Outdoor Report is your weekly snapshot for all things outdoors from across the state. Here is a brief look at what Wisconsin has in store for you this week.
Winter arrived in northern Wisconsin in full force this week, with some areas receiving over 22 inches of snow. Crews at several parks and forests are working on getting ski trails open. The wet, heavy snow brought down many trees that need to be cleared before trails can be groomed, but some are open or expected to open by the weekend.
According to the TravelWisconsin.com snow conditions report, most snowmobile trails are not yet open. Snowmobile clubs in each county determine when trails will open.
With the recent snowfall, wildlife and their movements have become much more visible. Furbearer movements, especially coyote, bobcat and fisher, should increase in the next two weeks. The first snowy owl of the season was spotted at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee this week.
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There is currently no snow or ice at Lakeshore State Park, so shoreline fishing is still popular within the park and the harbor. A few hooded mergansers have stuck around, and red-breasted mergansers are making their way into the basin for the winter.
Most waterfowl have moved through the area, probably with the cold weather from several weeks ago. Duck hunters reported very few birds. Water levels came up again after the last storm event, and cattail mats are still moving around with significant wind events and good water flow. As we start the muzzleloader season, we remain in wet conditions with some standing corn (although some farmers were able to combine fields during slightly drier and cold conditions). Some hunters reported very recent rutting activity.
With the recent snowfall in central Wisconsin, wildlife and their movements have become much more visible in Sandhill Wildlife Area. Multiple does in the area were not bred during their first estrus and have recently entered into a second estrus period. This could pay dividends for muzzleloader and late-season archery hunters if they can locate one of these does. Furbearer movements, especially coyote, bobcat and fisher, should increase in the next two weeks as they finish consuming the many gut piles and carrion left in the field from the past deer firearm season. High water levels in area marshes are providing adequate water for muskrat and beaver over winter. Exercise caution when trapping these areas as the ice may not be safe if insulated by snow before the real cold comes to the area.
With the mild temperatures, wildlife is active across Havenwoods State Forest. Take a hike to see bluebirds, hawks, deer, and coyotes. Trail conditions are damp and non-snow covered.
There is no denying that winter is here in full force at the Brule River State Forest. After the two weather events that moved through northwest Wisconsin during the last half of the gun deer season, residents throughout the area are dealing with substantial snowfall totals. At the Ranger Station, the combined snow accumulation measured just over 22 inches. Staff are hard at work packing and rolling the latest snowfall. The goal is to have the entire trail system groomed and tracked by this weekend.
Devil's Lake is still ice-free.
Two heavy snowstorms during Thanksgiving week and weekend dumped lots of snow in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. Knee-deep and above seems to be the norm. Misting before the snowstorms provided ample glue, and now the forest looks like a Christmas card! Crews are working ski trails, cutting out downed trees and branches before grooming can begin. Songbird and wildlife activity are sparse.
There is a dusting of snow on the Roche-A-Cri State Park trails. The stairway is not maintained for winter use and is open until sunset. No food, drinks or pets are allowed on the stairway. 2020 park stickers are available! If you self-register for one at the winter parking lot, it will be mailed to you.
With about 7 inches of heavy wet snow on Dec. 1, Potawatomi State Park is in winter mode. All seasonal road closures are in place, and hiking and pets are not permitted on ski trails. The snow brought down many branches and trees throughout the park. The park is open, and staff and volunteers are working to clear roads and trails. There is more snow in the upper park and more ice in the lower park along the shoreline.
Grooming of the ski trails will begin as soon as the staff and volunteers can clear the trails from the storm damage over the Thanksgiving holiday. There are reports of at least six large trees to clear on the Red Cedar State Trail, and Hoffman Hills State Recreation area is not fairing much better. Thank you for your patience.
The MECCA Ski Trails in the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area are packed, groomed and tracked! The chalet is open from 8 a.m-6 p.m. With over 20 inches of snow in the last seven days trail condition are perfect and tracks are set nicely Trails are groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing and were tracked on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
At Buckhorn State Park, we have a dusting of snow on the trails, so they are in good condition for hiking. There is still open water on the lake after the warmer temperatures last week.
About of foot of heavy wet snow fell on Council Grounds State Park last week. Wind on the groomed cross-country ski trail has littered the trail with branches. Conditions are good for snowshoeing on the other park trails.
Governor Thompson State Park trails are groomed for skate cross-country skiing and were tracked on Wednesday, Dec. 4. Otter Trail is rolled, groomed and tracked. Skate lanes are a little soft. All down trees have been removed and we are working on grooming the rest of the trails for this coming weekend.
The first snowy owl of the season was spotted at Lakeshore State Park this week. High water levels and waves caused some debris to wash up, but the crew is working on clearing the trails and roadway (still accessible, so no closure at this time).
Last week's snowfall brought perfect conditions for a peaceful snowshoe walk among the giant old-growth conifer trees at Germain Hemlocks State Natural Area.
The end of November brought a large amount of snow to the Flambeau River State Forest. Some lakes that have ice are now challenging to navigate. Trails have not been groomed, but snowshoe opportunities are excellent considering the snow depth. Ski trails should begin grooming operations later this week or early next week.
The snowstorm of Dec. 1 has brought between 3-6 inches of new snow to the Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit. The northern end near Greenbush received the heaviest totals, and the ski trails there have been rolled. The southern end near Zillmer received lighter snow, and there is not enough yet to groom, however the trails are skiable.