View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
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Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer season opens this Saturday and while the rut is starting to wind down in some areas it is still going strong in others with frequent deer movement and sightings of scrapes and rubs still reported. The overall archery deer harvest is running higher than 2016.
Cooler temperatures and light to moderate snowfall, along with wind will likely still impact opening day, particularly in the north. In southern and central areas, temperatures are forecast to be above freezing and most of the snow cover has disappeared, adding its own challenge. There was an ample drop of mast this year and now that most crops have been harvested, animals will be concentrating on those acorns. The lack of crop cover should make spotting easier.
There are some big changes this year [PDF], including hunters are no longer required to attach a tag to their animal. However, the deer still must be registered. For more information search the DNR website for keyword "deer."
There are antlerless deer bonus carcass tags available for purchase across the state, in many counties on both public and private land; search the DNR website for antlerless deer tag availability. Hunters can also check the DNR website for locations and times where they can have deer tested for chronic wasting disease by searching for "CWD sampling" and clicking on the sampling/registration station database link.
And people visiting Wisconsin state parks, forests and recreation areas during the nine-day gun deer season are reminded that many parks opened for hunting as of Nov. 15. Park and forest visitors should wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing. Some properties offer loaner blaze-orange vests at visitor stations. To find maps of what areas within park properties are closed to hunting or to fine properties where hunting is prohibited, search for keywords "hunting state parks."
With last week's cold snap, some lakes had started to freeze over but it's mostly skim ice and not safe yet for ice fishing. A warm up and rain in the forecast could melt ice that has formed. However open water fishing has continued to be good on Lower Green Bay and the Fox River for those who have not put their boats away yet. There were solid catches for musky with anglers reporting fish over 48 inches on the bay and excellent fishing for walleye and whitefish on the Fox. Those whitefish are pushing into the rivers to begin their spawning run and will remain in the river for the majority of winter, feeding on the abundant forage the Fox River has to offer.
The ice that was forming pushed some geese and ducks south but areas with open water were still reporting that mallards, bufflehead, goldeneye, redheads, canvasback and even a lingering wood duck are all being seen.
Opportunities for viewing sandhill cranes have been great with hundreds being seen staging in farm fields through southern and central Wisconsin. There has been an early influx of snowy owls into Wisconsin this year. You can learn more about our snowy owl irruption by searching dnr.wi.gov for keyword "snowy owls."
November 18, 9 a.m.- noon Restore Chiwaukee Prairie! Help Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund volunteers during our monthly workdays on the third Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this rich prairie in the process. Remove invasive brush threatening the prairie. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Warmer weather and some light rain have melted most of the snow that we had. A light dusting of snow overnight won't last as temperatures will be above freezing for the next couple of days and some rain is headed our way. There is little to no snow forecast for the next week, so the brown landscape may be with us for a while. If you would like to cut a Christmas tree from the Brule River State Forest, permits can be obtained at the Brule DNR Headquarters. The cost for a permit is $5. Fisheries personnel electroshocked a stretch of the Brule River to capture steelhead this week. Data collected from these fish is used to evaluate the steelhead population. A specialized boat delivers an electrical current into the water which temporarily stuns the fish. The fish are netted and held briefly until they can be processed. The fish are measured, weighed, and a few scales are taken. The fish are then returned to the river. The collected scales are used to determine the age of the fish. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Iron County - Deer activity has seemed to slow down a bit from the beginning of the month. However, we started this month with a full moon and a lot of movement because of it. By the end of this week, we're supposed to see a new moon, which should increase deer activity. A lot of deer and deer tracks have been seen this year, with few rubs and scrapes. Unfortunately, opening weekend weather looks similar to last year with windy conditions and fairly high gusts. Snow is expected. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Washburn County - Bow hunters have been seeing lots of deer and the rut is in full swing. The deer population is doing well. - Nancy Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Flambeau River State Forest - Marshes, ponds, shallow lakes have a half an inch to an inch thin layer of ice on top. Deer have been very active during all hours of the day and night. This bodes well for the opening day of the gun deer season Saturday. The forecast is for a possibility of a white snow background which makes it easier to track. When hunting on the Flambeau River State Forest be aware that elk calves are about the same size as an adult deer. Hunters are cautioned to be sure of their target in order to insure the safety of the protected elk. Bird migration is still in progress as we have been seeing purple finches and snow buntings on the move and trumpeter swans on open water. Bears are denned up and the weasels have turned white. Beaver and muskrat are starting to prime-up so it seems that all indications imply that we will be having a normal winter. There are a few timber sales cutting on the Forest as the woods are very wet. Most logging operations are waiting for freeze up.
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Langlade County - The white tailed deer numbers in the county have rebounded nicely over the past couple of years. Indications from the archery season are that hunters are seeing a decent number of deer in most parts of the county. The overall archery deer harvest is running significantly higher than 2016. The body condition and antler development are both looking good. Currently there is about 2-3 inches of snow in the woods, but predicated rains on Friday will likely cause this to diminish by opening morning. Woods roads are wet and swampy areas are not frozen so access into some areas could be challenging. The rutting activity is winding down, but it will likely continue going in to opening weekend. - Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Brown County - The Bay Beach Launch lot averaged 3-7 trailers throughout the week. One angler reported targeting musky with no luck for a full day on the water. The Fox Point Launch lot averaged 5 trailers in it over the past week. One fishing group reported targeting walleye and brought back three with no other bites. - Kara Winter, fisheries technician, Green Bay
With water temperatures dropping daily it is only a matter of time until the lakes and rivers begin to lock up, but until then fishing remains very good. Musky anglers continue to troll big crankbaits and cast big rubber baits to catch their fish both in the lower bay and in the Fox River. Though musky fishing hasn't been on fire, anglers are catching big fish (48 in. and up) when the fish are feeding. A reminder for musky anglers that the fishing season for muskies closes Nov. 30. Anglers that have been targeting walleyes however are finding one of the best bites that has occurred all year long. Anglers fishing in the Fox River have been locating hungry fish in 8-16 feet of water hanging on or just off the channel break. Many presentations have boated fish but the best have been hair jig (tipped with minnow or bare), jig and plastic (ringworm style) and big stick baits (size 9 and up). Most colors have been catching fish but Firetiger and chartreuse have been the best for numbers. Walleyes caught have ranged in sizes from 15-22 inches, so if you want to catch some dinner now is a great time. Whitefish are entering the river every day and are starting to congregate up by the De Pere Dam. Whitefish are pushing into the rivers to begin their spawning run and will remain in the river for the majority of winter feeding on the abundant forage the Fox River has to offer. Most fish in the river are in the size range of 16-20 inches with a few big females pushing 25 inches. If you haven't already, don't go putting the boat away this week instead hit the Fox River or Lower bay for walleye and whitefish dinner. - Derek Apps, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - The weather for the opener of the nine-day gun deer season looks to be in the upper 30s with a chance of precipitation. Warmer weather this week eliminated a lot of the snow cover on the ground. Small ponds and bays are still covered in a thin layer of ice. Hunters participating in deer hunting should be reminded that baiting in Marinette County is still allowed; however, it is NOT allowed in neighboring Oconto and Forest Counties. The maximum allowable amount of bait in Marinette County is still two gallons. Hunters no longer have to validate or attach a paper carcass tag to the deer but are still REQUIRED to register their harvested deer by 5 p.m. the day after harvest. Tree stands are only permitted to be left overnight on DNR property in Marinette County north of Highway 64. Hunters are responsible for reviewing the 2017 deer hunting regulations prior to going afield. Please contact your local DNR Service Center, 1-888-WDNR-INFo, or your local warden if you still have questions. Please also help your local warden by reporting violations to 1-800-TIP-WDNR. Have a safe and enjoyable hunt. - Tim Werner, conservation warden
Deer are moving at all hours of the day right now with heavy rutting activity. Light snow is still covering the ground, but warmer temps and rain will likely melt away the little that remains. Fishing on the Menominee River has picked up with whitefish, walleyes, and brown trout all being caught. The Peshtigo Harbor Shooting Range has been very busy lately with hunters preparing for the nine-day hunt. The range is located at the end of Hipke Road, East of Harbor Road (south of Peshtigo). The range free to use and open to the public every day. Please bring your own paper targets and clean up after yourself. This weekend marks the opening of the nine-day gun deer season. Hunters are no longer required to attach a tag to their animal. However, the deer still must be registered. Wildlife staff relies on good harvest/registration data to make population management decision. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Oconto County - The deer are still moving and still seem to be in the rut mode. Bucks are chasing does, and I've seen scrapes and rubs all over the place. Oconto County provides many opportunities to go out hunting as there is the National Forest north of Hwy 64, large amounts of public county land and state lands near the town of Brazeau and Bagley. There are also large amounts of public land south of stiles also known as the Machickanee forest. There are smaller sections of lands near the bay shores and Pensaukee state wildlife area. Some lakes are already frozen over but ice does not look safe. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Shawano County - There are bucks on the move. The bucks in rut are still working their scrape lines, and chasing the hot does. Several large bucks have been seen on Navarino State Land, although they are likely very mobile at this time. Shawano Lake has started to form ice already. Cecil Bay has ice out for around 75 yards. With the above freezing temperatures this week, it will be a bit yet before the lake freezes fully across. The ducks and geese are moving over Shawano Lake as well. Mallards, bufflehead, goldeneye, redheads, canvasback and even a lingering wood duck are all being hunted over the reed beds. - Clark Delzer, conservation warden, Shawano
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Potawatomi State Park - All trails are open. The park is open to hunting and trapping starting Nov. 15-Jan. 7. The nine day tradition gun hunt is Nov. 18-26. Please stop at the park office to pick up a map of the open and closed areas of hunting. Hiking trails that are completely out of hunting areas are: Ice Age Trail, Hemlock trail, and Nature Trail (no pets). The tree leaf color is past peak but many trees still have leaves. The tower is the most popular location to view what is left of the fall colors. Several deer and turkey have been spotted closer to dusk. The launching piers at Sawyer Harbor have been removed for the season. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Whitefish Dunes State Park - An eagle was spotted in a tall pine tree along the shoreline this week. The park is open to hunting and trapping starting Nov. 15- Jan. 7. The nine day tradition gun hunt is Nov. 18-26. Please stop at the park office to pick up a map of the open and closed areas of hunting. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - In central Wisconsin the rut has tailed off. Normal deer movement has started to resume. With recent cold snap most standing water is glazed over and waterfowl have to leave or rest on rivers. Not a good year for migratory bird hunters. We went from 75 and sunny in very late October to 6 degrees last Friday. Pretty small window for duck and woodcock hunters. Now is the "tweener" time for inland fishing. Lots of skim ice, too thin to hold you up. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - The weather looks like it will be pretty decent as opening weekends go. No snow on the ground in Waushara County, but the corn has come down in a lot of areas and has helped deer movement. The rut is still going as numerous deer have been seen chasing does still. With the warming this week the ice that has formed will most likely weaken and be very touch and go so use caution if you are thinking about venturing out for early ice fishing. Waterfowl are still around the area as well, focus on those picked corn fields and running waterways will be your best bet. As always good luck and be safe - remember a deer is never worth it, be sure to get home safely every night! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Milwaukee County - We have seen an early influx of snowy owls into Wisconsin this year. You can learn more about our snowy owl irruption by visiting the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching 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. 18, so get your gear together to participate in this exciting Wisconsin tradition! Learn more about deer hunting in Wisconsin by searching keyword "deer". If you harvest a deer, the DNR is interested in CWD samples from around the state. Search keyword "CWD sampling" to find where you can have your deer sampled. 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, Milwaukee
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Washington County - This week was the last pheasant stocking before the nine-day gun deer season on Theresa, Allenton and Jackson Wildlife Areas. No pheasants are stocked during the nine-day season. There will be two more pheasant stockings on the three properties (one per week) following the deer season. Deer hunters are reminded that there is a self-service kiosk at the Pike Lake DNR parking lot where they can drop off deer heads for CWD testing. This year the statewide CWD testing plan includes "weighted surveillance" in Washington, Dodge, Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties, which focuses on sampling more older bucks in addition to the random sampling of all deer. We're hoping more hunters from those counties will submit adult bucks for sampling. Several taxidermists around the area have been set up to collect weighted surveillance samples from willing hunters. A complete list of CWD sampling locations is online. The "rut" is in full swing, and bow hunters around the area seem to be having some luck. Duck hunting on Theresa Marsh has also been good with some late season migrants showing up on the property. Viewing of waterfowl, sandhill cranes and other migratory birds is excellent from the State Hwy 28 right of ways, just west of Hwy 41. Hundreds of sandhill cranes can also be seen staging in farm fields around the west side of Allenton and Theresa Marsh. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine County - As gun season approaches in Racine and Kenosha counties, people are reporting increased deer movement in the area. The majority of crops have been harvested in fields in both counties, including most of the public lands. The weather conditions looked mixed for the weekend with rain on Saturday and cooler temps on Sunday. Hunters can drop heads off of adult deer for CWD sampling at the Kiosk at the Bong Recreation Area, by the firewood shed. Hunters can also provide heads for sampling at Artisan's Taxidermy and Berndt's Hide Service in Burlington and Ron's Service Station in Waterford area. Hunters can check the DNR website for shop locations and times by typing CWD sampling on the DNR website and looking under sampling and electronic registration. With the cooler temperatures there has been increase in waterfowl movement. Ducks seen at the Bong Refuge include mallards, green winged teal, gadwall, shoveler, swan, and sandhill crane. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Weekly Riverway Video Report - Richland County River levels are normal for this time of year. A few sandbars have appeared in the past several days. If you plan on paddling be sure to have the right safety gear to prevent hypothermia. Gun deer season opens this weekend and there will be a lot of activity on both public and private lands. - Mark Cupp, executive director Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Grant County - Last Friday's cold weather put a layer of skim ice on all the sloughs and backwater ponds off the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. This pushed most of the ducks along on their way south, but the ice is starting to melt in some areas and new ducks are showing up again. Deer are still running hard and their trails appear well-used. Some scrapes are still being visited as well. There was a great acorn crop of swamp white oaks in the bottoms, and red and white oaks elsewhere. Deer and raccoon are still feeding on acorns in the woods. Trapping pressure remains low with the continued poor fur market. It is a great time to get out and trap new areas or try different techniques as there is not much competition. - Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Deer rutting behavior has peaked in the Vernon County area, but bucks remain very active, and archers have been taking full advantage of it. Gun deer hunters will likely observe many deer, both bucks and does, exhibiting breeding behaviors. Deer continue feeding heavily upon this year's bountiful hard mast crop, especially as corn and soybean fields are harvested. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - Gun deer season starts on Nov. 18 in the Yellow River Wildlife Area and park area north of "G" and north of 31st. Hunting maps are available online or at the park office. The park area south of County G and south of 31st St and Buckhorn Wildlife Area are bow only and all hunters except waterfowl hunters must wear blaze orange during gun deer seasons. - Heather Wolf, park manager