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Three wild turkeys disappeared quietly into the edge of the timber as Shane Frevert pulled his truck into the northeast parking lot at the Tubaugh Wildlife Area.
Tubaugh Wildlife Area is a rugged, 533 acres of hilly timber adjacent to the Unionville Unit of Stephens State Forest, eight miles east of Moravia, in northeast Appanoose County.
“The term ‘off the beaten path’ has changed with all of our technology, but if you hike back in here, it can be a solitary experience, with spotty cell service,” said Frevert, wildlife technician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Rathbun Wildlife Unit.
This is deer and turkey country and the management philosophy at the Tubaugh Wildlife Area emphasizes oaks and hickories to benefit the wildlife.
“We’ve completed more than 475 acres of timber stand improvement to release the hard mast producing trees – the oaks, hickories and walnuts - from the less desirable or more shade tolerant species, and we did some thinning in the overstory to stimulate forb growth and early succession cutting,” Frevert said. “We’re working toward the goal of using prescribed fire in the timber, a low-intensity burn, once every five years or so, which should allow the leaf litter to build to carry the fire during the dormant season.”
With much of the timber stand improvement completed, Frevert said the trees will have around a decade to respond before they reevaluate and discuss any additional management.
Given its size and location, Tubaugh draws attention and Frevert gets the phone calls from curious hunters.
“I don’t shy away from sending hunters here – residents or nonresidents,” he said. “It gets hunted, but it’s not overrun by hunters.”
Navigating along the firebreaks leads to a series of small sorghum, soybean and hay fields planted on the flatter areas and ridge tops. The access lane heads southeast through a soybean field where two turkeys’ hotfoot it away along the field edge.
A neighbor that is part of the beginning farmer program has the haying and crop lease. He leaves 10 percent of the crop as a winter food plot.
A small stream flows east and then north feeding a pond on the east edge toward the middle of the area.