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Wisconsin's regular nine-day gun deer season opens this Saturday, and with one of the earliest openings possible, reports from around the state are indicating white-tail bucks are still in rut, or the breeding season. A few areas are reporting the rut is past peak, but many locations are reporting bucks are still actively moving in pursuit of does.
The Department of Natural Resources is ramping up social media to connect with the public on the excitement and traditions of season. Seasoned hunters, new hunters, and those interested in learning more about hunting in Wisconsin can take part in online chats, a new wildlife-focused blog, special facebook posts and a facebook photo contest centering around Wisconsin's rich hunting tradition, and a "tweet-along" with DNR conservation wardens.
Hunters looking for a place to hunt have the opportunity to enjoy access to more than 43,000 acres of private land open to the public within close proximity of the state's metropolitan areas. A new video captures the success of the Voluntary Public Access program in opening up large tracts of prime habitat land, often connected to public land, for multiple outdoor recreational activities. People can find private lands open to hunting through this program by searching keyword VPA on the DNR website.
In addition, more than one million acres of private forest land is open to hunting through the Managed Forest Law and Forest Crop Law. DNR launched a new online mapping application that makes it easier for people to find lands open to hunting under these programs. Finally, more than four million acres of county, state and federal public lands are open to hunting. People can find links to information about all these lands through a new Voluntary Public Access feature page that is part of a 2012 deer hunt feature on the website that kicked off with a video greeting from Gov. Scott Walker and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp on how Wisconsin is making it easier to introduce family and friends to Wisconsin's great deer hunting traditions, including reduced license fees for first time hunters and people who haven't hunted in the last 10 years..
Also, hunters with smart phones now have an easier way to be sure when hunting hours open and close where they are hunting with a new DNR Sunrise/Sunset app that can be purchased for just 99 cents.
People can get the latest news and information by following DNR on Twitter twitter.com/WDNR. From Nov. 17- 25 there will be live-feed tweets and images from a ride-along with a DNR conservation warden to reveal interesting events and insights into the deer hunt that many of us never see.
Last weekend's rain and strong winds slowed waterfowl hunting activity some, but there continue to be a few more reports of northern diving ducks moving into the state, along with increasing numbers of migratory Canada geese. Pheasant hunting has been good, and the last of the stocking on public hunting grounds will take place over the next few weeks.
People putting up winter bird feeders are seeing juncos, chickadees, goldfinches and purple finches and even some early pine grosbeaks.
November has brought on some expected migration and some interesting bird irruptions into Wisconsin. With last weekend's cold front we are now at peak waterfowl diversity and abundance. Tundra swan numbers are at peak along the Upper Mississippi River and many birders reported good numbers of swans this week moving across central and southern Wisconsin. Birders should also check larger lakes and water bodies for migrant loons as they begin to stage for migration. The Madison chain of lakes can be particularly good over the next two weeks. This winter is shaping up to be a good one for the winter finches. Birders are reporting good numbers of both crossbills, redpolls, siskins, pine grosbeaks and bohemian waxwings across the northern and even into central and southern Wisconsin. This should make for an exciting Christmas Bird Count season. Finally, this fall has been very good for rufous and other western hummingbirds across the Eastern U.S. Birders may want to keep their feeders filled over the next two weeks and they may just get a nice surprise! Birders are encouraged to visit the Wisconsin eBird page (www.ebird.org/WI - exit DNR) for more details on these birding updates AND to report their sightings so that we can track our migratory bird populations. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologists and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Ashland County - The rut has started. Many swans have gathered with the other waterfowl already stacked up on the bay. Grouse hunters have been pleased with the birds they have been seeing. A few woodcocks are still being reported. Trappers seem to be having success too. - Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Large numbers of sandhill cranes are still present, but roosting is more spread out. Tundra and trumpeter swans have been spotted on Phantom Lake Flowage. Many tundra swans are also flying over without stopping. Eagles are pretty common now. Look for them sitting on the muskrat huts. - Heidi Rusch, natural resources educator
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Crews have been brushing and signing the hiking and ski trails, getting them ready for the winter season. There is no ice on lakes yet. A few of the northern birds, including evening and pine grosbeaks have been seen at area feeders. Snowshoe hares are all white, as well as the weasels, making them stand out against the snowless landscape. Chickadees, nuthatches and blue jays may pay a visit to hunters and their deer stands. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Langlade County - The rut is going strong. Bow hunters are reporting a lot of bucks pursing does as well as responding aggressively to grunt calls. With recent heavy rains, hunters can expect access to swampy areas to be in more difficult. Warmer weather is forecast for the opener so hunters should not plan on any frozen conditions in these areas. Turkeys are forming large winter flocks and they have begun to move in to more of the agricultural areas for the winter. There are still a decent number of Canada geese in the area as well as diving ducks. Most of these birds can be found on larger bodies of water. - Andrew Dryja, conservation warden, White Lake
Oconto County - The rut in northern Oconto County is in full swing and is expected to continue into the gun deer season. Hunters should find improved deer numbers in units 44, 45, and 49A. Hunters should remember these are regular units and any doe tag that they use needs to be unit specific. Archery hunters have harvested large numbers of antlerless deer. Hunters wishing to hunt manage forest lands open to the public should first talk with the landowner or local forester to ensure they are on lands that are open to the public to avoid trespass charges. - Joe Paul, conservation warden, Lakewood
Rutting activity seems to be slowing down. Reports of bucks chasing does have started to slow down. There is a still lot of day deer movement. Waterfowl hunting on the bay slowed with last weekend's weather. Due to the strong west winds getting out of a number of the west shore landings was difficult at best. There are a large number of tundra swans currently on the bay. Large numbers of mallards are also being seen. Perch fishing in Oconto continues to produce limits of nice fish if the angler is willing to sort through some smaller fish. Minnows seem to be the preferred bait. - Mike Stahl, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Shawano County - Many deer have already been hit by cars, so drivers really need to be cautious and slow down especially at dusk. The deer are running because of the rut and plenty of deer can be seen in area fields. Archers are having good success with multiple bucks being harvested. Waterfowl hunting is exceptional with large flocks of ducks and geese working area corn fields. There are still a couple of die-hard small game hunters out having good success on grouse and pheasants. Even some fishermen are on area waters. - Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano
Deer movement has steadily increased over the last week with many nice bucks being harvested. - Mark Schraufnagel, conservation warden, Shawano
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Door County - Hunters choosing to hunt near areas where there are dwellings need to be aware of their target and what is beyond. Each year several homes and vehicles are accidentally shot by hunters. Hunters need to remember the four rules of firearm safety: always treat every firearm as if it is loaded; know your target and what is beyond; always point the muzzle in a safe direction, and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire at a known target.- Patrick Neal, conservation warden, Green Bay
Kewaunee County - The county now has an accessible deer blind for disabled hunters on the Buzz Besadny Wildlife Area off Hickory Lane, in the Town of West Kewaunee thanks to Alex Prucha of Kewaunee and his Eagle Scout project. Alex submitted a proposed plan of a ramp, platform and railing, which evolved into a completely enclosed blind with roof, door and windows to protect hunters from the elements. Local Sportsmen's clubs including Kewaunee Hunting and Fishing Club, Carlton Hunting and Fishing Club, Muskrat City Sportsmen's Club, Kewaunee Duck's Unlimited Chapter, Whitetails Unlimited and Gone Fishing Charters all donated money to assist Alex with purchasing supplies and other Scouts and friends helped complete his Eagle Scout Project. The blind will be finished during the nine-day gun deer season and available on a first come basis.- David Allen, conservation warden, Green Bay
Outagamie County - Deer are moving and the car deer accidents are up indicating the rut is on. Many bow hunters have shot some nice bucks. The river is still open and fishing is still good. Trappers are out and even though they are not required to wear blaze orange, they should while the gun deer season is on. - Mike Young, conservation warden, Wautoma
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson, fisheries technician, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - Fishing has been slow of late. Weather and waves kept most anglers off the lake, high winds are expected through the weekend as well. A few cohos and browns have been taken on the lower sections of the Sheboygan River on spawn fished under a float or off of bottom but overall fishing has been slow.
Ozaukee County - In Port Washington browns and steelhead have been taken near the power plant discharge area and the Rotary Park rocks, spawn drifted off of bottom on a three-way rig or under a float has been the most productive. Trollers are taking a few browns in the harbor when the weather permits best baits have been small spoons or crankbaits trolled off of lead-core of off of downriggers 15-20 feet down.
Milwaukee County - Trollers fishing the harbor are finding some great action for browns and an occasional steelhead trolling or casting spoons and crankbaits. Trollers are using lead-core or downriggers with small bright colored spoons fished 5-15 feet down; best times have been early morning. Some fish have also been taken casting plastics and crankbaits in the harbor along the rocks or in the marina area. The Milwaukee River is running low and clear and little fish activity has been reported. A few small browns and steelhead have been taken casting spoons off of the Mckinley Pier but overall fish have been small.
Racine County - Fishing in was slow over the weekend with only a few browns taken on spawn fished off of the bottom or beneath a float in the marina and inner harbor areas. The Root River is running very low and clear at around 18 cfs, the only activity has been near Lincoln Park fishing the deeper pools for browns. Spawn or small spinners have worked best.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - The brushing and clearing work to establish a snowmobile trail in the Allenton Marsh Wildlife Area is done. Now that the trail is established, disturbance during the fall hunting season will be minimal, as is the case with other snowmobile trails on Theresa Marsh, Jackson Marsh and other state properties. The two Wildlife Refuges on Theresa Marsh are open to gun deer hunting beginning Saturday, and to pheasant hunting, trapping and other activities except waterfowl hunting beginning Dec. 1. The water level on Theresa Marsh will be kept about where it is throughout and gun deer season and the remainder of the duck season, after which the floating ramps on the marsh dam will be raised - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine County - The fall fish run in the Southeastern Region has slowed, although brown trout are still making their way upstream. Anglers are encouraged to review the Lake Michigan tributary regulations before enjoying this recreational opportunity. Inland water anglers are also reporting success with walleye as the temperatures drop. Waterfowl hunters have reported some success, with mallards, teal and wood ducks being harvested in the area recently. Large flocks of Canada geese have been seen enjoying area fields, providing great hunting opportunities for those who get landowner permission and scout ahead. With the eagerly awaited gun deer season is about to open, conservation wardens are reminding everyone to plan their hunts ahead of time. Know where you plan to register your deer, check the new rules and regulations, and ensure your blaze orange is bright and clean. Making sure you have the appropriate license, tags, knowledge and equipment will contribute to a successful and safe hunt for everyone. - Mike Hirschboeck and John Sinclair, conservation wardens
Grant County - The recent cold weather has prompted many mallards to begin their southerly migration. Green winged teal were the second most abundant bird. Shovelers, pintails, gadwall and widgeon were in the mix as well. Anglers are now small in number. A few sauger were caught along wing dams in upper Mississippi River pool 11. Bluegill and crappie fishing was spotty at best below lock and dam 10 spillway as well as Bertom Lake south of Cassville. Sauger were biting late evening below lock and Dam 11 near Dubuque near the Eagle Point fishing barge. The recent low temperatures created about a very thin sheet of ice on many backwater sloughs and forced the swans at Bode's Pond near Potosi to move south to open water below the point. Hundreds of bald eagles have been seen on the Mississippi River, notably pool 11. - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville
Most of the wood ducks and teal seem to have pulled out for warmer climates. Canada geese and mallards are still coming through on certain days. Tundra swans have been seen and heard flying high overhead. The weekly pheasant release at Prairie du Bay continues to be very popular. Raccoon have been very scarce this fall. Several local trappers suspect a big outbreak of distemper has hit them hard. Muskrats are also hard to come by this year. Many of the area marshes where they lived and bred last year were bone dry this summer. Deer scrapes and rubs seem less used recently, but activity remains high. - Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel
Wyalusing State Park -Only holders of a 2012 Park Access Permit for Wyalusing State Park (Unit 73A) may deer hunt in the park. Admission stickers are required on all vehicles. Wyalusing State Park will be open to deer gun hunting from Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 through Nov. 25, 2012. The park will not be open to deer hunting during other seasons and is not open to archery hunting. Trails should be in good hiking condition. Robins and bluebirds are still in the area and some will winter here. Office bird feeders were stocked this week. It did not take long for juncos, chickadees, goldfinches and purple finches to find the feeders. So far the raccoons do not know that the feeders are there. Local bird enthusiast spotted white-winged cross bills and golden-crowned kinglets in the pines near the south loop of Homestead Campground. Red-headed woodpeckers are common sights in the Wisconsin Ridge Campground. The concession stand is closed for the season. Homestead Campground is closed for the season. It will reopen on May 1, 2013. Showers, flush toilets, dumping station, and water fountains throughout the park are closed for the season. A winterized faucet is available just east of the shower/flush building in the Wisconsin Ridge Campground. Campers are welcome to use their own hose to fill their tanks at the winterized faucet.
Nelson Dewey State Park - Nelson Dewey State Park is open for deer hunting. A Park Access Permit is not required to deer hunt at Nelson Dewey. A park admission sticker is required on all vehicles. All campsites are available on a first come-first served basis. Please self register for camping registration and park admission stickers. The showers and flush bathrooms, dumping station and all faucets are closed for the season. The campground will remain open until the first snowfall.
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Anticipation is high for the nine-day gun deer season as blaze orange is seen airing out all over the county. Hunting conditions look good for opening day as multiple reports of bucks still rutting hard are rolling in, weather conditions look good, and most crops are off the fields making deer more visible on the landscape. Hunters are reminded that if they sight in their rifles on state lands to pick up after themselves and be aware that other users may be on the property. Deer will be aged this year at the northern Portage, Rio, and Columbus deer registration stations on opening weekend from 11 am to 7 pm. If you would like your deer to be tested for CWD, you can bring the head to the Lodi Sausage shop or D & G butcher shop north of Poynette (you may register the deer at these two locations as well). Large flocks of sandhill cranes are still being observed around the county, and some of the diving duck species are coming in, though not in large numbers. Large numbers of Canada geese were also seen this past week flying through the county. Keep an ear out for migrating tundra swans while in the deer stand - they usually are coming through about this time of year. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
Dane County - Waterfowl hunting activity has been light. The same is true for pheasant hunters on stocked state properties throughout the county. Several archery hunters successfully harvested large bucks in Dane County. Archery hunters reported multiple buck deer still trailing does and displaying other aggressive rutting behavior, which should add promise to the upcoming gun deer season opener. - Henry Bauman, conservation warden, Fitchburg
Jefferson County - The rut is in full swing. Many "good" bucks have been seen during the day chasing does. The number of bucks being struck by vehicles has increased as well. Walleyes are starting to bite a little more aggressively on the Rock River. There have been reports of numerous species of diving ducks in the area as well. The majority of these ducks have been seen on Lake Koshkonong. Trappers have been reporting fewer numbers of raccoon and even less muskrats. The dry summer months had a substantial impact on muskrats in Jefferson County wetlands. - Ryan Ellifson, conservation warden, Jefferson
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Willow River State Park - Park staff reported observing an eastern garter snake last weekend in a ditch along County Rd. A. The 100 campground loop is closed for the season and the 300 loop will likely be closed this week. Closing the 300 loop will end access to the dump station until April, 213 when the ground has thawed. The 200 loop will remain open. A few deer hunting maps from Willow River State Park went out with the wrong ending date for archery hunting. The correct ending date is Jan. 31, not Jan. 6, 2013. Park boundary signs have been updated with the 2013-13 deer hunting season dates. Snowplowing stakes are up along most of the park road from the 100 campground on in. If you are going to pull your vehicle to the side of the road, please look for the plow stakes. Driving over a plow stake can cause damage to your vehicle. The plow stakes have orange paint on the top.- Jeff Bolte, visitor services
Vernon County - Deer rutting behavior has peaked, but bucks remain very active. Less chasing is occurring as bucks are tending receptive does. Gun deer hunters should observe many deer, both bucks and does, exhibiting breeding behaviors. Favorable weather conditions have resulted in excellent raccoon hunting. Many raccoon hunters have reported successful harvests, especially of adult raccoons. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Jackson County -County ATV trails are now closed until Dec. 15 weather permitting. The rutting activity has appeared to slow down a bit in Jackson County. Bucks are still being observed with does, however they have not been as visible running across open field in the middle of the day. Archery hunters have done well over the past week harvesting both bucks and does. Some fishermen are still catching walleye and smallmouth bass on the Black River. - Jake Donar, conservation warden, Black River Falls
Trempealeau County - Large bucks appear to be in full rut in the area. The deer are still quite active during daylight hours and do not appear to be shifting into nocturnal activity yet. Local trappers are noting that the muskrat population is down, most likely due to the extend drought's effect on area ponds and wetlands. Pheasant hunting success has been limited. Most of the final pheasant stocking will be finished within a week or two. During the gun deer and muzzleloader seasons, all hunters, except for water fowler hunters, must wear blaze orange clothing on 50 percent their upper body. Hats, if worn, must also be blaze orange. - Robin Barnhardt, conservation warden, Osseo
Lake Wissota State Park - Fish in the waters adjacent to the park have been seeing very little pressure from anglers. For those that have not winterized their fishing equipment some of the best fishing of the year can be had now. Try the shallows with floating stick bait early and late in the day for a chance at a nice walleye or rig a slip bobber/minnow and fish from one of our two accessible fishing piers.Several anglers have stopped by to inquire about the upcoming ice fishing season and fishing the Yellow River channel, which can be quite good. Camping this time of year can be a bit of a chilly endeavor but for a few brave souls it is the best time to enjoy some solitude and the heat from a crackling campfire. All of the trails are currently open to hiking and it's a great time of year for a chance to see a nice sized buck on the move. All park visitors are encouraged to wear blaze orange during the deer gun season as there is deer hunting (inquire at the park office if you have questions about the hunt) in the park. - Dave Hladilek, park manager
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - Fall hunting maps for the park, Buckhorn and Yellow River Wildlife Areas are available on the park website, in the park office, and outside the office by the bulletin board in the map box. The 1,200 acres of the park north of Cty G and north of 31st St are open for gun deer hunting. No gun deer hunting allowed south of Cty G or south of 31st St. See park map for correct locations. Park stickers are required for parking on roads adjacent to the park. Bow hunting in the park during the nine day gun season - bow hunters must wear blaze orange.- Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - Roche-A-Cri State Park is not open for hunting. The main gate and campground are closed. Parking is in the winter lot and park stickers are still required. Please do not block the main gate. The stairway is open from 6 a.m. until sunset. - Heather Wolf, park manager