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Wisconsin Outdoor Report and Calendar

December 1, 2016

The Wisconsin Outdoor Report is updated weekly by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
( Reports from conservation wardens, wildlife and fisheries staff and property managers from around the state )

Northern | Northeast | Southeast | South Central | West Central
Outdoor Calendar

Preliminary registration figures from the 2016 nine-day Wisconsin gun deer hunt indicate hunters registered more than 196,700 deer, down slightly from the 198,000 registered in 2015. However, the buck harvest of more than 97,800 was an increase of 5.7 percent compared to 2015.

The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone, up 30 percent from 2015, after two consecutive mild winters with limited antlerless tags available for hunters. For more information regarding preliminary registration and license sales numbers, search the DNR website for keywords "weekly totals."

Hunters still have additional opportunities to hunt deer in Wisconsin. This year's muzzleloader season is currently open through Dec. 7, and the archery season is open through Jan. 8, 2017. A four-day antlerless-only hunt will take place Dec. 8-11, while the holiday hunt will be offered in a number of counties statewide Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, 2017.

The snow that fell across far northern Wisconsin last week didn't stay as the state continues to experience unseasonably warm weather. Some thin layers of ice have formed on small lakes, ponds and ditches, but that quickly melts during the day.

With the closure of the musky season on Nov. 30, fishing activity on northern lakes has subsided but the has still been some good walleye and crappie fishing on the Wolf River and anglers have still been fishing the lower Wisconsin River below the dam at Prairie du Sac.

Elk are feeding heavily in the Flambeau River State Forest to fatten up in preparation for the winter months. There are cow and calf groups with some of the young bulls, and the big bulls are forming bachelor groups.

Turkey continue to be seen out grazing in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Trappers are out in force now and with the continued cold weather should see their success increase.

Some waterfowl hunters have reported that the late season flights of ducks and geese have been slower than normal and believe it is because of the warmer temperatures are keeping the birds in the northern areas. Migratory bird viewing is still excellent at Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area, where duck hunters are still having some luck bagging a variety of species. The southern zone duck season closes this Sunday, Dec. 4.

Pheasant stockings is continuing again on some southern state wildlife areas and pheasant hunters and all other hunters except waterfowl hunters are reminded that blaze orange clothing is required during the muzzleloader season.

The lack of snow is not providing much camouflage for weasels and snowshoe hares that have begun to take on their white winter coats.

There have been many eagles sightings reported and they are feeding heavily on the deer gut piles left from the nine-day gun season. And despite the lack of winter weather, the first snowy owls of the season have begun to arrive in the state.

A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling 608-266-2277.
A new report is put online each week.

Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Saturday Dec 3 from 9 am to noon 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 to control 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. See details below. Click for more information.

Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane

Statewide Birding Report as of December 1, 2016

Despite a lack of winter weather, the season's first snowy owls have arrived with a handful of reports from the eastern tier of the state. Get the latest updates and see a map of recent sightings at our snowy owl website,, keyword "snowy owl." Short-eared owls are also being reported at grassland and wetland complexes such as Killsnake and Paradise Valley state wildlife areas in Manitowoc and Waukesha counties, respectively. Look for the birds' floppy flight as they forage near the dusk and dawn hours. The Northwoods are hosting small numbers but a good diversity of winter finches, including both white-winged and red crossbills, common redpolls, pine and evening grosbeaks, and bohemian waxwings. Numbers of red-breasted nuthatches, purple finches, and American goldfinches are good statewide. The lack of ice and snow cover means excellent numbers of sandhill cranes and Canada geese remain. Concentrations of sandhills have been especially good around Horicon Marsh recently. Greater white-fronted geese, trumpeter swans, and 10-plus duck species have also been found there. Farther west the spectacle of staging tundra swans along the Mississippi River continues. The overlook at Brownsville, Minnesota, often provides best viewing, though smaller numbers are scattered at various sites north and south of both sides of the river. While you're there look for large numbers of bald eagles and other waterfowl. Some of the rare birds spotted in the state this week include king eider in Milwaukee County, harlequin duck in Kenosha, Rufous hummingbird in Dane, and a jaeger over Lake Michigan waters at Harrington Beach State Park, where various other loons, waterfowl, and gulls have also been found this week. As always, help us track the migration by reporting your observation to Good birding. - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

DNR Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - The snow from last week didn't stay as we are still experiencing unseasonably warm weather. Last night brought a light dusting of snow, but that likely won't stay with us either as the forecast for the coming week includes daytime highs in the 30s and nighttime lows in the mid to upper 20s. The recent rain and snowfall has the Brule river running at just over 200 cfs. Average for this time of year is 149 cfs. The nine-day deer gun season closed on Sunday with harvest numbers improved from last year in the Northern Forest Counties. In Douglas County, 2,266 deer were registered compared to 1,595 deer for the 2015 season. In Bayfield County, 2,277 deer were registered compared to 1,585 in the 2015 season. But deer hunting is not done yet. If you didn't get a deer, you still have a chance! Muzzleloader season opened on Nov. 28 and will be open through Dec. 7. During this season, you will be able to fill your firearms tag using a muzzleloader or archery equipment. If you would like to cut a Christmas tree or collect boughs from the Brule River State Forest, Forest Product permits can be obtained from the Brule DNR Headquarters. The cost for each permit is $5. Click here to learn more. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Superior, Wisconsin
Ranger Jacob Anderson (right) with hunters he and Ranger Natalie Brown made contact with on state owned land near Superior. Jacob helped drag the buck out for 1.25 miles for the elderly hunter.
Photo Credit: Contributed
Amnicon & Pattison Falls state parks - Because of the rain and warm weather, we lost all our snow in the Pattison and Amnicon Falls area. No ice is forming on area lakes, some anglers have gone out on lakes with their boats. This is Ranger Jacob Anderson with hunters he and Ranger Natalie Brown made contact with on state owned land near Superior. Jacob helped drag the buck out for 1.25 miles for the elderly hunter. The hunter was very appreciative of Jacob's customer service. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties - With the close of musky season in the Northern Zone on Nov. 30, the open-water fishing season for 2016 has basically come to an end. There were a few last minutes musky anglers trying their luck - and success continued to be good with fish up to 45 inches being caught and released. There have been a few reports of walleye anglers still trying their luck on the local rivers below the dams, but success has been generally low. Most anglers are now waiting for solid ice cover to get back into fishing mode. With that said, nearly all lakes in the area still have open water. There was about an inch of ice along some of the smaller lakes and shoreline areas, but that has mostly disappeared with the milder weather of the last week. Several nights of calm weather with cold temperatures in the low teens or single digits are needed to get to 'safe' ice - but the relatively mild temperatures predicted for the next week will slow the formation of solid ice cover. Most ice fishermen wait for 3 to 4 inches of clear new ice needed for their first ice fishing venture of the season - but that looks to be at least a week or so away yet. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

musky, Wisconsin
Dan Mueller caught and released a plump 43-incher during a break in deer season. The northern zone musky season closed Nov. 30.
Photo Credit: Skip Sommerfeldt

Flambeau River State Forest - There is a light layer of ice on the shallower lakes and patches of snow. There are still some snow buntings flitting around the gravel roads, but it seems like many of the migrators are gone. There have been many eagles sited as there are deer gut piles around and road kill deer. The special deer camps seem to have been moderately successful according to the Flambeau River Law Enforcement officers. Comparing 2015 to 2016 camps, many more does and fawns were seen. One 87 year old gentleman who has been hunting on the Flambeau for 66 years shot an 8-point buck. He was a very happy camper! Muzzleloader deer hunting is open till Dec. 7. Deer archery and crossbow season is open thru the Jan. 8. Snow is in the forecast which will make it easier to find deer. There are some logging operations in progress throughout the Forest, so when hunting keep that in mind. The elk are feeding heavily to fatten up in preparation for the winter months. There are cow and calf groups with some of the young bulls. The big bulls are forming bachelor groups. This year's calves are the size of a big doe. When you are out hunting be sure to know your target and what's beyond. Be sure to drive safely on the roads, deer and elk are crossing the highways. The weather forecast for this week indicates cloudy and chance of rain/snow and Saturday partly sunny with a slight chance of snow again on Sunday. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The snow that we received during the nine-day deer gun season has just about disappeared on the state forest. Time will tell if there will be more for the weekend. No ice on any of the lakes, streams or ponds yet; and wet, unfrozen ground conditions will be the name of the game for muzzleloader hunters and tree hunters this weekend. All the birds and animals have the perfect camouflage this week, unless you are a weasel, snowshoe hare or albino deer! Great time to get out and enjoy the quiet of this season. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

DNR Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Somewhat mild and damp conditions greet muzzleloader hunters on the first few days of the season. A few groups of sandhill cranes and some larger groups of Canada geese are reluctant to leave the still green grass and open water in the north in pursuit of warmer climes. As rifle season comes to a close, many outdoorsmen transition from thinking deer to dreaming ice fishing. Those hunters will have only dreams for some time to come! Some thin layers of ice have formed on small ponds and ditches, but that quickly melts during the day. Small game seasons are still open across the state with rabbit, squirrel, grouse, and even turkey hunting still available. Remember that blaze orange (OR PINK!) must be worn while hunting if there is any gun deer season ongoing--including muzzleloader and late antlerless seasons. This means that archery deer hunters and those pursuing small game must wear at least 50 percent blaze and any hat worn must be blaze. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Manitowoc County - As another nine-day gun deer season has come to an end the opportunity to harvest a whitetail deer has not! If you weren't able to bag that big buck or are still looking to put some meat in your freezer you can take to the field and participate in the remainder of the archery season, muzzleloader season, and an upcoming antlerless only hunt. In this area we are still seeing deer and turkey out grazing in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Local trappers are out in action and with the continued cold weather their success should increase. For the sight-seers it is a beautiful time of the year to grab your camera and take beautiful pictures of the sun rising over Lake Michigan or snap a picture of a blue jay or cardinal with a frosty background. Mother nature always gives us a great opportunity to step back and smile! Get out and enjoy the great outdoors! - Alyssa Gove, conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Fall colors are past peak and the trails have a carpet of colorful leaves on them. There have been several sightings of eagles soaring along the beach. With less people on the beach, geese have been grouping up along the shoreline. This past weekend visitors spotted a porcupine, grouse and pileated woodpecker while hiking the Red Trail. Several deer have been spotted in the park. Some areas of the park are open to hunting and trapping from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15. Hunting with legal bow and crossbow methods is allowed in those same areas of the park Dec. 15 through Jan. 8, 2017. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - No snow on the ground at all. Very wet conditions given the wet summer and late fall. Plenty of deer left for the various seasons still ongoing. Plenty of turkeys around yet too. No ice forming on area waterbodies at all yet. No report of anyone out fishing at all. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Generally deer hunters reported a great season and were happy with the number of deer seen from their stand in Central Wisconsin. The walleye and crappie fishing has been very good this year on the Wolf River. Anglers were also in good spirits and enjoying warmer than normal weather. Some waterfowl hunters have reported that the late season flights of ducks/geese have been slower than normal and believe it is because of the warmer temperatures are keeping the birds in the northern areas. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

DNR Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Harrington Beach State Park - The park still has green grass, though the trees are bare. Deer activity has been high and has provided good viewing in the areas closed to deer hunting. We have had our first hard frost and a bit of skim ice on the colder mornings, but winter has not yet embraced Harrington Beach. Trail conditions are generally good; however, after all the recent rain, we do have some areas that are quite wet. Call the park office for the most current information on trail conditions. The campground is closed for the season and will reopen May 3. Winter camping is available at nearby Kohler-Andrae State Park. - Robin Miller, ranger

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Early this week we received an inch to an inch and a half of rain throughout the area, so water levels have come up a bit on area streams, marshes and water bodies. Migratory bird viewing on Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area is still excellent along Highway 28 just west of Highway 41. A pair of bald eagles is commonly seen at that location. Duck hunters are still having some luck on Theresa Marsh, bagging a variety of different species. The duck season in this part of the state ends Sunday, Dec. 4. Two more pheasant stockings are scheduled for Theresa, Allenton, and Jackson Wildlife Areas-one during the week of Nov. 28, and one during the week of Dec. 5. Pheasant hunters and all other hunters except waterfowl hunters are reminded that blaze orange clothing is required during any firearm deer season. In the non-Metro unit areas the muzzleloader deer season runs through Dec. 7, and in the Milwaukee Metro Sub-unit regular firearm deer hunting continues through Dec. 7. The Milwaukee Metro Sub-Unit includes the eastern part of Washington County and most of Ozaukee County. Following the muzzleloader and Metro firearm seasons, the four-day antlerless-only deer season runs Dec. 8-11. Washington County deer hunters are encouraged to continue submitting their deer heads for CWD testing by dropping them off at the self-service CWD kiosk at the Pike Lake DNR office. Preliminary nine-day gun deer registration totals showed a slight increase in the buck harvest and a slight decrease in the antlerless harvest in both Washington and Ozaukee County. We are looking for qualified people to fill several vacant "County Deer Advisory Committee (CDAC)"stakeholder positions on the Washington and Ozaukee CDAC committees. To find out how to apply type "CDAC" in the DNR website search box. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

DNR South Central Region

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, Weekly Riverway report

River levels are up as they have been through the summer and fall. Levels are trending upward with the recent and forecast rain. There has not been a lot of river activity this time of year. There have still been people fishing up by the Prairie du Sac dam. - Mark Cupp, executive director Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board

DNR West Central Region

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Waterfowl hunting and small game hunting have started in the Yellow River and Buckhorn Wildlife Areas. Bow hunting for deer is allowed in open areas of the state park and both wildlife areas and are in Central Forest, Public, Buck only. Small game hunting and trapping in the state park continues to Dec. 15 (check map or with park staff as some areas are bow hunting only and one park area is gun or bow). Muzzleloader hunting is allowed in the 1,100 acre gun area of the park, north of County Highway G and north of 31st Street. Hunting maps are available online or at the park office. 2017 park stickers are now on sale. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate is closed until early May. Hunting and trapping continue through Dec. 15. Bow hunting for deer continues to Jan. 8. Hunting maps to check out areas open and closed to hunting can be found online or at the park office. 2017 park stickers are now on sale. - Heather Wolf, park manager

DNR Find Wisconsin Lakes

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