Wis. DNR Outdoor Report: Gun Season Begins

Updated: 11/21/2013 5:55 PM
Created: 11/21/2013 5:52 PM
By: Wisconsin DNR

Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season kicks off this Saturday, Nov. 23, and reports from around the state indicate that while the rut – or white-tailed deer mating season – is beginning to wane in some areas, it is still going on fairly strong in many locations, including the Northwoods.

While scrapes and rubs are diminishing due to many bucks having found partners, sightings of bucks chasing does are still common. Less chasing is being reported in some areas as bucks are tending receptive does and driving away other interested bucks. Bow hunters have been out in large numbers and continue to report very good success.

As always, conservation wardens are reminding hunters of the four basic rules of firearm safety: TAB-K: Treat every firearm as if it were loaded; always point the muzzle in a safe direction; be certain of your target and what’s beyond; and keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to fire. And they strongly encourage anyone hunting from an elevated tree stand to use a safety harness: statistics show one of three hunters will experience a fall from a tree stand. All hunters, except waterfowl hunters, are required to wear blaze orange clothing including a hat if worn whenever a gun deer season is open, but everyone venturing out into the outdoors over the next two week is encouraged to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing: remember to be seen and be safe.

Just in time for the deer season, DNR has launched its first free mobile app, available now for iPhones and Nov. 22 for Androids. Through the convenience of smart phones, hunters can use the app to find places to hunt, registration locations, rules, regulations, and more. Visit the DNR website and click on one of the homepage app promotions, or search keyword "deer" to get the app and other information for this year’s deer hunt.

Canada goose numbers are now reaching peak at the major marshes of southern Wisconsin and goose hunters have been reporting some very good success. Ice that is beginning to form on river backwaters and marshes has moved more ducks south, but divers are still plentiful.

Pheasant hunters have also been out in good numbers with most of the stocking of public hunting having been completed. Stocking will not be done during the nine-day gun deer season, with the final stockings to resume after the deer season.

Only a very few die-hard musky anglers have been venturing out on Northwoods lakes with no reports of any success in the last week. Water temperatures have fallen into the low 40s to upper 30s on northern lakes, with some skim and fringe ice being observed in bays, but ice thickness has been less than an inch and safe ice for fishing remains weeks away yet. Perch anglers were doing well along Lake Michigan at Oconto, Pensaukee, Suamico and to the south at Milwaukee and Kenosha. A few late run trout and salmon were being caught in the Sheboygan and Root rivers. Some smaller walleye and sauger were being caught on the Mississippi River.

The waterfowl migration has reached a fever pitch, especially along the Mississippi River south of La Crosse where tens of thousands tundra swans, canvasbacks, and other ducks were reported this past week, along with many bald eagles.

Statewide Birding Report

Some November birding doldrums have set in across the state as we transition from fall to winter. In contrast to this time last fall, winter finches and owls continue to be scarce, although American goldfinches are prevalent statewide and the season’s first Snowy Owl was reported this week along the Sheboygan lakefront. On the up side, waterfowl migration has reached a fever pitch, especially along the Mississippi River south of La Crosse where tens of thousands tundra swans, canvasbacks, and other ducks were reported this past week, along with many bald eagles. This is a Wisconsin birding spectacle not to be missed! Sandhill cranes continue to stage in large numbers as far north as Burnett County but flocks are departing southward with each passing cold front. Whooping cranes continue with sandhills near Horicon Marsh, and another was found this week near Crex Meadows Wildlife Area. Some sparrows remain in the south, along with fruit-eating birds such as American robins, eastern bluebirds, and cedar waxwings. Both northern shrikes and rough-legged hawks are showing well in many locations across the state. Rarities spotted recently include black-billed magpie in Bayfield County, harlequin ducks in Racine and Kenosha, and Townsend’s solitaires at their tradition spot in Devil’s Lake State Park. Finally and most regretfully, the Wisconsin birding community recently lost one of its shining stars with the passing of Noel Cutright. Noel’s list of accomplishments is very long and includes prominent roles in the formation of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, Bird City Wisconsin, Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, and many other bird conservation projects in the state.
- Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

Regional reports

Bayfield County - Woodcock have moved out of the area but grouse hunters are having much success now that all the leaves have fallen. Though grouse numbers appear to be down this year, those hunting the young regrowth of aspen and or near tag alters claim to be having the most success. Rutting activity appears to be at its prime right now with much daytime activity being seen. It’s been said if you see a doe right now, a buck won’t be too far behind which will be perfect timing for this weekend’s gun deer opener. There appears to be a thin layer of ice on many of the smaller inland lakes right now with below zero temperatures expected by the end of the week.
- Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond

Burnett County - In recent weeks the deer activity has increased just in time for the opening of the gun deer season. Deer numbers seem down in the Grantsburg area, but all that could change depending on the deer density where you are hunting. Most lakes are in varying stages of ice up, but are not completely covered. There is no snow in Burnett County and no snow in the seven day forecast. Please remember the four basic rules of firearm safety on your upcoming hunts. TAB-K: Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be certain of your target and what’s beyond, keep your finger outside the trigger guard and off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
- Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Seasonably cold weather along with the peak of the deer rut and the upcoming gun deer season has kept fishing pressure to a minimum on most waters across the north. Only a very few die-hard anglers have been venturing out and nearly all of these have been musky anglers. Most of these late-season anglers have been dragging large suckers around, but there have been no reports of any success in the last week. Water temperatures have fallen into the low 40s to upper 30s on most local lakes, with some skim and fringe ice just being observed in the side bays on a few of the waters. Ice thickness has been less than an inch, and any kind of walkable ice is still a couple of weeks away.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - Trails and roads are in very wet condition. Still have open water on both the north and south forks of the Flambeau River as well as local lakes. We are seeing lots of rubs and scrapes from bucks, and seeing quite a bit more grouse. Snow geese and buntings are on the move. The winter berries are beautiful this year. Thursday morning, Nov. 21, we had about 2-3 inches of wet snow that has for the most part melted.
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate

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