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Outdoor Report for November 20, 2014  Published 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).

Wisconsin's statewide nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday, with the peak of the rut - or deer mating season - past peak but with bucks still very active across the state. Hunters will likely observe many deer, both bucks and does, still exhibiting breeding behaviors.

This year, hunters will see some important rule changes implemented as a result of Deer Trustee Report recommendations and extensive input from the hunting public. One of the most significant is that deer management zones are now by county boundaries, so it will be important for hunters to know their locations. There are a number of useful resources to help hunters learn the new rules. All hunters are encouraged to review the 2014 deer hunting regulations [PDF] and FAQs, available by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "deer."

In the far north, hunters will have their work cut out for them as there are anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of snow in central Wisconsin to 20-plus inches of snow in the far north, with the Montreal-Gile areas reporting as much as 70 inches of snow. In the south, there is still a lot of corn up for deer to hide in.

Ice has frozen over lakes in many areas and ice anglers have started venturing out, but wardens are cautioning it is still thin and there is no such thing as "safe ice." There is up to 3 inches of ice on some smaller lakes and bays in the north, and ice has formed on lakes as far south as Lake Wisconsin and Yellowstone Lake. The Madison lakes were still open this week. The Lower Wisconsin River has been choked full with slushy ice floes.

On Green Bay, many of the launches have begun to ice over limiting fishing access. Lake Michigan tributaries are starting to freeze over, but harbors still have open and fishable water and anglers were having some success with brown and rainbow trout.

Turkeys have still been active in and around harvested crop fields but the regular fall season closes today. A fall turkey season extension reopens in zones 1-5, on Dec. 1 and runs through Dec. 31. With the cold weather and ice forming, many waterfowl have pulled out with mainly geese and diving ducks left on what open water remains.

With good snow in the north, many state forest and some state park properties have rolled and packed cross-country ski trails, but have not groomed them yet for skiing. Skiers may use the trails, but they also remain open to hikers and snowshoers. Hunters use many forest trials to access hunting site, and some areas of state parks are also open for deer hunting. All park and forest users should wear blaze orange or brightly colored clothes and hunters and park visitors should check state hunting maps for areas that are open and closed to hunting.

Snowy owls are again making a move into Wisconsin with at least 31 individuals tallied in the state so far, compared to only two owls by Nov. 20 in 2013. However, it's too early to say why it's happening or how it will ultimately compare in magnitude to last winter's remarkable irruption. Pine siskins, American goldfinches, and purple finches have been especially prevalent statewide while common redpolls have invaded mostly the northern tier of counties, where evening grosbeaks are also being seen in above-average numbers, with small numbers of Bohemian waxwings and pine grosbeaks also found.

Statewide Birding Report

Snowy owls are again making a move into Wisconsin and the eastern U.S. At least 31 individuals have been tallied in the state so far, compared to only two owls by Nov 20 in 2013. However, it's too early to say why it's happening or how it will ultimately compare in magnitude to last winter's remarkable irruption. A map showing some of this year's sightings (exit DNR) is available on the Internet. Birders are encouraged to report their snowy owl sightings to www.ebird.org/wi (exit DNR). Other winter birds are also making headlines. Pine siskins, American goldfinches, and purple finches have been especially prevalent statewide while common redpolls have invaded mostly the northern tier, though reports have come from as far south as Richland and Dane counties. Evening grosbeaks are frequenting northern counties in above-average numbers, with small numbers of Bohemian waxwings and pine grosbeaks also found. Now is a great time to check fruit-bearing trees and shrubs for these frugivores while providing black-oil sunflower and nyjer (thistle) seeds for the grosbeaks and finches. Feeder watchers have also found fox sparrows in good numbers recently. The season's early cold and ice have moved waterfowl along more quickly than usual. However, Madison birders report good numbers of tundra swans on area lakes this week and this weekend's warmer weather forecast should provide some good waterfowl watching at traditional wetland and lake sites, including along Lake Michigan. Though many remain, sandhill crane numbers steadily declined across the state this week as birds departed on cold northwest winds en route to southern wintering grounds. Rarities this week included Anna's hummingbird in Dane County, rufous hummingbird in Manitowoc, Townsend's solitaires in Bayfield and Door, western grebes in Racine and Manitowoc, and harlequin duck in Sheboygan. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

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Northern Region

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Bayfield County - Bobcat/coyote and wolf hunters are taking advantage of the more than 5 inches of fresh tracking snow the Drummond area received the past two days, adding to the more than 14 inches of snow already in the woods. The snow our area received was light and dry snow and it has settled out to be about 10 inches in depth. Hunter should not forget snow shovels; Most tote roads and smaller none maintained Forrest Roads will require four-wheel drive vehicles to access these areas, but most are accessible. Deer are feeding on the acorns, so a hint to deer hunters, find the oak ridges and you will find the deer. Rutting activity still appears to be ongoing, with fresh scraps still being seen in the landscape. Ice has started to form on many of the local lakes, though the bigger lakes are still showing areas of open water; ice fishing season is just around the corner. Though most maintain snowmobiles trails in the area don't open until after the gun deer season, snowmobiles have been seen taking advantage of the local road routes and non-maintain roadways enjoying the early snow conditions. - Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Interstate Park - Approximately 8-10 inches of wet snow fell on Nov 10, followed by a few inches of accumulated powder, making tracks and other evidence of winter wildlife easy to spot. Watch for bald eagles and migrating waterfowl along the St. Croix River. Deer and turkey are often observed near the Ice Age Center. The Skyline Trail is currently closed due to logging operations adjacent to the trail. Other hiking trails are open, but none are maintained for winter use. Winter hiking on the bluff trails is not recommended. Please refer to the Winter Map to locate winter recreation trails. The St. Croix River is beginning to freeze up. Lake O' the Dalles is ice covered.The main park road is open and plowed, including the Pines Group Camp. - Julie Fox, natural resources educator

Straight Lake State Park- There is approximately 10 -12 inches of snow on the ground, making for good conditions for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. There are no groomed trails specifically for snowshoeing or skiing, and the only designated trail is the Ice Age Trail. If you are willing to explore, there are several nice areas in the park to snowshoe or ski. Ice has started to form on Straight Lake, and with continued cold temperatures, ice will form quickly. Park Staff does not monitor ice conditions. As a reminder, trout fishing is now closed on Rainbow Lake and gasoline powered ice augers are prohibited. With snow on the ground, now is a good time to check for tracks left in the snow. Tracks you may find include deer, otter and fisher. Hunting is now open in the park. Please see the Straight Lake Hunting map for open and closed areas. Roads to and in the property (construction, detours, etc.): Parking lots for accessing the park are located off the intersections of 120th St. & 270th Ave and 130th St. & 280th Ave. A 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for accessing these lots in winter. -Matthew Densow, ranger

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The unseasonably cold fall weather has resulted in most lakes becoming iced up in the last week, though many of the larger and deeper lakes still have areas of open water. The lakes that have become iced over have real variable ice thicknesses, with about 3 inches in near shore areas and only 1 to 2 inches out toward the deeper water. Even with several nights of single-digit low temperatures, ice thickness has been slow to increase and potential early-season anglers should wait another week or so until the ice depths reach the 4 inch level. But - there have been the first few reports of adventurous anglers getting out on the 3 inches of ice in the shallow bays and near-shore areas. These early-season anglers have mostly been targeting walleye and success has been just fair, with most of the fish running small and in the 10- to 14-inch size. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - There is approximately 12 inches of snow in the woods. The cross-country ski trail was packed and rolled but no tracks will be set till after the deer gun hunting season. Some ice chunks are floating along the river and local lakes are starting to ice over. There are some new faces on the forest with a bull elk and two cows sighted. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate

Wisconsin is engaged in restoring wild elk in Northwestern Wisconsin. In addition to the elk in the Clam and Moose Lake and Butternut areas, this includes the new elk area of the Flambeau River State Forest, Kimberly Clark Wildlife Area, and portions of the Sawyer, Price and Rusk County Forest. During January and February 2014 elk were trapped in the Clam Lake Area and moved down into this area. We plan to do more this coming winter. This is the start where we hope to eventually release about 75 elk to start another sub-population of elk in a region that includes eastern Sawyer County, northern Rusk County, and western Price County. During surveys and public meetings 95 percent of participating citizens supported this effort to restore elk in this region. Deer hunters in particular have supported this effort. We hope that this will include deer hunters, this deer season and in future deer seasons, to be particularly careful when targeting their deer. Please be careful of your target and make sure it's a deer. Cow elk are five times bigger than their doe cousins. Bull elk are five times bigger than their buck cousins with antlers that sweep back rather than hooking forward as with a buck deer. This time of year elk calves are the size of adult doe deer. The white-tailed deer is aptly named with a tall white tail, with white inside their flanks. Elk have a stubby tail, barely seen on a large buff rump patch. During the past 19 years there have been three Wisconsin cow elk accidently shot by deer hunters. These elk are the future of our herd. We need as many elk as possible to survive, so hunters please help by making sure it is a DEER this season. Thank you for your help and thank you for your support of Wisconsin Wild Elk! - Laine Stowell, wildlife biologist

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The forest easily has 12-20-plus inches of snow as one travels from south to north! Hunters will have their work cut out for them during the upcoming deer season. The landscape looks like late December instead of mid-November, reminding folks of the winters "the way it used to be." Songbirds are hitting the bird feeders with fervor and the gray squirrels can be seen feverishly building their winter warm nests. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Langlade County - In the Antigo Area there are 8 to 11 inches of snow on the ground. The ground under the snow is not frozen in most places so hunters can expect poor access in to swamps or other wet areas. The rut is still on going and probably will have peaked by the time the gun deer season begins. Bow hunters have been reporting a wide range of deer observations. Deer numbers are most abundant in the southern most portion of our area and less abundant in the far north. Hunters are reminded that a majority of the area is a "buck only" season this as a result of last winters impact on the deer herd. Be sure to check the Deer regulation pamphlet for more information.- Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo

Council Grounds State Park - The cross country ski trails have been groomed and tracked. Ski trail conditions vary from fair to poor with some bare spots. The campground has closed for the season, and docks have been taken out at the boat landing. - Sara J. Gossfeld-Benzing, ranger-assistant property manager, Council Grounds State Park

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled by David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay

Marinette County - With the cold and snowy weather, perch fishing has been suspended until the ice is thick enough to walk on. The only fishing activity observed last week was in the vicinity of the Hattie Street Dam. Walleye and a few brown trout are being caught using a variety of methods, including jig and crawler, slip bobbers, and small spoons or stick baits. Whitefish top the list with most anglers using bobbers or small jigs, line ice up is a problem but for the hearty souls, who put in the time, some nice catches of white fish between 17 and 22 inches has been their reward. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - At Geano Beach it was mostly all duck hunter launching. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Brown County - Fox River anglers that were launching from metro and De Pere were in search of Musky or Walleye. Anglers fishing from shore were in search of Walleye at Voyager Park using crank baits. No success was reported. The launch at the Fair Ground in De Pere has formed a thin layer of ice, but Metro and Fox Point are still open. Suamico River anglers at the beginning of the week were having success for yellow perch using minnows and crawler chunks floating just off the bottom. As the week went on the Suamico River has formed a layer of ice, which is kept open in the middle by duck hunter's boats. The river is mainly frozen over. The Long Tail Point launches have an ice cover. Duck Creek has a layer of ice on it. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Governor Thompson State Park - The trails are now snow covered and open to hikers. We will not be grooming ski trails until after Dec. 1. The boat launch facilities on Caldron Falls are iced in. Woods Lake is almost frozen over. The park is open for bow hunting until Jan. 4, 2015. Gun hunting will end Dec. 15. Please, stop at the office for hunting maps. There are two separate refuges in the park where hunting is not permitted. - Maggie Kailhofer, park manager

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - Recent snows are making it easier for bow hunters to track game, but it is yet to be determined whether or not that snow will still be on the ground this Saturday for the nine-day gun hunting opener. Weather forecasts for the area are predicting a weekend in the upper 30s and into the 40s. Small rivers and lakes are starting to freeze over, making launching boats for fishing and duck hunting difficult. It is not recommended that people venture out onto the ice, as thickness can vary throughout the day depending on recent temperatures and currents. All hunters, except migratory bird hunters, going out hunting anything during the nine-day gun season and the following muzzleloader season, are required to wear 50 percent blaze orange from the waist up. - Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Green Bay

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Potawatomi State Park - The ground is frozen following about 10 days of below freezing temperatures. A couple of inches of snow on the ground has been redistributed in places by strong winds. Turkeys are picking up corn in recently harvested fields adjoining the park. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - The northern part of the county received another inch of snow the other night. Bucks are still very active but expect that activity to wind down as we come into opening weekend. Some corn is being taken off but a lot will remain standing heading into the opener. A reminder to folks that intend to operate deer drives to set up a plan and be sure everyone understands the plan. - Mark Schraufnagel, conservation warden, Shawano

With the approaching albeit brief warm-up coming, it should be near ideal deer hunting conditions. With the additional inch we got today we have 100 percent snow cover. Rut has really slowed down the last couple days. Many waterfowl have pulled out with mainly geese and diving ducks left on what open water remains. Ice fishing has begun on some lakes with reports of up to 6 inches of ice on some bays. Winter sure came early this year. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Waushara County - Snow is still hanging around as the county received another 1-2 inches Wednesday morning. Deer are still on the move in pockets it seems with mixed reports of rutting activities. The peak seems like it may be over for the year. With the cold the deer also appear to have changed to more of a winter feeding pattern and are hitting different areas than the past few weeks. Those hunting in the lower marsh areas will find some ice, but be careful out there as a lot of moving water underneath is keeping some of those spots unsafe for folks to venture out on. Be sure to follow the four rules of firearm safety while everyone is out there during deer season! Remember a safe hunt IS a successful hunt. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Outagamie County - Hunters will have plenty of tracking snow for the opening weekend. With the cold weather marshes will be frozen over making access easy for hunters. The Wolf River bayous are frozen over but anglers should check ice thickness and wear a life jacket prior to venturing out onto the new ice. Waterfowl have left the area with the exception of geese. There is a lot of corn up and the farmers are working at getting it cut but there still will be plenty of corn up for the deer to hide in. Hunters should be very careful if they attempt to drive a corn field the drivers should never fire while in the cornfield and leave that to the standers. - Mike Young, conservation warden, Shiocton

Winnebago County - Hard to believe the statewide nine-day gun deer season is right around the corner opening on Saturday. Weather conditions have been cold but deer have been in the rutting phase. There are many changes involving the gun deer season so hunters need to be especially careful and read the regulations this year. Even with change there are always things that don't change and that would be safety. This includes both tree stand safety and firearm safety. One out of every three hunters will at some point in time fall from a tree stand. Easy solution is wear a harness and move slow up and down slippery ladders or steps. Firearm safety is one thing that if everyone followed we would see no hunting accidents. Every hunter should follow TABK and never be a statistic. The most important thing is not that you harvest a deer but that you go home safely each and every day when leaving the woods. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - With the light dusting of snow at present, get out soon to enjoy some easy mammal tracking opportunities. The snow may not last long, however, so hurry up! The lakes are beginning to ice over, with waterfowl congregating in the small open areas. Early winter migrants are being observed within Milwaukee County and along Lake Michigan, such as scaup and merganser, as well as pine siskins and juncos. No snowy owls spotted yet this year in Milwaukee, but there are currently 30 independent observations across Wisconsin. The nine-day gun season runs until Nov. 30, and the metro unit stays open for gun hunting through Dec. 10. There are also opportunities now and coming up for the deer archery season, late season turkey, cottontail, and pheasant. Best of luck this deer season, and be safe! - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist & regional educator, Waukesha

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The snowmaking crew has been very hard at work making snow 24 hours a day since Sunday (earliest start on record). A short shut down Wednesday due to temperatures, wind and the pond water level being low. Snowmaking has been going well, seven guns have been making snow steadily since Sunday night. The new pump which you contributed to, generates higher water pressure and volume. In the past the old pump could only supply five guns maximum. The new pump is capable of supplying many more snow guns than are available. It is anticipated that by the end of Thursday night the warm-up loop and magic carpet ride will be snow covered. However - the snow has not yet been spread. With some time needed to let the made snow dry out and a weather prediction for rain on the weekend, the snow will not be spread until next week, possibly Wednesday. Thanks much and there might be skiing before Thanksgiving, which would be a first. - Paul Sandgren, property supervisor

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

This recent cold snap has Southeast Wisconsin area tributaries starting to freeze over, but local harbors still have open and fishable water. Brown trout and rainbow trout are drawn to the rivers and harbors this time of year and can provide good fishing action.

Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan stretches of the Sheboygan River below the Kohler dam should still have open water. At the lakefront, anglers working the docks near the Deland Marina have picked up a few rainbows. Spawn and skein under a bobber have been effective.

Ozaukee County - Port Washington anglers fishing the harbor have been catching a few browns and rainbows near the power plant. Skein and spawn sacs have both been effective.

Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee some browns have been caught by anglers fishing the Milwaukee River from North Avenue to Estabrook Park. Shoreline anglers near the Summerfest grounds have also been taking a few browns here and there. The fishing pier at the Oak Creek Power Plant is now closed for the winter months, and it is scheduled to reopen on March 15.

Racine County - In Racine shore anglers fishing in Reefpoint Marina have been catching a few browns and steelhead on skein, spawn sacs, and white tube jigs fished under slip bobbers. Slow moving stretches of the Root River are iced over, but there is open water below the Horlick dam as well as below the Main Street Bridge. DNR crews conducting boom shocking surveys saw fewer brown trout this week compared to the past couple of weeks. Occasional steelhead have also been seen in the river and harbor.

Waukesha DNR Service Center area

Waukesha County - Best of luck to deer hunters during the upcoming season. The amount of standing corn in the area decreases by the day. Light snow cover and warmer temperatures than last year on opening day should be good news for hunters. Frozen cattails should also provide great access to interior areas of state properties. Hunt safe, hunt smart! - Kelly VanBeek, wildlife biologist, Waukesha

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Duck hunting on Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area has pretty much ended for the time being since open water areas have frozen over, including the Rock River and the main pool above the dam. Hunters and trappers should use extreme caution if attempting to walk across the ice due to the unfrozen river and stream channels and springs under the shelf ice. Quite a few Canada geese are still around the area, roosting on top of the ice or on unfrozen ponds or lakes such as Hasmer Lake near Jackson. Goose hunters need to scout and find fields where the geese are flying out to feed, and seek permission to goose hunt from the landowners. Entry into the two Theresa Marsh "Wildlife Refuges" for Gun Deer Hunting Only is allowed beginning Saturday morning, Nov. 22. Entry into the refuges for other activities including pheasant and small game hunting, trapping, bow hunting, and hiking not allowed until Monday, Dec. 1. Prior to those dates, public entry into the refuges is prohibited. The snowmobile/pedestrian bridge construction project on Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area is nearly complete. The site is located north and west of the intersection of Hwy. 60 and Hwy. G. A few minor finishing touches to the bridge railings and deck still need to be completed, but hunters can already walk across the bridge to reach their hunting locations. Recent wildlife sightings around the area include a mottled snowy owl on the east side of Theresa Marsh, a pair of pileated wood peckers on the Loew Lake Unit (the male wood pecker being chased in loops by a crow), a bald eagle over the east shore of Pike Lake, and an otter downstream from the Theresa Marsh dam. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

Sturtevant DNR Service Center area

Racine County - The colder temperatures have created ice on shallow water bodies forcing waterfowl to migrate south or move to larger lakes and fields. Earlier in the week waves of sandhill cranes were seen flying over Kenosha County heading south on migration. Hunters are gearing up for the upcoming nine-day gun deer season and will find conditions good in the two counties. Corn crops on wildlife properties have been harvested, with some scattered stands left for wildlife. Recent reports have shown increased deer activity in the area with bucks fighting and chasing does. Despite good conditions forecasted weather for opening weekend may make things a little sloppy though. The forecast calls temperatures above freezing and with some rain. DNR staff will be at deer registration stations in Paddock Lake and Tichigan aging deer on Saturday and Sunday. For the gun deer hunters a reminder that Gander Mountain in Kenosha is not serving as a deer registration station this year. Hunters can use the Paddock Sporting Goods Store on Hwy. 50 in Paddock Lake to register their deer. The store's address is 23522 75th St (Hwy. 50) and the phone number is 262-843-1625. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Grant County - Conditions look good in Grant and Richland counties for the opening weekend of gun deer season. The deer herd has increased slightly from the past two seasons. Despite the late spring this year, adult deer made it through the past winter in good health and had good reproduction this summer. There is currently 1 to 2 inches of snow on the ground in most places, except some south facing slopes are completely bare. Water conditions in the Wisconsin River valley will make some areas inaccessible this year. Ongoing high water in the bottomland forests has cut off access to some low-lying areas, and the ice is not quite thick enough to walk on in most places. Don't plan on putting a boat in the river, as it is choked full with slushy ice floes. Most landings are also iced in. If you hunt higher ground, or are willing to walk in a distance, you should have great conditions for opening weekend. Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 40s both days, with a chance of rain or freezing rain, more so on Sunday. Plan your hunt, dress well, be safe and have fun! - Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel

Iowa County - There is some rutting activity still remaining in bucks, but the recent snow seems to have dampened it a bit. About 2 inches of snow is still on the ground, but warm weather for the nine-day opener will make that disappear quickly. Turkeys are still very active in and around harvested crop fields. Pheasant stocking on public hunting grounds will cease during the deer season, but will return after the season until mid-December. Winter migratory birds are arriving, including fox sparrows, tree sparrows, purple finches, and rough-legged hawks. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville

The lakes and rivers have begun to freeze over. If you are going to be out recreating near the water, be aware of changing ice conditions. Sporadic waterfowl are still in the area. Wardens have not encountered many waterfowl hunters in the field. Looks like the Dodgeville area is slated for a slight warm up for the opening weekend of the gun deer season. The deer are out moving and sounds like it should be a productive season. There is still quite a bit of standing corn in Iowa County, which makes for great places for the deer to hide. When out in the field this weekend, please remember TABK - Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, Always point the muzzle in a safe direction, Be certain of your target and what's beyond it, Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. Good luck! - Adam Stennett, conservation warden recruit and Al Erickson, conservation warden Dodgeville

Lafayette County - Yellowstone Lake is completely ice covered and no longer safe for use by most boats. The whitetail rut is still on. Northern waterfowl are moving through. - Nick Webster, conservation warden, Darlington

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - The Horicon Marsh has frozen over. Duck hunting is now limited to surrounding fields and area lakes that have not frozen completely over. Muskrat huts are becoming increasingly evident on the landscape. Don't let the bitter cold stop you from taking a hike on Horicon Marsh, fresh snow has opened up the opportunity for identifying what critters are active by observing their tracks in the snow. Wildlife staff are hurriedly preparing supplies for aging and sampling deer during the upcoming deer season. Good luck to all of the hunters venturing into the woods this weekend! - Jennifer Wirth, visitor services specialist

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Ice fishing has begun on Lake Wisconsin. Anglers are chasing after bluegills and northern pike at the Grade. Anglers are urged to use caution as the ice is still very thin. Other smaller bodies of water are also freezing up, limiting most waterfowl hunters' options to field hunting. Deer movement continues to be very good although the cold weather has deterred many archery hunters. As of Nov. 18, there is about 2 inches of snow on the ground. - Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette

Dane County - Rough-legged Hawks and northern shrikes have moved into the area. Pine siskins and purple finches are being found all over the county. There are still a fair number of mallards and geese around. Madison lakes are not frozen (yet). Deer are still rutting - some good movement in the late afternoon.- Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

La Crosse County - In the La Crosse area Coulee Region there is 3 inches of snow on the ground and the backwaters of the Mississippi River are starting the freeze up. Deer are still active with the rut winding down and if you can find open water there are a lot of migrant mallards around. With the cold weather and ice on many of the backwaters ice fishermen are starting to venture out. Remember there is no such thing as safe ice so use caution if venturing out onto the ice to fish or looking for open water for a late season waterfowl hunt. - Tyler Strelow, warden supervisor, La Crosse

Vernon County - Waterfowl hunting on the Mississippi River is coming to a rapid close as frigid temperatures have brought ice to much of the river's favorite waterfowl hunting areas. Icy conditions at boat launches are also hampering waterfowl hunting access. Deer rutting behavior has peaked, but bucks remain very active. Gun deer hunters will likely observe many deer, both bucks and does, exhibiting breeding behaviors. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - There is currently 2 to 3 inches of snow on the ground. All trails are open for hiking and snowshoeing. Temperatures this weekend are looking to be a little warmer than last year's gun deer opener, with highs in the 30s to low 40s and a slight chance of freezing rain. There is not enough snow to pack or groom the trails. Trails are open to hikers and snowshoers until they are groomed. New this year: there is a 0.6 mile trail off the current snowshoe trail at the Smrekar parking lot. This trail joins up with part of the Ridge trail, offering great vistas and more challenging terrain. Snowshoers can enjoy the one mile and 0.6 mile trails at the Smrekar parking lot, the three mile trail that connects Pigeon Creek to Smrekar Road or the 1.5 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. All snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle trails are now closed. Trails will reopen December 15 weather permitting. -Emily Alf, visitor services associate

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Last Revised: Thursday, November 20, 2014