Fishing is almost at a standstill in the Coulee Region now that the cold wave has arrived. Rain, rain and more rain has pushed local rivers to near flood stage. Thank goodness rain is supposed to leave for a week or so, but now it's going to get cold.I went down to Ol' Tom's boathouse on Wednesday morning, but didn't do very well. I caught a couple of 8-inch perch, but that was about it, other than getting stung by a bee on my forehead. Later in the day, I went to my neighborhood trout stream and caught three brookies with several more on the end of my line. However, they didn't hit hard enough to hook well. Before I left our condo in the valley to go trout fishing, I noticed several turkeys foraging between the standing corn and alfalfa field near us. Their deep black silhouettes stood out vividly. Squirrels remain busy caching nuts and seeds. Opossum and raccoon are obviously on the move by the abundance of roadkills. Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.
From Southern Wisconsin
Wildlife food sources, particularly fruits and nuts, and sometimes smaller animals, are subject to fluctuations based on weather, growing conditions, natural cycling and animal populations themselves. Shagbark hickory nut production was grand, maybe one of the best ever in 2017. This year not so much, and in fact almost nothing in many areas. The bitternut or yellowbud hickory exhibited a fair to good nut drop this autumn. While gray and fox squirrels prefer shagbark nuts, sometimes they must turn to other sources or starve. The fruit husks under bitternut trees are numerous, but the nuts are gone. One of the squirrels’ food sources this fall is this lesser nut, the bitternut. It could be comparable to humans preferring sweet corn, but if that fails, they have been known to cook up a kettle of field corn. Snowy owls and siskins sometimes leave their normal range farther north and come here to winter in greater numbers. Snowy owls possibly come south due to overpopulation, and siskins because the northern pines failed in producing abundant seed cones. White pines and white cedars seem to be waning, maybe even dying now in October. In reality, both of these evergreens are dropping older needles (leaves) but keeping the evergreen spirit with at least this year’s needles. But first, just like elms, the pine’s needles turn yellow, and then drop. Fall flowers on deciduous shrubs are rare in autumn, but the witch-hazel seems to be fine with dropping leaves and then flowering throughout October and November, about the same time last year’s fruits are shooting out a few seeds. White-tailed deer continue to change with the season. Most notable is tremendous neck swelling of bucks. This year’s buck fawns have noticeable tufts on their foreheads where tiny antlers (most call them nubbins) are hidden. A few fawns continue to nurse if the doe allows being bothered. Combined and standing soybean fields continue to be the place for dining deer, with alfalfa and standing corn running close seconds. Most apples and white oak acorns have dropped. Deer seasons continue and numbers are piling up on the DNR’s Web site. Last week’s entry gave a total of 11,188 deer registered by archers and crossbowers. County totals jumped, too. Sampling across the state listed 117 for Dane County, 216 in Portage, 121 in La Crosse, 65 in Lafayette; and 67 in Green. Registrations for the two-day youth hunt last weekend will be posted soon, as will totals for the nine-day Deer Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities, which closes Oct. 14. Waterfowlers would likely prefer more normal autumn conditions, but the seasons continue with the reopening of the Southern Zone Oct. 13, continuous hunting in the Northern Zone until Nov. 27, and reopening of the Mississippi Zone Oct. 13, and then closing Dec. 4. Ginseng sales are brisk in southwest Wisconsin. Grouse hunters are finding a few birds, but nothing to call home about. Looking up, however, the fall color was peaking last weekend in the far north and continues to show well coming south. Wisconsin’s state parks call to hikers, campers, photographers and ride-through bikers and pickup truckers. Wisconsin recognized a couple from Illinois, Pat and Jerry Cornelius, ages 73, as outstanding park volunteers this year. They have spent the summer months helping make Governor Dodge State Park in Iowa County presentable the last nine years. Autumn can be a short season, and leaf seeking and peeking even shorter. Any day is the perfect time to enjoy parks and country sides.
Schafer's River Rentals
The weather continues to be the biggest factor in what is affecting the bite. I can't even give an accurate report with the temps swinging from 60's to 40's. The rain we have gotten has reduced water clarity in parts of Lake Onalaska, and it remains to be seen if the high water coming down the river will dirty the lake or not. With the crest in La Crosse expected to be around 11.2, fishing should remain good, I think water clarity will be the biggest variable. Through yesterday the bite has been great. I found a few hours to get out myself yesterday afternoon and did very well on perch. What I would take away from this is that the fish are still down there, you might need to try something or somewhere different to get them! Stop in and I can give you the latest info! Thanks, Chad
Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited
With all the damp weather we have had, it would be a good thing to get things cleaned up a bit this weekend and make sure birdbaths are full. We've had robins at our baths. Soon they will devour our crab apples. A little note about birds and "caching":Fall is here, and that means it’s time to prepare for the cold winter months. Did you know that many bird species store food for winter? It’s called “caching.” Birds such as chickadees, blue jays, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, crows and ravens cache food which they can retrieve later. Stored food includes sunflower seeds, pine nuts, peanuts and acorns. This fall, pay attention to birds’ behavior after they leave the feeder. Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches like to wedge seeds in cracks in the bark of trees. You will see them shell the seeds before storing them. Other locations may include under roof/side shingles, house eaves, undersides of branches, inside dead leaves and twigs. Blue jays and nuthatches will often hide their seeds by covering them with leaves, moss, or grass. Studies show that the location of cached food is often not selected based on its protection from the elements. Birds are more concerned about making it difficult for “cache robbers” to find their food. Some birds are better at this than others. Chickadees and titmice often don’t cover their stored food, but they usually store it up high in trees and in smaller branches, where it’s more difficult for other animals to find. Jays, crows and ravens will often store food on the ground, but will cover it for protection. Since their lives depend on it, birds can remember hundreds and even thousands of cache locations and go right to them five or six months later. Remember, birds barely have any sense of smell or taste, so they must rely on their memory to find their food. The jay family of birds is perhaps the most talented. Blue Jays store about 2,000 to 4,000 nuts and retrieve about 30 percent of them. Other animals or birds may steal the stored food, but rarely do jays of the same species steal from one of their own, even if they observed where the other jay cached the food. Birds will often remember key landmarks, such as rocks, trees, or shrubs that surround their cache locations. They will often rely on these landmarks to retrieve their cached food. If a landmark changes, birds may have trouble finding their cached food, but some birds are better than others. Our birdseed sale is going on at Wild Birds Unlimited through Oct. 31. All 20-pound bags of seed are 20 percent off and all suet cakes are 20 percent off as well as our awesome cylinders. It's a good time to try something new! Karen Perry, Wild Birds Unlimited, 608-781-5088.
BUCKHORN STATE PARK - Campsites and boat launches are in good condition - no flooding at the park, but trails are muddy. Accessible fishing pier and boat boarding piers will be removed Oct. 24. The far backpack sites are now closed. The second loop of the new campground is reservable until Oct. 15, and first loop Nov. 1. Dump station and flush toilets/showers are still open until the week of Oct. 15-24, according to Heather Wolf, park manager.
ROCHE-A-CRI STATE PARK - The main gate and camping are now closed until the beginning of May. Parking is in the winter lot on Czech Ave and park stickers are still required. Visitors can hike through the woods to the petroglyphs and stairway, according to Wolf.
Wisconsin Birding Report
It was a slow week for migration due to persistent rain and lack of northerly winds. That should change in the week ahead, however, so expect birding to improve in most habitats. Only a few neotropical migrants linger now, mostly in the southern third of the state. Among them are a few ruby-throated hummingbirds yet. Now is a time to check your hummingbirds closely for rufous and other rare species. Chimney swift numbers were great at some southern locations too, an impressive 3,000-plus still visiting a single roost chimney in Waukesha County. Warbler diversity has waned as only yellow-rumps, palms and a few orange-crowned remain in numbers. Short-distance migrants like robins, blackbirds, kinglets, creepers, hermit thrushes and sparrows now dominate. Dark-eyed juncos prevail across the north, while the first American tree sparrows have arrived. White-throated, chipping, fox and even a few Harris's sparrows are also being seen. Check shorelines, weedy gravel patches and bare fields for American pipits, horned larks and Lapland longspurs, as well as the first snow buntings due to arrive any day now. Raptor migration should be excellent this week with great diversity, including merlins, sharp-shinned, red-shouldered, and red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, harriers, eagles and others. Sandhill cranes and common loons are both flocking up now. Large numbers of American white pelicans were also reported on the Mississippi River, but it's early yet for significant numbers of tundra swans. Duck migration will improve throughout the month. Looking back, Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II recently released results of the summer nesting season. Looking ahead, this year's Winter Finch Forecast predicts a potentially good year for a number of sought-after winter bird species like redpolls and grosbeaks. Indeed, red-breasted nuthatches and purple finches are already showing very well, and a few bohemian waxwings are on the move. Some of this week's rarities include a scissor-tailed flycatcher in Calumet County, white-eyed vireo in Marathon, northern mockingbird in Ozaukee, and little gull in Eau Claire. Report your finds at www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding!
SOURCE: Ryan Brady, NHC conservation biologist in Ashland
Around the Badger State
This will be a great weekend for fall colors across Wisconsin with color at peak or just past across the north and much of central Wisconsin and from 25 to 50 percent color in southern Wisconsin on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Fall Color Report. The past week has once again been very wet and gray. There have been a few snowflakes in the air in the far north, but not any accumulation yet. Recent rains continue to have rivers flowing well above normal for this time of year. The Bois Brule, Flambeau, Chippewa, Black, Menominee, Peshtigo and Oconto rivers all surged over the weekend. The Menominee river shot up 4,000 cubic feet per second to 7,000 cfs by Sunday. The lower Wisconsin River is back on the rise after beginning to fall last week and was at over 26,000 cfs at Muscoda, meaning most sandbars are again under water. Lake Superior experienced some major wave action along the south shore this week making it too rough to boat. The rain has once again shut down some popular trails in the state due to flooding. The Sugar River is closed in its entirety and the sections of the Badger are closed again. The Elroy-Sparta and 400 trails remain closed from storm damage in August. Anglers on the Wolf River were catching crappies. Central Wisconsin trout streams are out of their banks and unfishable. This may have realistically ended the inland trout season as waters may not be fishable before the Oct. 15 closing. Lake Michigan was also rough keeping many boats off the water, but the trout and salmon runs on tributaries continued despite high river levels. Fishing pressure was high on the Kewaunee, Ahnapee, East and West Twin and Manitowoc rivers and Stony Creek with folks crowding around some dams. Many dark brown and black chinook were being caught. The cold front coming towards the end of the week is predicted to bring in another wave of migrating waterfowl. Duck numbers continue to increase and good numbers of pintail, wigeon, gadwall, bufflehead, mallard, wood duck, and blue and green-winged are being seen. Duck hunters in the northern zone have been successful harvesting ducks and the southern and Mississippi duck and Canada goose zones reopen Saturday. Deer hunters are reporting that buck deer are starting to show some early chasing activity. More than 14,000 deer have been harvested so far by crossbow and archery hunters and another 7,000 deer were harvested in the Youth Hunt last weekend. Raptor migration should be excellent this week with great diversity, including merlins, sharp-shinned, red-shouldered, and red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, harriers, eagles and others. Sandhill cranes and common loons are both flocking up now. There are a lot of fall color activities this weekend including a hike atop Rib Mountain or on the Ice Age Trail through Kettle Moraine. The MacKenzie Center is holding its Fall Festival Saturday. And Saturday and Sunday the Horicon Visitor and Education Center will host an archaeological festival with a buck skinners encampment, a drum circle and more. Learn about the Lake Michigan salmon fishery at the Root River Steelhead Facility Open House Saturday. This is also the last opportunity of the year to take in the UW Astronomy Dept. Universe in the Parks programs that will be held Friday at Newport and Saturday at Devil's Lake, Kohler-Andrae and Peninsula.
Billy Isbell from Island Outdoors on French Island
Fishing is getting great. Unfortunately, the weather has not been so great. The water is on the rise once again. I feel like that's a biweekly thing as we approach the fall feed. We have to adapt once again to the fish being in areas that they normally aren't. We will start with the perch. They are starting to be found. I would use a slower presentation with red worms or minnows. Carolina rigging is always my favorite. Walleye have been in abundance as well. I would work current seams and drop-offs with minnows or willow cats. If you prefer the lure approach, I would go to using a hair jig, a blade bait or Rip 'N Rap. Bass are still found I would look into the grass and wood as the water rises. Try throwing a Lethal Weapon, swim jig or a jerk bait as the bait fish are abundant. Crappies have been doing very well with minnows and Z-Viber lures. I haven't heard much on plastics lately.