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Outdoor Report for December 5, 2013

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

The first major winter storm of the season dropped up to 2 feet of snow in far northwestern Wisconsin over a three-day period this week. However, snow levels dropped off rapidly to the south, with just 2 to 3 inches on the ground in Marathon and Portage counties.

Afterhours Ski Trail
Rolling the Afterhours Ski Trail at the Brule River State Forest.
WDNR Photo

Some state properties, like the Brule River State Forest, have begun to roll cross-country ski trails, but others report there was not enough snow to groom trails yet. Most counties have not updated conditions on the Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR) yet, but many likely will before the weekend. Snowmobile trails are opened at the county level after review by the local clubs that maintain the trails. Using trails before they are open is trespass and could jeopardize trail easements or make it more difficult for clubs to groom trails.

The cold snap over the gun deer season froze lakes across the state, with some areas of the north reporting 4 to 5 inches of ice. Lakes and backwater sloughs in the south also froze, but with a thinner layer of ice. Larger lakes still have open water. The cold snap was followed by a warm-up and rain, which likely weakened what ice had formed. Now another cold snap is expected to firm up that ice again.

Ice anglers were hitting the frozen lakes in good numbers, with some reports of early action for bluegill and walleye. Wardens report ice is not thick enough yet for travel with ATVs or snowmobiles. People venturing out should be prepared: check ice depths frequently, wear a PFD or float jacket, and carry a pair of ice picks to pull yourself out should you break through.

Preliminary harvest totals indicate hunters registered 226,582 deer during the nine day season, down 7 percent from 2012's preliminary numbers. Wildlife biologists had anticipated lower numbers, especially in the north where the number of antlerless permit available were at the lowest levels seen since the 1990s. A muzzleloader season is now open through Dec. 11 and all hunters, including bow hunters, need to continue to wear blaze orange clothing.

The duck season ended a little early for southern hunters with the ice showing up sooner than normal. Some ambitious hunters did brave the ice and were able to harvest a few more divers before the season closed last Sunday. The exterior goose season runs through Dec. 16 in the north and Dec. 21 in the south. The last stocking of pheasants is taking place, with the season running through Dec. 31.

Two new electronic features debuted this week to help people explore State Natural Areas and learn more about native plants and animals. The Natural Heritage Quiz of the Week tests knowledge about Wisconsin's native nongame animals and plants and offers those who enter a chance for random weekly prize drawings. The Natural Areas Spotlight features a photo of one of Wisconsin's many State Natural Areas along with information on why they are perfect places to take family and friends.

Snowy owls are again experiencing an irruption across the eastern U.S. Wisconsin is on the west edge of the flight with numbers above average, with 40-plus reported thus far.

Statewide Birding Report

The winter birding scene has set in across Wisconsin. With lakes and wetlands now freezing up any available open water will concentrate waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and swans. Madison birders reported upwards of 2,000 tundra swans on lakes Mendota and Monona this past weekend, as the birds stopped to refuel from their Mississippi River staging grounds en route to wintering areas near the mid-Atlantic coast. Most sandhill cranes have now left the state while a handful of whooping cranes remain at Horicon Marsh. Golden eagles, whose populations are on the rise, have returned to their wintering grounds in Wisconsin, particularly bluff country across the Driftless Area. One bird fitted with a tracking device has returned for at least the third straight year to her winter territory in Waupaca County, having spent summer in the Canadian tundra. Speaking of the arctic, snowy owls are again making headlines as a massive irruption is underway across the far eastern U.S. Wisconsin is on the west edge of the flight right now but numbers are still above average as 40-plus have been reported thus far. Other winter specialties, such as grosbeaks, crossbills, and redpolls, remain exceptionally scarce, however. Some rare finds across the state recently include little gulls and black-legged kittiwake in Bayfield County, pacific loon in Walworth, an adult gyrfalcon in Door, purple sandpiper in Sheboygan, and harlequin duck in Racine. The Christmas Bird Count season begins Dec. 14 and offers casual and avid birders alike a great opportunity to get outdoors, see some great birds, meet fellow bird enthusiasts, and contribute data to conservation. Find a circle near you [wsobirds.org/?page_id=2353] and participate if you can - it's always a great time. And last but not least, help us track bird migration by reporting your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. - 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 area around the Brule River State Forest is madly digging out after the snow storm and trying to get it done before the frigid cold sets in. The forecasted temperatures are expected to only reach single digits for the next several days...bundle up out there! The groomers have been out rolling the Afterhours trails to create the base. Skiing can be done but keep in mind that the work has just begun on the trail system and it is still a bit uneven. We should soon have good skiing conditions. Ski trail updates will be posted on Brule-Valley-Ski-Club-Afterhours-Ski-Trail facebook page, (all following links exit DNR) [www.skinnyski.com/trails/reports.asp] , and [www.norwiski.com]. Also keep in mind that the Afterhours trail system is a multi-use trail. The muzzleloader deer season will be going on through Dec. 11 and the antlerless deer hunt will be going on Dec. 12-15. While the trails are not used often during these seasons, it is possible that hunters could be out and around the trails as well. It is recommended that skiers wear bright colored clothing to increase their visibility in the woods. Local Snowmobile Trail Reports: Bayfield County Trail Report [www.snowtracks.com/reporter/wisconsin/bayfield-county-wisconsin] Brule River Riders Trail Report [www.bruleriverriders.com/?110010]. - Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Bayfield County - The Drummond area received 8 inches of fresh snow on Monday and is expecting another 8 to 10 inches by Thursday, which snowmobile enthusiasts are excited about. Trails are opened but will not be groomed until Dec. 16. Several groups of people have been seen ice fishing during the gun deer season last week. Those walking out onto the 3 to 5 inches of ice were finding some success catching both walleye and northern. Lake ice conditions were improving with the cold temperatures during the gun deer season. Locals stated that they saw 3 to 5 inches of good ice on several of the smaller lakes, which made foot travel safe but with this heavy snow ice conditions could turn very hazardous. The heavy snow causes water to be pushed up onto the ice, which can make both ice and travel unsafe. Snowshoe enthusiasts are already hitting the woods, with more than a foot of snow already on the ground. A reminder to all hunters, blaze orange is still required until Dec. 11 due to the ongoing muzzleloader season. - Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Burnett County - The Grantsburg area has approximately 6 inches of snow on the ground and has additional snow in the forecast. Wildlife viewing should be good in the coming days especially for eagles, fox and coyotes feeding on remnants from the gun deer season. Ice conditions vary across the county and will be getting better in the coming days with a very frigid forecast. Use caution when traveling on any frozen lakes. There are still many good days of grouse and pheasant hunting with good numbers of birds in the area. - Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The cold and blustery weather during the early part of deer season resulted in ice cover forming on most lakes across the Northwoods. By Dec. 1, many lakes had 3 to 4 inches of ice and the first ice anglers were observed on some of the back bays and along shorelines. However, this is not considered safe, as ice conditions can be extremely variable and most anglers want a solid 4 to 5 inches before venturing out. In addition, recent storms have added 5 to 7 inches of snow to the ice cover, and this will soften the ice and delay further ice formation. As such, any early season ice anglers should be very cautious and follow all the early season ice-safety tips. Despite the relatively thin ice, there have been a fair number of early-season anglers out trying their luck on local waters. Most anglers have been targeting walleye and some decent catches have been reported from the shallow areas of Butternut Lake, the Phillips Chain and the edges of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. The best success has been with tip-ups on the mud and sand flats in 5 to 8 feet of water, with most of the action occurring in the late afternoon hours. Small sucker minnows and extra-large fatheads that are fished 4 to 6 inches off the bottom have produced some good catches of 'eater' walleye in the 12 to 14 inch size. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Rhinelander DNR Service Center area

Oneida County - Oneida County lakes have seen ice anglers since mid gun deer season. Prior to this most recent wet/heavy snowfall most lakes had 5 inches of good ice near shore. Some anglers were traveling with ATVs and a few permanent shacks had been pulled out. Caution: with this recent snowfall that this will be a lot of weight on our current ice conditions. The area lakes are not suitable for vehicle traffic or ATV/snowmobile traffic. The walleye bite has been okay at dusk. - James Jung, conservation warden, Rhinelander

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Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - If opening weekend below zero wind-chill and light snow on Thanksgiving weren't enough of an indicator, winter is definitely here now. Four to 5 inches of fresh snow fell overnight in central Marinette County. Prior to the snow, some small area lakes had 5 or more inches of ice. Lake Noquebay and other larger lakes in the county appear to be iced over but still need a stretch of cold to thicken up. Muzzleloader season is up and running and will continue until Dec. 11. All hunters are reminded they are required to wear blaze orange (including bow hunters). Turkeys have been seen in large groups already and backyard feeders have seen an uptick in use with the onset of cold weather. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - Although there has been some recent snowfall, the above freezing temperatures is turning the snow into a slippery slush mess. Gun deer hunters that are taking advantage of the extended metro zone season may find more success with the snow making tracks a lot easier to find, but should be wearing warm, water proof clothing if they want to sit for extended periods of time. As always, a reminder to hunters to know and practice the four rules of firearm safety: Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, Always point a firearm in a safe direction, Be sure of your target and what's beyond, and Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. - Cara Kamke, Conservation Warden, Eastern Brown County

Duck season ended a little early for some southern Green Bay hunters with the ice showing up sooner than normal. Bitter cold caused ice and closed most landings. Some ambitious hunters did brave the ice and were able to harvest a couple more divers before the season officially closed this past Sunday. Although the ice stopped some hunters it did lead to others breaking out the jig poles to ice fish some marinas. I would not encourage anybody to head out onto the ice especially with the couple days of warmer temperatures earlier this week. If you are not going to heed that warning be safe by wearing a life jacket and by remembering that no ice is ever safe. Let friends and/or family know where you are going and when you plan to return. Check the ice thickness frequently and do not rely on others. The theory of if there is an angler on the ice the ice must be safe is not safe. Be careful and use your common sense. There isn't a fish worth going through the ice for. - Darren Kuhn, marine unit conservation warden, Green Bay

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Peninsula received a few inches of heavy wet snow thus far. Ski trails have not been groomed and are in poor condition at this time. The snowshoe/hiking trails are open and the snowmobile trails and sledding hill are closed until more snow arrives. - Jane Barnowsky, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - As of Dec. 4, there is about 2 inches of wet snow on the ground with rain predicted later in the day. All roads remain open in the park until plowing is necessary. Then North Norway Road and a portion of South Norway Road will be closed to automobile traffic. Portions of those roads become snowmobile trails during the winter months. The tower will also close for the winter when North Norway Road is closed. Boat launching and accessible fishing piers have been removed from the water until next April. The park store is closed until next spring. Cross-country skis, snowshoes, and snowmobiles are available for rent in nearby Sturgeon Bay. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Kewaunee County - Overall, the gun deer season went well in Kewaunee County. Most hunters saw good numbers of does and small bucks while out in the field, with several large bucks being harvest throughout the county. Harvest was down overall. Unfortunately Kewaunee County did have one non-fatal hunting accident involving a self-inflicted gunshot would. Hunters are reminded to follow the basic firearm safety rules (TAB K) throughout the remainder of the hunting seasons and to always unload firearms/bows when entering and exiting tree stands. The Snowmobile trails in Kewaunee County have all been prepared for the upcoming season. Now all we need is some snow, and the snowmobile season will be underway. The lakes in Kewaunee County were all ice covered during the gun deer season and came close to having walkable ice. The warm weather did away with that, but the ice should firm up soon with the cold temperatures forecasted. As always, remember to take proper safety precautions when on frozen lakes and rivers, especially this early in the winter. No ice is safe ice! - Kyle Lynch, conservation warden, Kewaunee

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Marguett County - What started as warm temperatures this past weekend won't last long as we head into this upcoming weekend. While the closing of gun deer season held temperatures around 35 degrees, the upcoming weekend seems to be showing temperatures around 13 degrees (F). While some may think this is good for building ice, both Marquette and Waushara counties have been plagued with rain, sleet, and wet snow on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This could create "honeycomb" conditions on many of our lakes. A personal attempt to head out and fish on Sunday, Dec. 1, revealed that the lakes need a bit more time. In short, if you do plan to head out on the ice make sure to take someone with you and make sure you have the proper safety gear. Beyond the much anticipated ice fishing season, a few hunters are still taking to the woods for the muzzleloader deer season. A few hunters have found success, but many are still searching the woods and fields. Deer seem to be moving more in the morning or in the late evening, with a few farmers claiming they are feeding in their fields (likely trying to fatten up a bit more before the snow buries everything). Good luck to everyone and remember to share your passion and take someone hunting or fishing with you! - Brian Finch, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Calumet County - The traditional nine day gun deer season has come to a close for hunters in Calumet County and the weather has gone from cold to warm to cold. The recent cold spell made some walkable ice in select spots along the east shore of Lake Winnebago. Several hard water anglers have already tried their skills at Stockbridge Harbor. Trappers are still taking muskrats and otters in the area. Squirrels have been seen gathering food the past few days with the warmer weather, and several large flocks of geese are still around. All hunters, except waterfowl, are reminded that blaze orange is still required through the muzzleloader deer and antlerless deer firearms seasons. - Michael Disher, conservation warden - Stockbridge

Fond du Lac County - Anglers have been venturing out on the ice on Fox Lake and Beaver Dam Lake. Please use extreme caution as conditions vary from open water up to 5 inches of ice. This short warm up with rain certainly won't help ice conditions. Walleyes had started biting on Beaver Dam Lake with a few 22 to 24 inch fish being kept. Many have been in the 14 to16 inch range. Both Beaver Dam Lake and Fox Lake have a walleye minimum length of 18 inches and 3 fish. - Ben Nadolski, conservation warden, Waupun

Winnebago County - Now that the gun deer season is behind us, most outdoorsmen and women begin focusing on ice fishing. In Winnebago County, some of the bays on Lake Winnebago have already had holes drilled with augers. Early ice can be a great time to catch fish but also a very dangerous time. Ice is beginning to form and with warm days still mixed in those ice conditions can change rapidly. If you plan to venture out take as many precautions as possible. Go with a buddy, check ice conditions thoroughly and ask around at bait shops. Preferably wear a life jacket or float coat and have a set of ice picks somewhere assessable on your person. Most ice anglers have heard all this before but those that prepare themselves are more likely to return home after a great day of fishing through the ice. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan the Sheboygan River has some ice forming in the slow moving stretches around Kiwanis Park and downstream. Fishing effort at the Sheboygan lakefront has been low off the piers, but a few anglers have been working off the docks in the marina. Anglers have had to break through ice to get their baits in the water, and success has been minimal.

Ozaukee County - In Port Washington a few browns and rainbows have been caught on spawn sacs near the power plant discharge. Decent numbers of browns should remain in the harbor area throughout the late fall and winter months.

Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee slush and ice has been reported in portions of the Milwaukee River. The boat launch at Riverfront Ramp is currently usable, and the only ice in the whole Milwaukee harbor is in the far south end of the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park. Brown trout will remain in the Milwaukee harbor throughout the winter months, and can be accessible from shore and by boat. Access to the fishing pier at the Oak Creek Power Plant is closed for the winter. It will reopen March 15, weather permitting.

Racine County - In Racine, fishing activity at the lakefront has been slow, and ice is starting to form in Reefpoint Marina. Slow moving stretches of the Root River are also freezing over. Brown trout and a few rainbows can be found in the lower reaches of the Root and in the harbor.

Waukesha DNR Service Center area

Waukesha County - Ice is forming on lakes in Waukesha County. Some anglers have been able to get out. Ice thickness can vary significantly so anyone venturing onto the ice is urged to use caution and carry ice picks. Hunters are reminded that duck season closed on Dec. 1 but Canada goose season remains open until Dec. 21 and there are still a lot of geese in the area. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Waukesha

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Two more pheasant stockings (one during the week of Dec. 2, and one during the week of Dec. 9) will be done on Theresa, Allenton, and Jackson Marsh wildlife areas. These will be the last two stockings of the year on the properties. Most pheasants will be released in the same areas as earlier in the season (i.e. permanent grass fields), and in addition a limited number of birds will be released on permanent grass fields within the Theresa Marsh south refuge area located west of Highway 41 and south of Mohawk Road. The Theresa Marsh waterfowl refuges are open after Dec. 1 to pheasant hunting, trapping and other "non-waterfowl" activities. Pheasant hunters are reminded that BLAZE ORANGE requirements are in effect through Dec. 15, since there are gun deer seasons still going on through that date. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Grant County - With the transition to wintery weather most migrant songbirds have departed. A few hardy bluebirds were spotted this week. Tundra swans are on the move from Mississippi River pools to their wintering grounds on the East Coast. Rough-legged hawks have made their way down to our counties, and a few northern harriers are still sticking around. The Wisconsin River remains up at normal fall/winter levels. Most backwaters were frozen solid enough to walk on, but the warm weather early in the week and rain changed that quickly. The current cold snap should make good ice again. - Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel

Iowa County - Weather conditions have been incredibly foggy the last few days, with a drop in temperatures expected by the weekend. There are still opportunities for deer hunting, with the ongoing muzzleloader season. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Dodge County - Walleyes were being caught through the ice on the north side of Beaver Dam Lake through the ice at dusk. - Paul Nell, conservation warden, Horicon

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Recent cold weather has allowed ice fishermen good clear ice to get out and enjoy some fishing. Pheasant hunters are still taking advantage of stocking program. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

The deer harvest in Columbia County was down. Many hunters indicated they saw fewer deer than in previous years. Many admitted that the cold weather had them in the woods less than normal. With the cold weather, ice formed on many lakes and ponds in Columbia County. Ice fishing has been very good on Lake Wisconsin at the Grade and Lazy Lake. Bluegills, bass and northern pike were being caught in decent numbers. There is approximately 4 inches of ice in these areas. Ice fishermen should be very careful with thin ice and recent warmer temperatures. - Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette

Sauk County - The colder weather has started and it is time to kick up the backyard feeding of birds. Many species of birds are coming to feed and it becomes enjoyable during the holiday and winter seasons to watch them. A warning to anglers to make sure there is enough ice before starting the ice fishing season. No fish is worth drowning on thin ice and every year at the start of the ice fishing season someone in Sauk county falls through the ice. Hunters are reminded to be safe using tree stands if planning to hunt the late season deer hunts. Please use safety equipment and be careful. There have been two very bad tree stand falls this fall, with one resulting in a fatality. - John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac

Governor Nelson State Park - Now until the lake freezes over the migrating trumpeter swans, tundra swans, mute swans and Canada and snow geese can be seen from the shore of Governor Nelson. All of the piers on the lake have been removed for the season. - Rene' Lee - park manager

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Willow River State Park - What a mess! Snow, rain, and snow with 31 degrees makes a great snowman but does zero for skiers till things cool off. What is down for snow will bind very well to the frozen ground when grooming starts. There's no immediate plans to do any grooming. All of us that groom have tried it at warm temperatures wind up with stuck equipment left out on (or off) the trail. Willow could be into a ski season in a day or two. The Nelson Farm Trail got its final work done this week. There is another snowshoe-winter hiking option this season on the location of the old disc golf course. Park at the boat launch and go out the far end of the lot. A path leads to the Green trail for skier access. Turn left at to the electric box and the route is marked with orange flagging tape. Another access point is at the top of the sled hill which is mowed wide. Ice fishing has been in progress for a week. Willow Falls has beautiful ice formations; see this before winter fills it in with snow. The Willow Falls lot has been doubled in size. Remember, there is still a firearms hunting season for deer in progress in areas of the park that have never been open till this year. - Jeffrey L. Bolte, volunteer retired visitor services associate

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - It's beginning to look and feel like winter in the Black River Falls Area. The forest received some light wet snow and temperatures are expected to drop through the weekend. Highs will struggle to get out of the single digits on Saturday and Sunday. There is not enough snow yet though for winter trails. Trails will open on Dec. 15 for ATVs. There is not enough snow yet for snowmobiling. UTVs, due to their weight, are not allowed on the trails in the winter. Jackson County Forestry and Parks maintains and grooms all of the state forest's snowmobile and winter ATV trails. Grooming updates are posted on [www.co.jackson.wi.us] The camping season has winded down at the state forest. A few sites are left open at Castle Mound and Pigeon Creek. East Fork and the new outdoor group camp are closed for the season. The indoor group camp is open year round. It's not too early to make reservations for next summer. Castle Mound now has 14 electric sites and an expanded reservation season from early May through early October. East Fork and Pigeon campgrounds are on the reservation system from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. The indoor group camp is on the reservation system year-round. Go online to make a reservation or call 888-947-2757, TTY 800-274-7275.

Backpackers can use our online permit to register for camping. - Peter Bakken, superintendent

Jackson County -Ice is starting to form on numerous flowages and small ponds. Ice anglers are starting to venture out on the ice with only 3.5 inches of ice. Be very careful before you enter the ice and make sure you bring a chisel with you to check the thickness of the ice. Be sure to bring a pair of ice picks with you just in case you would fall through. Be Careful! The deer hunting muzzleloader season is underway in Wisconsin. There are still plenty of deer in the woods after the nine day gun deer season, so try your luck with muzzleloader hunting. Jackson County offers plenty of public land to try your luck. If you can fight the cold, it will be a great opportunity to bag a buck. - Kurt Haas, conservation warden, Black River Falls

Juneau County - Archery hunters in Juneau County who hunted the rut shared a common complaint. The rut activity was mostly nonexistent with a lack of activity in most areas. Coyote trappers caught three incidental wolves, which were released, in coyote sets during the month of November. Also three incidental bobcats were caught and successfully released in the county.- Matt Weber, conservation warden, Necedah

Trempealeau County - There is light snow cover currently with thin ice on most lakes, ponds, and rivers. Some water bodies have up to 4 inches, but with temperatures swinging up and down daily caution is advised. - Christopher Shea, conservation warden, Trempealeau

The Buffalo River State Trail is open for ATV riding year-round. The trail opens for snowmobile use as soon as sufficient snow cover falls. The trail is closed between Arndt Road and Townhall Road because a bridge has failed. The trail has been temporarily detoured onto Arndt Road, McGower Road, and Townhall Road to bypass the failing bridge. Bow hunters are reminded that they are required to wear blaze orange outer clothing on 50 percent of their upper bodies during the muzzleloader deer and the December antlerless deer hunting seasons. Ice anglers who are venturing out onto the ice should use caution and be aware that ice conditions are unpredictable this time of year. - Robin Barnhardt, conservation warden, Osseo

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Chippewa River State Trail - The trail is not maintained but is open during the winter season for biking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and walking pets. During the winter the trail is open for snowmobiling from Pioneer Court road in Eau Claire County to Durand and connects up to the Red Cedar State Trail, which is open to County Road Y. Please check the following phone numbers and websites for snowmobile trail openings/closings. [www.travelwisconsin.com/snowreport/] .Dunn County Snowmobile Trails: 715-664-7669; Eau Claire County Snowmobile Trails: [www.eccosnow.org]; Pepin County Snowmobile Trails: 715-672-7669. Please report any downed trees, washouts or any other problems to the trail manager at 715-232-1242. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - The trails received the first significant snow fall of the year. However, there isn't enough to groom the ski trails. This is a good time to remind visitors that the trails east of the park road are only open to cross-country skiing when snow covered. Trails west of the park road and the trail from the overflow parking lot to the tower are open to snowshoeing and hiking. There are numerous other city, county, and state properties that allow these activities as well such as: Red Cedar State Trail south of Downsville, Menomin Park, Bjornson Education Center, and nearby state wildlife areas such as Dunnville and Muddy Creek. Biking is not allowed on the trails and dogs are not allowed in the park. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - The trail did receive some snow, however there isn't enough to start grooming for skiing. This is a good time to remind visitors that the trail is groomed for cross country skiing between Menomonie and Downsville. Please refrain from walking, snowshoeing, biking, or bringing pets on the ski trail when snow covered. The Red Cedar State Trail is also available for snowmobiling from County Road Y to the junction of the Chippewa River State Trail, which connects up to the trails in Pepin and Eau Claire Counties. The Depot Visitors Center in Menomonie is generally closed during the winter season. The center may be open to purchase passes during certain times when the trail attendant is present. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Lake Wissota State Park - Ice anglers should be thinking about 'gearing up' as first ice has formed in the bays adjacent to the park. Cross-country skiers are anxiously waiting additional snowfall as there has not been enough to groom the trails yet. Call the park office for ski trail updates. The campground is available for walk-in campers during the winter season. - Dave Hladilek, park manager

Wausau DNR Service Center area

Marathon County - The first ice fishermen of the year were observed around the start of the deer season. Ice thickness varies, but 5 to 6 inches has been reported on some of the backwaters of the Wisconsin River and area flowages. Reminder for anglers to stay out of the river channel as the snow cover makes it appear that there is ice cover however it is extremely hazardous at this point. - Benjamin Herzfeldt, conservation warden, Wausau

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Portage County - Ice conditions in Central Wisconsin are improving and most anglers are finding 3 to 4 inches of ice on area lakes and the backwaters of the Wisconsin River. The extremely cold gun deer season worked to the angler's advantage anyway. Those venturing out are finding walleyes and bluegills readily cooperative. Anglers are reminded to take extra precautions on the early ice especially with the snow starting to cover it up. Bring a Personal Flotation Device with you while fishing, check with the local bait shops for ice thickness reports, check the ice as you move with a spud, fish with a buddy, and carry a cell phone with for emergencies. The first snowy owl of the year was observed in Southern Portage County on Nov. 30, which could be a sign that a long, cold winter is on the way. - Jon Scharbarth, conservation warden, Stevens Point

A good number of people are leaving the woods and heading to the ice. The early bluegill bite doesn't seem that impressive yet, but a few crappies were being caught on the smaller ponds in Portage County. - Bryan R. Lockman, conservation warden, Wisconsin Rapids

Wood County - Several ice fishermen have been observed on Nepco Lake in southern Wood County and Lake Dexter south of Pittsville. Some bluegills were being caught at Lake Dexter with about 5 inches of ice observed. - Barry Fetting, conservation warden, Milladore

Buckhorn State Park - Ice is forming on the lake and a few people have been seen north of the Buckhorn bridge ice fishing already. Remember, staff does not monitor ice conditions. Ski trails will be groomed when we have sufficient snow, which is at least 6 inches. Snowshoes are available to check out and use in the park when we have snow. The 2014 Annual Park stickers are now available and make great gifts. If you self-register when the office is closed, your sticker will be mailed to you. - Heather Wolf, park manager

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Last Revised: Thursday, December 05, 2013