Life in the outdoors

Published on September 21, 2013 in the Charles City Press

Bob and Bret Kloberdanz grew up in the woods and on the streams of Floyd County

It all started with Al Kloberdanz. Al was the son of a German immigrant, who didn't always have a lot of money, but he had knowledge and a love for the great outdoors through hunting and fishing, and he passed that along to his four sons.

"It was really my dad that would always take us out hunting," said Bret Kloberdanz, of Charles City, Al's son. "We would always go duck hunting on the Wapsipinicon and he took us up north fishing. That is how it all started."

The Kloberdanzs were always out hunting, and Al showed them the ways of the forest.

"He took us pheasant hunting and he took us duck hunting," Bret recalled. "We did it the old-fashioned way. We didn't have a lot of money back then. And he would make us clean them and he would make us eat them. He took us up north and we never stopped doing it."

For Bret's younger brother Bob, he can remember just waiting to be old enough to join his dad and brothers on the hunt.

"I was the youngest in my family, so it was always hard for me because until I got to a certain age I couldn't go," Bob said. "So it was alway hard seeing them go all the time without you is pretty tough to do."

When the Kloberdanz boys weren't hunting with their father, they were likely playing by the Cedar River, and usually that meant fishing.

"I grew up a block from the Cedar River," Bob explained. "We were down there horsing around every day anyway, so why not fish while you are down there."

Bret really began to love the outdoors, perhaps a little too much, in middle school.

"I started skipping school in fifth grade to go duck hunting, until I got caught a couple of times and got in big trouble," Bret said, laughing at the memory. Upon further reflection he added, "You know what, it is still going on, I am still skipping work to go hunting and fishing."

As the Kloberdanz boys grew up, the love for hunting and fishing never left them. In so many years hunting and fishing, they got to know a side of Floyd County that not everyone sees.

"To me the whole experience is a moving thing," Bret said. "How many people have watched the sun come up?

"When you sit in the woods turkey hunting, it is quiet, then all of the sudden, as the sun comes up there is chatter, more birds, more animals. I have had hawks land right next to me and I have seen animals from coyote to deer to fox to every kind of bird you can imagine. That is pretty cool stuff."

They have gained a greater understanding of what and who we share this little corner of Iowa with.

"You don't see a lot of those animals otherwise," Bob said. "There are a lot of people I am sure, who have never seen a Hooded Merganser, or a Blue Bill, or a Wigeon. They are beautiful birds, but a lot of people never see them and don't know that they come through here all the time in the fall."

With such an intimate knowledge of the local landscape and wildlife, they have also been well placed to see it change over the years.

Pheasants, for example, used to be very plentiful in the region. Bob remembers when hunters would come from all over to hunt pheasants, but those days are long gone, as a couple wet springs, a couple cold winters and increased production of the land conspired to lower the areas pheasant count and they have not come all the way back.

"I am 53 years old and I have seen the environment change, the landscape change, farming practices change, industrial practices change and it has not been for the good of the water and the land," Bret said. "Now it is more about giving back than taking for me."

Over the years Bob and Bret's love for hunting and fishing, though always constant, began to change. The obvious objective of hunting and fishing, to kill an animal and catch a fish, became more and more blurred.

"It used to be, when you were little, the amount of game you got meant that you were a good hunter," Bob said. "Now, it's a bonus. We just go out and have fun."

It is less about the hunt, and more about the outdoors.

"It has kind of evolved now, I have joined the Izaak Walton League and have been involved with Ducks Unlimited through the years," Bret said. "It is more fun not shooting the birds now. We have a farm that we have just for deer hunting. It is 100-and-some acres, and I haven't shot a deer on it in probably six years. I have probably had 40 or so go right underneath me.

"But it is less about killing now and more about seeing them, putting in food plots, I have more fun planting trees now. We are trying to change things everywhere we go and just make it habitat friendly."

The Kloberdanzs now have their own land to hunt on in a farm just south of Rockford. Bret also has a marsh just north of Nashua and a plot of land in southwestern Iowa. More than hunting these lands, he enjoys nurturing them, and helping the wildlife flourish.

"We surround the environment with habitat for everything," Bret said. "We plant all sorts of smart weed and food planting all over in the water and on land. I have blue bird houses and wood duck houses. It is just great to improve the environment and improve the land every time you go out. I never understood that when I was younger."

He is always learning tips and tricks to improve the wildlife in the area.

"I learn mostly from local people that have done this," Bret said. "The DNR has a lot of information, other hunters, other landowners and people like pheasants forever and Izaak Walton give you seed and trees and they provide you with habitat like the blue bird houses. It is a never ending quest for knowledge. You are always learning things from people."

Over the years, while Bret still likes to hunt every day, Bob is busy in the fall coaching football, but he still cherishes the opportunities he does have.

"For me it is a release or escape from the everyday, the phones," Bob said. "I usually leave my cell phone in the car and kind of get away from everything.

"I think it is a neat way to unwind and relax. I love being outside anyway."

Even with football Bob said he gets out fishing at least once every other week.

He also plans on turkey hunting in the spring, and he never misses a deer hunting season, this year, he reports that there is a monstrous 20 pointer somewhere near the farm.

"Hopefully, he will be hanging on this wall (in his office) after this fall," Bob said.

For Bret, it is almost time for his favorite season.

"I love duck and goose hunting," he said. "I live, eat and breathe that. It is my favorite thing to do in the whole world. It is just such a spectacular sport. These birds travel from the arctic all the way to South America. Just trying to identify all the different kinds of birds, setting the decoys, training the dogs, I love it all. My dad used to say I was obsessed with it, and I guess I still am. As soon as I get duck hunting, everything is okay."

Now, as Bret learned his love of hunting and fishing from his father. He, too, is passing it on to a third generation.

"At my marsh, we have had over 30 kids shoot their first duck or goose," Bret said. "They see it now and they remember that. It is really cool to pass it on."

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