Published November 5, 2015 by the Central Office
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For current statewide information on statewide fall color, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Fall Color Report (exit DNR).
There have still been some colorful trees in far southern Wisconsin in the last week, but wind and rain in the forecast should bring most of those down. Otherwise almost all the leaves, except from oaks, have dropped across the state.
With the leaf drop, many animals are now more visible. Deer activity has increased significantly over the last week with the white-tailed deer rut in full swing. Archery harvest is picking up, more deer are being seen during daylight hours, and there has been an increase in car-deer collisions.
Starting the week of November 9 public hunting grounds will only be stocked with pheasants once a week through the second week of December. Pheasants will not be stocked on the public hunting grounds the week of the gun deer season. Raccoon hunters are taking advantage of high raccoon numbers and are reporting successful harvests. Squirrel hunters have also been taking advantage of mild weather and with most acorns, walnuts, and hickory nuts having fallen from trees, squirrels have been busy searching the forest floor for this mast. Preliminary results show hunters took 4,163 bears during the 2015 season, down from 4,526 in 2014 but above the 3,952 take in 2013. Interest in Wisconsin bear hunting continues to grow, with more than 109,000 applications received in 2015, compared to 108,000 in 2014 and 106,000 in 2013. The Dec. 10 deadline to apply for the 2016 bear season is now just a little over a month away.
Decent numbers of mallards are being seen landing in picked corn fields in southern Wisconsin, but hunters are still waiting for a new push of waterfowl from up north to increase bird sightings.
Angling pressure across the state continues to drop with only the die-hard musky and walleye anglers are out in the Northwoods. Musky anglers have been dragging large suckers through the deeper water areas, and a fair number of musky in 32- to 40-inch size have been landed. Trout are starting to spawn in the smaller inland streams in Central Wisconsin.
Recent rains have drawn some additional trout and salmon up Great Lakes tributaries with some increased activity on the Brule along Lake Superior and on the Kewaunee River on Lake Michigan. Decent catches of perch were being reported off Oconto and at Duck Creek in Brown County. Angling pressure continues to be minimal through the Northern Door Peninsula, but some anglers fishing out of Baileys Harbor report catching brown trout and anglers launching out of Ellison Bay and Gills Rock have been reporting good catch rates for smallmouth bass, with some fabulous catches around Washington and Rock islands.
Sandhill Cranes numbers are at peak at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, with a count last week finding at least 11,000 there. Juncos and snow buntings are abundant along the roadsides. Snowy owls continue to be seen at locations across the state, and once again, wildlife officials are asking people to observe owls from a distance. Snowy owls that move south in the fall can be stressed and forcing them to fly when they resting can cause them to expend energy needed for hunting.
A stable black bear population and continued desire from many hunters to secure a harvest permit has helped Wisconsin remain an excellent destination for bear hunting. A record 10,690 permits were available in 2015. Interest in Wisconsin bear hunting continues to grow, with more than 109,000 applications received in 2015, compared to 108,271 in 2014 and 106,500 in 2013. "Wisconsin remains one of the best places in the United States to bear hunt, and the number of permits available provided more opportunity to hunt than ever before," said David MacFarland, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist. In 2015, preliminary results show hunters harvested 4,163 bears. Bear Management Zone D led all zones with 1,320 bears harvested, followed by Zone A (1,113), Zone C (978) and Zone B (750). The deadline to apply for a 2016 bear harvest permit or preference point is Dec. 10, 2015. Hunters are reminded that they must apply for a preference point or harvest permit at least once every three years in order to maintain their accumulated preference point total. Hunters may apply online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "license," or at any DNR service center or licensing agent. For additional information, call 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463). Hunters who successfully draw a harvest permit and are interested in transferring the permit to a youth hunter can search keywords "bear transfer." For more information regarding bears in Wisconsin, search keyword "bear." - Bob Nack, DNR big game section chief, 608-264-6137; Sawyer Briel, DNR communications, 608-261-0751
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Temperatures have been seasonably warmer than average for this time of year. Over the past week and a half, the warm weather brought with it periodic showers that left the ground saturated with over 1.5 inches of water. Although the area is still 6 inches below normal for the year, we can expect the ground to stay wet as trees have entered into dormancy and are not absorbing ground water from the soil. Make sure you wear rubber boots when you get out in the woods. Although the rain isn't always the most pleasant weather to experience while you are outdoors, in many ways it is exactly what we needed to help the fish bite. As river levels are well above average according to the USGS flow data, we are hearing more positive reports from anglers. We can expect as river levels lower that fishing will remain good and improve what has been a somewhat slow fishing season for many anglers. Woodcock season is now currently closed. We can expect these migratory birds to be leaving the area soon; however, you will continue to see them as warmer weather lingers in the area. A moose sighting was reported Nov. 3 on Douglas County land. There is not a season for moose in Wisconsin, nor is there much of a population, so it is always a treat to observe the occasional animal that wanders through from time to time. More and more deer exhibiting rutting behavior around the area. Deer activity levels are expected to increase as we near winter. The breeding season heightens deer movement and deer are actively feeding to store up fat supplies for the cold months to come. Staff are noticing more and more deer along the roadways and at night, which means increased chances of deer-vehicle accidents. In the case that a deer is killed by a car and you or someone else would like to tag that deer, please adhere to the following guidelines that can be found on dnr.wi.gov by searching "car killed deer" Contact the DNR vehicle-killed deer hotline at 608-267-7691 prior to possessing or removing the deer from the scene. Upon completing notification to DNR, a vehicle-killed deer may be legally possessed and transported without a tag in compliance with the chronic wasting disease transportation rules, available in the annual Deer Hunting Regulations pamphlet. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - The fall migration is waning, but there are still lots of birds to see. A snowy owl has been present the past two weeks, with many people observing it daily along Main Dike Road and East Refuge Road. It has not been reported from November 3 or 4 yet. Please remember to keep your distance if you do spot it, use a long lens to get a photo. Snowy owls that move south in the fall are usually stressed and forcing it to fly when it it resting can harm the owl. Sandhill Cranes numbers are at peak, with well over ten thousand in the area. An official count done last week shows that at least 11,000 are here, but the day was rainy and we are sure that many were missed. Cranes are moving out of the wildlife area to farm fields during the day. A good place to look for them in the wildlife area along Phantom Lake Road and Main Dike Road in Crex, or County O Flowage in Fish Lake Wildlife Area. Station yourself on Main Dike Road along the south side of the refuge before sunset to watch their evening return to their roosting sites in the sedge marshes of the refuge. Juncos and snow buntings are abundant along the roadsides. Canada geese are present in good numbers, with a few snow geese and cackling geese mixed in on occasion. Trumpeter Swans families remain in the wildlife areas until ice covers the flowages, and Tundra Swans are starting to appear. Hawks are moving through - many bald eagles are present, juvenile red-tailed hawks are being seen, as well as others that will stop over in the wildlife areas to hunt on their way south. Northern harriers are still a common sight. We would expect short-eared owls to move through this week or next. A golden eagle was observed on Main Dike Road east of the pumphouse area in the brush prairie habitat. A northern shrike was reported near the pumphouse. - Kristi Pupak, natural resources educator
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Some sunny skies and mild temperatures made for some pleasant fishing conditions in the last week, but fishing pressure has continued to drop with the multitude of hunting opportunities available in the Northwoods. Water temperatures have been slowly cooling down and most lakes are reported to be in the mid to upper 40s. At this time of year, it seems like only the die-hard musky and walleye anglers are out on the water and success can be real variable. Musky have been getting most of the attention from anglers and most have been dragging large suckers through the deeper water areas of the lakes. There have been no recent reports of any large fish, but a fair number of musky in 32- to 40-inch size have been landed. Walleye fishing has been inconsistent - some days provide good action for small and medium-size walleye, while other days provide virtually no action at all. Live minnows continue to be the preferred bait, whether fished on a jig, below a slip bobber, or on a bare hook slowly dragged along the bottom. The best success has come on the deeper break lines and along any green weed edges, with a few nice perch also being caught as a bonus to the walleye. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Marinette County - Whitefish are starting to show up on both the Peshtigo and Menominee Rivers. The next couple of weeks could bring some very good action. Anglers on the Menominee River are catching some walleye by the Hattie Street dam using stick baits and plastics. A few brown trout are being caught from below Hattie Street to Stephenson Island casting small spoons, stick baits and plastics. Shore anglers report catching perch and some walleye using minnows fished on bottom at the Mystery Ship Landing and at the Light House Pier. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Almost all the angling pressure has been from the Oconto Break water to Oconto Park II with perch being the species of most anglers. Decent catches of 7- to 9-inch perch are being reported. Minnows fished with a crappie rig or slip bobber has been the main choice of anglers. The best times to fish have been early mornings and midafternoons. Some small mouth and pike are also being caught in these locations. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - The ramps at Bayshore Park are back open but there are not docks in and will not be in for the rest of the season. Duck hunters seem to be taking advantage of the open ramps and were seen in numbers later in the week. Anglers launching on the Fox River reported a few follows this week but no catches were reported. Anglers were casting large spinners and crank baits. Those that reported seeing fish were out in University Bay. Those casting crank baits for walleye reported little to no action over the weekend from the bay to up river. Anglers fishing from shore for crappies at the mouth of the river reported no success but caught gizzard shad and carp. Those fishing from shore at Voyager Park had success for small numbers of walleye, shad and drum. Those fishing off the Suamico River from shore for perch with minnows and worms had little success. Many schools of minnows could be seen swimming in the river. Anglers launching from Duck Creek had success for yellow perch. They reported using minnows and catching over 40 perch throughout the day and keeping around a dozen, ranging in size from 8-12 inches. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Door County - Anglers have been having decent luck fishing for northern pike between Bayview Park and the canal walls. The most productive bait has been live suckers. Anglers targeting smallmouth have reported success fishing off of Sherwood Point using suckers in 12 to 25 feet of water. There have been no reports on walleye or salmon activity. Angling pressure continues to be minimal through the Northern Door Peninsula. Anglers fishing out of Baileys Harbor report catching brown trout trolling 6 to 7 feet of water using fire tiger rapalas. Anglers were seen fishing Rowleys Bay but there are no reports on their activity. Anglers launching out of Ellison Bay and Gills Rock have been targeting smallmouth bass. They have been reporting good catch rates using suckers in 12 to 25 feet of water with most fish coming around 18 to 20 feet of water. There have been no salmon reports. While the northern Door streams have increased in both flow and level since the rains last week, they are still fairly low and slow with temperatures in the low to mid 40s. Chinook have been spotted in Reibolts Creek. Many anglers were launching out of Potawatomi Park earlier this week, and most seemed to be staying in between the islands and in Sawyer Harbor. Not many boats were seen out toward the canal. The rainy weather seemed to keep anglers away early on in the week, but the anglers that did venture out reported no success for Northern Pike. - Dan Olson, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Kewaunee County - Angler pressure in Kewaunee County continues to drop as we progress later into the year. Anglers have reported some success with kings and coho. The best method appeared to be drifting clown flies about 12-15 inches down from a slip-shot sinker. The river flow and level have increased a bit since the rain last week. Surveys over the past week have indicated an increasing amount of brown trout in the river and harbor. While anglers are still trying their luck out on the lake, there have been no reports on their success. Most anglers in Algoma concentrated their efforts by the Forestville dam this past week. Anglers fishing there were catching both king salmon and brown trout. The best baits were cleos and flies used around mid-morning. The water was fairly low just below the Forestville dam but had come up considerably by the Washington Street Bridge. - Dan Olson, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Rock Island State Park - Leaves are dropping on Washington and Rock islands making it easier to see deer in the forest. Smallmouth bass fishing around the islands has been fabulous when the winds allow boats to get out. Many fish five pounds and larger have been caught and released. Turkeys, pheasants and deer are being seen in good numbers. - Randy Holm, ranger and assistant property manager
Whitefish Dunes State Park - This is a great time of year to hike the trails and look for wildlife especially on the Red trail with the lookout observation deck to see the most color change in the area. Tree color in the park is probably past peak but still lots of leaves are on the tree with the mild temperatures this month. Several pileated woodpecker sightings and also terns soaring along the beach. Several sightings of baby snapping turtles this week along the beach. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Rut is in full swing in central Wisconsin with bucks moving all hours of the day. Many of my co-workers are using annual leave to pursue them. With the exception of oaks, leaf drop is nearly complete. The woodcock finally arrived in central Wisconsin in big numbers - unfortunately the season closed Monday. Trout are starting to spawn in the smaller streams. Weather has been near record warm. Hard to believe gun season is two weeks away. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waukesha DNR Service Center area
Waukesha County - Rut activity has been picking up in the area. Plentiful opportunities for pheasant hunting still exist as stocking continues. We are still waiting for a new push of waterfowl from up north to increase bird sightings on local marshes. - Kelly VanBeek, wildlife biologist, Waukesha
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Racine County - Despite the warm temperatures, fall is coming to the Racine and Kenosha County area. With recent rains and strong winds leaves on many of the trees have fallen and colors are starting to fade. Sandhill cranes have been on the move, with a recent survey found 127 cranes staging on the Vern Wolf Lake at Richard Bong. Large flocks have been seen in the sky over the property catching wind currents south. The local muskrat population appears to be doing well as more lodges are being seen in local wetlands. A local trapper recently commented that the muskrats he was trapping were in good shape and larger than last year. The week of November 2 is the last week that public hunting grounds- New Munster, Honey Creek, and Tichigan Wildlife Areas- will be stocked twice a week with pheasants. Starting the week of November 9 public hunting grounds will be stocked only once a week through the second week of December. Pheasants will not be stocked on the public hunting grounds the week of the gun deer season. At Richard Bong stocking levels are over 200 birds a day (hens and roosters) and the managed hunt is averaging 132 hunters per day. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Walleye and sauger fishing on Lake Wisconsin in Columbia and Sauk Counties has been mediocre. Some limits are being caught but most anglers are catching short fish or fish in the slot limit. Migration of ducks and geese are increasing. Decent numbers of mallards are being seen landing in picked corn fields in southern Columbia County. Pheasant stocking continues at several of the state properties. Hunting pressure has been high during the early part of the season.- Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette
Jefferson County - Deer activity has increased significantly over the last week. Archery harvest is picking up, more deer are being seen during daylight hours, and there has been an increase in car-deer collisions. Please be aware that deer are now on the move, especially around dawn and dusk. The warm weather helped to extend the fall colors, but we are now well past peak and most trees have dropped their leaves. Pheasant hunters have taken to the field for the last three weeks, and have reported ample shooting opportunities, as Jefferson County receives a large number of birds from the Poynette State Game Farm. - Mark Witecha, wildlife biologist, Lake Mills
Mirror Lake State Park -All trails are open for hiking. Mountain bike trails are closed for the season. Currently sites 58 - 65 in the Sandstone Ridge campground are open. Cliffwood and Blue Water Bay campgrounds and all shower building are closed for the season. Vault toilets are available behind site 59 and water is available at the Park Entrance Station. - Becky Green, park manager
Rocky Arbor State Park - The park is open year-round, but during the off season, the main gate is closed. Visitors may park at the entrance and walk in to the park. Self-registration for park stickers is available across from the park office by the kiosk. The nature trail provides an excellent chance to see some of the great variety of plants and animals native to the area. You can also enjoy some close up views of the local rock formations. The campground is closed for the season - Becky Green, park manager
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Raccoon hunters are taking advantage of high raccoon numbers and are reporting successful harvests over the last several weeks. Raccoon trapping activity is also increased with the advent of some cooler weather. Squirrel hunters have also been taking advantage of mild weather, which has kept squirrels active and made for delightful hunting weather. Most acorns, walnuts, and hickory nuts have fallen from the trees, and squirrels are actively searching the forest floor for this fallen hard mast. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Perrot State Park - Some white pelicans can still be seen in the adjacent Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge for their last gathering before migrating. Adult and immature eagles are seen soaring in the bluffs and above the bay. Many of the migrating songbirds have moved through the area but you might see the cedar waxwings and bluebirds. Many or the trees have lost their leaves but the oaks are still holding on and give a gentle glow of orange, yellow, and brown. Some tundra swans have been reported along the river at Brownsville, Minn., south of the La Crosse and La Crescent, There have not been any yet in Trempealeau Bay in the park. All campsites are open on a first-come basis. The campground water system is turned off for the season. Electrical sites will still have electricity. The dump station will remain open for dumping but there will be no water. Our shop building will have water available for campers. - Lois Larson, park manager