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Outdoor Report for December 11, 2014Published by the Central Office

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View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).

For current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

Portions of northern Wisconsin received an additional 2 to 3 inches of snow in the last week but most of the rest of the state has seen diminishing snow levels. Snow depths now range from 3 to 4 inches in central Wisconsin to 10 to 12 inches in north central and northeastern Wisconsin. The northwest has lesser amounts and much of the southern half of the state has just ruminant snow.

A couple of counties in northern Wisconsin have open snowmobile trails and a number of counties are planning to open trails this weekend. Check the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR) for trail openings. With warmer temperatures and some rain expected this weekend, trail conditions could change quickly.

Cross-country ski trails have been groomed in the Northern Highland-American Legion and Brule River state forests and some northern parks and are in good condition. However trails on properties in the northwest and central Wisconsin have only minimal cover and some have been rolled but not tracked. The man-made snow loop at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest has been in good condition, but if temperatures warm up and it rains, skiers are being asked to refrain from using it in order to try and preserve the base.

The warm-up will also likely lead to highly variable ice conditions. While smaller lakes in the Northwoods have several inches of ice, larger lakes or bodies of water are much harder to predict. It's possible some lakes in the south with ice cover will open back up, with temperatures forecast in the high 40s and possibly low 50s. Ice is just starting form on the Bay of Green Bay in Marinette and Oconto counties, but it is still very thin with no one venturing out.

Full moon walleye.
Ice angler in the north are reporting sporadic walleye catches.
Skip Sommerfeldt Photo

Those ice anglers already out there are reporting sporadic walleye catches, with some success for panfish and crappie. As always, notify others of your intent to fish and where you will be, don't go it alone and don't forget a, spud, throw rope and a solid set of ice picks.

Deer hunting continues in Wisconsin with a four-day antlerless deer hunt in the central forest and central farmland zones opening today and running through Sunday. The pheasant season remains open and select properties will be stocked until near the end of the season on Dec. 31. The late turkey season also remains open in zones 1 through 5 through the end of the month.

For those areas with snow cover, this is a great time to get out and do some mammal tracking. DNR crews found deer, otter, beaver, fox, grouse, coyote and fisher tracks while grooming trails in the Northwoods this week.

Snowy owls continue to dominate the winter birding scene. The statewide tally now stands at 127 birds, compared to 71 by this date last year. General locations for many of this year's birds can be found on the interactive map (exit DNR) on the Wisconsin eBird website. Eagles have begun to show up in large numbers below the Petenwell dam on the Wisconsin River. There is still quite a bit of open water on Lake Mendota, Monona, Lower Mud Lake and along the Yahara River in Dane County with tundra swans easily viewable at many of these locations.

Statewide Birding Report

Snowy owls continue to dominate the winter birding scene. The statewide tally now stands at 127 birds, compared to 71 by this date last year. General locations for many of this year's birds can be found on the interactive Wisconsin eBird map (exit DNR). Many of the locations that hosted owls last year have them again this year. Some hotspots include agricultural areas between Green Bay and Lake Winnebago, the grasslands of Buena Vista State Wildlife Area, open areas along central Wisconsin's Highway 29 corridor west of Wausau, and the Superior area, though owls have been reported across all portions of the state. When viewing, please remember to respect the bird, respect private property, and respect other observers. New snowy owl reports can be submitted to www.ebird.org/wi or ryan.brady@wisconsin.gov. Thanks and good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - The After Hours ski trail continues to be a "hot" destination for skiers, with significant use on most days, especially weekends. Folks are coming from as far away as the Twin Cities to get their cross-country fix. Trails were groomed early this week and are in very good condition. State forest staff will be selling trail passes at the warming house this weekend; stop by and pick up your annual pass for a full season of skiing! Check skinnyski.com for trail condition reports. Most snowmobile trails in the area are open, but conditions vary. The Brule River State Forest snowmobile trail is open and groomed, with some wet areas and less snow south of Highway 27. Be cautious of wet areas beneath the snow if you choose to ride. Check condition reports from Brule River Riders and Douglas County. The gun deer and muzzleloader seasons have concluded on the Brule. Hunting activity on the property was lower than average; rangers contacted many hunters who described seeing relatively few deer. There were 1,362 deer registered during the gun deer season in Douglas County: 1,135 bucks and 227 antlerless deer. Buck harvest was down 24 percent from 2013. Want to enjoy selecting and cutting your own perfect tree in the woods? We can help! Stop by the Brule River State Forest office for a Christmas tree permit, just $5 per tree. With snow on the ground, the forest's animal inhabitants reveal their presence through their tracks. While animal tracking is an important skill for hunting and trapping, it can be an interesting activity for its own sake as well. Learn to distinguish the tracks of various Wisconsin mammals here. You might be surprised what's been visiting your favorite trail through the woods! - Matt Miranda, ranger

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Pattison State Park - The entire cross-country ski trail system was packed Dec. 10. The park received about 3 inches of new snow earlier this week. No classic track was put down because of the lack of base. Base depth ranges from one-half to 2 inches. Rock skis are suggested since there are a few spots that have dirt/gravel mixed in the snow. Trail was groomed to an average of 6 feet wide. - Kevin Feind, manager

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Most lakes across the Northwoods now have between 6 and 8 inches of ice, with 2 to 3 inches of snow on top of that. Some of the larger lakes have only 3 or 4 inches of ice and this early season ice is still quite variable, so all ice fishermen should continue to use caution. Ice picks and a spud are a must, and motorized vehicles are still not recommended, especially on the larger lakes. Reports from early-season anglers indicate that fishing has been generally fair. Walleye have been the primary target for most of these early anglers and catches have been sporadic for the tip-up fishermen. Some days have provided some good action on 11- to 15-inch fish and other days have produced just a few perch flags. The most productive areas have been the mud/muck flats and weed edges in the late afternoon hours, with small suckers or large fatheads fished at the 5 to 8 foot depth. Some angling pressure has also been seen for panfish and success for crappie and perch has also been fair. Perch have been hitting small minnows and have been found at a variety of depths, from as shallow as 4 feet and out to 20-plus feet of water. A few nice crappies have been found suspended just off the bottom in 16 to 20 feet of water, and some of the fish have been in the 11- to 13-inch size. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - The ski trail is in good condition for skate skiers with patches of icy spots, but tracks have not been set yet due to low snow conditions. Crews won't be setting tracks till we get at least 2 or more inches of snow. We still have open water on both the North and South Forks of the Flambeau River. We have approx. 5 inches of snow on the ground. The 23rd Annual Flambeau Candlelight Ski will be held Feb. 7, 2015. More details to come later, or check our website for more information. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - There is about 8-10 inches of snow on the ground in the woods. With warmer weather predicted conditions could change. There was some new snow in last week, and the groomer didn't hit ground while tracking. Older snow means plenty of animal tracks. Deer otter beaver, fox, grouse, coyote and fisher tracks were seen while grooming. The McNaughton Trail skate loop was leveled and groomed Dec. 10 and is in fair to good condition. The groomer did leave some ruts in the snow in some areas but they were repaired as best possible and should not hamper skiing. All other loops leveled and groomed and in good condition. Escanaba trail was also groomed and tracked Dec. 10 and is in good condition. Raven and Madeline trails were groomed Dec. 9 and are in good condition. - Dan Jacoby and Tony Martinez, forestry facilities workers

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Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette and Oconto counties - On the Bay of Green Bay in both Marinette and Oconto Counties, ice is just starting form on the Bay. The ice is still very thin with no one venturing out. The fishing has been slow in my area with the unsafe ice conditions. This is a good time of the year to enjoy the outdoors. There are a lot of hunting seasons still going on. We have the antlerless hunt coming up in the central farmland zone. With a little snow in the woods it is easy to see but there is not enough where it makes it tough to get around. It would also be a good weekend to take the dog and try and pursue some grouse. Just a reminder to wear your blaze orange. There are a few inches of snow in Southern Oconto and Marinette Counties. - Jeff Lautenslager, conservation warden, Peshtigo

It would be timely to remind waterfowl hunters to remove blinds or other structures from any state properties. In southern Marinette and Oconto Counties there isn't enough snow to open trails and warm weather is degrading it fast. Ice conditions in one word: "Unsafe". Farmland Antlerless hunting begins Thursday with a four-day hunt. After that late archery continues until Jan. 4. Metro zones deer hunting opportunities are available until the end of January. - David Halfmann, wildlife biologist, Peshtigo

Shawano County - Ice fishing is in full swing but most of the ice can't be trusted. With warmer temps coming some ice should get weakened especially where you have flowing water. Fishermen should use caution and it isn't a bad idea to wear a float coat or other floatation device. Deer hunting is still going on with the end of muzzleloader the start of the antlerless hunt. Archers and other hunters except goose hunters must wear orange. Snowmobilers are anxious but the trails are not open yet. Clubs are still working on them making sure to remove trees that have fallen since last year. Call the Trails number before riding to make sure they are open. - Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - The park received approximately 4 inches of wet, sticky snow earlier this week. Icy, slippery conditions exist all over the park. Cross-country ski trails are not groomed. Showshoe/hiking trails may be icy or wet in areas. Sledding hill closed due to lack of snow. Snowmobile trails closed.- Jane Barnowsky, visitor services associate

Rock Island State Park - Rock Island remains inaccessible due to ice at the harbor ramps. Washington Island still has a strong herd of antlerless deer but permission to hunt private property would be needed since public area were hunted hard during the nine-day hunt. Several snowy owls have been seen on Washington Island. Many snowy have been reported statewide this week. Cornell Lab of ornithology's Christmas bird count is taking place this weekend nationwide. Locals are gearing up for that exciting event. Please remind people that blaze orange is a good thing to wear yet while the four-day antlerless hunt is taking place. - Randy Holm, ranger and assistant property manager

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Moderate weather has been a nice change of pace. Muzzleloader season has seen little pressure. No trails are open yet. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Winnebago County - Some snow has arrived but is starting to disappear. Ice conditions have been spotty on the Winnebago system with most anglers staying close to shore and in frozen bays. Early ice is universally seen to be a great time for success when ice fishing, but it also can be the most dangerous. Remember this is the time to ask around and be very cautious before venturing out onto the ice. Let someone know where you are going and go with another person, never alone. It doesn't hurt to have each person in the group in possession of a throw rope and ice picks. Realizing that this is a time when bad things can happen, should make everyone remember to be prepared for the worst. If testing ice conditions wearing a lifejacket or float coat can also be a lifesaving decision. We have all heard the saying "there is no such thing as SAFE ice" and every time we walk on water that saying should be in the forefront. Larger bodies of water like Lake Winnebago can have ice conditions change on an hourly basis depending on wind temperature and other factors. So if you are venturing out to do some ice fishing be safe and prepared. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The entire 1.5k man-made snow ski trail is open. The trail was groomed for classic and skate skiing; conditions are good but vary with some areas glazed over from use. Skiing conditions will vary depending on the air temperature at the time that you are skiing. With warmer temps predicted for Saturday afternoon through Monday and rain on Sunday, we ask that everyone refrain from skiing during those times and allow the snow base to absorb the rainfall and melt water naturally without rutting up the surface. - Brett Johanen, ranger

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Green County - The deer season is winding down; however, there is a four-day antlerless hunt this weekend and the Holiday Hunt will be taking place from Dec. 24-Jan. 1. One thing to note with this year's Holiday Hunt is that hunters will only be able to harvest antlerless deer. Pheasant season will be closing on Dec. 31, and DNR staff will be stocking birds until near the end of the season. Numerous snowmobilers are gearing up for what looked like it was going to be a fast start to the snowmobile season, but has since turned into warmer and rainier weather. Snowmobilers are reminded to check the State Line Trail Blazers website at Statelinetrailblazer.com for up to the minute trail information. Remember if you abuse it you lose it, so make sure you are only operating on trails and properties open to public use. As always, please report any violations you observe and stay safe! - Ryan Caputo, conservation warden, New Glarus

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - With the warming temperatures, the little snow there was on the ground is quickly disappearing. This week marks the last week of pheasant stocking on the properties that receive roosters from the State Game Farm. The snow knocked down some of the cover in the fields that are popular for pheasant hunting, but there's still some decent cover out there. Hunters should focus their efforts in warm season grass fields that still have decent cover, along with brushy/marsh areas. Plenty of geese are still being seen, especially near the Wisconsin River. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Dane County - There is almost no snow left in Dane County and likely none left after the rain this upcoming weekend. Lots of Canada geese around, but without snow they are hard to target as they have an abundance of fields to pick from! I'm seeing quite a few large flocks of turkeys out in fields during the day. Birders have been focusing on waterfowl on Madison area lakes and rivers. Cold temps in previous weeks froze most of the lakes but there is still quite a bit of open water on Lake Mendota, Monona, Lower Mud Lake and along the Yahara River. Tundra swans are still easily viewable at many of these locations. There are also a few snowy owls showing up in Dane County. Birders should check eBird.org/WI for the latest sightings. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg

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West Central Region

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Adams County - Eagles have begun to show up in large numbers below the Petenwell dam. - Wade Romberg, conservation warden, Friendship

Buckhorn State Park - For the four-day antlerless hunt you must have a tag valid for use in the Central Forest zone. People have been accessing the lake from the park to ice fish. Remember, we do not monitor ice conditions. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - Gun and archery hunting and trapping are allowed in open areas of the park form Nov. 15 to Dec. 15. Archery hunting continues until Jan. 4. For the four-day antlerless hunt you must have a tag valid for use in the Central Forest zone. 2015 annual park stickers are now available and make great gifts. If you self-register for a sticker it will be mailed to you. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, December 11, 2014

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