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Outdoor Report

Published November 29, 2018 by the Central Office

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

Preliminary registration numbers from Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer season show an increase in statewide harvest. Overall, preliminary figures show that 211,430 deer were registered during the nine-day gun deer hunt, compared to 197,733 in 2017. The nine-day gun deer season continues to show hunting as a safe recreational activity, as the season ended with three hunting incidents and no hunting-related fatalities, which DNR law enforcement staff say is the safest season on record.

There is now a statewide muzzleloader deer hunt going on through Dec. 5 and there is a statewide antlerless only hunt that runs from Dec. 6 to 9.

Ice anglers have begun to venture out on lakes in far northern Wisconsin, like these anglers fishing this week on Big Arbor Vitae. - Photo credit: DNR
Ice anglers have begun to venture out on lakes in far northern Wisconsin, like these anglers fishing this week on Big Arbor Vitae. But safety recreation specialists say no ice should ever be considered safe and to check ice conditions before you go out and while moving around on the ice.Photo credit: DNR

Ice is forming on lakes across the state but state recreational safety wardens are reminding people that no ice is safe and that early season ice conditions vary greatly from waterbody to waterbody.

Ice levels in the far north have reached 3 to 4 inches and ice anglers have begun to venture out. Trout Lake in Vilas County froze over this week but not with thick enough ice to support anglers yet. Search the DNR website for "ice safety" for tips on staying safe on the ice.

There seems to be a good strong population of bobcat this year in the Flambeau River State Forest. Their prey: snowshoe hares, cottontail rabbits and rodents are also well populated. Most puddle ducks are long gone, but some open water areas still have diving ducks using them. Lots of geese around yet through southern and central Wisconsin - it takes not only cold, but snow to cover up their food sources before they leave. Rough-legged hawks are now more frequently seen hunting Horicon Marsh. Thousands of sandhill cranes are still being seen in a single farm field around the marsh. The lack of snow and late harvest has provided an ample food supply for them late in the season.

Bird feeder watchers are reporting many of the standard species now, like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and goldfinches, in addition to a few specialties such as pine siskins statewide, evening grosbeaks up north, and the occasional common redpoll. See a conservation biologist's Top Ten tips for winter bird feeding to discover some secrets to success this winter on the DNR website.

Spring is a long way off, but don't forget the spring turkey and 2019 bear application is due by December 10.

Green Bay rea residents can join Wisconsin State Parks for an evening of outdoor fun at "Meet the Rangers." Get the inside scoop on Wisconsin's outdoor recreation opportunities from the folks who make it happen. The fun runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 4 at Titletown Park in Green Bay.

2019 State Parks & Forests Vehicle Admission Stickers and Trail Passes go on sale December 1 at park and forest offices and DNR service centers. They can also be purchased over the phone by calling the DNR customer service line at 888-936-7463 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. They make great holiday gifts!

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No ice is safe ice; ask locals for early winter conditions

Wisconsin again is welcoming early winter conditions as December prepares to arrive, dropping temperatures to form early-season ice on ponds, lakes and rivers prompting the Department of Natural Resources to remind anglers, hunters and outdoor activity fans that no ice is safe.

Early season ice conditions vary greatly from waterbody to waterbody, according to Capt. April Dombrowski of the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills Section.

"Good sources of local ice conditions include bait store operators, fishing clubs around lakes, ice fishers and snowmobile clubs," Dombrowski said. "These are the places locally most likely to have the most current information about the lakes and areas."

The DNR does not monitor ice conditions stressing the importance of knowing before you go. Remember, she says, even though it may look thick on the surface, moving water from streams, rivers and springs can cause ice to form unevenly

"Your best option for the most reliable ice conditions is to ask local businesses and sporting organizations about the area's conditions before you go on the ice," Dombrowski said.

People who do venture out on the ice should:

If you go through the ice:

The DNR also has information on its website about what to do should you fall through the ice and how to make ice claws. Learn more by searching the DNR website for "ice safety."

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Statewide Birding Report

Winter-like conditions prevail in most areas now, making it a great time to put effort into backyard bird feeding activities. See our Top Ten tips for winter bird feeding to discover some secrets to success this winter. Feeder watchers are reporting many of the standard species now, like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and goldfinches, in addition to a few specialties such as pine siskins statewide, evening grosbeaks up north, and the occasional common redpoll. For the most part, however, winter finch numbers are low yet even away from feeders. Exceptions include a few flocks of bohemian waxwings and pine grosbeaks across the far north.

Snowy owls have made their way back into the state. Numbers so far are lower than this time last year but still better than average. Read the latest update on our snowy owl website. Waterfowl numbers have declined as ice continues to overtake Wisconsin water bodies. Large numbers of common mergansers were reported on Lake Michigan, a sure sign that the migration season is waning. Likewise, tundra swan migration is now past peak, and the same can be said for sandhill cranes, although good numbers remain in some southern areas. As ice builds, expect bald eagle numbers to increase at remaining areas of open water.

Purple finches, like this brightly-colored male, are one of many species you can attract to your backyard with a good bird feeding station this winter.  - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Purple finches, like this brightly-colored male, are one of many species you can attract to your backyard with a good bird feeding station this winter. Photo credit: Ryan Brady

A rufous hummingbird in Rock County finally departed on November 27, this after several rufous hummers were photographed through mid-November as far north as Vilas County. This species is a rare but regular and often late-season migrant through the state. Some lingering warblers were found across southern Wisconsin this week, including Tennessee warbler in Dane, and Nashville, orange-crowned, and magnolia warblers in Racine, while field sparrows in Ashland & Door were equally tardy. Other rare birds found included Townsend's solitaire in Brown County, probable mountain bluebird in Bayfield, summer tanager in Rock, and probable pomarine jaeger in Ozaukee. Help us track migration and winter bird activity by reporting your finds to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

People can put some fragrance in their holidays by creating beautiful evergreen wreathes, sprays or swags using all natural materials at either the Kettle Moraine south or Richard Bong (two sessions) this Saturday. There are fees to cover the materials provided at these events.  Or visit Havenwoods or Willow River for some OutWiGo exercise with family hikes and activities also on Saturday.
Click on the links below for highlighted programs this weekend or click on Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.
Saturday, December 1, 2018

For all events search Get Outdoors

Meet the Rangers Dec. 4 at Titletown Park in Green Bay

Join Wisconsin State Parks for an evening of outdoor fun at "Meet the Rangers." Get the inside scoop on Wisconsin's outdoor recreation opportunities from the folks who make it happen. The fun runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 4 at Titletown Park in Green Bay. More event info is available, on the DNR Facebook events page.

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Dec 1, 9 a.m.-noon - Sugar River Wetlands workday: Seeding and brush Help expand the wet prairie at Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area! Scatter the seeds that were collected earlier this year to restore areas where invasive brush was cleared. We'll also identify other tasks like controlling invasive brush. This work will expand the quality wetland areas and continue the efforts started by the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association and Wisconsin DNR.

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

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - The rain and warm temperatures we had last week reduced our snow cover, but more snow has arrived to whiten things up again. We currently have about 3 inches of snow on the ground. High temperatures are expected to just reach the freezing point in the next few days, so it is likely that we will keep most of the snow we have. 2019 State Parks & Forests Vehicle Admission Stickers and Trail Passes go on sale December 1. They make great holiday gifts! 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. Muzzleloader season is underway until December 5. If you are out enjoying the winter forest, be sure to wear blaze orange or fluorescent pink. Stay safe out there! - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Snowy view of the Amnicon River. - Photo credit: Dave Lindsley
Snowy view of the Amnicon River.Photo credit: Dave Lindsley

Amnicon State Park - Recent weather has created an interesting effect in the river. Cold weather encrusted many rocks in and around the river with ice as expected. However, about an inch of rain brought the water level above many of the encrusted rocks. The result is wonderful underwater ice formations that have been further sculpted by the moving water. Unfortunately, this same moving water made these formations difficult to photograph. Instead, here is a more traditional Amnicon River scene. - Dave Lindsley, ranger

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Anglers have been observed on lakes in the northern portion of Iron County with 3-4 inches of ice accumulated in certain areas. Maintenance of ski trails have started, and once a good snowfall of 5 inches or so arrives, clubs will begin grooming trails for Nordic and skate skiing. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River water level is high with ice chunks flowing down river. The lakes have a light film of ice formed. This is the last week of the month of November and winter has been . for some weeks. Temperatures warmed up last week and we lost whatever ice and snow we had but we have had dustings of snow since and a thin layer of ice back on the lakes with more in the forecast to come. There seems to be a good strong population of bobcat this year. Their prey: snowshoe hares, cottontail rabbits and rodents are also well populated. The gun deer season seemed to go well and there were some very successful hunters. The muzzleloader season started on Nov. 26 thru Dec. 5. The grouse season is open till Dec. 31. Deer and elk have been grazing heavily making up for the time lost during the rut. 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. With the muzzleloader deer hunt season open, 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 7 active logging sales at this time on the Flambeau River State Forest. Be aware of large logging trucks on the roads. Come and enjoy this beautiful river and the wilderness of the Forest. If you have a plan to hunt or hike, we suggest you bring a compass, as some navigational devices will not have reception. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be partly sunny with a high of 33 and a low of 23. Saturday, mostly cloudy and a chance of snow with a high of 33 and a low of 29. Sunday, chance of snow with a high of 33 and a low of 22. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - A warmup after the Thanksgiving holiday melted some of the snow and rain followed to form a crust on remaining snow. New lake effect snow was falling this week. There is not yet enough snow to groom ski trails. Temperatures have remained cold and ice has formed on many area lakes. Some lakes in the northern part of the forest now have 3-4 inches of ice along the shoreline Trout Lake froze over Wednesday but is not thick enough to support anglers. The first ice anglers have been venturing out.

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Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Cold air has been the norm for quite a while now and ice has thickened up on a few waterbodies. Some ice-fisherman have begun walking out onto protected bays of High Falls Flowage and I am sure other lakes as well. Snow is falling, but there is no accumulation to speak of yet. The regular 9-day gun season is behind us and muzzleloader season has begun and continues through December 5. Hunters are reminded that CWD testing is available for free by dropping off the head of their deer at one of our self-serve kiosks. A list of locations can be found on the DNR website by searching Keywords 'CWD Sampling'. Spring is a long way off, but your spring turkey (and fall Bear) application is Due by December 10.--don't forget! - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Currently no snow on the ground in most of central Wisconsin. All lakes have some ice and some smaller ones are completely glazed over. A couple bays have had fisherman venture out, but no ice fishing pressure to speak of. Open water fishing done for 2018. Deer are starting to move during daylight hours again. With less disturbance and cold weather here, they are starting to feed during daylight hours again. Most puddle ducks are long gone, some open water areas still have diving ducks using them. Lots of geese around yet - it takes not only cold, but snow to cover up their food sources before they leave. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

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Southeast Region

No reports.

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Anglers, campers and others interested in fishing at Governor Dodge State Park are invited to attend an informational meeting Dec. 5 about proposed changes to panfish regulations on Twin Valley Lake within the state park. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Dodgeville DNR office, 1500 N. Johns St., Dodgeville. The current panfish regulations allow unlimited harvest of panfish of any size. That regulation was implemented in 2000 and aimed to reduce the numbers of bluegills and increase size structure, and the regulation is no longer needed. DNR proposes reverting back to the general statewide regulation of 25 fish per day, no minimum size limit. This proposal will help reduce harvest of larger bluegills and protect other panfish species such as black crappie and yellow perch to increase abundance and size structure. It also simplifies regulations and reduces confusion from an enforcement perspective by reverting to the statewide bag limit. - Justin Haglund, fisheries biologist, Dodgeville

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Winter birds are starting to move into the area. Rough-legged hawks are now more frequently seen hunting the marsh. Sporadic reports of snowy owls have been submitted as well. Red-breasted nuthatches and redpoll have been seen as the predicted influx of winter finches begins. Thousands of sandhill cranes have been seen in single farm fields. The lack of snow and late harvest has provided an ample food supply for them late in the season. The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will be hosting a presentation on the Science of Smoking and Cooking Wild Game. Pre-registration and fee are required. More information - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator

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West Central Region

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. 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. Check out hunting maps online or at the park for what is allowed in each area. Some winter campsites are open and are non-reservable. The campground will stay open until there is plowable snow. A pit toilet is in each loop. 2019 park stickers will be available Dec. 1. If you self-register for one when the office is closed, it will be mailed to you. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and camping are now closed until the beginning of May. Parking is in the winter lot on Czech Ave and park stickers are still required. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, November 29, 2018

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