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Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008

DNR report: Week of Nov. 20 to Nov. 26

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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Wisconsin's regular nine-day gun deer season opens this Saturday and runs through Sunday, Nov. 30.

State wildlife officials say hunters should be able to look forward to a good season. Even after a pretty tough winter in parts of the state, and a harvest of more than 520,000 deer last year, the deer herd is still a good deal larger than established population goals in much of Wisconsin.

Biologists estimate that the herd numbers between 1.5 and 1.7 million animals going into the fall 2008-09 seasons, a slight decrease from last year.

Despite one of the latest possible opening days, which is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving, white-tail buck deer are still being reported in the chase phase of the rut, or their mating season, in many parts of the state. This should make it more likely that deer will be on the move.

As of Wednesday, only the far north central part of the state was reporting any snow cover, with 5 to 6 inches on the ground in the Mercer to Hurly area of Vilas and Iron counties. Flurries and cold temperatures are in the forecast for opening weekend, so it is possible that more of the state will have and hold at least some tracking snow.

The cold temperatures have allowed downhill ski resorts to make snow, and Granite Peak Ski Area located at Rib Mountain State Park near Wausau was hoping to open runs to skiing this weekend. Cross-country ski trails have begun to be groomed just across the border in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where up to 8 inches of snow is on the ground, but as of yet no Wisconsin state parks or forests have had enough snow to groom trails.

For all intents and purposes, the open-water fishing season has come to an end across the North Woods of Wisconsin. A few late season musky hunters have been taking advantage of the remaining open water opportunities but most of the smaller lakes have iced over and many of the bays on the larger lakes also have a thin layer of ice. Ice thickness is generally less than an inch and is no where near thick enough for any kind of ice fishing. It will likely be another week or so until the ice is thick enough for the first ice fishing reports to come in.

Whitefish are spawning in the Lower Menominee River. Brown trout are in the Lower Oconto River. Walleye anglers were reporting some success on the Wolf River and anglers have been catching a few legal-size walleye on the Rock River below the dam in Jefferson. Walleye action has been sporadic on the Mississippi River, with the best action on small saugers and only limited success on walleyes below dams.

Shore anglers fishing off the Lake Michigan piers and harbors have been catching a few browns trout with an occasional steelhead reported.

The cold temperatures and strong winds this week accelerated the bird migration. Late ducks including mergansers, goldeneyes and mallards are pushing through. The northern zone duck season closes next Tuesday.

Northern Wisconsin is seeing a large influx of common redpolls and white-winged crossbills. Pine siskins, purple finches, smaller numbers of pine grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks and very few bohemian waxwings have been seen. Snowy owls are continuing to move into the state. Most birds so far have been immature and in poor condition. The peak tundra swan movement has probably come and gone but many swans still remain on the upper Mississippi River refuge and at larger open water bodies throughout the state.

And a safety reminder, with the gun deer season open, hunting safety specialists encourage everyone recreating outdoors to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing, and they caution all hunters to always be sure of their target and what lies beyond it. Have a safe and successful hunting season, and with the Thanksgiving holiday next week, the next DNR Outdoor Report will be December 4.

A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling 608-266 2277.