Most of the snow that fell last week in southern Wisconsin has melted.
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.
Excitement is in the air for the nine-day gun deer season opening Saturday. Hunters should still see some bucks pushing does around, but the rut appears to be winding down. Most snow that fell in the south has melted, and only the far north had snow remaining. Sunny days and above freezing daytime temps have softened the ice in low lying areas, making walking through swampy areas trickier.
Geese are now finding more picked cornfields, but field conditions are deplorable with the mud and standing water, making access difficult. Wild turkeys are grouping up into larger flocks and are being seen in recently harvested fields.
With the cold weather during the first half of November, anglers got an early start to ice fishing as many small lakes and bays of larger lakes made several inches of solid ice, but there is still a lot of open water on the bigger lakes.
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A few brave anglers are getting out on the ice in shallow, protected bays and backwater. Ice reports have come in of two to three inches in some spots, but there is still a lot of open water on the bigger lakes.
With the cold weather we had during the first half of November, anglers got an early start to the ice fishing season as many small lakes and bays of larger lakes made several inches of solid ice. Anglers were reporting decent action on walleye and panfish in the Woodruff area. However, with the recent milder weather and some wet snow, anglers are now reporting sloppier wet conditions on the ice. Anglers seeking solid ice fishing opportunities should use extreme caution and be sure to check in with local bait shops and other information sources before venturing out.
HUNTING & TRAPPING
There is still quite a bit of standing corn across the county, which may hamper hunting conditions for the upcoming nine-day gun deer season. The rut appears to be winding down. Duck hunters reported some limited success last weekend, however, warming temps may open more water back up and provide more water hunting opportunities again.
Coots on Lake MendotaPhoto credit: DNR
There are moderate numbers of waterfowl in the Dane County area with open water present on rivers and larger bodies of water. Over the weekend, Dane County hunters did well on ducks on large lakes. Tundra swans are also present in good numbers on the Madison lakes. Geese are now finding more picked cornfields, but field conditions are deplorable with the wet conditions making access difficult.
Horicon Marsh is mostly frozen, so waterfowl hunting on the marsh has come to an end. Deer continue to move, and some of the standing corn has been harvested. Good deer numbers are being seen.
DNR continues to stock pheasants at various properties in Iowa County, and neighboring counties. Wisconsin River levels have receded, making the Avoca Prairie SNA accessible once again. Wild turkeys are grouping up into larger flocks and have been seen in recently harvest crop fields. Deer are still very active, with reports of bucks showing rutting signs. However, these are slowing down compared to a few weeks ago. The snow has nearly melted.
A very mild-weathered weekend coupled with higher deer numbers should bring more significant hunting opportunities for opening weekend. Hunters throughout much of the county are observing a good amount of does and a few young bucks still chasing them. Snow covers most of the county with less around Gurney and Saxon — makes for great scouting opportunities. Get outside and bring someone new; it’s not often we get weather like this for the nine-day.
Bowhunters have been seeing bucks, scrapes and rubs in the park. The Buckhorn State Park area north of County Road G and north of 31st Street is open for gun deer hunting, as well as the Yellow River Wildlife Area. The rest of the park and Buckhorn Wildlife Area are bow hunting only. Maps are available online or at the park office.
Richard Bong State Recreation Area in the last week has seen more deer in fields in the evening before the end of shooting time than any other time this year. Still seeing a few fresh rubs and scrapes. For the most part, all the snow is melted from the ground.
Near Antigo, conditions are setting up for a good opening weekend of gun deer season. Hunters are reporting good rutting activity throughout the county. The rut, accompanied by a very healthy deer population, should provide hunters with plenty of opportunities to see and harvest deer. Cold temperatures have provided frozen ground conditions, giving hunters decent access to traditionally wet areas. Hunters should be aware that intense wind storms significantly impacted many areas on public lands in July. Please check your hunting sites ahead of time.
Near Wausaukee, the rut seems to be slowing down, but gun hunters will still see some bucks pushing does around and can use rubs and scrapes to help locate a good spot. Some oaks produced heavy acorns this year and are still being visited regularly by deer. Hunters should know that baiting is illegal in Marinette County, so finding a natural food source will be helpful for a successful hunt. There is only a dusting of snow left in parts of the county. Sunny days and above freezing daytime temps have softened the ice in low lying areas, making walking through swampy areas a bit tricky.
The past weekend brought more snow than forecasted in the Flambeau River State Forest. Approximately four inches cover the ground but should settle quite a bit the next few days. Whitetail rut activity is still present from public reports. Most of the area waterways are frozen, making waterfowl hunting almost non-existent in the area. Just a reminder to be extra safe in the woods this weekend as there will be a lot of other hunters. Be mindful and courteous.
This fall, there have already been several rounds of early snowfall near Viroqua. Trappers, hunters and all folks outdoors were able to track various wildlife species. With warm temperatures and rain, the snow is now gone. Weather on opening day is forecast to be mild, in the upper 30s with a light west wind. Archers have been having success with an abundant deer herd and a bonanza acorn crop. Be safe, have fun and good luck this weekend.
Recent snowfall makes seeing and tracking deer easier in the Northern Highlands American Legion State Forest. Deer still moving more during daylight hours due to the rut and hunters are enjoying the increased visibility, if not the colder temps. Commuters should continue to be vigilant when out driving; give yourself enough reaction time while driving and break, never swerve, for deer running out in front of your vehicle.
Deer out on the road with an oncoming truck.
It should be a great season and excitement is in the air! Bucks are in rut, and the weather is expected to be pleasant. It was snowing this week here and in surrounding counties. This should give hunters a white background and nice weather for the season! Wildlife biologists in northwestern Wisconsin need adult deer submitted for CWD testing. This is especially important with the positive captive elk found in southeast Burnett County. Please help us monitor and manage for a healthy deer herd. Hunters who have questions should call 715-634-4025.
In Lakeshore State Park, red-breasted mergansers are starting to come into the lagoon for winter, along with a couple of hooded mergansers. Large groups and pairs of hooded mergansers have also been seen up the Menomonee River along Hank Aaron State Trail. Recently horned larks, Lapland longspurs, a Lincoln’s sparrow and rusty blackbird were also sighted.
Most smaller lakes in the Hayward area are now ice-covered. Ice depth is inconsistent, and anyone looking to get on the water should use extreme caution, especially with warmer days in the near forecast. Large lakes still have large open-water areas. However, some anglers are getting out on local waters and finding up to four inches of solid ice.
PARKS & TRAILS
Visitors to Roche-A-Cri State Park have been hiking in from the winter lot. State park hunting is now open until Dec. 15. Hunting maps are available online or by the self-registration in the winter lot on Czech Avenue.
Hunting is now open in the Lake Wissota State Park in designated areas only. Highs around 40 degrees will likely melt the little snow we had on the ground. Some of the bays of Lake Wissota are holding ice, but dangerous ice conditions exist. Most of the lake is still open water, but the water around our boat launch is frozen.
The Red Cedar State Trail was snow-covered earlier in the week but the snow has since melted. Please remember, the Red Cedar Trail from Menomonie to Downsville and most of the trails at Hoffman Hills Recreation Area are groomed for cross country skiing. When trails are groomed, walking, snowshoeing, biking and other activities are not allowed during this time. The Red Cedar Trail south of Downsville is open for these activities in the winter as well as some of the trails at Hoffman Hills. A reminder that the park hunting season opened on Nov. 15. There is a section of the Red Cedar Trail that is open to hunting during this time.
Hunting at Hoffman Hills Recreation area is only allowed during the Nov. 9 gun deer season. Please plan and wear bright clothing if using the trail or recreation area.
Eau Claire County
The Chippewa River State Trail was snow-covered but the snow has since melted. As of Nov. 15, hunting is allowed on the state trail from Caryville to the west. If you plan to enjoy the trail, please wear bright colors during this season.
Fond du Lac County
Nearly all the snow is gone from the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, and most of the leaves are down. This weekend is the opening of the deer gun season, which continues through Dec. 1, followed by muzzleloader and antlerless deer seasons through Dec. 15. The Mauthe Lake and Long Lake Campgrounds are closed to hunting, and are a good alternative to hikers during these popular hunting seasons. All forest visitors are strongly encouraged to wear brightly colored clothing if venturing outside of the campgrounds. The Tamarack Trail is also closed to hunting, but remains very wet.
In Buckhorn State Park, ice is forming on the lake. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions. Trails are great for hiking.
At Council Grounds State Park, the extended weather forecast is calling for dry weather and near average temperatures, so time spent in the park should be comfortable for hunters and hikers alike. It looks unlikely there will be snow on the ground for the weekend.
The season is shifting at Havenwoods State Forest. It’s a great time to get outdoors and view wildlife and deer movement. Rutting behavior has increased, coyotes have been spotted at all hours of the day. Many small mammals are scurrying about, and various songbirds, woodpeckers and raptors are active across the property. Minimal leaf cover remains. The trail system is not maintained in winter. The trails are wet and may be leaf-covered in areas.
Tundra swans are moving through the Perrot State Park area and can be seen in Trempealeau Bay and the nearby Trempealeau Refuge. Most of the leaves have dropped, but the oaks on Trempealeau Mountain are still providing some color. The dock has been removed for the season, and the water system is closed in the campground. There are a few campsites available for camping through November or until we get measurable snow. All hiking trails are open, but hunting has begun in the park. Brady’s Bluff, Riverview and Bay trails are closed to hunting.
Last Revised: Friday, November 22, 2019