MADISON - Pheasant broods and production both saw an increase this year, and the Oct. 17 pheasant hunting opener signals another exciting year in the field for upland bird hunters.
Several other seasons open Oct. 17, including bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse in Zone B and Hungarian partridge. The bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at noon, while the ruffed grouse season will open with the start of legal shooting hours.
"This fall should provide some excellent opportunities for Wisconsin's pheasant hunters," said Krista McGinley, acting upland wildlife ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "The number of pheasant broods seen during this year's 10-week brood survey was up 67 percent compared to last year, and pheasant production was up in both the primary and secondary pheasant range."
Hunters are encouraged to review the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations [PDF] booklet for rules and season structures. For an in-depth look at this year's fall bird hunting seasons, check out the department's 2015 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF].
Pheasants are one of the most sought-after gamebirds in North America, and populations tend to fare well in the agricultural landscape of southern Wisconsin, provided there is sufficient habitat to meet their food and cover needs.
According to McGinley, hunters who wish to pursue wild pheasants should look for landscapes that include a mix of several cover types. Agricultural areas made up of at least 10-15 percent grassland or idle ground with wetlands and/or shrub lands available to provide winter cover are most likely to hold pheasants.
During the 2014 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 46,855 hunters pursued pheasants, with 294,483 birds harvested. Fond du Lac, Jefferson and Kenosha counties were among the top counties for pheasant harvest last year.
On Oct. 17 and 18, the daily bag limit is one pheasant cock, while the possession limit is two. For the remainder of the season (Oct. 19 to Dec. 31), the daily bag limit is two pheasant cocks, with a possession limit of four.
Some public hunting grounds offer both hen and rooster pheasant hunting, and some properties also have 2 p.m. closure times, which are only in effect on weekdays from Oct. 20 to Nov. 2.
A 2015 Pheasant Stamp is required to hunt pheasants statewide. Please note that free leg tags previously required on hen/rooster areas are no longer required. Within those areas, the daily bag limit is one pheasant daily for the first two days of the season, and two pheasants daily for the remainder of the season with a possession limit of twice the daily bag limit.
Hunters who dress pheasants in the field are reminded that the head, a fully feathered wing, or an entire leg must remain attached to the carcass while in the field and during transport.
Pheasant hunting opportunities through the mentored hunting program
This year marks the seventh year of the Mentored Hunting Program, which allows hunters age 10 or older, born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without Hunter Education certification. Participants must hunt with a mentor and comply with all the requirements of the program.
Pheasant stocking program
This fall, DNR wildlife biologists plan to release approximately 75,000 game farm pheasants on more than 90 public hunting grounds in Wisconsin. These numbers are similar to recent stocking efforts, and show a significant increase over previous years.
Pheasants raised by conservation clubs through the Day-old Chick Program will be released this fall on both designated public hunting grounds and private lands open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to notify landowners before hunting on private property open to public hunting.
Hunters can view a summary of stocked properties on the 2015 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet, available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "pheasant."
Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting tool
Those interested in hunting on DNR managed lands are reminded to check out the department's Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool. FFLIGHT helps hunters of all types locate young aspen and alder habitat, pheasant-stocked public hunting grounds and managed dove fields.
Features available within FFLIGHT can help hunters locate DNR public parking areas, overlay township descriptions and view topographic maps or aerial photos of prospective hunting areas. Users can choose which type of habitat to highlight - FFLIGHT can help you find the best grouse and woodcock cover in the woods near your cabin.
The FFLIGHT mapping application is compatible with both desktop and mobile web browsers (internet access is required). To learn more and start your search for hunting land, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "FFLIGHT."
Additional tools to help you find new places to hunt and enjoy the outdoors can be found here.
For more information regarding upland bird hunting in Wisconsin, search keyword "hunting."
MADISON - Coordination between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and Canadian National Railroad led to the safe rescue of a moose entangled in wire near a train track outside of Phillips, Wis.
On Sept. 24, Canadian Railroad staff noticed the entangled moose and contacted DNR via the call center help line. After speaking with railroad staff, DNR customer service specialists contacted the local warden and wildlife biologist.
DNR staff safely immobilized the moose and removed the wire. In less than an hour, the moose was once again free to roam the area.
If you observe an abnormal situation that involves a wild animal, please report your observation to the DNR hotline at 1-800-847-9367.
MADISON -- Fall walleye stocking is well underway as part of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, with some 355,000 of the 6 to 8 inch extended growth walleye now distributed primarily in northern lakes.
Dave Giehtbrock, fisheries culture section chief for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said plans are on track to distribute 760,000 fish this year, eclipsing last year's stocking record of 720,000 extended growth walleye. To date, 68 of 128 state waters have received the large fingerlings, with the scheduled deliveries now progressing to lakes in southern Wisconsin.
"The stocking continues to go extremely well this year, with most of the fish measuring in at more than 7 inches," Giehtbrock said. "These larger fish have an increased chance of survival and we are already seeing positive results from the previous two years of increased stocking. Depending on local conditions and forage availability, fish from the first year class of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative should be approaching legal size limits in most waters in the next two years - a real win for Wisconsin anglers."
An important part of the story in 2015 has been the growing contribution of private and tribal fish farms to the pool of fish available for stocking. During the first year of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, private and tribal fish farms contributed just under 22,000 fish. That number rose to nearly 213,000 fish in 2014 and should be even higher this year, Giehtbrock said.
In addition to fostering growth in the private aquaculture industry, the stocking also represents a win for the broader economy. Wisconsin remains one of the top three fishing destinations in the U.S. with resident and nonresident anglers generating an economic impact of nearly $2.3 billion per year, according to the American Sportfishing Association.
"Walleye remain a top objective for many recreational anglers and a large part of the tourism industry in the state is driven by anglers pursuing walleye," said Justine Hasz, DNR fisheries bureau director. "The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative is part of our overall management strategy to help restore reproducing populations in lakes that formerly supported native populations and improve the numbers in lakes that need regular stocking to maintain good fisheries."
While stocking the larger, extended growth fingerlings makes sense in some lakes, this year's stocking schedule also calls for distribution of 1.4 million small fingerlings and 15.2 million fry. Giehtbrock said DNR's fisheries biologists develop stocking plans for the different sized fish based on specific lake conditions; in some lakes the fry and smaller fingerlings perform very well and are more cost effective than the larger fish.
In 2013, Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature approved the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative with $8.2 million for state hatchery infrastructure improvements, $1.3 million additional funding for annual state hatchery operating costs, along with a one-time allotment of $2 million for private sector and tribal infrastructure improvements and $500,000 for the annual purchase of extended growth walleye from non-DNR hatcheries. Funding totaling $500,000 was approved earlier this year to continue the effort for 2015 and 2016.
During the first three years of the initiative through 2015, some 255 lakes will be stocked with more than 1.5 million extended growth walleye. Prior to 2013, the state produced about 40,000 extended growth fingerlings per year.
MADISON - In the first year when Wisconsin is using electronic registration as the sole method for hunters to register a deer they have harvested, state wildlife officials have provided hunters with a number of convenient options to consider.
Hunters can register their deer online at gamereg.wi.gov, by phone at 1-844-426-3734 (1-844-GAME-REG), or electronically at a participating in-person registration stations. A link to the electronic registration system will also be available through the Pocket Ranger app for mobile devices.
As of Sept. 27, 17,387 deer (7,236 bucks and 10,151 does) have been registered using this new system. Registration totals will be updated weekly - for more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "weekly totals."
"The feedback we've been getting from hunters so far has been positive," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "They like the convenience. The ability to register a deer online in a matter of minutes without leaving deer camp has made the process easier than ever."
While many hunters have taken advantage of the convenience of registering deer in the field, there are currently more than 200 businesses listed on the DNR website as registration stations this fall. At these locations hunters can use the online tool or a phone to register a deer. To find a nearby station, hunters should search keywords "registration stations."
It is important to remember that the harvested deer does not need to be physically with the hunter at the time of registration - all that is required is hunter and harvest information.
The registration system will prompt hunters to answer a series of questions and generate a 10-digit confirmation number, which must be written on the carcass tag attached to the harvested animal. Hunters are reminded to write the 10-digit number on their tag - feedback from the field has found that ballpoint pens are the best option for this task. When this registration number is written on the tag, the animal is considered legally registered.
All deer must be registered by 5 p.m. the day after the deer is recovered, and hunters must retain the tag with confirmation number as proof of registration until the deer has been consumed.
For more information regarding electronic registration, search keywords "electronic registration."
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff answered a number of questions about electronic registration and 2015 deer season regulations during an online chat Sept. 3. To review this chat and learn more, search keyword "chat."
Hunters are also encouraged to check out the frequently asked questions page for more information regarding several rule changes for 2015. The FAQ feature provides brief responses to a wide variety of deer hunting questions, ranging from deer management unit boundaries to antlerless permits. To view the FAQ page and more information regarding archery and crossbow deer hunting, search keyword "deer."
To receive email updates regarding deer hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "white-tailed deer" distribution list.
MADISON - Hunters and trappers of all ages who harvest their first deer, turkey, bear, bobcat, otter, fisher, or simply have a great first year in the field are encouraged to check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' selection of first harvest certificates.
Those interested can submit a photograph of their special moment to be included, as well as details about the experience. To help preserve hunting memories with friends and family, these free certificates can act as a personalized memento.
While first deer and turkey certificates remain popular throughout the state, this year hunters and trappers will also have the option to create additional certificates, including:
"You will never forget your first deer or first successful trap set, however often the first time sitting in a tree stand or setting that trap is just as memorable," said Erin Larson, DNR wildlife data coordinator. "The department is offering the first trapping and hunting experience certificates as a way to commemorate the entire experience, from the first time going into the outdoors, to the first successful harvest."
Hunters are asked to fill out information about when and where the animal was harvested. This information will be displayed on the individually customized certificate. Certificates will be sent electronically to the successful hunter within a few weeks.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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