select the proper tree for use with your tree stand. Select a live straight tree that fits within the size limits recommended in your tree stand’s instructions. Do not climb or place a tree stand against a leaning tree.

• Never leave a tree stand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather conditions and/or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.

• Always use a haul line to pull up your gear and unloaded firearm or bow to your tree stand once you have reached your desired hunting height. Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.

• Be aware of suspension trauma. A rear attached full body harness is intended to prevent falls, not to be suspended in for any length of time. Suspension trauma can happen in less than 20 minutes and can be fatal. Hunters should attach an additional foot strap to the body harness to take the pressure off their upper legs and carry a pocket knife to cut away the harness if the situation turns critical.

Wildlife cover

Fall tillage practices, even reduced tillage techniques such as disking and chisel plowing, can eliminate waste grains and crop residue that provides important food and cover for species such as pheasants, quail, partridge, turkey, and deer.

Studies of harvested untilled crop fields show wildlife consume 55-85 percent of the waste corn and soybeans between fall harvest and the following spring.

The corn stubble and stalks remaining in untilled cornfields also provide concealment cover for pheasants, quail, and partridge, so the birds are not so exposed to predators when feeding in the winter, said Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife research biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.  

Research shows even reduced tillage methods, such as disking and chisel plowing, reduce waste grains available to wildlife by 80 percent and reduce crop stubble by 50 percent or more.

Farmers and landowners can leave a free food plot for wildlife by simply not fall plowing their fields, said Bogenschutz.

“No till farming is a great way to leave food and cover for wildlife.  Leaving stubble is also a great way to capture soil moisture for next year,” he said.

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