Hunters registered a preliminary tally of more than 218,000 deer over Wisconsin’s nine-day regular gun deer season, an 11 percent increase over the 2009 nine-day season. The opener was highlighted by good hunting conditions and no firearm-related fatalities for only the second time on record. Statewide, hunters registered 102,000 bucks, a 17 percent increase over 2009 and 116,000 antlerless deer, a nearly 7 percent increase over 2009. Gun deer license sales totaled more than 621,000, about a 3 percent decline from 2009.
A muzzleloader gun deer hunt is now underway statewide and there is an antlerless deer hunt Dec. 9-12 open to hunters with a valid antlerless deer tag for the unit in which they are hunting. Finally, there is a Holiday deer hunt in CWD zones in south central Wisconsin that starts Dec. 24 and lasts until Jan. 9. Other hunters, including archery and small game, are reminded that the blaze-orange clothing requirement remains in place whenever any type of gun deer season is progress, and all other people enjoying the outdoors are urged to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing.
Ice is forming on lake across Wisconsin, and many small ponds and marshes have frozen over. In the north, some lakes have a thin layer of ice, while in the south some smaller bays of lakes can have iced over and a few early ice anglers have been reported out. But state recreational safety specialists are urging anglers to stay off the ice until there is at least 3 inches of solid clear ice, and they remind everyone that there is no such thing as completely safe ice. Ice depths can be several inches thick in one location, and just an inch or so thick just a few feet away.
There are still reports of ducks being seen in southern Wisconsin, but as lakes freeze over they will be pushed south. A reminder that the southern zone duck season closes Dec. 5. There are still some pheasants around for late season pheasant hunters, and there were even some pheasant hunters out pursuing their goal of a nice rooster during the nine-day gun deer season.
A winter storm is in the forecast for this weekend that could leave up to 8 or more inches of snow in some areas. While the new snow will be tempting for skiers, most state parks and forests will probably not have groomed trails. Parks and forests with property open to the late gun deer seasons will wait until those seasons have closed to groom trails. Others may begin trail preparation by packing down trails, but it will take additional snow before actual trail grooming can take place.
Rafts of ducks were being seen along the shores of Lake Michigan including scaup, buffleheads, goldeneyes, and gadwall. Flocks of snow geese have also been seen and heard passing through the state in the last week. Pine siskins, tufted titmouse, flickers, and purple finches are showing up at bird feeders.
A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling (608) 266 2277 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (608) 266 2277 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
A new report is put on the line each week.
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Most of the lakes in the Upper Chippewa Basin currently have a thin covering of ice. However, ice thickness is very thin and all lakes have less than 2 inches of ice in the deep water areas out away from shore. In addition, the rain and mild temperatures of early in the week softened up the ice and has made even the slightly thicker ice in the shallow bay areas very hazardous as well. The ice is not yet considered safe for any kind of travel and all people are urged to stay off of any lakes or ponds. Cold weather later in the week may firm up the ice and add some thickness, and at that point the first ice anglers may start to appear when 4 inches of solid ice are available. The ice thickness at several spots on Butternut Lake over the last couple days was real variable. On Tuesday, Nov. 30, there was still an open-water area out in the middle and thickness ranged from 1 to 3.5 inches up near shore in a couple spots. In addition, the ice had gotten pretty soft from the rain and upper 30-degree temperatures on Monday and Tuesday. No sign of any ice anglers yet – though there were several reports of anglers out on a shallow bay on the Phillips Chain and one on the south end of Butternut Lake. It will likely take a few more nights of temperatures in the low teens to give the shallow bays thick enough ice to walk on (4" or more).
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Governor Thompson State Park - The first ice anglers were out this past weekend. The park is now closed to hunting for the year. Construction on the new campground has stopped for the winter. In spring the new septic systems, water systems, fire rings, picnic tables, and water fountains will all need to be installed. Our 16 miles of hiking trails are open and now is a great time to go hiking! Leaves are now off the trees, and visitors can see all the hidden geological features that cannot be seen in the summer months.
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Whitefish Dunes State Park - Despite the cooler weather, wildlife is out and about within the park. Down on the beach, large waves bring shells. These are invasive species called zebra and quagga mussels. Red-breasted mergansers and buffleheads rafted up in large numbers over the weekend. A flock of snow geese were heard and seen flying over the park one early morning. An immature bald eagle has been sighted during the mornings soaring over the beach. In the forest the rut is near the end and bucks are still moving around. Chickadees and nuthatches can be seen in large numbers throughout the forested dunes. A hike along the black or brachiopod trail will provide a glimpse of various woodpeckers; redheaded, pileated, downy and hairy. Increasing porcupine chewing and sightings have occurred on the red trail. By the creek a bit of green foliage can still be viewed while most of the park has changed to various shades of brown. As winter draws closer, park staff will be working to finish preparing trails for skiing. Mark your calendars for the annual Candlelight Ski on Saturday, Jan. 29. Volunteers are needed to help set out and pick up candles along with staff the shelter building refreshment table. Whitefish Dunes State Park was open for the first time to deer hunting during Wisconsin’s regular gun deer season. The park will not be open to hunting during any other early or late-season deer hunts, included in herd reduction areas, muzzleloader dates, special youth or disabled hunts, or other special hunting opportunities. While hunting enhances recreational opportunities in the parks, its primary objective is vegetative and resource management. The entire beach is now open to dogs. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times. Once snow falls pets are not allowed on or along side groomed ski trails.
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Blue Mound State Park - The Campground is open year-round. Camping is walk in only during the winter months. There will be a candlelight ski/hike/snowshoe on Saturday Jan. 1.
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Dodge County - Horicon Marsh is completely frozen. Large flocks of mallards and black ducks have been see in cornfields in the Horicon and Waupun area. Also a few flocks of snow geese have also been sighted.
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Dane County - Some part of the lakes are starting to freeze but ice conditions are definitely not safe to venture out onto to ice fish. Deer season in Dane County seemed to be fairly successful. Hunting numbers seemed to be about average but numerous harvested deer were observed as well as numerous alive deer as well. Hunters are encouraged to take part in the remaining seasons that are open (muzzle loader, 4 day December Hunt and Holiday Hunts). During the deer season several waterfowl hunters and pheasant hunters were contacted and they seemed to be having decent success as some hard to get to spots are freezing up and allowing hunters to get to areas that have not been hunted much.
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Rock County - Most ponds and lakes have frozen over in the last couple days, but hunters and anglers should be careful of thin ice. The regular 9 day gun deer season ended without any gun related injuries reported in the county. The harvest was slightly higher than last year for the opening weekend. The lack of crops and mild weather most of the season allowed for hunters to see the deer and stay in the field longer. There is still time to harvest a deer and put some venison in the freezer as the muzzleloader season opened Monday followed by the four-day antlerless season. The archery deer season is also still open through Jan. 9, 2011. There are still some pheasants around for late season pheasant hunters, and there were even some pheasant hunters out pursuing their goal of a nice rooster during the nine-day gun deer season. Rain has helped deteriorate the little bit of ice that had formed and geese are keeping open some sections of water on ponds. Many large flocks of ducks were still being observed in Rock County. Trappers are out in force trying to catch their last bit of fur before temperatures and snow make things more difficult. Trappers continue to harvest muskrats, mink, and coyotes. The raccoon harvest for trappers and hunters has slowed with the colder nights. A few otter have also been registered the last couple weeks in Rock County.
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Willow River State Park - Ice fishing has started on the lake. Anglers reported about 4 inches of ice. Archery hunting for deer continues on the open parts of the park. Relatively few people come out for that hunting season. A saw-whet owl was observed this week along the Willow Falls trail. Measurable snowfall is predicted for the weekend starting Dec. 3. Big wind to shake the snow out of the trees is not predicted. Spotty coverage under the pines may not provide enough snow to groom for skiing. Depending on snow conditions trails may remain open to hiking or change to ski trails only. That decision will probably come on Saturday. All trails are open to hiking as of Thursday. Any changes over the weekend will show up on the skinnyski web site before they post here. Non skiers should call the office. Early season skiing has its challenges. Is the trail going to have enough snowfall, or base to support your skis? The first snowfall and subsequent rolling by the groomer can still leave a very thin base with no classic track. On the flats (or anywhere), if classic skis go through the base it can rub on the ground. The ski can get slowed down or stopped suddenly. What if both skis grab ground? How about downhill? Take care when you ski on that early snow if it is thin. Beginners should probably stick to the flatter trails and walk any down hills off trail. Skaters will probably have an easier time on the thin snow. Most skiers in this area don’t own back country (classic) skis, generally 60mm or wider at the narrow point. A wider and softer ski offers more floatation. These would be a better choice than racing or touring skis. Some models are built too wide for track skiing. On the flats by the beach, field, and dam area, skiers can cut their own classic track and the touring skis work fine. If the groomer is reporting a thin base early (www.skinnyski.com), arrive with choices. The Willow River Nordic skiers will resume training on selected weeknights when trails are in skiing condition. Adult ski lessons are planned for Saturdays Dec. 11 and 18. Lessons run 9 a.m. to noon stating at the Nature Center. Learn to skate ski or diagonal stride (classic.) Contact the park office to sign up. Instructors are all active racers or retired from the marathon length events. The student must provide the equipment. Unfortunately, rentals are not available nearby. In the event of not enough snow, a possible alternative could be a ski waxing clinic and some dry land training. Even “no wax” skis need waxing.
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
People looking for some late season hunting opportunities, may want to set their sights on squirrels. These abundant mammals are found statewide and offer plenty of challenges for beginning and advanced hunters alike. Squirrels remain active throughout winter but will hole up for several days during the nastiest winter weather. With a daily bag limit of five and an open season that runs through Jan. 31, there are numerous opportunities for hunters. Be sure to comply with blaze orange laws when squirrel hunting during open gun deer seasons. And do not forget to recycle those squirrel tails (deer tails too) by sending them to Sheldon's in Antigo, where they will be utilized for dressing Mepps fishing lures. No other natural or synthetic fiber can duplicate the desirable qualities for dressing spinner baits as squirrel hair. See the Mepps website for details: [http://www.mepps.com/programs/squirrel-tail/].
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - Winter is fast approaching. Currently there is no snow yet but a few inches are forecast for this weekend. Crews will need a minimum of 6 inches of quality snow to be able to groom cross-country ski trails. Skiers will notice that there has been a fair amount of timber sale activity along the trails this year. Motorized trails will open Dec. 15 as long as the ground is frozen. With current conditions and the forecast this should definitely occur by then. Once trails are open if temperatures get above freezing we ask ATVs to stay off the trails to protect the base. Snowshoers are welcome to enjoy their sport on any ungroomed trail in the state forest. We recommend people try either the nature trail at Castle Mound Campground, a two mile circular loop, or the five mile trail from Pigeon Creek to Smrekar road. This trail can be accessed by the Smrekar parking lot by hiking west on Smrekar road. The trail intersects the road just when the road takes a sharp 90 degree turn north. The trail continues west to Pigeon Creek Campground. Please note this trail is not a loop so you will need to turn around and retrace your steps at some point. If you are with a group one option is to have at least one vehicle at Pigeon Creek and at least one at the Smrekar parking lot so you do not have to turn around. East Fork Campground is closed for the season and will not open until the middle of April. A few select sites will be plowed open at Castle Mound and Pigeon Creek this winter.
Wausau DNR Service Center area
Rib Mountain State Park - The road leading into the main portion of the park is now open. Please make note that construction activities are still taking place at the top of the mountain as we begin work on the new Public Entrance and Visitor Station. Lots of deer, woodchucks and even an occasional turkey have been seen. Trails are in excellent condition, we are working on developing new trails in the quarry area. Muzzeloader deer hunting is going on in certain areas of the park through Dec. 8. The park is open to all visitors, we recommend that non-hunters where blaze orange for safety purposes. Granite Peak Ski Area has begun to make snow in anticipation of the 2010-2011 ski season, please visit [www.skigranitepeak.com] (exit DNR) for more information.
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - The park and wildlife areas are open to late bow deer season. The park office registers deer when the office is open. Muzzleloader deer hunting is allowed in the Yellow River Wildlife Area and 1,200 acres of state park north of Cty G and north of 31st St. Waterfowl and small game hunting are allowed in the Yellow River Wildlife Area and Buckhorn Wildlife Area only, not in the state park. Check the current hunting maps for areas and rules. Note: there was an error in the deer regulations. Buckhorn is a REGULAR unit, not herd control. For does you must purchase a 54A doe tag. During the December 9-12 antlerless hunt you must use a unit specific tag (ex. 54A antlerless). The "T intersection" gate and gates on 22nd Ave and 33rd will be closed when roads are snow covered. A few Campsites are open for winter camping.
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The campground and main gate are now closed for the season. Parking is available at the winter lot on Czech Ave and that pit toilet is still open. Hunting is not allowed in Roche-A-Cri State Park.