A surprise spring treat.
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The amount of press the squeaky wheel is getting talking about our deer population is unbelievable. Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, we had the best deer hunting and viewing ever! It was great if you liked to hunt and see deer like I do. For years we were told by the DNR there were too many deer, and they were right. We lost some valuable undergrowth and other plant species we may never get back, nor do we know what impact this large herd can have on the environment. For years we all knew the deer population needed to be reduced. Now, so many who forgot all this so quickly are ready to crucify the DNR. For those who don't like smaller herds, get off your bait piles and those permanent small houses you call "deer stands" and learn to hunt. Deer numbers are low, I agree. We have come off the third and fourth worst winters on record, the highest coyote and wolf populations on record and the DNR herd reduction program is finally making an impact. Populations will fluctuate – get used to it or quit hunting.
I cannot agree more with the letter in the February Readers Write section. Baiting must be banned statewide. There is absolutely no natural deer movement any more. People have become baiters instead of hunters. Case in point: we hunt Lincoln and Price counties and walk through woods during deer season. Tracks are very hard to find until you find a bait pile, which is becoming quite often. Everyone up here baits, whether it's on private or public land. I have been deer hunting for over 40 years and in the early 2000s started to see fewer and fewer deer but more and more baiting each year. I'm not sure why people think baiting is the answer unless people are just getting lazier.
My group talked to the wardens in Tomahawk who explained what happens with baiting. The first deer into a bait pile: a nubbin buck. Next is the yearling doe, adult doe and then the mature buck, usually at night. People shoot the first deer they see come in, the yearling buck. That's the reason they told us buck sightings are decreasing all around the state, coupled with the T-zone hunt. Baiting has become the number one ticketed offense during hunting season. And that's just the ones they catch! When you ask a person why they bait they say that's the only way to get a deer. This has become an epidemic. You don't see hunters walking in the woods any more, just sitting in a tree stand near a pile of corn, pumpkins and cabbage. This has become a sorry state. I will personally never stop hunting, but my expectations for deer hunting in Wisconsin have never been lower. Not even the 1960s were this disappointing.
I've hunted deer for 70 years in Wisconsin and other states and countries. I have never experienced a season as poor as this last one. In reading your magazine, I see a lot of people against baiting. Baiting is one of the safest hunting practices. Nobody has ever been shot over a bait set. However, when I first started hunting, we did not bait. At that time we made drives. The first day you could find deer almost anywhere. After that, you had to drive the thickets and swamps to get the deer moving. I think this idea of deer becoming nocturnal because of baiting is all wet. In recent years I sat over bait stands from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I got a lot of nice bucks.
My experience is the deer become very cautious. Once you start shooting, the deer head for cover. Now most of my hunting is done on public land, either federal or county forest. These hunters claiming deer become nocturnal should get off their stands and start making drives to get deer moving. They have a lot to learn about deer habits.
Just a few thoughts on Preparing to adapt, your climate change piece in February. The Lake Mendota ice study is hardly representative of lakes in Wisconsin. Lake Mendota is surrounded by streets and receives more salt, less ice plus whatever 150 years of other water pollution has caused. It is also interesting that the WICCI has distanced itself from the Governor's Task Farce on Global Warming. How will the ballooning need for wind generators affect the tourist industry across our beautiful state?
Several other more immediate issues need to be addressed first. Precipitation and runoff problems need to be addressed by communities. Until Milwaukee stops discharging untreated sewage with rain runoff into Lake Michigan, Wisconsin won't have much of a say when getting together with other states and Canada. Likewise, our state has been very slow to act on invasive species caused by Great Lakes shipping and the Asian carp invasion.
Limnologist and Lake Mendota expert Professor John Magnuson responds...
Lake Mendota is in no way unique in its decreasing ice cover. This feature is shared with other lakes in Wisconsin, across the Great Lakes Region, and around the Northern Hemisphere. Many of these lakes are in areas where road salt is not applied and the salinity of the lake is not changing. While the increasing salt content of the Lake Mendota water is not a welcome trend for the quality of our waters, the salt levels are insufficient to change the freezing point depression of water significantly. The trends in lake ice cover on Lake Mendota are not explained by local causes but rather are a response to more global forces.
Regarding why the WICCI research is separate from the Global Task Force recommendations, the article authors respond...
The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) is and has always been independent from the Governor's Global Warming Task Force, which examined sources of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. WICCI concerns itself with the impacts of changes in our climate, which have been recorded in the historical record, and which appear to be accelerating. Wisconsin's climate is changing and WICCI was established to analyze and respond to these changes.
I flatly disagree with statements that spring arrivals of some migrating birds have changed due to climate change. When I was six, I was already observing birds on my grandfather's farm. Now I am 66 and have identified over 200 species in Sheboygan County. I see absolutely no major changes whatsoever in the approximate arrival dates of birds in this county in the past half century due to climate change. Yes, there is some year-to-year fluctuation due to exceptionally cold or warm springs. This is more true of birds wintering just south of Wisconsin like red-winged blackbirds, robins and song sparrows.
For me, the harbingers of spring are the red-winged blackbirds because they arrive in large numbers, sometimes in late February, last year on March 14.
Most warblers arrive often in waves starting in May. Books such as Samuel D. Robbins' Wisconsin Birdlife Past and Present and the Golden Guide to Birds of North America show the approximate arrival dates are essentially consistent with my observations in the last half century.
Ornithologist Stanley Temple at the Aldo Leopold Foundation provided this...
There are two types of migrants in Wisconsin: (1) short distance migrants that breed here and spend the winter somewhere in North America, often just a few hundred miles south of us (examples are American robins, red-winged blackbirds, eastern phoebes and most grassland birds). The timing of their return to the breeding range is strongly influenced by seasonal changes in temperature and can vary quite a bit from year to year with weather. (2) long-distance migrants that breed here but spend the winter far to the south in Central America, the Caribbean and South America (examples are wood thrushes, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles and most warblers). The timing of their migration movements is influenced primarily by photoperiod (changes in day length) which does not vary over time.
Several long-term studies in Wisconsin (my own using data from the Wisconsin Checklist Project and the Leopold family's phenological data) show a clear distinction between these two groups. Short-distance migrants (e.g., American robins) have been arriving back in Wisconsin about a day or so earlier each decade since the 1930s, whereas long-distance migrants (e.g., wood thrushes) have not changed their schedule. The earlier arrivals of short-distance migrants are correlated with observed climate change. I suspect the writer may have been reflecting primarily on the May arrival of the long-distance migrants, and he's correct in his observations.
[Editor's note: A story and poster celebrating 20 years of recycling in Wisconsin (Recycling roundtable, February 2010) received kudos from recycling specialists and others around the state. DNR's Recycling Outreach Coordinator Elisabeth Olson shares several with magazine readers.]
I saw your piece on recycling in Wisconsin Natural Resources. It was really interesting and informative. Please extend my appreciation to all involved. The presentation was excellent.
Your new postings and updates are really fantastic! I thought the roundtable session was so well done with a dynamic group. Excellent! Please let your colleagues know that they are doing a great job.
Thanks again! This poster is so well done and addresses so many of the most frequently asked questions that we receive all the time. And the information is all presented in such a way that it truly can be used anywhere in the state regardless of minor program differences! Love it!
Love the poster! I would like a few, especially for the schools I hope to get into the Green School Program this year.
When I saw the letter in the February Readers Write column that asks about a story told from the snake's perspective, I thought of A Snake in the House by Faith McNulty. This children's book, beautifully illustrated by Ted Rand, is probably not what the letter writer had in mind, but I find it charming.
In your February issue, on the back cover, you show the lower Tomahawk River Pines State Natural Area. This is a beautiful area and I wish in future planning that it be enlarged to protect the Tomahawk River. I have made many canoe trips on the Tomahawk River and hope more of the adjacent areas could be secured with public bonds to preserve the river's natural setting.
It is our observation that because of a cool summer 2009 and later blooming native host and nectar sources for pollinators, we are already witnessing a decline in monarch butterflies (life cycle) at two monarch butterfly habitat areas we maintain in Shell Lake.
We plan to work with Native American Butterfly Association on the National July 4 Butterfly Counts, Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, Univ. of Minn. and Xeriscape Foundation to monitor butterfly species this summer.
I have enjoyed hunting and eating morel mushrooms for many years. We all know that dead elms are places to start looking for mushrooms, but they can be found in other unusual, surprising places. Heart surgery curtailed my spring hunt last year and I am convinced this mushroom came to me. We found this 5 ½-inch beauty growing out of the concrete between our garage and an attached extension. It grew out of the corner where the sidewalk attaches to the buildings in the southeast corner. Have you heard of a stranger place? It didn't make a big meal but it reminded us what a treat it is to enjoy this springtime treasure.
I work at Wehr Nature Center near Milwaukee where we do a maple sugaring program and produce a few gallons of syrup each year. Your article about maple sugaring at the Mackenzie Environmental Education Center (A sweet treat in the season of melting snow, February 2010) was excellent with the exception of the advice on drilling depth for spiles. You said tapped holes should be three to four inches deep. If you take a look at cross-sections of trees eligible for tapping, you'll quickly see a three- to four-inch-deep hole will often penetrate the heartwood. That will shorten the life of trees significantly. It would be tragic if people were to tap a 100-year-old sugar maple tree at three to four inches deep, even though there is a chance the heartwood wouldn't be penetrated. We tell people a two-inch deep hole is the maximum depth to drill for any tree.
Once the line is crossed beyond the sapwood into the heartwood there is no going back, so taking chances with a three- to four-inch deep hole is like loving trees to death. Don't unknowingly cause the early death of an old tree just to get a little sugar out of it.
WNR magazine replies...
Good advice. Since the spile is only about four inches long and part of it needs to protrude to hang a pail or attach a drip tube, only drill a tap hole about two inches deep and don't tap trees that are less than 10 inches in diameter (about 40 years old) so you will only penetrate the sapwood, which can heal.
I was rereading some old DNR magazine articles and have a question about hybrid (tiger) muskies. I understand how hybrid muskies occur naturally. The northern pike and musky both spawn in the same areas, with the northern pike spawning first. Some of the smaller male pike hang around looking for late-spawning females and sometimes cross breed with the early arriving female muskies. I assume that hatchery hybrids are made the same way (female musky, male northern pike). Is there a hybrid made by crossing female northern pike with male musky? I can see how it would be unlikely to happen in nature, but has this ever been tried in a hatchery? I don't think it would be a useful hybrid, with the fish probably retaining the smaller size of the northern pike, but I was just wondering if it has ever been tried and what the fish looked like.
Al Kaas, DNR's Statewide Fish Propagation Coordinator replies...
The reciprocal cross (male muskellunge x female northern pike) is possible to make in the hatchery, but Wisconsin has not done this. I understand that the egg survival is very low and that survivors do not grow nearly as well. Incidentally, the Wisconsin DNR no longer rears the hybrid (tiger) muskellunge (female muskellunge x male northern pike) in its hatcheries.
With the advent of hunting clothes, the fact that they are usually heavy and wet at the end of the day, and the fact that most are sold on plastic hangers which break in cold weather, I tried a different method. Recently, when clearing out closets from an estate, I had an excess of wire hangers – as do most thrift shops. I used Havahart® rabbit trap clips shown – which I had used for making tree protectors from plastic chicken wire for tree plantings – and clipped three old metal hangers together as shown. They can handle the weight of wet clothes, are very strong and are a much better use than recycling the old hangers. If you wish, you can wrap them with gimp, or dip them to prevent rust. Make sure you place the clips where no cloth will contact them.