Buchanan County creek an outdoorsman's paradise

Wildside column: Pheasants, turkeys and morels

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There is a creek in south Buchanan County, along whose banks I have enjoyed some of my finer days, including two this week.

It’s just a little farm country stream, like so many others in Iowa, but it has some good things going for it: Trees and pasture buffer much of its five-mile course. Careful and conscientious farmers till the surrounding fields. A spring supplements its tile drainage source water. And rock scraped down by the glaciers forms much of its bed.

Mink, otter and beaver frequent its tree-lined course, the beaver occasionally impounding enough water to attract flocks of ducks.

As many as half the pheasants I’ve shot in the past 50 years flushed within sight of this creek, and most of the turkeys I’ve shot in the past 20 years flew down from trees along its banks.

My most memorable outdoor experience occurred near the creek during a 2005 pheasant hunt when I made eye contact with a mountain lion — an image I have mentally revisited many times in the years since.

In its lower reaches, before it empties into the Wapsipinicon, farmland gives way to hardwood forests, home to deer and, concurrent with the annual inflow of redhorse suckers from the river, hillside cascades of bluebells and morel mushrooms.

As my friend Arthur Clark of Quasqueton and I walked along the creek Sunday, empty bags still in our pockets, we spotted a large elm so close to the creek that its roots drank from it when it was alive. Here, if anywhere, we will find morels, Arthur predicted, and he was right.

After two straight subpar, one-here, one-there mushroom seasons, we found ourselves on our knees, surrounded by fresh, luminous white, plainly visible morels, picking and grinning to the mellifluous accompaniment of water tumbling over rock in the creek’s lone rapids.

At 5 the next morning, crouched in a blooming plum thicket three miles farther up the creek, I awaited the hoped-for arrival of the recipient of my 2017 turkey tag.

Unlike the previous two mostly turkey-free mornings, Monday dawned more favorably with gobbling from the roost followed at first light by the emergence at the edge of the cornfield, 350 yards distant, of a pair of strutting gobblers.

Three hours later, reminiscent of a dance marathon, the gobblers still strutted in that same spot, apparently oblivious to the impassioned poultry sounds issuing periodically from my slate call.

Just as I was about to declare a stalemate and pick up my decoys, the gobblers finally moved in my direction, soon disappearing behind a rise in the cornfield. When they topped the rise and spied my decoys, they broke into a turkey trot.

My 2017 turkey hunt, which until then had consisted of nine hours of tedium, concluded with nine seconds of excitement for me and a free ride in the back of my pickup for the first one in.

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