Out and About with Bob

Bob Lamb

A heavy dose of the "white stuff" Monday and Tuesday has sure turned the Coulee Region into a winter wonderland and piles of snowbanks.
Deer and wild turkeys are on a feeding frenzy ever since the snow subsided late Tuesday. Turkeys flock to the huge field for waste corn near our condo in the valley during the day. Deer take their turn from dusk to dawn each day.
Interestingly, there is one deer that has been feeding in the field among the turkeys during the midafternoon the past two days. I figure it is either extremely hungry, or wants to beat his four-legged counterparts to the dinner table. The lone deer seems unfazed by the turkeys or residents walking their dogs near the field.
I noticed a few anglers fishing through the ice below the Dresbach Lock and Dam about 10 a.m., on Wednesday. Hard-water anglers continue to flock to areas around the airport lights on Lake Onalaska. Perch and northern pike are biting the best.
The WIFA State High School Ice Fishing Championship is this weekend on Pools 7 and 8 on the Mississippi River. Chad Knapmiller, at Schafer's River Rentals on Brice Prariie, heard there could be around 1,000 boys and girls competing in the event.
Minnesota DNR conservation warden Tom Hemker, stationed in Winona, said snowmobile trails in the Winona area are back open and in good shape. La Crosse County snowmobile trails are also open. Users are urged to ride with caution.
Downhill and cross-country skiers, as well as snowboarders are out and about with big smiles on their faces.
Outdoors photographers are smiling while finding spectacular shots throughout the Greater La Crosse Area.
Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.

Jerry Davis

From Southern Wisconsin

Outdoors enthusiasts were in a quandary how to enjoy winter staples when a polar vortex was followed by freezing rain, sleet, snow and wind earlier this month.
Most people didn’t go so far as to blame Jimmy or Phil, the honorary spring prognosticating groundhogs.
Some found nature’s winter artwork pleasing enough to move admiring and photographing frost, frozen projections, and field snow dunes up a few places in their enjoyment bracket. There is another nature to see, users found, something rarely seen other winters. Ice-coated limbs talked back to the wind.         
When the sun rises, everything shimmers as though summer rains have fallen. Skinny objects tripled their diameters, encased in icy tombs, only to lose weight after reaching beyond a breaking point or when the sun hastens sublimation.
There are advantages during these chancy times. When else can we see every limb, twig, dried leaf, evergreen needle and stem prickle coated and decorated as though it was their final hurrah? Sometimes they are just that.
Marcescent oaks, mostly reds and a few white oaks, hang onto their leaves well into winter. Here frost and freezing rain cling to rounded or spiny margins. These freeze-dried packages of tissue are useful as tender parcels of energy for white-tailed deer who do not have to dig through snow to find the food. The problem is digestion requires valuable energy to warm the material to make it fit to fuel the micro-organisms in stomach’s four compartments (not four stomachs).
Coping with winter came in several ways for wildlife.
Deer, with their hollow hairs, walked about with snow coats, not melting, because the deer’s body heat mostly remained inside.
Few trout anglers were willing to wet a line, while panfishanglers were some of the first to crack ice.
Sturgeon spearing in the Winnebago System opened last Saturday and early estimates project close to a full season on the main lake and shorter on the upper lakes. First-day tallies did little to change those projections.
Unlike deer and turkey takers, spearers must immediately validate tags and their catch must be openly exposed while transporting to a check station. Outdoors enthusiasts, who like to spend most days close to a warm location, might look to a drive and walk through the registration areas. This can be an adventure for spearers and spectators. It still behooves some why deer management doesn’t take advantage of these same opportunities to “sell” the season similarly.
Guesses and sometimes assessments are filling volumes as to the impacts this winter will have on next spring’s wildlife, pests and vegetation.
Fungal scientist, Tom Volk, La Crosse, calmed the world by saying morel season will be, to a large part, dependent on April’s weather, not February’s. However, morels do much of their growing during the previous autumn.
Don’t be discomfited by taking time to enjoy the niceties of winter, even it means being outside for a few brief looks, smells and touches.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112

Chad Knapmiller

Schafer's River Rentals

Well, the snow is the topic of greatest interest for a lot of people now, so I will start with that. We have about 16 inches of snow on the ice after receiving about 12 inches earlier this week.  
We have plowed paths out from Mosey's Landing next to the shop to just south of Marge's Island (the small island east of Rosebud Island). If you have a 4x4 truck or SUV with decent clearance you can still venture out into the snow without issue. There have been plenty of guys driving over to the airport lights.
The people who are having issues are people with cars/SUVs that sit lower to the ground. The snow gets packed up underneath the vehicle and you end up becoming real friendly with a shovel.  
I have been out with my ATV and I was still able to travel around, but it was work.  
Just to let everyone know it is the WIFA State High School Ice Fishing Championship this weekend on Pools 7&8. We have been told to expect about 1,000 kids to participate. They are not allowed onto the ice until 6:30 Saturday morning. However, they start staging at landings as early as 5 a.m. This means that there will be significant congestion at the landings during that time. They will be pre-fishing Friday as well.  
I will have extended hours for this event. Friday I am opening at 6 a.m. Saturday I am opening at 5 a.m. I am loaded to the max with bait so we should not have any issues running out.
As far as the fishing goes, I do not have a ton of new information.  With the Onalaska Lions Club Derby last weekend, they were catching crappies suspended in 10-plus feet of water about 2-3 feet off the bottom.  
Bluegills are both shallow and deep. However, I think the best bet is to target them shallow.  
Northern pike are still biting, but I have not seen a 40-plus incher in 2 weeks or so.  
The perch bite is steady and guys have been telling me they are catching them over by the lights. The beginning of the week there were two days that some guys got on a hot bite in the dredged areas and they were catching perch deep which was unusual.  Keep in mind that the snow on the ice will cause the oxygen to start depleting and fish will be on the move to places with higher oxygen.
Stop in for the latest report!

Wild Birds Unlimited

Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited

Aloha, from Hawaii.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is scheduled Friday, Feb 15, through Monday, Feb. 18.
Wild Birds Unlimited is a founding and major sponsor of this event.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual counting of the birds. For at least 15 minutes on one or more of the count days, simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see and go online to submit your report at http://gbbc.birdcount.org. It’s that easy.
When you feed birds in your backyard, it shows that you value having a daily relationship with nature and that you are willing to take action to foster it.
Your information becomes part of an extensive database that is analyzed by scientists to better understand important trends in bird populations, range expansions, habitat changes and shifts in migration patterns.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, with Bird Studies Canada.
For more information, call Wild Birds Unlimited in Onalaska at 608-781-5088 or visit us for our Bird Seed Sale to attract some birds!
Happy Counting!
Karen Perry

West-Central Wisconsin

West-Central Wisconsin

WILLOW RIVER STATE PARK - Ski Trails are open and are designated for skiing only. Please no pets on ski trails. For current ski trail conditions go to: http://skinnyski.com/trails/traildetail.asp?Id=133.
There are approximately 5 miles of hiking/snow-shoeing trails also available in the winter. The hiking/snow-shoeing trails are also open for pets on leash.
Wildlife has been abundant. Pheasants, deer and waterfowl can be seen throughout the park. There are many swans and other waterfowl that winter in the open waters of the Willow River, too said Aaron Mason, property supervisor.

KINNICKINNIC STATE PARK - Winter has finally arrived. Most open areas have approximately 13 inches of fresh snow and more is expected in the upcoming week.
Animal activity is minimal, but the days are getting longer and the sun's angle is increasing. Get out and enjoy your favorite winter activities.
The park's ski trails have a solid base of snow and are tracked for classic cross-country skiing. Multi-use trails have been packed and are open to all means of foot travel. Hiking, snowshoeing and pets are not allowed on trails where cross-country ski track has been set.
Mountain bikes and/or fat tire bikes are not allowed on park trails.
The Kinnickinnic has significant shelf ice and running at normal levels, according to Eric Klumb, ranger.

PERROT STATE PARK - The park received 12 inches of new snow this week. All cross-country ski trails have been initially packed with the snowmobile. With the fluffy snow, it will take more passes with the snowmobile before we can groom and set track, said Lois Larson, park manager.

WILDCAT MOUNTAIN STATE PARK - Cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing on Feb. 13. There is a 5-10 inch base, according to Jayne Collins, ranger.

BRUNET ISLAND STATE PARK - Cross-country ski trails were groomed and track was set on Feb. 13, late afternoon. Track is set up nice and trails are in good condition, according to Zachary Thon, ranger.

LAKE WISSOTA STATE PARK - Cross-country ski trails were being packed on Feb. 13, and possibly partially groomed. They will be groomed well by Friday. The multi-use trail will also be groomed. They should be in good condition, said Nathan Fries, ranger.

BUCKHORN STATE PARK - The park received 11 inches of snow over the past two days.
A snowmobile was used to pack the cross-country ski trails to set a base. Crews will try to use a groomer and set a track on Thursday.
Central Sands nature trail will not have tracks set due to a 6-foot snow drift covering the trail along the lake (trail was packed on both sides of drift).
Trails from Kid's fishing pond parking lot are now packed, according to Heather Wolf, park manager.

Wisconsin Birding Report

Snowfall was the story of the week and brought good numbers of birds to many feeders.
Large numbers of cardinals were reported, including as many as 45 at a Dodge County feeder, as well as a few pine siskins and common redpolls among other regular species. This should make for an interesting Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend. Running from Feb. 15-18, this fun and easy event provides scientists a late-winter snapshot of bird populations worldwide. Anyone can contribute by birding for at least 15 minutes in your backyard or beyond and submitting what you see at gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started.
The increased snow cover should spell good news for ruffed grouse as they find good powder now in which to burrow and roost.
On the down side, several ice storms provided challenges for diving ducks in some locations, especially Douglas County where some common goldeneyes pushed off a now-frozen western Lake Superior mistook icy roads for water bodies.
Despite the winter weather, longer day length has initiated some breeding activity for our earliest nesting species. Singing activity is ramping up for northern cardinals, black-capped chickadees, house finches and dark-eyed juncos.
Common goldeneyes are very actively performing head-bobbing courtship displays, and pairs of red-tailed hawks are common, some even beginning to bring sticks to old and new nest sites. The same is true for bald eagles, while great horned owls take the prize again as some or even many pairs across the southern half of the state are already incubating eggs!
Also of note this week were 100-plus tundra swans on Lower Mud Lake in Dane County, excellent numbers of pine grosbeaks continuing across the far north and a few snowy owls around the state.
Rarities included a Ross's goose in Milwaukee County, wood duck in Iron County, varied thrush in Sauk County, and a resilient male Baltimore oriole persisting at a feeder in Juneau County.
Find out what others are seeing and report your finds at www.ebird.org/wi.
Good birding!

SOURCE: Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

Around the Badger State

Around the Badger State

Wisconsin had a series of snowfall across the entire state this week, dropping anywhere from 6 to more than a foot of snow in many locations.
With Wisconsin finally completely covered with snow, this should be one of the best weekends of the season for outdoor winter recreation.
Snowmobile trails have reopened through much of central Wisconsin counties and a few southern counties. Trails across the northern half of the state were good to excellent on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report. Cross-country ski trails were groomed or will be by the weekend and many properties are reporting ski trail conditions are excellent or good.
Northern lakes are ice covered with 20-plus inches of ice. With the snowfall, the lakes are heavy with snow and travel out on the ice is difficult. There have been a few die-hard ice anglers out there fishing for walleye, crappie and perch with not much to show for their efforts.
Fishing on Green Bay slowed some this week with anglers fishing the west shore catching whitefish and a few bonus walleyes. Walleye fishing slowed on the Fox River, but some anglers were catching northern pike on the bay.
Access at many locations along Door County was difficult with snow covering up the chopped ice, though some shove ice still sticks out in further reaches. The best access was at Stone Quarry where folks followed a plowed trail to get access to the north side of the break wall. Those fishing in 50 to70 feet of water did OK with whitefish and reported ice to be from 15 inches to 2 feet.
The 2019 sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago is expected to last the full 16 days this season, so spearers still have plenty of opportunity to get out on the ice and take part in this unique winter tradition. Through the first five days there have been 193 fish registered from Lake Winnebago. Spearers have been more successful on the Upriver Lakes, registering a total of 220 fish through the first five days of the season. The Upriver Lakes season will likely go through this weekend and potentially into early next week.
The highlight of the 2019 sturgeon spearing season has been 20 fish registered weighing 100 or more pounds, the most notable a 171-pound, 85.5-inch sturgeon registered by Jonathan Eiden of Oshkosh on opening day.
Whitetail deer have begun shedding antlers.
Predators such as ermine, bobcat, fox and coyote have been spotted as they look for food and mates also during this Valentine breeding season.
There will be seven candlelight events this Saturday, along with Winterfest at Merrick State Park.
Next Tuesday is the full snow super moon, when the moon is at its closed point in its orbit to earth, making it appear its largest and brightest. Both Horicon Marsh and the Northern Kettles are holding full moon hikes.