Published November 19, 2015 by the Central Office
View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).
Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer season opens this Saturday, November 21, and state wildlife officials say if summertime observations and reports from the public are any indication, 2015 is shaping up to be a good deer hunting year in many areas across Wisconsin.
Across the state hunters are gearing up for opening weekend. The weather forecast is calling for cooler temperatures and snow in varying amounts across much of the state; so, conditions may be very good for opening weekend. Many areas of the state received moderate to heavy rains over the past week, and ground conditions are muddy in certain areas.
Reports from around the state indicate that while the rut is winding down in some areas, it is still going strong in others, especially the south. Antler growth is expected to be very good this year due to the mild winter and early spring green up.
Non-hunters are reminded that hunting is allowed in some areas of state parks and forests.People out hiking, gathering firewood or participating in other outdoor activities should be sure to wear orange.
Wild turkeys are still very active, and can be seen using the many harvested crop fields in the area. Pheasants continue to be stocked at area public hunting grounds, though most will not stock during the nine-day season.Waterfowl hunters are still waiting for a new push of northern birds that may be arriving at the same time as the gun deer season. The northern zone duck season closes November 24, while the southern zone remains open through December 6.
With the upcoming deer season and wet and windy weather of the past few days, the open-water fishing season has basically come to an end in this part of the Northwoods. Cold weather in the forecast may form some skim ice on some of the smaller lakes, but for all intents and purposes, lakes remain open and several weeks away from any sort of ice fishing activity. Brook trout spawning season is about at peak and males are showing off spectacular spawning colors in our native brook trout streams. Whitefish have arrived on the Menominee River and perch are biting in Oconto. Water levels on the Mississippi River have risen about one foot in the last few days and levels are predicted to continue to rise. Walleye and sauger fishing has picked up downstream of the lock and dams and some nice sized walleyes have been caught.
Though peak migration may be more of a drawn out affair this year, tundra swans, snow buntings, diving ducks, snowy owls and a variety of raptors should all still be visible in areas of the state. With the arrival of colder temperatures, it may be a good weekend to observe the loon migration on the Madison chain of lakes.
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Although we received our first snowfall this past weekend with temperatures cooling down below freezing, rainy and warm has been the name of the game for much of the week. Water levels are raging according to the USGS streamflow data. Trout season is officially closed on the Brule River for the season: fishing season closed on the remainder of the Brule River on Saturday, November 15. Have a great Deer season and be safe! Gun-deer season is just a few days away. The Wisconsin tradition starts Saturday, November 21 and runs through of November 29. Here are a couple tips: Check your regulations. Some changes may have been made in your hunting area. 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. E-register your deer. Register your deer online at gamereg.wi.gov, by phone (1-844-426-3734) or electronically at a participating in-person registration station. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Burnett County - In Burnett County we have been having a lot of heavy rains. Most of the low areas and river bottoms have standing water in them. Bucks are still visible on their feet mid-day indicating that the gun hunters may still be able to experience some rut activity. The anglers venturing out on the water are picking up some nice walleyes. Waterfowl hunters are reporting low numbers of ducks in the area this week. - Dustin Gabrielson, conservation warden, Webster
Governor Knowles State Forest - Winter activities are right around the corner. Ski trails will be open this season to both skate and traditional skiing. Trails at the West River Road parking lot will be open for fat tire biking, hiking, and snowshoeing. Power is out at the Trade River Equestrian Campground until mid-December due to electrification of eight sites with camping still available in all other sites. The nine-day gun season opens November 21 and continues through November 29. All harvested deer will need to be registered electronically. If you are hiking be sure to wear orange; keeping in mind that hunting is allowed off all state forest trails. If you are hunting, be sure to check the regulations as they may have changed and remember that deer stands are not meant to be left overnight on state forest land. Be safe and good luck. - Brandi Larson, visitor services associate
Washburn County - A reminder to please submit deer heads from ADULT deer for CWD testing in the Shell Lake area (Washburn, Burnett, Barron, and Polk Counties). There are 24/7 kiosks in Barronett, Shell Lake and Spooner. Hunters may remove the antlers and hide prior to drop off. Washburn County will be great hunting and hanging deer weather. The opening weekend is expected to be brown and about 30-40 degrees. Bow hunters have been seeing higher deer numbers than last year. - Nancy Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Hunters and hikers will see water/ice filled swamps as they head outside.If Mother Nature cooperates, there may be some tracking snow for the deer opener in the forest.Crispy crunchy conditions appear to be what is in store! 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 November 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 email@example.com if interested. 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. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With the upcoming gun deer season and wet and windy weather of the past few days, the open-water fishing season has basically come to an end in this part of the Northwoods. The cold weather that is forecast for the deer opener may cause some skim ice on some of the smaller lakes, but for all intents and purposes, lakes remain open and several weeks away from any sort of ice fishing activity. However, the brook trout spawning season is about at its peak, which is typical for this mid-November period. The male brookies exhibit some spectacular spawning colors and they can often be viewed in their mating rituals on many of our native brook trout streams. Look for the spawning fish around gravel areas in riffles in the smaller tributary streams. Observers are reminded to watch from a distance and not disturb the fish or these fragile spawning areas - as this represents the future of that brook trout population. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Lake of the Pines Campground is open till December 15 and is ready for the hunting season. It's a home away from home for many visitors. All forest roads in decent condition. The musky fishing has been good. The Flambeau River water levels are high. The snow buntings are busy fluttering around on the sides of the roads. There are nine bull elk, 10 cow elk and four calves on or near the Flambeau River State Forest. Hunters are cautioned to be sure of their target in order to insure the safety of the protected elk. Elk calves this time of year are the same size as adult deer. It's very wet in the woods so if you're hunting make sure you are wearing rubber boots. The deer rut has been going hot and heavy the past two weeks. Deer hunting camps are preparing for Saturdays gun deer hunting opener. There's a good chance of some snow this week and no rain in the forecast for this weekend so anticipate good tracking and visibility. If you're feeling adventurous, hunt and float the Flambeau River. Temps are forecasted with the lows in the teens so be sure to dress in warm clothes. The tail end of the waterfowl season is approaching (Nov.24) in northern Wisconsin. With some exceptions most bears are currently hibernating. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician
Florence DNR at the Florence Natural Resource Center
Florence and Forest counties - Gun deer season is this coming weekend. Conditions look to be mild with temperatures in the 30s, so it doesn't look like snow for opening weekend. Deer rutting activity was pretty sustained over the last few weeks, so it may continue with some dropping temperatures. As always, make sure to have your required licenses, double check this year's new rules and regulations changes, and remember that practice makes perfect. State Assembly Bill 243 recently passed, which outlawed group hunting with youth deer permits. - Jason Cotter, wildlife Biologist, Florence
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Oconto County - This is the last report of the season spanning the dates, Nov. 8-17. Perch are biting from the Oconto Municipal Landing to Oconto Park II. Minnows and crawler chunks fished in conjunction with crappie rigs or slip bobbers work best. Some days are better than others but all in all the size and number of fish being caught has been good. A few pike are being caught from the breakwater in Oconto to the Menominee River with spoons and stick baits working best. Whitefish have arrived on the Menominee River with anglers reporting fish in the 16 to 21 inch range being caught mainly by the dam on the Menominee River. Some white fish are also reported in the Peshtigo and Oconto Rivers. Enjoy any opportunity you get to fish. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Anglers fishing from shore on the Suamico River have had little success for yellow perch using minnows and crawler chunks floating just off the bottom. Anglers off the Fox River that were launching from Metro and DePere were in search of musky or walleye with little success reported. One group of anglers reported on Sunday catching a 40-inch musky on the Fox River and a follow. Anglers fishing from shore were in search of walleye or musky as well. At Voyager Park casting with crank baits was a favorite, no success reported, but those interviewed were not fishing long. All launches are still open and many anglers are taking advantage of this late year warm weather. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - Marinette county hunters could see some good rutting activity opening day of the gun deer season. Bucks are chasing right now but some does are still with last year's fawns, an indication that there is more chasing to come. The forecast calls for warm, rainy weather to give way to colder temps and calmer winds. If the weather prediction is correct, we will hopefully see good deer movement on opening morning. Please remember to electronically register your deer before 5 p.m. the day following the harvest. Also, be aware a new law has passed that makes it illegal to group hunt using junior antlerless tags. The newly renovated Peshtigo Harbor Shooting Range is now open. To get to the range, go south of the City of Peshtigo on Hale Road, turn East onto Harbor Road, go about 1.75 miles then turn East onto Hipke Road. The range is located at the end of Hipke Road. Please use the site responsibly, respect other users and the land. Pick up all your empties and your targets and dispose of them off site. With your help this wonderful facility will be open to the public for years to come! - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Governor Thompson State Park - State Park hunting is now open until Jan. 3, 2016. Hunting opportunities are available in most of the state park; however, there are two refuges were hunting is not permitted. Please check out the online map [PDF] or stop at the office for a map of the open hunting areas. Remember tree stands and blinds must be removed from the property each day at the end of hunting. The 16 mile hiking trail system is open. The park is open for hunting this time of year and we encourage hikers to wear blaze orange clothing. There is no hunting permitted on the Otter Trail or in the campground loops, both are great places to hike this time of year. Only the East loop of the campground will remain open until November 29. There is potable water located at both vault toilets, look for the blue hose bib to fill your RV tanks. It's ok to dump at the sanitary dump station, but the flush water has been turned off for the season. The shower facilities are now closed for the season. - Maggie Kailhofer, park manager
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Rock Island State Park - The rut is in full swing on the islands and deer are being seen chasing all over the place. Several lucky archers have bagged really nice bucks this week on Washington Island. Lake Michigan mid-lake buoy was reading 49 degrees Monday so ice won't be a hindrance to boat travel. High winds are forecast so boating hunters need to be very careful. Wear those personal floatation devices! - Randy Holm, ranger and assistant property manager
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Rut is winding down. I am seeing small herds out feeding toward dark without being chased by bucks. Very wet fall this year. Deer hunters will definitely need their rubber boots. Tons of geese around yet. Should be a great opening weekend. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Hartman Creek State Park - The park is now offering hunting from November 15 thought December 15 with bow season extended until January 3. Hunters make sure you know where you can and cannot hunt within the park. About 1.5 miles of the park's Ice Age trail has been rerouted. Be aware it is not legal to hunt within 100 yards on either side of this trail. A hunting map, showing these changes, and where you can hunt is available at the park office and online. For non-hunters several areas of the park remain open for excellent hiking and biking opportunities. It is advisable to wear bright colored clothing while out on the trails. The park's family campground remains open until December 1. Although the dump and fill station is closed for the season, campers can obtain water in the family campground near site 21, the park office and in the Hartman Lake Picnic Area. The park's horse trails are now closed for the season. The park's single track/fat bike trails remain open. - Mike Bergum, superintendent
Waushara County - Waushara County is quite wet at the moment, but with high winds coming over the next 48 hours should help to dry things out a little for opening day. With the winds are blowing in the season's first real subfreezing temperatures so be sure to bring an extra pair of hand warmers! This might actually bring some waterfowl down, just in time for the gun deer season! The rut is still on here in the county but definitely tapering down from a couple of weeks ago. Reminder to all to stay safe, wear your blaze orange, be courteous to your fellow hunters, remember the four rules of firearm safety, and have a great hunt. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Winnebago County - Hard to believe the statewide nine-day gun deer season is right around the corner opening on Saturday. The biggest change for the deer season is electronic registration. Hunters will now register their deer over the phone, online, or electronically at a participating in-person registration station. Once you register your deer in one of these manners you will get a Confirmation Number. That Confirmation Number must be written on the carcass tag that is attached to the deer. This carcass tag and Confirmation Number is taking the place of the metal bands Wisconsin once used. Also, hunters are now required to register their deer before 5 p.m. after the day of harvest/recovery. Even with changes 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. The easy solution is wear a harness and move slow up and down slippery ladders or steps maintaining three points of contact. 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
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Harrington Beach State Park - The park has had its first snow flecks last week. The cool weather is just around the corner, but that doesn't mean you should stay bundled up inside. The cool, crisp winter nights are often clear and perfect for stargazing. Park animals are busy preparing for winter. You can see the squirrels scurrying about collecting food while numerous ducks are still migrating through the park with very good viewing from the Point. The leaves are off the trees, but if you are looking for some green, take a stroll down the Hardwood Swamp Trail for some beautiful, fragrant white cedar viewing. The campground has closed for the season. - Robin Miller, ranger
Waukesha DNR Service Center area
Waukesha County - Many waterfowl hunters are still waiting for a new push of birds before the season wraps up for the year. Cold conditions for opening weekend of the gun deer season bring hope of high deer activity. Keep in mind that registration is still mandatory for all deer harvested, and please consider providing a CWD sample if you are in an area known to have CWD. - Kelly VanBeek, wildlife biologist, Waukesha
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine County - As gun deer season approaches conditions appear good in the Racine and Kenosha county areas. The majority of crops in fields have been harvested and the leaves are off of trees and shrubs. Reports indicate that deer activity has been increasing over the last few weeks as well, with bucks seen during the day and seen chasing does. For opening weekend the forecasted weather calls for cooler temperatures, in the low 30s and 20s, with snow predicted Friday night and on Saturday. Two former registration stations have been set up to collect CWD samples- Artisan's Taxidermy in Burlington (262-763-4378) and Ron's Service station in Waterford (262-895-7700). Artisan's will be open during the week for sample collection and Ron's will be open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. It is good idea to call the stations before coming in to submit samples. Hunters can also drop off heads for CWD sampling and deer aging at a brown kiosk box at the Bong Recreation Area by the firewood shed. There are written instruction for submitting samples on the box. Pheasant stocking will continue at Richard Bong during the gun deer hunting season and stocking levels will be around 200 birds a day. Pheasant hunting pressure at Bong is slightly ahead of last year, with the daily average being 145 hunters per day, compared to 142 hunters per day last year. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Iowa County - Deer are still very active, and bucks still appear to be in very active rutting behavior. The majority of crop fields have been harvested. For hunters wishing to have their deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease, there are options in Iowa County and surrounding counties. Please follow this link to CWD testing locations. The DNR currently has 20 yard dumpsters available for hunters at 2 locations: Barneveld and Black Earth CWD sampling sites. These dumpsters are for hunters to use for disposal of their carcass waste. Other wildlife: waterfowl are using many of the sloughs and flowages in the Lower WI Riverway with large flocks of mallards and divers being reported. Wild turkey are still very active, and can be seen using the many harvested crop fields in the area. Pheasants continue to be stocked at area public hunting grounds, though most will not stock during the nine-day season. Check the DNR website for a list of properties that are stocked. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville
Lafayette County - The whitetail rut is still on (though slower than a week or two ago), the northern waterfowl have not pushed through yet, the turkey population is very strong and even though a lot of pheasants have been stocked many hunters are seeing mixed results. - Nick Webster, conservation warden, Darlington
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Dodge County - Waterfowl migration continues with some local reports of "fresh arrivals" to the area. There have been scattered reports of snowy owls. Deer rut still going. - Paul Samerdyke, wildlife biologist, Horicon
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - From observed deer behavior this week, it appears that rut is still going pretty strong around here. We may just be lucky enough to have it extend into the gun season this year. Weather reports are calling for up to 2 inches of snow on Friday night, which if it sticks, should make for great opening day conditions! Please remember that all deer must be registered by phone (1-844-426-3734), on-line or electronically at a participating in-person registration station this year. If you'd like your deer to be tested for CWD, please keep the head in a cool/frozen condition and call me to make an appointment to sample for CWD at 608-635-8123. I'll be in the office next week Monday and Tuesday, and then the following Monday. Muskrat numbers are looking pretty good, according to local trappers. Pheasant hunting continues with great success on pheasant stocked properties in the county. No stocking will take place during the nine-day gun deer season, but will resume the week following the gun season.- Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
The deer rut in Columbia County continues to be strong with bucks moving during all hours of the day. Midday sightings of bucks chasing does is common. Waterfowl migration seems slower due to unseasonably warm weather patterns. Walleye fishing on Lake Wisconsin continues to be "hit-and-miss" with some anglers reporting good fishing while others aren't having any luck.- Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette
Deer are still in rut and on the move with several nice archery killed bucks being taken in the county. Fishing has been consistent from the few folks that continue to get out and fish local lakes. With the upcoming gun deer season, please remember the golden rules of gun safety, Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, Always point the firearm in a safe direction, Be sure of your target and beyond, Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
Dane County - The rut is still in full swing. There has been a fair amount of rain in the past week, so any wet areas may be tough to access and/or will warrant some caution when accessing. Next week should be good for waterfowl/waterbird migration. With cold temperatures expected this weekend, more birds should show up on larger water bodies, lakes and rivers that remain unfrozen. Of particular interest to some birders, this weekend should be good for loon migration on the Madison chain of lakes. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
Jefferson County - The rut has been heating up over the last two weeks in Jefferson County; with reports of bucks chasing does steadily rolling in. Antler growth is expected to be very good this year due to the mild winter and early spring green up. The weather forecast is calling for cooler temperatures and snow, so conditions will hopefully be good for opening weekend. As a reminder, pheasant stocking is halted during the nine-day gun deer season, but will resume afterwards. Have a safe hunt! - Mark Witecha, wildlife biologist, Lake Mills
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
La Crosse County - Water levels on the Mississippi River have risen about one foot in the last few days and levels are predicted to continue to rise. Walleye and sauger fishing has picked up downstream of the lock and dams and some nice sized walleyes have been caught. Perch are also biting on hooks or small jigs baited with minnows. Numerous tundra swans and diving ducks have migrated into the area, but the mild weather has made duck hunting sporadic. Eagles, tundra swans, geese and ducks can be viewed at any of the numerous lookouts along the Great River Road / Hwy. 35. - Dale Hochhausen, conservation warden, La Crosse
Vernon County - Deer activity has slowed over the past week, but many bucks are still seeking does. Deer hunters may encounter bucks and does exhibiting breeding behaviors. Recent rainfalls have softened and muddied secondary roads, access roads, and trails and raised stream depths. Hunters should be cautious to avoid becoming stuck on muddy roads or crossing streams. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - The Black River area has experienced several days of rain, leaving the ground wet and muddy throughout much of the forest. The above average temperatures we have been enjoying for the last couple of weeks is about to end, with temperatures expected to drop to the 20s and 30s this weekend. This weekend is the nine-day gun deer opener. Hunters are reminded to please be aware of the presence of elk within the State Forest. For more information please see the DNR news release or visit dnr.wi.gov and search for keyword "elk." East Fork campground will close for the season on December 1 and reopen April 15. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate
Wausau DNR Service Center area
Rib Mountain State Park - Trails are in good condition for a late fall hike. Due to heavy rains in the spring the Turkey Vulture Trail suffered some washouts; the trail is open and we are working to fix the washouts. Hunters may be using the same area. The current hunting and trapping map can be found on the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov The park is currently open to small game and archery hunting. We encourage the use of blaze orange by non-hunters for your safety, vests are available to borrow at the contact station. Lots of deer, woodchucks and even an occasional turkey can be seen. The Friends Group is fundraising for a three-season enclosed shelter at the park, visit
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - New campground, A1-A8, B1-B3 and site 8 are open. Please do not leave campfires unattended and make sure they are out before leaving. Other hunting and trapping are allowed in open areas from November 15 to December 15. Park area south of County G and south of 31st Street is BOW hunting only for deer, turkey and small game. Gun hunting for deer, small game, and turkey is allowed in the park area north of County G and north of 31st St. The Yellow River Wildlife Area is open for all hunting opportunities. Hunting stands may not be left overnight on state lands. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - Hunting and trapping are allowed in open areas of the property from November 15 to December 15, except that hunting with legal archery methods is allowed through the Sunday nearest January 6. See map for closed area. No vehicles or ATVs are allowed in the park. Hunting stands may not be left overnight on state lands. - Heather Wolf, park manager