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Outdoor Report for December 12, 2013
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).
Some very cold and windy weather has limited outdoor activities in Wisconsin in the last week, but that could change with warmer weather forecast for the weekend. Sub zero temperatures at night have continued to improve ice conditions on lakes across the state. Some Northwoods lakes have as much as 10 inches of ice already, while others have just 5 to 6 inches. Most southern lakes, except for the largest, are also frozen over. Lake Monona in Madison froze over Dec. 10 this year, compared to Dec. 31 last year. Lake Mendota still has open water.
The cold temperatures kept the early-season ice fishing pressure down. There have been a few walleye anglers out in the north and they have been having fair success on tip-ups. In the south anglers were having some success with bluegill and crappie on frozen lakes and backwaters of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers.
Snow depths range from a high of 12 to 18 inches in Douglas County in far northwestern Wisconsin to a low of just 1 to 2 inches in some central Wisconsin counties. South Wisconsin snow depths range from 2 to 6 inches. The deep snow in the north has allowed crews to groom and track cross-country ski trails at the Northern Highland-American Legion, Brule River and Flambeau River state forests with conditions reported from good to excellent. Some snowmobile trails are open in Iron and Douglas counties, but not all sections, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Snowmobile trails in the Flambeau River State Forest are scheduled to open Sunday Dec. 15.
The Afterhours Ski Trail at the Brule River State Forest is groomed and ready for skiers.
All people venturing out should be aware that there is a statewide antlerless deer hunt opening Dec. 12 and running through Sunday, Dec. 15. Hunters must have a valid antlerless tag for the unit in which they are hunting, and all hunters, except waterfowl hunters, must wear blaze orange clothing. Recreational safety specialists urge everyone who will be out enjoying the snow this weekend to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing. Hunters, hikers and snowshoers are reminded that trails on forest and park properties that have been groomed for cross-country skiing are only open to skiers.
The last of the pheasant stocking is wrapping up this week on state wildlife areas but with cold temperatures limiting hunting activity there should still be plenty of birds around. Ice-up has pushed most ducks out and resulted in large concentrations of Canada Geese on larger lakes and rivers across the south. The goose season closes on Dec. 12 in the north zone and Dec. 21 in the south zone.
There have already been some reports around the state of people finding shed antlers, which is very early as bucks don’t usually shed antlers until late January and February.
Snowy owls are again showing up, with more than 60 individuals found in Wisconsin as part of a large irruption of the birds occurring across the eastern U.S. 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 and contribute data to conservation. People can find out more on the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology website.
Statewide Birding Report
Very cold temperatures limited bird observations this week. Snowy owls are grabbing headlines [ebird.org/content/wi/news/another-snowy-owl-winter-in-wisconsin], as more than 60 individuals have been found in Wisconsin as part of a large irruption of the birds occurring across the eastern U.S. More should enter the state through early January and a good number are expected to remain on winter territories here. Other northern owls have been scarce, though short-eared owls have been reported from various parts of south and central Wisconsin, including Avon Bottoms in Rock County and Goose Pond in southern Columbia County. Large grasslands and herbaceous wetlands should be checked at dusk as we approach the Christmas Bird Count season. Cold temps have frozen most open water, resulting in large concentrations of waterfowl (mostly Canada Geese) on larger lakes and rivers across the south. Observers have spotted snow and Ross’s geese along with a large number of lingering tundra swans as well. Recent snows have also made it much easier to find Lapland longspurs, horned larks and snow buntings along open country roads. Winter finches such as redpolls, crossbills, and grosbeaks remain exceptionally scarce across the entire state. The dominant winter finch this year is the American goldfinch, which is being seen in above average numbers statewide and especially across the north woods and along Lake Michigan. A Varied thrush being seen in Wausau, Marathon Co., was the week’s rarest find. 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 [http://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
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - The afterhours ski trail system is now fully groomed and is in very good condition. Skiers are reporting that our first snow on the trails is like skiing mid-season. The statewide antlerless deer hunt is going on December 12-15. Hunters will be dealing with deeper snow and many inaccessible back roads that are not plowed. People should keep in mind that even with the sub-zero temperatures wetlands, streams, and lakes could have thin ice. The deep snow insulates the ice as well as the ground. More information on ice safety is available on the DNR website The deep snow also provides insulation for ruffed grouse who like to “snow roost”. According to Wisconsin DNR’s EEK website “Ruffed grouse are well adapted for surviving Wisconsin's severe winters. They have sturdy down-curved beaks for eating buds and twigs of shrubs and trees - their staples in winter. They also have stout legs for walking or running and their feet have comb-like rows of bristles or pectinations. (Now, there's a new word for you!) These bristles act like snowshoes, enabling grouse to walk easily on soft snow. Following feeding in early morning and evening, birds spend most of the day roosting to conserve energy. If the snow condition is right (7 or more inches of fluffy snow), grouse prefer to "snow roost" to cope with the extremes of cold winter weather. During snow roosting, grouse either burrow below the surface or fly directly into a snow bank. (I'd like to see that.) Temperatures beneath this blanket of snow may be 20-30 degrees warmer than the air. The Afterhours Candlelight Ski has been scheduled for February 8 beginning at dusk. - Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With the unseasonably cold weather of the last week, ice cover continues to thicken on lakes across the Northwoods. Some lakes have been reported to have 8 to 10 inches of ice, while others have only been measured with just 5 to 6 inches under an insulating layer of snow. As such, any early season anglers should still be cautious when venturing out and always test the ice before heading out onto the water, especially when traveling with an ATV or snowmobile. The cold temperatures have also kept the early-season pressure down, and there haven’t been too many reports of ice fishing success. There have been a few walleye anglers out and they have been having fair success on tip-ups. The most productive areas have continued to be the mud and sand flats, with small suckers or large fatheads fished just off the bottom at the 4 to 8 foot depth. Most of the walleye being caught have been in the 12 to 16 inch size, and the late-afternoon period has been quite a bit better than the early morning bite. With a slight warm up in temperatures forecasted for the weekend, look for angling pressure to increase on most area waters. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Snowmobile trails in the forest will be open this Sunday, Dec. 15. Ski trails will be groomed and tracked for the weekend and should be in good to excellent condition. Lake of the Pines Campground will close Dec. 15 and reopen April 15. Local lakes are ice covered, but as always use extreme caution on them. There is still some open water on both the North and South Forks of the Flambeau River. There is approximately 10 inches of snow on the ground. A report of some early sheds found has been reported. The turkey population seems quite healthy in the area. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The forest looks like a true winter wonderland. Heavy snow, then rain, then more snow has given the landscape a Christmas card look. Ice coats the hardwood branches and the evergreen branches are heavily laden with ice and snow. Six to 10 inches of snow blankets the ground with a hard crust. The birds are busy at area feeders and this early crust may put some stress on the little animals. All the cross-country ski trails have had the base packed and groomed trails. Escanaba Trail – Cleared of brush and trees and is now tracked. The conditions are fair to good. Madeline Trail – All loops leveled and tracked. Good conditions. McNaughton Trail – Skaters loop groomed. Good conditions. All other loops tracked. Some areas thin with some debris. Fair to good conditions. Raven Trail – All loops tracked. Good conditions.- Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker
Florence DNR at the Florence Natural Resource Center
Forest County - There is about 6 inches of snow cover, but a thick crust limits cross-country ski trail and snowshoeing options. Snowmobile trails are not yet open so please check county websites for up-to-date info. Ice formation has generally been 4-6 inches on lakes but can be locally thinner so use caution. Deer and other wildlife are beginning to exhibit winter patterns. - Anna Jahns, wildlife technician, Florence
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - It’s very cold, and colder weather is forecasted for the next couple of days so keep those backyard feeders full. A few snowy owls have been spotted near the Bay of Green Bay. The 2 inches of snow on the ground in central Marinette County is not enough for snowmobiling or groomed skiing opportunities yet. Dec. 11 was the last day of muzzleloader season. Dec. 12 starts the last of the statewide hunts, a four-day antlerless only hunt. The hunt is statewide, but remember you must have a valid antlerless tag for the unit you are hunting. People hunting in Marinette County in units 41, 49A, 49B, OR 45 must have purchased a unit specific bonus tag as herd control tags are not valid in those units. Also note that archers braving the cold from Dec. 12 through 15 must wear blaze orange and can only harvest an antlerless deer. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Oconto County - Some perch were being caught in the Oconto River and other tributaries to Green Bay. Minnows seem to do the trick but wax worms are also working well. Inland ice fishing and ice conditions vary daily. Most waters appear to have 4 to 6 inches of ice and it should increase as the cold spell continues. Snowmobile trails are still closed in the county. Turkey hunters are reporting some success as birds are being found in large groups. Deer hunters in the southern half of Oconto County still should have an opportunity to harvest an antlerless deer during the upcoming four-day antlerless only hunt. - Mike Stahl, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Shawano County - With the bitter cold you may expect some good ice conditions. You still need to be patient when venturing out onto the ice yet. Ice fishing has been slow only because it has been so cold. Hunters are still out and about with muzzleloaders and the upcoming antlerless hunt will open Dec. 12. There is not enough snow for snowmobiling yet, so stay off the trails and there is a few thin spots on area waters so stay off the ice for a while yet. - Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Brown County - Eastern Brown County has its share of snow on the ground, but nowhere near enough snow for the snowmobile trails to open. Snowmobile enthusiasts may be feeling the itch to get out and ride but are reminded to wait to ride on the trails until they open. Riding on snowmobile trails before they are officially open is one of the biggest ways to ruin trail conditions early and to endanger having trails in the future. The ice on Lily Lake is a solid 6 inches, and there has been moderate fishing pressure on the lake, considering it is one of the few lakes in the area that has good enough ice to fish off of. The hunting pressure has dropped off significantly with only a few gun deer hunters and late pheasant hunters willing to brave the conditions. - Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Green Bay
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Peninsula State Park - The park received approximately 3 inches of powdery snow. Icy, slippery conditions exist all over the park. Ski trails have not been groomed. However, hiking and snowshoeing on them is not allowed. Snowshoe and hiking trails are open. The sledding hill is being evaluated so call the park for an update on sledding. Snowmobile trails are closed. - Jane Barnowsky, visitor services associate
Whitefish Dunes State Park - About 3 inches of fluffy snow is on the ground. Some areas have more or less because of drifting. The Red Trail has been rolled for cross-country skiing. More snow is needed to complete all trails. In the winter Red, Green, Yellow trails are for classic cross-country skiing. The Black and Brachiopod Trails are used for snowshoeing, hiking, foot traffic. Hiking, snowshoeing, biking, and pets are prohibited on ski trails. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Most lakes are iced over with only open water where geese are congregated. Many small lakes and bays on larger lakes have 6 inches of ice. There are a few reports of fisherman being out but no reports either way on success. Currently there is 3 to 4 inches of snow with no trails open yet. This is not good enough for snow sports, but good for hiking. Hunters had windy and cold conditions for the end of the muzzleloader season. Warming weather for the weekend should have deer moving for late antlerless hunt, leaving a good chance to put some venison in the freezer. Most birds hunkered are down in heavy cover given the current weather. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Ice anglers didn’t waste any time getting onto the ice, but all ice goers should use caution. Catches of walleyes have been seen in the New London area. The Chain O Lakes has also been a good area for bluegills, crappies, and northern pike. Very few deer hunters have been active during the muzzleloader hunt due to extremely cold temperatures. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma
Hartman Creek State Park - The park received approximately 3 inches of new snow on Sunday, Dec. 8. At this time ski and snowshoe trails are open but have not been groomed due to the low snowfall. The parks single track trail is open for Fat Tire biking as well. All horse trails are closed for the season. The park’s campgrounds are closed for the season but will reopen on April 1. General hunting continues in the park until Dec. 15 with late bow hunting occurring until January 5. - Michael Bergum, park manager
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - More made snow has been spread at Lapham Peak expanding the length of currently groomed trail to 3/4 K. The section of trail from the Evergreen trail head to SummerStage Hill and down SummerStage hill is covered as well as the west leg of the trail from the trailhead to the north. That 3/4 K section of trail has been groomed for skating and a double classical track set. Conditions are very good. Skiers will have to ski back and forth on that section - trail width is adequate for two-way traffic. Snowmaking continues, there are piles of snow made that must cure for 48 hours before they can be spread, it is anticipated that the short 1/2K loop will be finished Friday and the longer loop possibly finished on Sunday. The remainder of the trail system is mostly unskiable, the better choice is to stick to the section of trail covered with made snow. The lights will be on Monday through Saturday nights until 10 p.m.. – Paul Sandgren, supervisor
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit – Cross-country ski trails received 1 to 3 inches of powder snow on Dec. 8. The brown trail and campground loop were last groomed Monday Dec. 9 in the mid-morning. The ski trails are in less than favorable condition due to lack of snow, powdery consistency, and forest debris. Trail passes are not required for cross-country skiers at the Pike Lake Unit. When trails are snow covered hikers, snowshoers, and dogs are not allowed on trails east of Powder Hill Road (groomed ski trails). Multi Use Trails are all open and in good condition for hiking and snowshoeing. Pets are not allowed on the Black Forest Nature Trail and must be on a leash 8 feet or less at all times in other areas. The campground and all campground facilities are closed for the season. - Drew Starch, ranger
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest received about 2-3 inches of snow over the weekend of Dec. 8. Groomers have been out on the Greenbush & Zillmer ski trails packing the snow to start a base, but there is not enough for grooming and tracking. Skiers should expect marginal conditions, with bare spots and debris on the trails. For the latest conditions, please contact the Forest Headquarters, Ice Age Visitors Center, 262-626-2116 or the following websites: www.greenbushusa.com or www.skinnyski.com. Maintenance crews have also been out on the snowmobile trails, removing fallen trees and other obstacles. All snowmobile trails are currently closed, but visitors can check the following contacts for the latest conditions (exit DNR): Fond du Lac County, www.fdlsnowmobileassn.com , 920-929-6840; Sheboygan County, www.nkmsnow.com , 920-892-7455; and Washington County, www.wcasc.org , 262-334-6061. Snowshoers are welcome on any trail that is not groomed for skiing or snowmobiling. – Deb Harder, visitor services associate
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
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - The last pheasant stocking of the season was done this week on Allenton, Jackson and Theresa Marsh Wildlife Areas. Pheasant hunters and other non-waterfowl hunters are reminded blaze orange clothing is required during the gun deer season including the December antlerless hunt. Theresa Marsh and other properties are mostly frozen over, except for the main river channel and immediately above the dam. Very few ducks and geese remain in the area. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
South Central Region
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Cold weather has set in on the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. Ice has begun to thicken up on most of the backwater sloughs and we are beginning to see ice fishing activity again. Use caution when venturing on the ice and remember that ice conditions can change quickly depending on where you are. Throughout the winter several popular ice fishing locations will be plowed. Hunters are reminded that there are still a lot of hunting opportunities within the Riverway. Pheasant stocking has ended but the season goes until the end of December. There is also some additional deer hunting opportunities including the four day antlerless hunt and the holiday hunt. Hunters are encouraged to refer to the deer hunting regulations for season date and locations. - Matt Seguin, property manager
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Grant County - Ice fishing activity has been good throughout the area. With the recent cold weather, ice has formed rather quickly. Many areas report 4 inches of clear solid ice such as Bertom Lake and O Leary Lake. Crappies have been biting early, around 7 a.m. on O Leary Lake below Lock and dam #11 near Dubuque. Ice fishermen reported that the bluegills have been small. A check of sauger fishing activity off the Eagle Point fishing barge noted that jigging for sauger and walleyes has ceased above the barge due to the influx of ice. Anglers had been catching several 14 to 16 inch sauger while the walleyes were biting but were 8-9 inches in length. Bertom Lake anglers report catching crappies and bluegills. Caution is advised when fishing in the vicinity of the dredge cut. An ice fishermen fell through the ice during the past gun deer season. River of Lakes Resort reports 4 plus inches of ice in the backwaters near the boat docks. Many hand sized and larger bluegills were caught this past weekend. - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville
Iowa County - Many ice fishermen (and women) are taking advantage of the ice covered area lakes and back-water sloughs of the Wisconsin River. Trail conditions are good for snow shoeing or cross-country skiing after the recent 3 plus inches of snow fall. More snow chances are expected through the week and weekend. Trails are not being groomed yet. There are numerous reports of snow buntings, longspurs, and rough-legged hawks in the area. Keep your eyes open for snowy owls as they are being seen in Southeastern Wisconsin now. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Wildlife has responded to the cold as turkeys can be seen in their large winter flocks, utilizing the south facing slopes which may be warmer than the rest of the landscape. Bald eagles are being sighted in the Prairie du Sac area. Larger numbers of eagles may show up earlier this year to utilize the open water below the dam as other water bodies across the state are icing up earlier this year. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
Dane County - This is the last week of pheasant stocking on public properties. Hunter numbers are down from earlier in the year, so plenty of pheasants should be around. Three to 4 inches snow should also make it more interesting for those without dogs. Short-eared owls have been reported from Avon Bottoms in Rock County and Goose Pond in Southern Columbia County. Large grasslands and herbaceous wetlands should be checked at dusk as we approach the Christmas bird count season. Recent snows have made it much easier to find Lapland longspurs, horned larks and snow buntings along open country roads. Cold temps have frozen most open water, resulting in large concentrations of waterfowl (mostly Canada geese) on the Madison lakes and the Yahara River. Observers have spotted snow and Ross’ geese along with a large number of lingering tundra swans as well. Recent snows should make late season deer hunting as well as rabbit hunting a bit easier for hunters as they will have good visibility and tracking snow. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
Sauk County - The early ice has provided opportunities on area lakes. Nice bluegills were being caught on Seeley Lake south of North Freedom. Anglers were catching bluegills and perch on Gallus slough near Merrimac. Anglers are reminded that Wisconsin River sloughs are now frozen; however, with current and beaver runs there can be thin spots making it dangerous. Snowmobile trails are not open in Sauk County. Snowmobilers need to watch for opening and closing of trails as more snow comes. Snowmobilers must stay off the trails when the trails are closed. Most of the trails in southern Wisconsin go across private land and to keep that privilege all snowmobile users need to respect the trail closures. - John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac
Devil's Lake State Park - The surface of the lake froze over on about Dec. 7. The park staff does not monitor the thickness of the ice, nor measure the ice. Venturing onto the frozen lake can be hazardous, but it is not prohibited. Use great caution and your own judgment. The lake is frozen over, but no reports yet of anyone ice fishing. Trails are snow-covered and icy. We don’t recommend walking the icy trails, but it is not prohibited. Cross-country ski trails are closed. When trails are snow-covered, hikers and snowshoers may not travel on the ski trails, though anywhere else is fair game! Snowshoes may be borrowed for free from the Nature Center at times when it is open. Pets may not travel on the ski trails at any time.- Richard Hesed, visitor services associate
Lake Kegonsa State Park -The park received approximately 4-5 inches of light, fluffy snow on Dec. 8. The trails were rolled, but not groomed or tracked, on Dec. 9. Most areas are skiable, but some spots have grass or leaves coming up through the snow. - Sarah Bolser, park manager
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Rock County - Pheasant hunting continued through the nine-day gun deer season, and many hunters have been braving the cold and snow for late season roosters. Wardens have encountered many pheasant hunters not wearing their blaze orange, which is required during any open gun deer season, including muzzleloader, antlerless, and holiday hunts. Any garment above the waist must be at least 50 percent orange, and a hat, if worn, must also be 50 percent orange. Duck season is now closed, but geese are still moving through Rock County in large numbers. With the upcoming closure of goose season, waterfowl hunters are reminded to remove all blinds from public lands no later than Dec. 22. The ice has been thickening on many of the smaller lakes and ice fishermen have already been taking advantage of the thicker ice near shore. Fishermen are reminded that ice is never completely safe, and they should check ice thickness and conditions each day before heading onto the lake. Trappers have been harvesting river otter around the county, and have been reporting abundant otter sign along the rivers. With the cold weather, raccoons have holed up and many raccoon trappers have pulled their traps. With the recent snow, many snowmobilers have been seen readying their sleds for the upcoming season. Trails in the area are not yet open and riders are reminded to check the Rock County Snowmobile Hotline at 608- 757-5458 before riding to make sure the trails are open. - Boyd Richter & Keith Meverden, conservation warden, Janesville
West Central Region
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
St. Croix County - Area lakes still are not being driven on by cars or trucks and thin ice areas remain in spite of recent cold temps. Cold and windy conditions have kept many outdoors users inside. About 4 to 6 inches of snow is on the ground in most areas and an icy crust makes for crunchy walking for deer hunters. Mississippi River anglers were doing fairly well on sauger near Redwing prior to the extreme cold snap. Snowmobile trails are still closed. - David A. Hausman, warden supervisor, Baldwin
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - When snow falls during the night, one needs to only step outside to find that visitors have been to our yards, gardens, fields, or woods. Though none may be in view, their footprints in the snow are evidence that they have been there: a ruffed grouse, sparrow, crow, squirrel, fox, mouse, weasel, or deer perhaps. All prints tell a story if we know how to read and interpret them. Prints in the snow are best studied when freshly made in newly fallen snow, for when snow becomes packed or blown about, prints become distorted. Check out a tracking book from your local library to assist you with track identification and reading the story that the tracks tell. If you are looking for some late season hunting opportunities, set your 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 squirrel hunters. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - A deep freeze is in effect through Wednesday at Black River with temperatures expected to warm by the end of the week to highs in the mid-20s. The forest received about 2 inches of light fluffy snow on Sunday. Not enough snow for good winter trails use but it’s a start. We are opening the trails a little early this year for ATVs. Trails will open on Friday, Dec. 13. Not enough snow yet for grooming. We will need 4 to 6 inches before we can set a base. There is a chance of more snow on Tuesday night but likely not enough for skiing. We haven’t received enough snow for good snowshoe conditions yet. Snowshoers can enjoy the 1.5 mile trail at the Smrekar parking lot. Also try the 5-mile trail that connects Pigeon Creek to Smrekar road, or the 2-mile loop around Castle Mound. Snowshoers can also go anywhere on the state forest that is not a groomed trail for a different use such as skiing or snowmobiling. - Peter Bakken, superintendent
Jackson County -
Monroe County - The bitter cold has come and ice fishermen have been out catching bluegills on Lake Tomah. They are experiencing a constant bite, but the fish have been averaging a little smaller than last year. There is a few inches of snow on the ground, so antlerless gun deer hunters should be able to tell where to concentrate their efforts for the antlerless gun deer season. Coyote is considered small game and hunters are reminded that it is unlawful to use bait, including placing a deer carcass, to hunt small game. - Matthew Modjeski, conservation warden, Sparta