Harvesting Deer for Meat Series

This week Winding Pathways will feature two blogs that cover the “ins and outs” of harvesting deer, landowner responsibilities and a sample agreement between landowners and deer hunters. This blog includes The Law, Equipment, and Ways to Process a Deer. The next blog on this topic will cover how landowners can manage hunters on their land and a sample agreement form.

Eating Deer

Frustrated homeowners often discover their landscape plants, flowers, and vegetables devoured by hungry urban and suburban deer.

Although we can find them annoying, deer are amazing. Deer are resourceful and adaptable. In many rural areas, their former habitat has been transformed into seas of corn, soybeans, or other crops. The hedgerows, woodlots, and brushy patches that once offered deer shelter have disappeared. So, they moved into town.

Many suburban and even urban areas offer a perfect place for deer to live. Parks and protected natural areas have secure places to live, and vegetable gardens, flower beds, and fruit trees are outstanding deer food. It’s no wonder so many towns are home to robust deer herds.

Although most people love seeing wildlife and enjoy having a few deer around when the garden is raided attitudes change quickly. In response, Winding Pathways and many garden books and blogs offer tips on how to protect trees and plants from hungry deer. Some hardly work, while others, especially secure fencing around gardens, keep deer out. Unfortunately keeping the hungry animals at bay is a never-ending and sometimes expensive task.

Many gardeners are proud to produce local organic vegetables. They might consider the deer that raid their garden a local, organic, free-ranging source of delicious meat.  When done according to state and local laws, converting a deer to family food in no way threatens deer herds. They rapidly reproduce, making deer a perpetual and sustainable food source.

Killing, dressing, and preparing deer meat is an unknown and somewhat mysterious process for suburbanites who have no experience with bows or firearms or converting a live animal to a meal. This blog will give them a basic idea how to do it.

To us shooting a deer is food gathering, much like picking spring nettles or mulberries.  We view deer as an opportunity to harvest local, organic, free-range meat.  

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Late Summer and Early Fall Insects


Bumper year for cicadas.

As summer winds down, our warm weather has continued in the upper Midwest and insects are having a heyday.  Cicadas still call and Katydids make quite a racket at night. Behind all these summer sounds is the high pitched “cheek-cheek-cheek” of cricketsMosquitoes persist as do any number of tiny biting insects the gravitate to open skin.

Several interesting and helpful insects, however, capture our attention.  Donna, a walker on Rich’s “100th Circuit” walk around Cedar Lake shared pictures of the Digger Wasps  in her yard.  What fascinating insects!

Grasshoppers and Praying Mantis catch our eye because the first can hop incredible distances and the second has such an unusual shape and seem to appear only this time of year. The ubiquitous Asian Lady Beetles that bite and stink and Box Elder Bugs so aptly described as having “no where to go and all day to get there” are massing to enter our warm homes for the winter.

Winding Pathways invites readers to take a few minutes to learn about and then go out and observe these fascinating denizens of late summer and early fall. You Tube has great videos of these insects and we’ve cited several sources above.  We even learned that people can and do eat some of these crunchier critters.


Spiders in the House

Every once in a while an enormous wolf spider startles us when we go downstairs and flip on a light. We call him “Wolfie”.  Fortunately, most of the time he (Wolfie might be a she) stays out of sight and is helpful because (s)he eats other critters that inhabit homes with humans.

Spiders are just about everywhere.  At least 45,700 species have been identified with new ones found every year. Of all orders of living things spiders are seventh in total diversity. They live on all continents except Antarctica and in nearly every habitat except the air and salt water. Too many myths surround spiders and the stories grow around October – Halloween month. Actually, August and September in many parts of the US are prime arachnids months.

Spiders are in everyone’s home and yard. Most are tiny, harmless to humans and stay out of sight. We are most aware of spiders in the yard on mornings after a heavy dew when the lawns are carpeted with ” fairy napkins.” This is the work of funnel spiders that eat pesky insects.

All spiders share common features.  Although often called “bugs” or insects spiders are arachnids that have eight legs.  Insects have but six. All spiders, with possibly one exception, are carnivorous. They kill prey, which often is insects, with venom.

While we think of all spiders as predators, they themselves are an important prey species for other animals. Spot a warbler or brown creeper working its way along a tree and it’s probably seeking tiny spiders hidden in cracks in the bark or on leaves. For many birds a spider meal is simply delicious.

Spiders live in houses for good reason –

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Stump Gallery

A creative family on 29th St. Drive SE decorated an old Stump over a period of months.  The stump even survived the first round of construction and then, had to go.  It’s kind of sad because the stumps livened up our drives to and from work.  So, here is a memory lane and thanks to the creative person who was so dedicated in cheering us up and keeping us up to date on the seasons and cultural activities we all love so much.

Odessa Water Trail

Canoe Front

A picture perfect day to canoe.

On a splendid late July day we packed up food, loaded the canoe, paddles and life jackets and headed out to explore the Odessa Water Trail. It’s one of Iowa’s several water trails and part of a larger system of water trails in the Midwest.  What a blast!

Two hours south of Cedar Rapids the The Odessa Trail in Louisa County offers a way to explore backwaters safely. It winds through two wildlife management areas. The map we picked up at the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters  ensured we would not get lost in the maze of channels that form the meandering floodplain. Tucked in the inner elbow below Iowa’s bulge with the “Father of Waters” this refuge, managed for waterfowl and wildlife, encompasses 6400 acres and sports three tails ranging from an easy three mile paddle to a moderate 4.5 mile cruise to a 6.5 trek that can extend to 17 miles!

The Refuge closes from mid-September to January first to accommodate migratory waterfowl.  Other times it is open to boaters, canoeists and kayakers, fishermen, and birders. Hiking and bicycling trails line the main islands, but those adventures could be dicey in high water and just plain buggy in hot weather. A campground is conveniently located near the Odessa Wildlife Unit Headquarters. 

This day was just right.  High pressure kept winds down, the sun was warm, but the air cool, especially for July.  Sunscreen, long sleeved shirts and hats  kept the sun’s rays at bay. Mid summer is quiet for bird life after their busy nesting season. Still we heard and saw a variety of songbirds and kept annoying a Great Egret and at least two Great Blue Herons. They would nervously watch us approach then with a loud squawk lift off and wing a few hundred yards down stream. Only to be annoyed again, when we approached. We did watch a heron catch and swallow a fish.

Along the banks frogs of all sizes croaked and leapt into the murky water. Lots of fish were rising up, but Rich decided not to wet his line, and rather studied the trail map carefully as we floated and paddled. Partway down, we pulled in for lunch balancing snacks in the canoe as the day drifted by.

It was great to try out one of Iowa’s many water trails. Check out the link to the National Park’s National Water Trail System. And, enjoy the short videos and photo gallery below. Go Outside and Play!

Great Egret Flies Off Click this link to see.

Great Blue Heron fishes.

Opossums are Wondrous Animals!

We like opossums and are always happy to see one shuffling off when we startle it after dark. This amazing animal gets too little respect and appreciation by people who consider them dirty, stupid, and ugly. They are just the opposite!

Opossums are doing something right. They’re survivors who have been on the planet far longer that humans. Often called ‘possums, they were once common only in southern states. Their fur is sparse and doesn’t cover tails or ears, so winter is rough on them. Warming temperatures are helping this animal move north, and they’re now common in Maine, Minnesota and other more northern states where they once were absent.

‘Possums are our only native marsupial. Like kangaroos, female opossums have a pouch to nourish their young. Born after only a 13-day pregnancy tiny babies make their way into her pouch where they remain for about 100 days feeding on mom’s milk. Once they leave the pouch they follow her around learning how to fend for themselves.

Mostly nocturnal, possums aren’t choosy eaters. They love over ripe fruit, especially persimmons but they’ll also snack on insects, worms, dead animals, and nearly any other animal they can catch or find. Think of them as a gardener’s assistant because they gravitate to decaying material.

New research reveals an important diet item. They enjoy eating ticks! ‘Possums groom often and any tick that climbs aboard one and attempts to bite is in for a surprise.  The grooming animal is likely to find the tick and quickly devour it. Fewer than 4% of ticks that climb on a O’possum successfully enjoy a blood meal. The rest become a meal themselves.

We’re lucky to have opossums in our yard.  We enjoy sharing space with these ancient, clean, and useful animals.  We hope you also have a neighborhood ‘possum.   Be sure to share a photo of your ‘possum with us. For information on the opossum/tick relationship go to Cary Institute.