Preliminary 2017 bobcat harvest information available

MADISON, WI - Hunters and trappers harvested 548 bobcats in Wisconsin, according to preliminary harvest data for the 2017-18 bobcat seasons.
Preliminary data combines both state and tribal harvest information, and final harvest information should be available by mid-June. With the addition of the southern management zone, 2017 marks the fourth year of statewide bobcat harvest.
Bobcat harvest is divided by northern and southern management zones. In 2017, the harvest goal for the northern zone was 550 and the harvest goal for the southern zone was 200 for a total harvest goal of 750 bobcats statewide. Both zones saw harvest goal increases for the 2017 season, with a substantial increase in the northern zone.
"Harvest goals and permit levels for each management zone are evaluated annually based on review of bobcat population data," said Shawn Rossler, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources furbearer ecologist. "Bobcats are managed through a preference point lottery system that allows harvest by trappers and hunters with a permit."
The Furbearer Advisory Committee, which includes DNR Staff, tribal and partner agency representatives and individuals from key user groups, provides annual harvest goal recommendations to the DNR.
The DNR's bobcat population estimate research is led by Nathan Roberts, DNR furbearer research scientist.
"We are learning a lot about this elusive animal through active research efforts. Monitoring bobcats via satellite collars allows us to evaluate harvest mortality rates," said Roberts. "Over the last four years, 90 bobcats have been collared and monitored."
Rossler said the information from this research will allow the department to maximize bobcat harvest opportunities while ensuring the long-term stability of the bobcat population.
The annual application deadline for the bobcat harvest permit drawing is Aug. 1. Wisconsin's bobcat hunting and trapping seasons are divided into early (mid-October to Dec. 25) and late (Dec. 26 to Jan. 31) time periods.
For more information regarding bobcat hunting and research in Wisconsin, visit and search keyword "furbearers."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Plum City's Hanson wins Wisconsin's Ethical Hunter Award

BARNEVELD, WI - Cody Hanson, from Plum City, WI, was awarded the 2017 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Ethical Hunter Award by Chief Warden Todd Schaller of the DNR and Nick Laufenberg, of Vortex Optics, in Barneveld recently.
The award was presented May 17, at the new Vortex Optics Headquarters in Barneveld, WI. Vortex Optics, a worldwide company, has been a corporate sponsor of the award the past two years, gifting the ethical hunter an item from its line of rifle scopes, binoculars and range finders manufactured in Barneveld.
Hanson was hunting with Payton Koff, 13, on opening day of the 2017 Wisconsin gun-deer season on public land in Pierce County.  
“A nice eight-point buck came and stood 12 yards from our ground blind,” Hanson said. “I told Payton to hold off until we could see better. It was just a bit too dark to make sure of what may have been beyond the target.”
The two hunters sat for a few minutes, watching and whispering, and then the buck ran off.
“We were right to wait, I told Payton. I know he was bummed not being able to take the shot, but better safe than sorry,” Hanson recalls telling Payton. “It’s the first day in the season and another buck is likely to come along.”
None did. The two hunters finished the season without shooting any deer, but with memories and making plans for the 2018 deer season.
Payton’s mom, Pauline Koff, nominated Cody for the ethical hunter award after hearing the story of how he rightfully explained to her son the ethical thing to do.
"They still had fun and were very excited about seeing a buck that close,” Pauline said.
“About 50 years ago my great grandfather was shot while hunting on public land when another hunter mistook him for a deer during poor light conditions,” Cody said. “The hunter just didn’t know his target for sure. That ended my great grandfather’s hunting and everything else.”
After the season, Cody and Payton talked more and realized the special moments they had with a buck standing 12 yards away.
In discussing the nominations, Steve Dewald, one of the four committee members, explained that every hunter understands the need to follow the law.  
“However, this year’s ethical hunter went beyond the legal requirements, holding himself and a young companion to a higher standard," Dewald said. "By reinforcing the importance of also being ethical in the presence of a young hunter, his actions fit the theme of the award, which is behavior that reflects positively on the tradition of hunting.”
Bob Lamb, another committee member who, along with Dewald, helped to initiate the award, said, “There was a great group of nominations for the 2017 award, but this one stood out because of the ethical behavior shown toward the young hunter by his older companion.
“Although shooting hours were legally open, the young hunter listened to his companion, followed his suggestions, and also remembered his hunter education of knowing your target and what is beyond,” Lamb added. “This example of ethical behavior is exactly what this award is all about.”
The Ethical Hunter Award was created in 1997, by Lamb, Dewald and Jerry Davis, all of whom are committee members along with Warden Schaller.
Nominations for the 2018 award are due Jan. 15, 2019, and can be sent to Warden Schaller, any committee member, or any Wisconsin DNR field warden.

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.

3 states collaborating on ruffed grouse West Nile virus monitoring

A region-wide effort to better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse is underway in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“In the Great Lakes region, West Nile virus has been found in a small number of grouse with no known population-level effects at this point,” said Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Still, we want to let hunters know we’re in the first steps of monitoring the virus, and we’re planning to do some limited testing of birds this fall.”
In 2017, West Nile virus was identified in more ruffed grouse in the Great Lakes states than in the past. The virus has been present in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin for about 17 years.
West Nile virus has been documented in more than 250 species of birds. However, not all birds develop clinical disease from the virus. Corvids (including blue jays and crows) are very prone to illness and death from the virus, while other species may be less so or may not develop symptoms at all.
Last year, Michigan had 12 positive cases of West Nile virus in ruffed grouse. Before 2017, only one positive ruffed grouse had been found in Michigan, and that was in 2002. The virus was confirmed in one ruffed grouse in the early 2000s in Minnesota, and is yet to have been detected in a Wisconsin ruffed grouse.
West Nile virus in ruffed grouse has become a topic of concern because of a recent study in Pennsylvania reporting that the virus may have contributed to population declines in areas of lower-quality habitat or where habitat was scarce.
Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the early stages of planning to test samples from grouse this fall, but at this point there is no evidence that the virus is having a population-level impact in the Great Lakes region.
“By monitoring birds at a regional level, we will be able to gain a better understanding of this disease in ruffed grouse,” said Kelly Straka, state wildlife veterinarian with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Ruffed grouse are hunted annually by around 300,000 hunters across the three states. Preliminary reports from 2017 hunters were mixed across the Great Lakes region. While the virus could impact brood survival of grouse, other factors such as cold, wet springs during nesting and hatching, drought conditions, or habitat decline can also affect birds seen and harvested.
Biologists in the region are optimistic the great habitat for ruffed grouse in the Great Lakes states will help populations thrive despite the virus.
“We are looking to hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to help us in this endeavor,” said Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “This is an excellent example of agencies and organizations taking a proactive approach and working together to expand our knowledge about WNV and ruffed grouse.”
Recently, the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Health Committee held its annual meeting in Traverse City, MI. West Nile virus was one of the topics for state wildlife health leaders. More than 25 wildlife health professionals from 13 Midwestern states and Canada were in attendance.
Individual agencies are currently reviewing ways they will be monitoring their grouse populations for West Nile virus and additional information will be shared when more details are determined.
Like humans, wild animals can be exposed to West Nile virus and survive the exposure. Currently, there is no evidence of humans becoming infected by consuming properly cooked birds or by handling birds. Research has shown dogs can be infected, but are very resistant to developing clinical signs of the disease and are considered an end host.
Ruffed grouse hunting is open in the fall and Minnesota hunting information can be found at

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Applications open May 1 for Wisconsin elk hunt

MADISON, WI - As anticipation and excitement build around Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history this fall, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that the elk hunting license application period opens May 1.
"The most common question I've been asked is how many people we expect to apply for a tag," said DNR deer and elk ecologist Kevin Wallenfang. "With 600,000 deer hunters and over 120,000 people applying for bear tags each year, a chance to pursue yet another great big game animal in Wisconsin is going to be very appealing for a lot of hunters. We encourage everyone to throw their hat in the ring to be one of five lucky people with an opportunity to hunt elk come October."
A total of five once-in-a-lifetime bull tags are being made available to state hunters for the inaugural hunt. Four tags will be awarded through a lottery drawing, with the fifth awarded through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffle. Hunters may enter both, but can only win once. Those interested in entering the RMEF raffle should look for more information on the organization's website at
Elk license applications can be purchased in the DNR Go Wild license system from May 1-31, and only Wisconsin residents may apply. Each potential hunter may apply once online at or by visiting a license agent. The application fee is $10. RMEF raffle tickets are also $10 each, and there is no limit on the number of raffle tickets each individual may purchase. The cost of an elk hunting license for the winners of the license drawing is $49.
State drawing winners will be announced in early June and the winner of the RMEF raffle will be announced in August. Prior to obtaining an elk hunting license, all winners will be required to participate in a Wisconsin elk hunter education program offered before the hunt. The class will cover tissue collection and health testing, regulations and more.
The 2018 hunting season will occur only in the Clam Lake elk range in parts of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties in far north-central Wisconsin, where the original restoration effort was initiated with 25 elk from Michigan in 1995. The herd is projected to comfortably surpass 200 animals this year.
"I've also received a number of questions from folks who are concerned that, if they draw a tag, they won't have a place to hunt," Wallenfang said. "With approximately 70 percent of the elk range under public ownership and open to hunting, finding a place to hunt should not be a concern. Despite the somewhat remoteness of the area, there are campgrounds, hotels and restaurants, so everything you need is within easy reach."
Wisconsin's inaugural elk hunting season will adhere to the following guidelines:
* Season will be open from October 13 to November 11, 2018 and Dec. 13-21, 2018.
* Only bull elk may be harvested.
* Areas where Kentucky elk were released between 2015-2017 will be off limits to hunting until the population increases to levels identified in the elk management plan.
* Only Wisconsin residents are eligible to receive an elk license.
* An elk license may be transferred to a Wisconsin resident youth hunter 17 years old or younger, or an eligible Wisconsin resident disabled hunter.
For more information about elk in Wisconsin, go to and search the keyword "elk." To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "elk in Wisconsin" and "wildlife projects" distribution lists.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

CDACs consider prolonged winter in final recommendations

MADISON, WI - As more snow hits northern Wisconsin and local concerns rise about its impact on the deer herd, County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) are wrapping up their portion of the annual antlerless harvest quota-setting process for the 2018 deer season.
While winter 2018 will not go down in history as one of the more severe winters on record, it has stubbornly persisted, reminiscent of 2014 when ice still covered northern lakes for the spring fishing opener in May. Councils take winter data into account, and this has led several to recommend reduced antlerless harvest quotas, compared to original recommendations in March.
"We were sailing along nicely in the mild to moderate category, and thought winter was pretty much behind us," said Kevin Wallenfang, deer and elk ecologist for the DNR. "With this recent storm, we are getting more reports of younger deer appearing gaunt and stressed, but adult deer look good in most areas."
With more than two feet of snow remaining in some areas, the anticipated warming weather may not provide relief for another week or two.
Wallenfang said that CDACs went into their March quota setting meetings recognizing what a fourth straight mild winter would do for the deer herd, and set their recommendations accordingly. However, this most recent storm bumped the Winter Severity Index in some areas into the severe category.
"With winter dragging on, several councils, on the recommendation of local department biologists, reduced harvest recommendations in the hardest hit counties during April meetings."
DNR wildlife biologists and volunteers annually monitor the effects of winter weather on the deer herd using several methods, and this information is shared with CDAC members to help inform harvest recommendations and antlerless tag levels.
The Winter Severity Index uses a combination of cold temperatures and deep snows that have previously been shown to negatively affect winter stress levels and ultimately the health of deer. WSI measurements are recorded annually at 42 stations throughout the northern half of the state from Dec. 1 to April 30.
Each day that the temperatures fall below zero degrees Fahrenheit and/or the snow depth is more than 18 inches, conditions are noted for each station. For example, a day with 20 inches of snow and a temperature of -5 would receive two 2 points for the day. Winter conditions are considered mild if the station accumulates less than 50 points, moderate if between 51 and 80 points, severe if between 81-100, and very severe if over 100.
At the end of March, just three stations were in the severe category (all in Iron County), while several were moderate, and the remaining stations were considered mild. However, this latest storm will push a number of locations in the severe category.
"While current conditions are concerning, winter impacts are cumulative, which is exactly what WSI measures over time - hard winters are not something new to Wisconsin's deer herd," said Wallenfang. "Adult deer can handle it well in most years, and even in the very worst years we typically see only about 10 to 15 percent loss of adults - previous year's fawns can be hit considerably harder and we are certainly seeing some rough-looking fawns in some areas."
Wildlife biologists across the north have been in the field investigating reports of noticeably stressed deer, monitoring habitat conditions and checking car-killed deer for body fat content.
"Throughout much of the north, internal examinations are showing decent fat content on their backs and around major organs of adult deer," said Wallenfang. "Most does that have been examined are carrying at least one fawn, and bone marrow fat content is fair to good on the majority of deer. As you head south into farmland areas, fat content and pregnancy levels are very good. This winter should have little to no impact on farmland fawn production."
Wallenfang urged people to check the rules and recommendations related to winter deer feeding which is illegal in some counties. The DNR provides helpful information link "helpful information" to Considerations for Feeding Deer brochure to ensure that people who choose to feed wildlife do it properly, so as not to kill the very animals they are attempting to help.
It is important to note that straight corn is an unhealthy food source for deer if they have not consumed it previously. For landowners, cutting trees to provide natural browse is the best option.
Final recommendations for the 2018 deer hunting seasons will be presented to the Natural Resources Board in Madison at their May meeting.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Minnesota bear hunt application deadline May 4

Hunters are reminded that applications for bear hunting licenses are being accepted through Friday, May 4, wherever Minnesota hunting and fishing license are sold, online at and by telephone at 888-665-4236.
A total of 3,350 licenses are available in 13 permit areas. Bear licenses cost $44 for residents and $230 for nonresidents, and there is a $5 application fee. The season is open from Saturday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 14.
Notification to lottery winners will be made by Friday, June 1. Lottery winners will receive a postcard in the mail and can check online at to see if they were drawn. The deadline to purchase licenses awarded by lottery will be Wednesday, Aug. 1. Any remaining unpurchased licenses will be available over the counter starting at noon on Monday, Aug. 6.
An unlimited number of bear licenses will be sold over-the-counter for the no-quota area that includes east-central and far northwestern Minnesota. No-quota licenses are valid only in the no-quota area. Hunters with a no-quota license can harvest one bear.
Bear hunting information is available on the DNR website at

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Try Sandhill's Learn to Hunt Deer program

BABCOCK, WI - Anyone with an interest in trying out a new hobby in the outdoors is encouraged to apply for a Learn to Hunt Deer course at Sandhill Wildlife Area.
Sandhill’s Learn to Hunt Deer course emphasizes important lessons taught in hunter’s safety with hands-on instruction, teaches valuable lessons through a workshop and ends with a mentored deer hunt for participants.
Subject matter for the workshop is:
* Deer biology.
* Wisconsin deer management.
* Hunting rules and regulations.
* Sportsmanship and ethical hunter behavior.
* Basic gun safety and marksmanship.
This program is not limited to youth participants. While the youth program is limited to kids between the ages of 12-15, the beginner adults (16 years or older) category is for individuals who have never hunted deer with a firearm before. All participants must complete a Hunter Education Course before the hunt portion of the class.
Applications are available at, keywords “Sandhill outdoor skills center” and must be submitted by June 30. Applications can be submitted on the website or submitted via US mail to Wayne Hall, C/O Sandhill Wildlife Area, PO Box 156, Babcock, 54413. Successful participants will be notified by July 15.
Specific dates of the hunt and workshops are published on the application. It is important to note that all participants and chaperones are required to attend the workshop.
For questions about the hunt, contact Hall, DNR wildlife biologist, at 715-884 -6331.
Sandhill Wildlife Area is located on County Highway X just outside of Babcock. For more information regarding Learn to Hunt classes in Wisconsin, search keywords “Learn to Hunt.”

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR