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Taxidermy art exhibit this weekend in Meskwaki | News, Sports, Jobs

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — An early spring/late winter getaway is in store for those who want to see the 2022 Iowa Taxidermy Show in the conference rooms of the Meskwaki Convention Center in Tama. Public show hours are from noon to 5 pm on Saturday, March 26. Artisans from across Iowa and other Midwestern states will display a wide variety of critters. Their perfection and attention to detail is impressive as they strive to always improve an animal mount for their clients. As you watch the screens, you can vote for your choice of ‘best of show’.

Taxidermy as an art form takes intricate steps to eventually create and preserve memories for clients. It could be the first big fish caught by a boy or girl, or a big deer, elk, elk or goose caught by mom, dad, grandpa or your little sister.

In any case, each animal, however small or large, is a treasure trove of memories of a special time, a special place, when the circumstances came together for that special outdoor adventure. Taxidermists can help preserve those memories.

That’s why this Saturday, March 26, a short trip to Tama for us locals can put our eyes to work delighting us with a brand new display of custom artwork. There will be much to examine and admire as many taxidermists display their best specimens.

Members of the Iowa Taxidermy Association work to judge and award ribbons to all entries, and those members also offer hints and tips of the trade that are gladly offered so that each member can strive to improve their finished product. That product, if done carefully, is advertising to anyone who ever sees the specimen. A typical question will be: “Who was your taxidermist?” Great work sells itself and promotes business for those artisans who take the time to perfect their works.

Taxidermists’ trade items end up in private collections, and many taxidermists’ services are employed by specific outlets: think Cabela’s, Bass Pro, and state or national museums of natural history. Even ancient bones unearthed from rocky sediment layers can be reassembled to display the articulated skeletons of fossilized creatures millions of years old.

From that framework, artisans have tried with great success to add “meat” to those bones, allowing science and the public to see for themselves what that animal might have looked like in real life. The Smithsonian in Washington, DC is just one of those places where you can see that kind of replica.

Our Natural History Museum is a fantastic place. In Denver, Colo., its Natural History Museum offers many diorama display settings of exquisite animal mounts, all made by taxidermists.

Closer to home, Grimes Farm and Conservation Center has diorama exhibits of native Iowa wildlife. From an educational standpoint, it helps the viewer connect with the life forms of our native grasslands, wetlands and forests. A little travel can bring you face to face with other splendid taxidermy art at the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Missouri.

If you go west to Lincoln, Neb., make a special effort to go to the university campus and look up “Elephant Hall,” its nickname for a museum showcasing ancient life forms that once roamed America’s landscapes. If you’re taking a trip west at some point, make a stop at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. It will be worth taking the time to learn new things about the natural history of our land.

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We should all know that bald eagles are a protected species. Possession of even an eagle feather is illegal. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials strongly frown on anyone who thinks it’s okay to “just pick up a feather”; this is not a good ideal.

So what should a person do if they want to have a replica of the bald eagle mount? There is a way to achieve this fact. Create a faux eagle using white chicken feathers and brown turkey feathers, all carefully trimmed, painted, and arranged into a goose body shape and eagle head replica.

Who does this? His name is Jim Day. More than a dozen years ago, he wanted to build a replica of a bald eagle. So, with his artistic genius set to work, he assembled the body casts, replica heads and feet, and began the meticulous task of taking chicken, turkey and goose feathers, cutting them out, pressing them and gluing them into place, each individual feather meticulously placed.

When the white feathered head is placed on the mock eagle body with turkey feathers and all the painting of beaks, legs and talons is completed, the artificial “bald eagle” looks very much like a real one.

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The Ducks Unlimited Banquet is a week away on April 2nd and will be held at the Regency Inn Best Western on Highway 14 and Iowa Avenue. Doors open at 5 pm to peruse merchandise, participate in ticketing games and raffles, and meet and greet new and old friends. DU is an excellent organization to support because of its long history of success for wetland wildlife habitats throughout North America.

Wetland landscapes are what waterfowl need to feed and nest, and while they do their thing, countless smaller creatures, including birds, amphibians, reptiles and furriers, find wetland complexes an excellent home for their sustenance. It’s a win-win for wildlife and for the public.

One local project that could benefit greatly from DU support is the Mann Wetlands Complex in southern Albion. Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board (MCCB), noted in the MCCB’s latest newsletter, “Seasons,” that the opportunity arose to acquire the land and that the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) was able to Make the purchase.

There will now be time for the MCCB to use funds from private organizations, donations from individuals and supporters, and give money to pay the INHF years from now. Support has already been made by a host of associations including Pheasants Forever, the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Marshall County Friends of Conservation and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The project lands are directly east of Timmons Grove County Park and adjacent to Highway 330. All parcels are in flood plains with a notable history of taking periodic flooding from the Iowa River in stride. Flooding is temporary , of course.

The temporary wetlands created by the floods are heavily used by wildlife, and there is a semi-permanent wetland just south of Albion that grows cattails, rushes, and emergent pond vegetation well suited to waterfowl and muskrats.

This area has the potential for enhanced wetland work projects. Its future depends on financing, both acquisition costs and adequate development costs. It will be designated as a natural area where public hunting will be allowed.

For details on how you can help with this wetland complex, contact Mike Stegmann at 2349 233rd St., Marshalltown, IA, 50158, or call him at 641-752-5490. Thank you in advance for your help in this important project.

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Wild turkey hunting seasons are fast approaching. The first opening is from April 11 to 14, followed by season number two from April 15 to 19, then from April 20 to 26 and from April 27 to May 15. Resident Archery Only tags are valid from April 11 to May 15.

Wild turkey populations are in good condition with adequate numbers. Biologists know that hunter success rates range from 20 to 22 percent. Based on the total number of licenses sold, multiplied by 20 or 22 percent, that means the total estimated turkey harvest is around 11,500 birds.

This is supported by data from the required hunter confirmation report process. Hunting wild turkeys is a great time to be outdoors in spring, as the forest and landscape wake up from a long, deep winter sleep. Trees and bushes sprout and songbirds sing their territorial intentions again. Forest wildflowers are beginning to bloom, while sunlight can still penetrate the forest floor before complete defoliation of the tree has occurred.

Turkey hunting is a quiet time endeavor where plenty of space between hunters is an easy and ethical thing to achieve, and if a big old turkey answers one’s calls to come within 30 yards of the gun, or 20 or even ten feet of the archer, another harvest of turkeys may take place. It’s likely to happen at least 11,500 times this spring in Iowa.

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“Doubt and failure are surrounded by ‘what ifs’… what if you just ignored them and got to work?”

– Unknown

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Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Board of Conservation. He graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in fish and wildlife biology.

Contact him at:

post office box 96

Albion, IA 50005

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