Outdoor ReportPublished November 15, 2018

Subscribe to DNR website updates.

View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).

Wisconsin's traditional nine-day gun deer hunting season opens this Saturday and with snow in many northern areas and more in the forecast for Friday into Saturday but with otherwise relatively mild hunting conditions it should make for a good opener.

Hunters can find all the information they need by searching the DNR website for keyword "deer." Or new for this year, hunters with mobile devices can download the Hunt Wild Wisconsin mobile app, which provides mapping, shooting hours and easy access to regulations. Hunters can download the app from the DNR website at keywords "hunt app."

Little Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park has begun to ice over.  Skim and shelf ice is forming on lakes and some smaller lakes have frozen over. - Photo credit: DNR
Little Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park has begun to ice over. Skim and shelf ice is forming on lakes and some smaller lakes have frozen over.Photo credit: DNR

This is the earliest possible opening of the season and while it is winding down in some areas, rutting activity is still noticeable with bucks visiting their scrapes and rubs and still being seen chasing does. A reminder that hunters must register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after recovery and registration is now easier than ever online, by phone or in person at registration stations. Search the DNR website for "GameReg," for details. Hunters can get a deer tested for CWD at no cost and can find sampling locations by searching for keywords "CWD Sampling."

Elk harems have disbanded in the Flambeau River State Forest, and mature bulls are separate from the cow-calf groups. With the upcoming gun deer season hunters in areas of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, Price and Rusk counties are cautioned to be very sure of their target as yearling elk are now about the size of an adult doe.

Snow depths range from a dusting to nearly 10 inches across about the northern quarter of the state. It looks like the middle of ski season at the MECCA trails in the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area, but swamps need to freeze up before any grooming can be done. Crews have started rolling these wet areas.

Skim and shelf ice forming on many bodies of water and across swamps and some of the smaller lakes in the north have frozen, but not strong enough yet to support ice anglers. Heavy chunks of ice are flowing down the Flambeau River, which still has high water levels and the Big and Little Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park are starting to ice over.

Anglers were still fishing the Menominee River for walleye, whitefish, and brown and rainbow trout with moderate success. One lucky angler reeled in a rainbow trout that measured 34 inches and weighed close to 17 pounds. Anglers are still doing well on walleyes on the Wolf River.

Brisk northwest winds, cold temperatures, and freezing water bodies led to a busy week for bird migration. Perhaps most notable was the exodus of many sandhill cranes and arrival of peak numbers of tundra swans. Thousands of tundra swans reached traditional haunts along the Mississippi River and hundreds can also be found on Madison area lakes. Along the Lake Michigan shore, thousands of red-breasted mergansers continue to be seen daily, including an incredible count of over 25,000 on November 10 at Harrington Beach State Park.

Hunters and other heading north can cut Christmas trees from the Northern State Forest but must first get a low cost permit from forest headquarters offices. Tree cutters, hikers and others who will be out in the field over the next nine days are encouraged to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing.


Statewide Birding Report

Brisk northwest winds, cold temperatures, and freezing water bodies led to a busy week for bird migration. Perhaps most notable was the exodus of sandhill cranes and arrival of peak numbers of tundra swans, especially on Saturday November 10 when large flocks of cranes could be seen overhead across southern and central counties as they began their trek to wintering grounds in Florida. Good numbers still remain in some places, however, such as the Horicon area. Thousands of tundra swans reached traditional haunts along the Mississippi River, the Brownsville (Minnesota) overlook south of La Crosse providing the best viewing of 2,000-plus birds. Hundreds can also be found on Madison area lakes, with smaller numbers elsewhere, including flocks overhead often detected flying east or southeast toward wintering areas along the mid-Atlantic coast centered around the Chesapeake Bay. Forecasts of mild temperatures and dry conditions should keep them here over the week ahead so get out and see the spectacle while you can!

Evening grosbeaks are on the move this year, largely due to poor seed sources across the eastern boreal forests of Canada. (Data courtesy of www.ebird.org) - Photo credit: ebird
Evening grosbeaks are on the move this year, largely due to poor seed sources across the eastern boreal forests of Canada. Click on image for larger size.(Data courtesy of www.ebird.org)Photo credit: ebird

Elsewhere, an impressive report from Goose Pond Sanctuary in Columbia County on November 12 was highlighted by 2,500 mallards, 2,500 Canada geese, 235 tundra swans, and other species. More than 1,200 and 500 common mergansers were tallied in Shawano and Brown counties, respectively, only to be outdone by thousands of red-breasted mergansers continuing daily along the Lake Michigan shore, including an incredible count of over 25,000 on November 10 from the water bird watch at Harrington Beach in Ozaukee County. Back on land, some short-eared owls are being seen at typical grassland/wetland hotspots such as Richard Bong State Recreation Area and Buena Vista Marsh. Snowy owls continue to trickle in, at least 10 now tallied statewide. Reports of northern shrikes were somewhat common this week, while pine siskins have begun visiting feeders in small numbers. Evening grosbeaks are staging a large southward flight in the northeastern U.S. A few flocks have been reported in Wisconsin, mostly in the north woods but as far south as Fond du Lac, and feeder watchers should keep an eye out for this showy species that was once far more common than it is now.

Various sparrow species continue even well to the north, including fox, white-crowned, white-throated, song, and American tree, to name a few. Other lingerers found this week included Swainson's and hermit thrush, gray catbird, great egret, and a northern waterthrush. Baltimore orioles were photographed in Juneau and Waukesha counties. Other rarities found this week were a yellow-throated warbler in Dane, black-legged kittiwake in Ozaukee, varied thrush in Lincoln, and a frigatebird species photographed in Dane, marking only the fifth known record of this seabird in Wisconsin. Find out what others are seeing and report your finds at www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

Attract evening grosbeaks to your feeders with black oil sunflower seeds presented on a platform feeder, hopper feeder, or other flat surface such as a table or the ground.  - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Attract evening grosbeaks to your feeders with black oil sunflower seeds presented on a platform feeder, hopper feeder, or other flat surface such as a table or the ground. Photo credit: Ryan Brady


Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

As we move later into fall programs at Wisconsin State Park System properties begin to thin some but there is usually some still going on. Get ready for Thanksgiving with a program on Saturday at Willow River all about Wisconsin's' famous Thanksgiving bird. Learn some interesting facts about turkeys, find out if it's easier to eat a turkey VS. eating like a turkey, then we'll play Turkey Bingo (similar to traditional Bingo) with small prizes available for participants who are not afraid to "gobble" at the competition! Or learn to make corn husk dolls, flowers or other art with the same techniques used by pioneers and Native Americans at a Saturday Program at Richard Bong. No fee, but please pre-register by calling (262) 878-5601
Click on the links below for highlighted programs this weekend or click on Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.
Saturday, November 17, 2018

For all events search Get Outdoors


Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

November 17, 9 a.m.-noon: Chiwaukee Prairie Workday: Cutting and treating brush. 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. We will be removing invasive brush that can dominate the prairie and displace native plants. 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


Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Heading upstream Heading upstream
Working up the fish Photo credit: DNR Steelhead
Steelhead Back_into_the_River
Back into the River
Brule River State Forest - It is winter in the State Forest! Snow fell last week and night time temperatures have been in the single digits. After a week of gray skies, it is nice to see the sun again. Above freezing temperatures yesterday and today have reduced the snow cover from the level it was at earlier in the week, but there is still plenty of snow left. Gun deer season starts Saturday, Nov. 17 and runs through Nov. 25. Make sure you know all the details of the regulations for this season. Go to Dnr.wi.gov. Search "deer hunting regulations" or stop by your nearest license dealer, DNR service center, or the ranger station to get a copy of this year's regulations. Have a safe and enjoyable hunt! Christmas tree permits are available 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. November 15 is the last day of fishing season on the lower Brule until spring. Fisheries personnel electroshocked a stretch of the upper Brule River to capture steelhead Nov. 15. 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. Data collected from these fish are used to evaluate the steelhead population. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Amnicon Falls State Park - Winter is knocking at the door at Amnicon. Thursday, Nov. 8 brought the first measurable snowfall with about 2 inches covering the ground. Colder than average temperatures, including the first dip below zero, mean very little snow has melted. Now is a perfect time to enjoy a walk around the falls or on a hiking trail. - David Lindsley, ranger

Pattison State Park - Winter has arrived at Pattison State Park. We have a few inches of the fluffy stuff and the temperatures have been cold enough, so it is sticking around. Both Big and Little Manitou Falls are starting to ice up. We had a very successful Rivet Run race at the park on Sunday, November 11. It was a bit chilly but, 115 racers took to our ski trails and had a great time. We had a lot of positive remarks on the condition of the trail and just how beautiful the snowy scenery was. Many thanks to our organizers, volunteers, and park staff in getting the buildings, and trails ready for race day. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Rivet Run
Rivet Run start line. Rivet Run
Rivet Run - their off.
Rivet Run
Rivet Run home stretch.
Rivet Run
Rivet Run - crossing the finish line..
Rivet Run
Rivet Run celebration.

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - After the 8-9 inches of snow received here in Mercer it looks like the middle of ski season, but the swamps need to freeze up before any grooming can be done on the MECCA trails. Work will start today on rolling these wet areas. Meanwhile, you can make your own trail with skis or snowshoes. The chalet will open in December and note that Saturday is the opening of deer hunting season. - Brett Bockhop, ranger, Mercer

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Winter is coming in quickly in the Grantsburg Area. Recent temperatures in the teens have caused the flowages to begin icing over, and we also have a thin layer of snow covering the ground. Most of our smaller migrants have gone south, but we still have some of our larger birds hanging around. Sandhill cranes are still coming in by the thousands in the evenings, and congregating in the fields during the day. Trumpeter swans are still all over the properties as well, with some tundra swans showing up here and there. We are beginning to see some of our later migrants showing up, and some of our winter residents. Rough-legged hawks and snow buntings are in the area, and we are beginning to see some Lapland longspurs as well. River otters have been spotted on several places on the property, including Phantom Lake and North Fork Flowage. A black bear was seen recently, swimming near the southern boat launch on Phantom Lake (before we started to get ice). - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River water level is high, and heavy chunks of ice are flowing down river. As of Nov. 15 the forest has 2 to 5 inches of snow, a good depth for the deer gun season opener though the woods is wet, so be sure to be prepared. The grouse season is open till the Dec. 31. Deer and elk have been busy grazing. Elk harems have disbanded, and mature bulls are separate from the cow-calf groups. The cow-calf groups are occasionally accompanied by the younger bulls. The deer rut is in the winding down stages. Some does are seen with last year's young. With the upcoming gun deer season approaching hunters are cautioned that while hunting on and around the Flambeau River State Forest and other areas of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, Price and Rusk counties, to be careful while hunting...our young elk herd resides in this area. Please be careful that you do not accidently shoot an elk. There are five active logging sales at this time on the Flambeau River State Forest. Be aware of large logging trucks on the roads. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be mostly cloudy during the day than a slight chance of snow with a high of 30 and a low of 18. Saturday, mostly sunny with a high of 23 and a low of 9. Sunday, mostly sunny with a high of 24 and low of 9. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Anywhere from 3 to 10 inches of snow will greet the deer hunter on the forest this weekend. Rut activity is noticeable with decent scrapes and rubs in certain areas giving all hunters the hopes of bringing home some venison. Grouse have been seen budding in the ironwood trees already. The bright red berries of winterberry and highbush cranberry have been absent this fall leading observers to think that the birds got to them early? Areas of high water are now covered with a blanket of snow and a thin layer of ice, so please use caution while out hunting or recreating this weekend. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate


Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Marinette County - The water temperature of the Menominee River ranged between 35 and 42 degrees throughout the week with an overall downward trend. Discharge ranged between 4,500-7,800 cubic feet per second and continues to be high for November. The Hattie Street dam area had moderate to high fishing pressure on both shores and from the Hattie Street walkway. Walleye, whitefish, and brown trout were targeted, with moderate success. One fisherman was using salmon eggs as bait, which gave him some success earlier in the week. Stephenson Island area shore and boat anglers had luck catching a few brown trout, rainbow trout, and walleye. One lucky angler reeled in a rainbow trout that measured 34 inches and weighed close to 17 pounds. The Peshtigo River fell from 44 down to 36 degrees by the weekend. Discharge ranged between 1,300-2,500 cubic feet per second and continues to be high for November. - Scott Poquette and Alex Keiler-Klein, fisheries technicians, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Water temperatures ranged from 32 to 42 degrees and flows ranged from 1,400-1,700 cubic feet per second throughout the week. High fishing pressure was recorded for both pier anglers and boats at the Breakwater pier. The most sought-after fish was yellow perch with few being caught. Many offshore anglers were using night crawlers or minnows to catch perch. The shore anglers using minnows had more success than those who used night crawlers. - Scott Poquette and Alex Keiler-Klein, fisheries technicians, Peshtigo

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Cold weather has settled over Marinette county with skim ice forming on many small bodies of water and across swamps. Tuesdays high only reached into the 20s and the resulting ice may be enough to support deer and deer hunters walking through low areas on opening morning. Bow hunters report seeing very little deer activity while on stand over the last week or so. Northern reaches of the county are snow covered and the forecast suggests that the snow will remain at least through opening weekend. Hunters who wish to get a deer tested for CWD (at NO COST) may take their deer head to a number of different locations within and adjacent to Marinette County. Locations include Fence, Armstrong Creek, Dunbar, Pembine, Wausaukee, and Peshtigo. For a complete list of detailed locations search the DNR website with keyword 'CWD Sampling.' Good luck to all the deer hunters. Have a safe and enjoyable hunt! - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Woods Lake has frozen over. - Photo credit: DNR
Woods Lake has frozen over.Photo credit: DNR

Governor Thompson State Park - Winter is here. The inland lakes are mostly frozen and the boat landing facilities on Caldron Falls are now iced in. It's a great time to see what was hiding in the woods behind the leaves. trees. The park is open for hunting Nov. 15-Dec. 15 for gun hunting and from Nov. 15-Jan. 6, 2019 for archery hunting. Looking for a place to hike or walk your dog that is not open to hunting? The Otter Trail and the campground loop roads are great places to hike and are completely inside the wildlife refuge areas. - Maggie Kailhofer, park manager

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Manitowoc County - The weather looks good for opening weekend of the gun deer season. As of now Nov. 13 there is a little bit of snow on the ground, and hopefully that will stay for opening morning. Thursday the temps are to reach 40 degrees, which will melt the snow in plain sight of the sun, hopefully the snow in the woods will survive the warm up. It seems the rut is still going on and may be winding down. Hunters are reporting still seeing bucks chasing does. As a reminder to all hunters wear your safety harness while in a tree stand and remember TAB-K. Safe Hunting is no accident. Good luck to all as you head out to the woods and stay safe! - Alyssa R Neff-Miller, conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Potawatomi State Park - The leaves are past peak but there is still a little color left and it is a great time to hike the Ice Age Trail which mostly is out of the hunting areas. Sandhill cranes have been seen in the neighboring corn fields by the park entrance and can also be seen flying over the park. Park staff have spotted lots of deer activity throughout the park. Hunting is allowed in the park November 15-January 6. Please stop by the office to pick up a map and it is recommended to wear bright colors if hiking in the park. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Leaf color is past peak but the woods still have a lot of fall colors. This is a great time to hike the trails to see the leaves. This week a visitor spotted an eagle and porcupine on the Red Trail. There has been several sightings of deer. A few inches of snow fell last weekend but will likely melt before the coming weekend. Hunting: is allowed in the park from November 15-January 6. Please stop by the office for a map and it is recommended to wear bright colors if hiking in the park. The recommended hiking trails at this time are the Red Trail or sections of the beach which are completely out of the hunting areas. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Bucks are still running around but the does and fawns are herding up and feeding heavily in the fields. I think the does know the rut is over but the bucks don't want it to end! We had an inch or two of snow on the ground, but most has melted and none is predicted in the near future. Wednesday morning it was 10 degrees. As a result most still water and small lakes are glazed over meaning the end of the open water fishing season for a while. Another result of the cold conditions is that it is likely most ducks are going to point their beaks south and get out of here for warmer climates. The cold doesn't seem to bother the geese, it will take 6 inches of snow over the stubble fields to drive them south. If you haven't filled your turkey tag, you aren't trying too hard. They seem to be everywhere. The weather forecast for this weekend is: highs around 30 and lows around 15 with winds 10 mph or less. Pretty good weather for hunting with or without snow. Good weather for cooling the meat off too. Most archery/crossbow hunters report seeing plenty of deer so there should be good opportunity to harvest some venison. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

The rut is still very active and deer are moving. Hunters are optimistic the deer will still be in rut on opening day. Hunters are seeing deer at all times of the day, but are seeing most activity in the morning and evening hours. Bucks are still visiting their scrapes. Trappers are still reporting little trapping pressure but the trappers who are active have stated they are enjoying themselves despite the poor fur market. Try to find some time to and get out and trap. Anglers are still doing well on walleyes on the Wolf River near New London. The best action has been had with minnows and a jig for bait. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Outagamie County - Bucks have been seen chasing does in the Appleton and surrounding areas. Having an "early" opening for the gun deer hunt means hunters can expect to still see quite a bit of rutting activity. There is very little tracking snow on the ground in shady spots. With temperatures going into the upper 30s near the end of the week, there will be very little snow or ice on the ground. Hunters who typically hunt swampy areas should plan for elevated water levels and bring hip boots or wader. Before taking to the woods or fields, hunters should pull out their tags and review them. Make sure you have the proper licenses and tags for the area you plan to hunt. Additionally, hunters are reminded that deer need to be registered by 5 p.m. the day after recovery. Registering your deer is mandatory. On the safety side, all hunters are reminded to be certain of your target and what is beyond. Taking an extra few seconds to confirm there is nothing beyond your target is worth the time considering the alternatives could be devastating. Have a safe and successful hunt - Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Appleton


Southeast Region

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The first touch of snow and cold temperatures have arrived in the forest. Fall rains have kept many of our trails damp - especially the Tamarack Trail - but most trails are in good shape, and the mountain bike and horse trails are open. The Ice Age Trail remains impassible between Scenic and County Road V due to storm damage. Mauthe Lake campground reservation season has ended, but first-come first-served camping is open in the 100-400 loops through winter. In a snow event, only the 100s loop will be plowed. Hunting seasons are in full swing, and the deer gun season will run from Nov. 17-25. Visitors are advised to wear brightly-colored clothing when venturing into areas of the forest open to hunting. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate


South Central Region

No reports.


West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Kinnickinnic State Park - All trees, with the exception of the stalwart oaks, have dropped their leaves. The brightly colored palette of autumn has been replaced by the subdued hue of winter. We have reached what is generally considered the peak of deer rut activity which will gradually slow until they fall into winter routines. Most of the parks summer migrants have returned to warmer climates. Fishing on the Kinnickinnic River is closed. It will re-open to catch and release only on Jan. 5, 2019. All park trails are currently open only to foot travel. Trail surfaces are generally snow covered, but can frequently change due to weather conditions. None of the trails have been or will be groomed until we receive significantly more snow fall. The Park will be open to all legal hunting activities and limited trapping activities from Nov. 15 until Dec. 15. This includes Wisconsin's traditional nine-day gun deer season which runs from Nov. 18-25. As well as the State's metro unit season which extends the firearms season until Dec. 5 and the antlerless only season which concludes on Dec. 9. There are no restrictions for other types of park users. Non-hunters are encouraged, but not required, to wear brightly colored clothing. Information on hunting and trapping opportunities within the park are available at the park office. - Eric Klumb, ranger

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Perrot State Park - The hiking trails are in good condition. With many of the leaves already on the ground you will get a magnificent view of the bluffs, the river, and the topography of the park. Stop by the office and pick up a trail map. Some sections of the park will be open for hunting beginning November 15. Trails that are closed to hunting include: East Brady's and West Brady's and the Riverview Trail. Maps indicating closed areas are posted at the office and at trailhead kiosks. Much of our fall color has already passed, but some of the oak trees along the bay and on Trempealeau Mountain are still showing off their autumn beauty. The prairie grasses are lighting up the prairies with a golden glow so hike up to the top of Brady's Bluff or stroll through the Nature Center prairie. Many of the migratory songbirds have passed through the area but the local birds are out feeding on the dried berries and seeds. The tundra swans are in the area. You may see some in Trempealeau Bay or at our neighbor, the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. The boat dock has been removed for the season. - Lois Larson, park manager

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Ice is starting to form on bays with the cooler weather. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions. People have been launching boats and fishing up the river by the railroad trestle. Gun deer hunting is allowed in the Yellow River Wildlife Area and portion of the park north of County G and north of 31st St. Buckhorn Wildlife Area and park south of G and south of 31st is bow only. All hunters except waterfowl must wear blaze orange during gun deer seasons, even if hunting in bow only area. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and camping are now closed until the beginning of May. Hunting maps are available online or in the map box in the winter lot. Hunting starts Nov. 15. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Last Revised: Thursday, November 15, 2018

Contact information

Need an expert? Contact the Office of Communications.

The Office of Communications connects journalists with DNR experts on a wide range of topics. For the fastest response, please email DNRPress@Wisconsin.gov and the first available Communications Specialist will respond to you.