Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

© Eric Engbretson

February 2009

Readers Write

Want to comment on a story? Email Readers Write and include the name of the community from which you are writing.

Crawfish Traps

I enjoyed your story about the rusty crayfish (Living with the rusty red menace, October 2008). Where can I secure a crawfish trap?

Robert Wanasek

WNR responds...

Crayfish traps are readily available for $10 to $30 at sporting goods stores or online. Be sure to read Wisconsin's regulations for trapping crayfish, available at DNR service centers or at Guide to Wisconsin Spearing, Netting and Bait Harvest Regulations. You will need a fishing or small game license. Also, check VHS and You: Keeping Wisconsin's Waters Healthy for regulations to avoid spreading diseases like VHS.

Where's the Life Jacket?

As an avid boater and U.S. Sailing Instructor, I was pleased to see Don't wing it, (October 2008) in which you note "too many hunters still fail to wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets while traveling to and from their hunting blinds. In fact, 90 percent of sportsmen who died in boating accidents between 1995 and 2000 were not wearing a life jacket." But I was puzzled to see, on the very next page, a picture of a hunter in his boat, apparently in the middle of a waterway on a chilly day, sans PFD. To my mind, the picture caption should read, "This hunter is taking needless risks by not wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket."

Chris Neuwirth
Pittsburgh, Penn.

Marten – Up Close and Personal

I was so glad to read Jim Bishop's marten article, A weasel with a secret, in the October issue. It brought back the memory of my own close encounter with this truly beautiful creature. One October day in the late 1990s while bowhunting in the Nicolet Forest just east of Eagle River, I was standing with my back against a tree, using a dead fall in front of me as a simple blind. I caught a glimpse of a bushy tail about 50 yards away and immediately thought "fox." As it drew nearer I recognized it as a pine marten. I remained motionless and watched as it hopped and zigzagged through the forest, coming ever closer and closer. To my amazement it eventually came right to me and actually rose up and placed both forepaws on my left knee! We stared at each other for about 10 or 15 seconds and then it gave me a toothy grin, at which point I decided to spook it away by twitching my leg. It simply backed off about three feet, then came back, sniffed my boots, looked up at me once more, and then went on its way. I didn't get a deer that year, but that encounter made it one of the best hunting trips I've been on.

Charles Staley

Public Hunting Land

We have been trying to locate a website or a source that will provide maps and information on public hunting lands for pheasant and ducks in the St. Croix and Pierce County area and have not been successful. Local information is nonexistent as far as we can tell. If you can be of help in this area it would be appreciated.

J.J. Willie

WNR responds...

Take a look at the story from our August 2008 issue. Make it public.You'll not only find links and maps to all the DNR properties in the state, but federal land, county forests and private property enrolled in programs that require participants to open their land to hunting. Local sources of public hunting information include tourist information centers, chambers of commerce, county extension agents and county park and forest departments. Check the county government listings in your phonebook for locations. To find contact information for local DNR offices, visit Department of Natural Resources and click 'Contact Us' in the top menu tabs.

WWOA is a Major Player

I am writing to register my disappointment with several aspects of Tending to tomorrow's woodland owners in the October issue.

First, you neglected to mention the largest most active nongovernmental organization that helps landowners with wooded acres – the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association! Many DNR foresters work closely with us at field days and conferences each year, and we truly appreciate their commitment.

Second, the Managed Forest Law program is described as very important in helping keep land in private ownership. I think that is a very strong misstatement! The Legislature and the Governor together made a major, retroactive change to what is for landowners a contract. It's obvious to me that the MFL agreement is not worth the paper I've signed! I entered some land in 2007 with what I thought was clear understanding of my responsibility and what I thought was the state's role.

Unmentioned in the article is how woodlands associated with agricultural lands are treated compared to other woodland owners. If I farm, I get major tax breaks on my woodland without requirements tied to the MFL program. Also, I can lease my land for recreation, hunting and many other uses and collect the dollars.

Also in the October issue, a glowing report on Stewardship talks of millions of taxpayer dollars spent to provide opportunities for individuals to recreate. Woodland owners also provide recreation opportunities that boost the state's economy! We aren't costing the state anything – no employees, space, vehicles, etc. Why not recognize some of the benefits that come to the state from private woodland owners?

Marv Meier>

Kathryn Nelson, DNR's Forest Tax Section Chief responds...

The Managed Forest Law (MFL) program is the largest incentive program offered to landowners to encourage sound forestry on private lands. Almost three million acres of private land is entered into MFL, including small family and industrial lands. Landowners agree to follow sound forestry practices on a minimum of 10 acres of land on which a minimum of 80 percent of the land produces commercial forest products. The landowner receives an immediate benefit through reduced property taxes. The public gets long-term and immediate ecological and social benefits, including clean air and water, carbon sequestration, timber products, wildlife habitat and access for recreation.

MFL evolves as societal changes and perceptions change. Since MFL is a state law, the State Legislature can amend it to address public concerns. The past five years brought several changes. Most of the new requirements affect new MFL participants, some apply retroactively or are new conditions that apply when lands are re-enrolled in the program. Last year, the Legislature prohibited woodland owners from leasing recreational rights to lands enrolled in MFL because it provided less public access to lands than statutes allowed for properties that were receiving tax benefits. The Legislature felt the changes were needed to eliminate the incentive to subdivide and lease recreational access to the property.

The MFL program provides an excellent avenue for landowners to keep their woodlands as working forests. It helps landowners to make good management decisions while allowing the landowner to receive income when harvesting is needed. The MFL program is envied by other states and recognized as meeting worldwide standards of sustainability through Tree Farm and other certification programs. Wisconsin's private woodlands are in better condition because of Managed Forest Law.

I read with interest the article about the next generation of woodland owners, Tending to tomorrow's woodland owners, October 2008. I am among the generation that needs to plan for the future of their woodlands. It's discouraging that the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association was inadvertently left out of the list of resources for woodland owners. My father and mother joined WWOA at its inception in 1979 and I was a family member on their coattails. WWOA has provided extraordinary information and education for woodland owners through chapter activities, field days and educational meetings providing opportunities to share ideas about their properties. WWOA approaches its 30th anniversary in 2009. We are excited to have been of help to so many woodland owners.

Nancy Livingston

Indian Artifacts

Are there any areas today that someone can go to find Indian arrowheads or other artifacts?

David A. Brynildson
Jacksonville, Fla.

WNR responds...

As much as people enjoy finding arrowheads and other artifacts, collecting such antiquities on public property is against the law because many historical encampments and burial sites were disturbed, ransacked or desecrated in the past. In brief, collecting Native American artifacts on public land is prohibited under state law. Federal and tribal lands are similarly protected. Collecting artifacts on private property is legal if you have landowner permission, though it is not recommended or encouraged.

Share More Tips of Homemade Kits and Customized Gear

A few of our readers forwarded photos and descriptions of homemade kits and gear they put together to enjoy the outdoors. We will print those, but we didn't get enough of your tips to fill out a story. (See our August 2008 challenge What do you pack in for the outdoors?) Please forward your tips over the next month and we'll share them with other readers. We don't need long stories, just a few sentences about a tip you take, a gizmo you made, or something special you pack in your gear when you go hunting, fishing, hiking, camping or biking that makes the experience that much better. If you can send a photo or digital image of the gear in use, all the better. Send your ideas to: Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

For instance, here's a simple tip we saw that we liked. Trying to remove a tick but you don't have a tweezers handy? Take a piece of fine fishing line, tie it in a simple overhand knot. Gently tighten the loop around the head of the tick by pulling the ends of the line and you will slowly tighten the knot and pull out the tick.

Update: Call Center

The DNR's Call Center that fields questions from early morning through the evening seven days a week (see our February 2008 story License to thrill) has handled more than 239,000 customer contacts in the last year, a third of the calls coming at nights and on weekends. The highly trained staff respond to a wide variety of DNR issues, from clarifying regulations on hunting and fishing to restrictions on firewood transportation.

"Our customers don't have to wait for traditional daytime, weekday business hours to get help. If you have a question about tagging your deer, the slot size for your fish, or want to enroll in a safety class, we're here for you seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.," says Diane Brookbank, Customer Service and Licensing Director for DNR. The center offers a toll-free number, an online, live chat room, and customer service specialists speaking Hmong and Spanish as well as English.

The most common phone-in questions ask for clarifications of deer season rules, registrations for safety classes, and requirements for registering a boat, snowmobile or ATV. The operators also field tips about suspected fish and game violations and possible land or water toxic spills. Operators have gotten calls from lost hunters and have helped guide rescue teams to them, and have gotten offbeat questions like, "I'm walleye fishing, can you tell me what one looks like?"

DNR created the Customer Service Call Center by changing its workload internally, the enhanced public service came at no additional cost to license buyers or taxpayers.

"We're pretty proud of what we've done here. People recreate throughout the day and on weekends. We need to serve them on their schedule, not ours. We've got great service specialists who love their work. Call us," says Brookbank. The call center is staffed seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936- 7463). To report spills call 1-800-943-0003 or to report suspected fish and game violations call 1-800-TIP-WDNR (1-800-847- 9367.)