Taxidermy as an art form takes intricate steps to eventually create and preserve memories for customers. It could be the first big fish caught by a boy or girl, or a big buck, elk, moose or goose caught by mom, dad, grandparent or your little sister.
Either way, every animal, whether big or small, 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 these memories.
Which is why this Saturday, March 26, a short drive to Tama for us locals can put our eyes to work as we feast on a brand new display of custom artwork. There will be plenty to examine and admire as many taxidermists display their best show and story samples.
Members of the Iowa Taxidermy Association endeavor to judge and award ribbons for all entries, and these members also offer willingly offered suggestions and advice of the trade so that each member may strive to improve their final product. This product, if done with care, provides publicity to all who will see the specimen. A typical question will be: “Who was your taxidermist?” Great work sells and promotes the activity of craftsmen who take the time to perfect their works.
Objects of the taxidermy trade end up in private collections, and many taxidermy services are employed by specific outlets – think Cabela’s, Bass Pro, and national or state museums of natural history. Even ancient bones unearthed from age-old rock sediment layers can be reassembled to show the articulated skeletons of fossilized creatures millions of years old.
From this framework, craftsmen attempted with great success to add “flesh” to these bones, allowing science and the public to see for themselves what this animal might look like in real life. The Smithsonian in Washington, DC is just one such place where this type of reproduction can be viewed.
Our Natural History Museum is a fantastic place. In Denver, Colorado is their Natural History Museum which features many dioramas featuring exquisite animal mounts, all made by taxidermists.
Closer to home, the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center features dioramas of native Iowa wildlife. From an educational perspective, 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 artwork at the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Mo.
If you’re heading west from Lincoln, Neb., make a special effort to get to the college campus and look for “Elephant Hall,” their nickname for a museum showing ancient lifeforms that once roamed the landscapes. from America. If you’re traveling west, stop by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. It will be well worth your time spent learning new things about our earth’s natural history.
We should all know that the bald eagle is a protected species. Possession of a single eagle feather is illegal. US Fish and Wildlife Service officials strongly frown on anyone who thinks it’s okay to “just take a feather” – that’s not a good ideal.
So what should a person do if they want to have a replica bald eagle mount? There is a way to accomplish this act. Create a fake eagle using white chicken feathers and brown turkey feathers, all carefully cut, painted and placed in a goose body shape and an eagle head replica.
Who do this ? His name is Jim Day. Over a dozen years ago, he wanted to build a replica bald eagle. So, with his artistic genius put to use, he assembled the body molds, the replica heads and feet, and began the meticulous task of taking feathers from chicken, turkey and goose, trimming them, press and glue them in place, each individual feather meticulously secured.
When the white-feathered head is placed on the body of the simulated turkey-feathered eagle and all the painting of beaks, legs and talons is completed, the artificial “bald eagle” looks very much like a real one.
The Ducks Unlimited banquet will take place in a week on April 2 and will be held at the Regency Inn Best Western at Hwy 14 and Iowa Avenue. Doors open at 5 p.m. to review merchandise, participate in ticket and raffle games, and meet and greet new and old friends. DU is a great organization to support because of its long track record of success for wetland wildlife habitats across North America.
Wetland landscapes are what waterfowl need for food and nesting, and while they do their job, countless small creatures such as birds, amphibians, reptiles and furry animals find the Wetland complexes are excellent homes for their sustenance. It’s a win-win for wildlife and for the public.
A local project that could benefit greatly from DU support is the Mann Wetland Complex south of Albion. Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board (MCCB), noted in the latest MCCB newsletter “Seasons” that the opportunity to acquire the land has presented itself and that the Natural Heritage Foundation of the Iowa (INHF) was able to make the purchase.
It will now be time for the MCCB to use funds from private organizations, donations from individuals and supporters, and grant funds to repay the INHF in a few years. Support has already been provided by a range of partnerships, including Pheasants Forever, the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Friends of Conservation of Marshall County 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 on floodplains with a notable history of supporting periodic flooding from the Iowa River. Floods are temporary, of course.
The temporary wetlands created by the floods are well used by wildlife, and there is a semi-permanent wetland just south of Albion which grows cattails, sedges and emergent pond vegetation well suited to waterfowl and muskrats.
This area has the potential for improved wetland works projects. Its future depends on its funding, both for acquisition costs and for appropriate development costs. It will be designated a natural area where public hunting will be permitted.
For more 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 on this important project.
Wild turkey hunting season is fast approaching. The first opening is from April 11 to 14, followed by the second season from April 15 to 19, then from April 20 to 26 and from April 27 to May 15. Resident-only archery tags are valid April 11 through May 15.
Wild turkey populations are healthy and in sufficient numbers. Biologists know that hunter success rates range from about 20-22%. Based on the total number of licenses sold, multiplied by 20 or 22%, this means that the total estimated harvest of turkeys is around 11,500 birds.
This is supported by data from the required hunter confirmation report process. Wild turkey hunting is a great time to be outdoors in the spring, as the forest and landscape awaken from a long, deep winter slumber. Trees and bushes are budding and songbirds are singing their territorial intentions again. Wildflowers in the forest are beginning to bloom while sunlight can still penetrate the forest floor before the leaves of the trees have completely fallen.
Turkey hunting is a quiet business where plenty of space between hunters is an easy and ethical thing to accomplish, and if a big tom turkey answers his calls to be within 30 yards of the gun, or within 20 or even ten feet from the archer, another turkey crop may take place. It will likely happen at least 11,500 times this spring in Iowa.
“Doubt and failure are surrounded by ‘what ifs’…what if you just ignore them and get to work?”
Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in Fish and Wildlife Biology.
Contact him at:
Albion, IA 50005