View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).
The white-tailed deer rut - or breeding season - continued to go on strong in the last week, with almost all areas of the state reporting very active deer at all times of the day, but most active at dawn and dusk. Rubs and scrapes are very apparent and lots of hunters have been out archery hunting with very good success and scouting for the upcoming gun season.
The hunting and trapping season opens November 15 in state parks, with maps online and posted at all properties indicating which areas are open and closed to those activities. Hikers, wood cutters and other outdoor enthusiasts should be safe and wear orange or other brightly colored clothing when out on the trails or in the woods.
Pheasant hunters looking for another day out with the dog can still find hunting areas stocked with game farm birds. Reports of active wild turkey and woodcock also continue coming in. With some cooler night temperatures there has been a greater influx of some diving ducks migrating in, but there has still really not been a big push from the north. Muskrat huts have become more obvious with the die-back of vegetation.
In the Northwoods, open-water fishing continues to wind down. Several musky and walleye anglers are still trying their luck, though success is hard to come by. Along Lake Michigan anglers were catching perch as well as some trout and salmon on the Milwaukee Lakeshore. Some coho and fair numbers of brown trout remain in the Sheboygan River. Decent numbers of brown trout were being found in the Milwaukee harbor, and fair numbers were also moving up the Milwaukee River. Browns were also in the Racine harbor, and some steelhead were also starting to move in. Fish were processed at the Root River Steelhead Facility for the last time on Monday, Nov. 9, and the facility is now shut down for the season. More than 900,000 coho eggs were collected, and DNR crews handled a total of 1,436 coho, 1,309 Chinooks, 86 browns, and 9 rainbows.
The recent mild weather has several bird species, such as the tundra swan, waiting for their peak migration times. On November 9, more than 50,000 canvasbacks were noted on the Mississippi River at Lynxville while over along Lake Michigan, nearly 30,000 red-breasted mergansers were tallied flying past Harrington Beach State Park. Horicon Marsh is reporting approximately 150,000 geese, ducks and cranes are currently using the marsh. Sandhill cranes are staging in counties across Wisconsin before migrating farther south. Staff at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area counted over 13,000 on November 9.
Also overhead it's time now for the "big raptors," including bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, as well as small numbers of golden eagles, red-shouldered, and rough-legged hawks, to make their move south,. The Mississippi River valley and Lake Michigan shoreline are two good places to view concentrated numbers of migrating raptors. While reports have slowed in the past several days, around 72 snowy owls have been noted at over 37 counties in the state. More are expected in the weeks to come. Check out the snowy owl page of the DNR website for more information.
November 14 Get outside and get after buckthorn at Bluff Creek State Natural Area! Warm up your brush cutting arms and legs and help volunteers during our monthly Southern Kettle Moraine SNA workdays on the second Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this springs, wetland, and oak opening area in the process. Buckthorn can spread and shade out uncommon plants at this site. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Workday information [PDF]. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Warm fall weather tempered migration a bit this past week. Many have noted a lack of late-season waterfowl species so far, though on the Nov. 9 several observers in the south reported good numbers of bufflehead, scaup, and green-winged teal. Also on Nov. 9, more than 50,000 canvasbacks were noted on the Mississippi River at Lynxville. Over on Lake Michigan, nearly 30,000 red-breasted mergansers were tallied flying past Harrington Beach State Park since Nov 5. Tundra swans are lagging and their migration peak very much lies ahead. Canada goose numbers are strong now, with above-average snow goose reports this season. A few shorebird species remain on mudflats and sandy shorelines, including dunlin, white-rumped sandpipers, yellowlegs, and a few long-billed dowitchers. Other water birds of note include common loons, horned grebes, and flocks of Bonaparte's gulls. Sandhill cranes are staging in large numbers statewide. Staff at Crex Meadows and Fish Lake SWAs in Burnett County tallied more than 13,000 on the Nov. 9. Overhead it's time now for the "big raptors" to make their move south, largely including bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, as well as small numbers of golden eagles, red-shouldered, and rough-legged hawks. The Mississippi River valley and Lake Michigan shoreline are two good places to view concentrated numbers of migrating raptors, especially on west or northwest winds following passage of cold fronts. New snowy owl reports have tapered off a bit this past week, perhaps in part due to the warm weather. Roughly 72 owls have been tallied over 37 counties thus far with more expected in the weeks ahead. Be sure to check out the new DNR website snowy owl page for the latest news, viewing tips, and updates. Some "winter finches" have also begun moving into the state. Common redpolls have been most abundant across the Northwoods, while pine siskins are being seen statewide. Northerners have also reported small numbers of pine and evening grosbeaks, bohemian waxwings, and both red and white-winged crossbills. Some notable lingering birds found this week include several hummingbirds of unknown species, Northern water thrush, cattle egret, and red-eyed vireo. The week's best find was an ash-throated flycatcher in Ozaukee, followed by a black-legged kittiwake there and a varied thrush in Bayfield. Help us track the migration by submitting your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi (exit DNR). Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Into the second full week in November, the Brule area continued to experience unusually warm temps, reaching up into the 60s during the day. A couple windy warm days over the weekend dried out the litter layer in the forest making it quite noisy out in the woods. According to fisherman, fishing has picked up during this last week of the season. The rain received two weeks ago seemed to help turn fish on. With weather as nice as it's been, it might be the perfect weekend to enjoy the last weekend of trout fishing by camping in one of our two campgrounds located on the forest. Trout season ends on Nov. 15. The gun deer season starts on Saturday, Nov. 21 and runs through the Nov. 29. With the rut well underway, deer are moving around more frequently during the day. Hopefully this will increase hunters' odds of harvesting a buck since often times mature deer will otherwise be nocturnal. As you prep for this upcoming season and get the final ends tied together before you head to the woods, here are a couple key things you may want to remember. Check the regulations as few changes may have been made. Go to dnr.wi.gov. Keyword "regulations" or stop by your nearest license dealer or DNR service center to get a copy of this year's regulations. All harvested deer will be registered electronically in 2015. Hunters have three options for registering their deer:
Remember, registering your deer is still mandatory. The Brule River State Forest has thousands of acres open for hunting by the public. Every year, many hunting camps and families come to the area, either staying in family owned cabins or motels. An option that may be of interest to hunters is the special camp permit that is issued to hunters during the nine-day gun season. This permit allows you to camp along certain roadways on the state forests during the nine days of the rifle season. As we are fortunate in this area to have large amounts of public acreage at our finger tips many people love an opportunity to tap in to the deer camp tradition we have here Wisconsin. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Washburn County - The recent November storm dropped heavy rainfall throughout the North, last year at about this time a similar storm dropped snow. This rainfall combined with above normal temperatures will present some challenges for the upcoming gun-deer season, especially if mild conditions persist. This includes the negatives of a "brown season" that reduces deer sight ability and making it more difficult to follow deer tracks; and marshes and trails not frozen up especially with above normal precipitation in many parts of northern Wisconsin this past year. Hunters need to think about these challenges and prepare for them for the upcoming gun deer season. - Mike Zeckmeister, program manager, Spooner
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The open-water fishing season is quickly winding down in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Even with the mild early November weather, fishing pressure has continued to drop off and very few anglers have been out on the water. Just a few musky and walleye anglers have been out trying their luck and reports of success have been tough to come by. The musky anglers that are fishing are mostly dragging large suckers around the deep water areas and action has been variable. But, this is trophy time and most of the anglers are just hoping for that one bite from that monster trophy Esox. Walleye success has been generally slow. A few anglers were catching fish on minnows along the deep break lines and on the mid-depth mud flats. Water temperatures have been holding in the mid to low 40s and ice-up is still several weeks away (though low-teen and single-digit temperatures can change that in a hurry). - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - ATV trails are in good conditions and have a few spots where repairs are being made. Our trail system will close November 15. Both the north and south forks of the Flambeau River are low. Sure looks and feels like fall on the forest. We are seeing a good crop of acorns this year and starting to see quite a few buck scrapes and rubs. Bucks are in the rut and snow geese and buntings are on the move. We are starting to see the northern flights of ducks and local geese are flocking up. Grouse hunting has been good in some pockets of the forest.- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - With all of the leaf cover down, the woods has opened up for exploring once again. The quietness is calming if one is willing to sit and observe, either while hunting or just hiking. Buck rubs and scrapes can be found if one is really observant. Weasels are starting to turn white and stand out against their brown background without the snow cover to camouflage them. Snow buntings are feeding along roadsides and flush when one drives by. Chickadees, nuthatches and blue jays are starting to visit the feeders. Speaking of birdfeeders, a bear took out the ones at the Crystal Lake ranger station, so we'll have to bring them in at night until our fury friend goes into hibernation. It's a great time to be out gathering firewood on the forest (with a permit of course). If you're looking for some easily accessible wood, check out our campgrounds. Lots of hazard trees were cut in our campgrounds this fall and gates have been opened at the closed campgrounds to allow access for firewood gatherers. Permit holders are allowed to gather downed wood from all campgrounds on the forest from Nov. 1-April 30 annually. Scheduling next year's campground hosts will begin around the first of the year, so now is the time to get more information and apply if you might be interested in serving as a volunteer campground host. Contact Joe Fieweger at 715-385-3355 ext 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org if interested. The trail crew has been moving grooming equipment to the trails for the upcoming ski season. Lots of hunters are out right now, scouting for the upcoming season. Hikers should be safe and wear orange when out on the trails during gun deer season, even the well-used designated hiking trails, hunting is allowed off all forest trails. Just a reminder to all hunters, tree stands cannot be left on any state forest land overnight. During the day if you need to leave your tree stand unattended for any reason you need to have your WI DNR customer ID number or name and address attached to your stand. Trail cams also need to be marked with your WI DNR customer ID number or name and address. Snow is in the forecast this Friday and again before next weekend, just in time for deer season. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Langlade County - The white-tail rut is beginning to pick up. Hunters are reporting an increase in rutting activity this past week. The first flocks of snow buntings have arrived for the winter. These regular winter visitors can best be viewed on and around open farm land. - Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Shawano County - Rut activity is peaking in northern Waupaca and western Shawano County. Many impressive deer have been harvested and bucks have been viewed throughout the day. Now is the time to get in the woods and spend some quality time hunting. - Mark Schraufnagel, conservation warden, Shawano
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Brown County - In Brown County the leaves have almost completely dropped and the rut is in full swing. Bucks have been seen chasing does, and car-deer collision have significantly increased. At this time of the year, drivers need to watch for deer at all hours of the day. Although the number of duck hunters were up over the weekend, the success of the hunt was not. Most duck hunters are hoping for some cooler weather to get the ducks moving. Lastly, several questions have come in regarding the legality of transporting crossbows. When transporting a crossbow in or on a motorized vehicle (trucks and ATVs, etc.) crossbows need to be uncocked unless they are in a case. Accidently dry firing a crossbow could cause some major damage, and is the reason behind this law. - Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Brown County
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Potawatomi State Park - Most leaves have fallen off the trees. The launch piers have been pulled from the water. They will be put back in the water by late April 2016. The north loop of the campground (Sites 82-125) is closed until May 1, 2016. The south loop (Sites 1-81) remains open on a first-come first-served basis until there is significant snowfall. Four electric sites are plowed for winter campers. Reservations are not necessary from November 1 through March 31. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Rut seems to be slowing down, deer now out feeding in evenings without chasing each other around. Tons of geese around, feeding in freshly picked corn fields. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - The rut is on here in Waushara County, multiple large bucks have been taken over the last five days. WARNING - Motorist need to be on the lookout as deer vs car collisions have been on the rise as well and will likely continue to increase over the coming weeks. Deer are running all times of the day, but dawn and dusk are still the most dangerous for us and them on the roadways so take your time and be on the lookout. Waterfowl hunting may be starting to pick up as some more divers have been seen migrating, but hunting is still tough as birds really have not been pushed from the north. With the unbelievable weather we have been having though you will not beat any activity that you choose to do outdoors from hiking the Ice Age Trail, grouse hunting, bow hunting, waterfowl hunting, or fishing in Waushara County. Get out and do something before the snow starts to fly! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Fond du Lac County - Deer movement and activity has increased over the past week in much of the area. Canada geese have been observed in good numbers in the central portion of the county. Many pheasant hunters contacted in the field have reported seeing birds, and some have had success. With mostly dry, mild fall temperatures expected for the upcoming weekend, a bike ride or hike on the Wild Goose State Trail or Mascoutin Valley Recreational Trail would provide an excellent opportunity to take in the fall scenery. - Samantha Koscher, conservation warden, Fond du Lac
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Milwaukee County - Prior to the recent cold front, anglers were catching perch as well as some trout and salmon on the Milwaukee Lakeshore. Most of the perch were being caught below the Hoan Bridge. Waterfowl hunters reported seeing a lot of mergansers on Lake Michigan near South Shore Park. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Waukesha
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - Sheboygan River water levels are about average for this time of year, and some coho and fair numbers of brown trout remain in the river. Fishing off the Sheboygan piers has been generally slow, but occasional browns have been caught.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee, decent numbers of brown trout can be found in the harbor, and fair numbers are also moving up the Milwaukee River. Flows are dropping on the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers, and Oak Creek is very low.
Racine County - In Racine, most anglers at the lakefront have been concentrating near the boat ramp and off the docks in Reefpoint Marina. Decent numbers of browns are in the harbor, and some steelhead are also starting to move in. Fish were processed at the Root River Steelhead Facility for the last time on Monday, Nov. 9, and the facility is now shut down for the season. More than 900,000 coho eggs were collected, and DNR crews handled a total of 1,436 coho, 1,309 Chinooks, 86 browns, and 9 rainbows.
Kenosha County - In Kenosha, browns can be seen jumping in the harbor, and a few have been caught near the hotel on white tube jigs tipped with wax worms or on spawn sacs.
Waukesha DNR Service Center area
Waukesha County - We have seen an early influx of snowy owls into Wisconsin this year, with approximately 72 snowy owls recorded in 37 counties across the state. You can learn more about our snowy owl irruption by visiting dnr.wi.gov, keyword "snowy owls". There are antlerless deer bonus carcass tags available for purchase across the state, including in Milwaukee County, and now is the time to take advantage of our bow deer hunting season. The nine-day gun season opener is Nov. 21, so get your gear together to participate in this exciting Wisconsin tradition! Learn more about deer hunting in Wisconsin by visiting dnr.wi.gov, keyword "deer". There are also numerous other opportunities for hunting and trapping this time of year. Best of luck this hunting season, and be safe! - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Waukesha
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Washington County: Pheasants will be stocked once each week during the week of Nov. 9-13 and Nov. 16-20, on Allenton Marsh, Theresa Marsh and Jackson Marsh wildlife areas. The normal daily stocking total is 80-100 birds per property at Allenton and Jackson Marsh and 140-160 on Theresa Marsh. Pheasants will not be stocked on the three properties during the first week of the deer gun season. One final stocking will be done in early December. Duck hunting success seems to have picked up around the area during the past couple weeks. A lot of different species can be seen in the refuge impoundments along Highway 28. Geese are spread out all around the area. The best way to successfully hunt them is to locate farm fields where they are feeding and seek landowners permission to hunt them. Buck rutting activity and deer movement all around the area is very high. Deer hunters are reminded to check the DNR website where they can find hunting location information and maps and available antlerless deer permit information. On Theresa Marsh, the water level in the main pool above the marsh dam were brought down a few inches last week and will be brought down a few more inches this week in preparation for freeze-up. This week we will also pull out the floating cattail barrier in front of the dam, and raise the floating boat ramps above and below the dam to prevent ice damage over winter. Duck hunters and trappers will probably notice the lower water levels. Lowering the water is normal marsh management for this time of year to prevent ice and muskrat damage to dikes and to allow more for room for spring runoff. Contact the Wildlife Management biologist at the Pike Lake office if you have questions (262-224-8523). - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Green County - The rut is well underway with numerous bucks running all over the place. Muskrat huts can be seen all over the place with all of the dead vegetation out of the way. Remember the four rules of firearm safety when afield and as always, please report any violations you observe and stay safe! - Ryan Caputo, conservation warden, New Glarus
Iowa County - White-tailed deer are very active, and in full rut. Check the DNR website for CWD testing locations. Wild turkeys are also very active now, and hunters are still reporting flushing woodcock in woods and forest edges. Large flocks of waterfowl are being reported on area sloughs and flowages in the Wisconsin River. Ring-necked pheasants continue to be stocked on public wildlife areas. A list of properties that are stocked is available on the DNR website. Large flocks of sandhill cranes are being seen in the Arena area, with the occasional report of a juvenile whooping crane. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville
Blue Mound State Park - All trails are open to hiking. Please call the park at 608-437-5711 for current mountain bike trail status. The mountain bike trails tend to close for a few days after a heavy rain to allow the track to adequately dry. The campground is open year-round. All sites are walk-in only until May 1, 2016. The Rustic Accessible Cabin for people with disabilities is closed for the year. All water systems have been shut down for the year including the toilet shower building, swimming pool and drinking fountains. Vault toilets are open year round in the picnic area and campground. The two 40-foot observation towers are open year-round but not maintain for winter use. Hunters may hunt deer, small game and turkey in designated areas of the park from Nov. 15-Dec. 15 within designated areas of the park. Reference the hunting maps for these designated areas and the 2015 Hunting Regulations. There have been major changes to deer tagging options and registration requirements for 2015. Please check the 2015 Deer Hunting Regulations for more information on these changes. Archery season in the park is open in designated areas through Jan. 3, 2016. More information can be found at wiparks.net or in the park kiosks. - Kevin Swenson, park manager
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - The waterfowl migration continues to draw crowds to the Horicon Marsh. Bird watchers enjoy viewing the flocks as they return to the marsh to roost for the evening. Approximately 150,000 geese, ducks and cranes are currently using the marsh as their stopping grounds as the migration passes through Wisconsin. Duck and goose hunters are having mixed success, hoping to be at the right place at the right time. The blustery winds have removed any remaining leaves on the trees. Gun hunters are preparing for opening day. Please remember to review your regulations regarding the new electronic registration! - Jennifer Wirth, visitor services specialist
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Deer are in rut with many deer being seen during the day. Sandhill cranes are staging in the county before migrating south. Fish have been biting on a few local lakes. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
Dane County - Deer rut activity is high right now in Dane County. Lots of rubs/scrapes and buck moving during the day. Road kills are also prevalent right now - drivers should use caution at dawn/dusk. Waterfowl migration has been slow for the most part. Other migrants of note include fox and white-crowned sparrows, pine siskins, purple finch, and a few northern shrikes on their winter territories. The warmer weather has allowed for some late insect activity. Autumn meadowhawks, a small red dragonfly, were still being seen as of Tuesday of this week. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Willow River State Park - The rut has kicked in and we are seeing more deer activity. A reminder that you can hunt in the park Nov. 15-Dec. 15 except that hunting with legal bow and crossbow methods is allowed through the Sunday nearest Jan. 6. Park hours are 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Hunters and trappers can enter the park one hour prior to the daily hunting and trapping start times. Park hunting/trapping map and additional rules can be found on line. - Brian Markowski, park manager
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Archers in Crawford and Vernon counties are spending extra time afield as deer rutting behavior is peaking. Bucks remain very active, especially during cooler times of the day. Archers have remarked how the unseasonably warm weather has inhibited daytime deer activity. Archers hunting during early mornings have been experiencing deer movements more so than other times of the warm days. Gun deer hunters will likely observe many deer, both bucks and does, exhibiting breeding behaviors. Favorable weather conditions have resulted in excellent raccoon hunting. Many raccoon hunters have reported successful harvests of these abundant furbearers. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Eau Claire County -Archery deer hunters are having a lot of fun pursuing the elusive whitetail deer. Mature bucks are on the move and very active throughout the day. Pheasant hunters and their canine companions can still find many public hunting areas stocked with game farm birds. Fall fishing action is improving as we transition to the extremes of fall weather. A reminder to deer hunters that the placement of bait for deer is no longer allowed in Eau Claire County. - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - Check at the park office for availability for camping. Backpack sites open are 9, 16 and 26-29. All other backpack sites are now closed. The north loop, sites 85-105, are non-reservable as of Oct. 18. Drinking water is available at the park office and in the group camp. Showers and flush toilets in campground and south picnic area are shut down for the season. Pit toilet buildings are located in the campground and throughout the park. Fishing pier and boat boarding piers are removed for the season. Archery deer hunting is allowed in the park and wildlife areas. Hunting maps are available online or at the park office to see regulations and closed areas. Small game, waterfowl and trapping are only in the Buckhorn and Yellow River Wildlife Areas, not in the state park until Nov. 15. The 2016 photo contest has started. Fall is a great time for photos! - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - Camping and the main gate are now closed for the year. Please do not park in front of the gate. Parking will be in the winter lot on Czech Ave and park stickers will still be required. No food, pets or drinks are allowed on the stairway. Users are restricted to the stairway and it is open from 6 am to sunset. Hunting is not allowed in the park until Nov. 15. The 2016 photo contest has started. Fall is a great time for photos! - Heather Wolf, park manager