Forecasting weather, at times, is similar to hunting and forecasting deer density. Things change overnight. Weather fronts may keep deer from feeding or push them into deep cover. The reverse may true other times. A forecast for a brown opener, at least in southern Wisconsin, has now changed to the possibility of snow, maybe a couple inches, with more near the Wisconsin-Illinois border by the time deer hunters take a lunch break opening day. The snow-rain line near the border could mean some drizzle/freezing rain mixed in, too, for border counties. Even before the season opens Saturday morning, these conditions could mean slippery driving, riding, or walking into a deer’s world. Remember, too, there is an overlap here with the deer mating season, so deer are still on the move. Haddie McLean (pictured), WISC-TV Channel 3000 meteorologist in Madison, is trying to mesh weather developments with hunters and travelers movements. Snow amounts often change with newer weather models, but all of the state should receive some snow, either Thursday night or Friday night and Saturday. Safety snow we’ll call it. The low Saturday morning in southern Wisconsin will be about 27, with the highs moving up a few degrees.Opening weekend highs will only hit close to 30 in the south, and mid-twenties in the north. Lows will be in the 20s south and teens in the north. There is increased moisture in the air, so snow could be on the wetter, stickier side, Haddie said. Warming highs early next week and some sun are likely to melt much of the snow, particularly on south and west slopes and open areas. “We’re in a quieter weather pattern, which is a change for us considering the last month or so,” she said. “Things are settling down. It’s nothing too exciting after the weekend.” The slight freeze-up, and now some slippery snow on top, will mean walking surfaces will be hard and noisy Saturday morning, and after the weekend surfaces could be slippery and a little muddy. The frozen soil is not that firm below an inch, so don’t depend on that to get a vehicle through lowland, wet areas. With varied conditions during the nine-day season, deer could be difficult to see in some wooded habitats, so look for parts of deer, an ear, a white throat patch, or a partial antler. Horizontal lines of deer’s backs mean looking again to be sure. Please be sure of your target and what is beyond. That’s probably the reason the white stuff has received the safety and sighting moniker.
DEERTRAILS: Wisconsin's top 2 deer biologists optimistic for Saturday's opener
Kevin Wallenfang and Bob Nack, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources top deer biologists, say the herd is in good condition. There are abundant deer around the state. As a result, there are more antlerless opportunities for hunters, too. Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist, identifies Iron County as a buck-only deer management unit, the only one. In the other management units, hunters can take some antlerless deer. Protecting antlerless deer is one method of increasing the population, which has been used recently to push up the numbers in northern Wisconsin. “All things look very promising for hunters,” Nack, DNR big game section chief said. Both biologists are hunters and plan to spend opening weekend in northern Wisconsin, in spite of living in southern Wisconsin. Traditions speak loudly. Nack looks at the state, in general terms, as north and south and says in the south there are good numbers of deer and in the north there are increasing populations. Hunters are always cautioned, however, that deer are not evenly distributed and not all habitats have the same biological carrying capacity, even though the social carrying capacity may be higher. Some folks would like still more deer, others fewer. “This past winter was moderate in most areas of the north,” Wallenfang said. “This year the opener (Nov. 17) is one of the earliest possible. That bodes well for deer movement during the early part of the season, which could overlap with the tail end of the rut.” Bucks remain on the move this week. Other factors favoring hunters this year are the corn harvesting is ahead of last year and more will be combined or picked before Saturday's opener. However, this year has been one of the wettest years ever and hunters favoring lowland hunting may have limited access unless the recent freeze-up helps enough. The possibility of snow in the north is good, too, which helps hunters with sighting and safety. “Lining up all those factors, I’m optimistic,” Wallenfang said. “Personally, with the early season like this, we see it being an influence on deer movement opening weekend,” Nack said. “We see more deer if mating behavior is still influencing the bucks.” Wallenfang said when the rut and opening weekend overlap, there is a 10-15 percent increase in bucks registered. As hunters, these ecologists don’t base their excitement for the season on populations or even deer sightings. “I’m looking forward to the season, spending time with family and friends,” Nack said. “Regardless of whether the population is up or down, I’m going deer hunting.” Nack’s younger daughter killed a buck during an earlier youth hunt, so having her along as a licensed hunter rather than just going along is special, too, her father said.
Share your hunt with DNR on social media
MADISON - Hunters preparing for the opening of the traditional Wisconsin nine-day gun deer season this Saturday can share their experiences with other hunters by connect with Department of Natural Resources staff on social media. From Facebook Live to podcasts, it has never been easier to interact with DNR staff. Check out the DNR social media pages for an inside look at how work done by our staff helps improve your time afield or afloat.
Facebook We know you love spending time in the outdoors - head to our Facebook page and check out tons of great content, ranging from live segments with fish shocking crews to Q & A sessions with DNR staff. Here, you can also share your photos from time in the field. Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR Facebook page.
Instagram The DNR Instagram page is filled with high-quality content from the field - and, if you've got photos or videos of your time in the woods, be sure to share them and tag us. We'd love to share your content! Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR Instagram page.
YouTube You want information on the go in the field - whether you are looking to find a new place to enjoy the outdoors or thinking about building a bat house in your backyard, our YouTube page has all the content you need. Here, you'll also find our podcast and web series - Wild Wisconsin! Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR YouTube page.
Wild Wisconsin: Off the Record Podcast Get a behind the scenes look at all things DNR with help from our Wild Wisconsin: Off the Record podcast series. Whether you like to listen on your commute or in your tree stand, podcasts give you an inside look at everything from deer to endangered species. Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher and YouTube pages.
Twitter Think of it like reading a newspaper on your phone - head to the DNR Twitter page for daily news updates and other helpful information. Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR Twitter page.
Gov Delivery Gov Delivery places you in the driver's seat to choose which email updates you receive. Here, you can sign up for all types of lists, ranging from hunting to master planning. Scroll to the bottom of the DNR homepage and select the red envelope to sign up for timely email updates. Subscribe to Wisconsin DNR Gov Delivery updates.
RSS Feeds Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an easy way for you to be alerted when content that interests you appears on the DNR website. Instead of visiting the DNR news pages to browse for new articles and features, our RSS feeds will automatically let you know when something new is posted online. Here, you can also grab links to our podcasts to use in a podcast app of your choosing. Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR RSS feeds page.
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR
Be sure of your shot this deer season
MADISON - State wildlife officials are reminding the public, and especially hunters, to be aware of elk and moose on the landscape in central and far northern Wisconsin as they enjoy fall hunting seasons. Hunters should always be sure of your target and what lies beyond - this ensures the safety of other people, but it is also necessary to avoid the accidental shooting of non-target animals, said Kevin Wallenfang, elk and deer biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Elk reintroduction began in Wisconsin in 1995, and the herd now numbers more than 200. They are regularly encountered in the far northern counties of Ashland, Sawyer, Price, Rusk and Bayfield counties. Reintroduction efforts beginning in 2014 brought elk back to Jackson County, and elk are seen regularly there and in surrounding counties as well. While Wisconsin has not reintroduced moose, animals do wander into the state and even take up permanent residency as a result of successful reintroduction in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and a native population of moose in Minnesota. Fall 2018 moose sightings have been frequent in Wisconsin's northernmost counties and as far south as Clark County. To learn more about Wisconsin's elk reintroduction program, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "elk."
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR
Hunter success high during managed elk hunt
MADISON - Following more than 22 years of elk management and reintroduction efforts, 2018 marked Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history. Not only are a few lucky hunters enjoying this unique experience, but they are finding success, too. "As expected, hunter success has been high, and they are getting some big, mature bulls," said Kevin Wallenfang, deer and elk ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "It was unfortunate that the hunt started off the way it did with an illegal harvest, but since then the other hunters have shared the story of some great hunts in a wilderness setting, and the local hunters and others in the community have been overwhelmingly excited and helpful to them!" The area of the hunt is within the Clam Lake elk range of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland and Price counties where 25 elk from Michigan were released in 1995. The hunt was initiated this year when the population surpassed 200 animals that included a high proportion of adult bulls. A harvest quota of 10 bulls was approved for this historic hunt, five of which were filled by mid-October by the Chippewa tribes. Since then, three of the four bulls harvested by state hunters occurred between Nov. 8 and Nov. 11. "I've been in contact almost weekly with each of the hunters, and they were seeing elk and getting their opportunities," Wallenfang said. "It sounds like they've really been enjoying the experience, and frankly, I don't think they ever wanted it to end. But they each finally found a bull that they liked in the past few days." Wallenfang indicated that each of the three bulls harvested in recent days had impressive antlers of 5x5 or larger, and all are known to range from 6-10 years old. One state tag remains unfilled, but the hunter will have an additional opportunity to hunt again in December. Over 38,400 Wisconsin residents submitted a $10 application to win one of four state tags, while approximately 5,000 more purchased a raffle ticket to win the final tag. All revenue from the application and raffle sales are earmarked specifically for elk habitat management, research and monitoring in Wisconsin. The 2019 elk hunt application period will occur throughout the month of May. For more information about elk in Wisconsin, go to dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "elk." To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit dnr.wi.gov 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
West Central District hunters should find good deer numbers
By KRIS JOHANSEN DNR West Central District Wildlife Supervisor
The 2018 deer hunting season is shaping up to provide ample quality hunting opportunities for deer hunters in the 19-county West Central District. Most of the counties within the district experienced an average to milder than average winter in regard to temperatures and snow depth. An early spring snow storm that dumped a foot of snow in most areas did not seem to have a negative impact on fawn production due to the warm temperatures that followed the storm, melting the snow before it could stress the deer at the critical time following winter. Reports of twin and triplet fawns are common this summer across the district in the agricultural areas, and the central forested counties are also reporting good fawn production. The spring green-up came a bit later than normal this year, but growing conditions through late spring and summer have been very good, with adequate moisture and warm weather which has yielded abundant natural vegetation and agricultural crops. In the fall of 2017 County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC’s) reviewed and developed new population objectives to be in effect for a three-year period, which are in place for the 2018 deer seasons. Most counties have an objective of maintaining the deer herd, while others aim to decrease or increase over the coming three-year period. CDAC’s also reviewed Deer Management Zone boundaries as well as metro sub-unit boundaries. Some counties added metro sub-units or adopted changes to zone boundaries that will be in effect this fall, and offer new hunting opportunities. The counties of Chippewa, Clark, Eau Claire and La Crosse all made modifications to metro sub-unit boundaries within their county, so hunters spending time there should pay special attention to those changes. Hunters within the West Central District will be asked to assist in a district-wide CWD sampling effort this fall. A number of counties along the western side of the district have not had a comprehensive sampling effort since the late 2000’s, so this fall, CWD sampling will occur within every county across the district. This sampling effort is extremely important to identifying where CWD exists within the wild deer herd across Wisconsin. Cooperation from hunters in this sampling effort is integral to meet sampling goals. Sampling stations will be set up during the archery and gun seasons in every county, utilizing self-service kiosks and a network of cooperating taxidermists and meat processors. Hunters can visit dnr.wi.gov search keywords “CWD sampling” to identify sampling locations prior to their hunt and then make the trip to a sampling station part of their 2018 hunt plans. Hunters should also be aware of new baiting and feeding regulations within Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn, Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties. In March of 2018, a wild white-tailed deer tested positive for CWD in Eau Claire County. State law requires a baiting and feeding ban to be in effect when CWD is found within a county or any county within 10 miles of the CWD detection. In response to this recent CWD discovery, the Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team was formed to provide recommendations to the DNR regarding CWD surveillance and sampling. In conjunction with this team’s recommendations, the DNR has established a CWD sampling focus area for the 2018 season where hunters will be asked to participate in sampling to assist in developing a better understanding regarding the geographic distribution and prevalence of CWD in this area. More information about CWD sampling and how hunters can assist will be provided throughout the fall. The West Central District’s landscape contains a diverse variety of excellent deer habitat across the 19 counties. Much of the western border of the district is within the “driftless area” of Wisconsin, characterized by steep oak and hickory-dominated hillsides with fertile ridges and valleys that are generally cropped with alfalfa, corn and soybeans. This area has some of the highest deer densities in the state and is also known for exceptional antler growth. Year in and year out, some of the greatest numbers of Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young entries come from this region due to an older age structure of bucks and excellent habitat. The district also has a great mix of public lands within the Central Forest Zone counties. Deer populations within the forested zone are not as high as the farmland areas, but hunters can still expect to find ample quality hunting opportunities. On the eastern side of the district, deer populations are robust as well, with most counties seeing an upward trend in deer numbers. The mix of agriculture and woodlots within this landscape provides excellent deer habitat with opportunities for hunters to fill their antlerless harvest authorizations (included with the purchase of a deer hunting license), and have a good chance of harvesting a mature buck with nice antlers. Deer populations are stable to increasing in Pierce and St. Croix counties. Winter conditions were a bit harder than years past, but Wildlife Biologist Ryan Haffele reports the winter conditions have not hampered reproduction, as evidenced by field observations this summer. Haffele said that both St. Croix and Pierce counties will have two antlerless harvest authorizations included with each license to allow hunters more opportunities to harvest a surplus of antlerless deer. Hunters in St. Croix and Pierce counties have not had a comprehensive sampling effort for the past 10 years, so will be asked to participate in sampling this fall at designated stations throughout the counties. Dunn and Pepin County are also reporting excellent recruitment and ample opportunities for hunters this fall. Wildlife Biologist Missy Sparrow-Lien notes that, though populations of deer are stable to increasing in both counties, densities of deer are not evenly distributed across the landscape. Thus, hunters are encouraged to do some preseason scouting to identify the best areas to focus their hunting effort. According to Buffalo and Trempealeau County Wildlife Biologist Mark Rasmussen, “Habitat conditions have been very good this spring and summer so far. We have had plenty of rain and warmth, so there is abundant vegetation available. Fruit crops are looking good so far as well and it should be a good year for both berry and apple production.” Buffalo County is one of four counties within the district that will host the antlerless-only Holiday Hunt gun season. Further south, the trend of increasing deer herds continues in La Crosse, Vernon and Crawford counties. Wildlife Biologist Ron Lichtie recommends hunters focus their preseason scouting on areas with white oaks. He anticipates good acorn production based upon the growing season thus far. Lichtie also has observed excellent antler development as bucks have become more visible over the latter part of the summer in agricultural fields as they increase their uptake of food to offset the energy demands of antler development. Neighboring Wildlife Biologist Dan Goltz has also noted excellent recruitment in Vernon and Crawford counties with reports from local landowners of “seeing many deer while driving around at dusk.” Crawford County CDAC Chair Bob Ziel added that numerous reports of people seeing a lot of deer and shared he is “optimistic for a good harvest this year.” All of these counties are making antlerless harvest authorizations abundantly available, and both Vernon and Crawford counties are offering the Holiday Hunt. The Central Forest portion of the West Central district offers excellent hunting opportunities for hunters who like to recreate on large tracts of public land. As stated already, deer densities are not as high as in counties with more agriculture and more fertile soils, but hunters that put time into scouting and planning their hunts can anticipate good success. Hunters in the Central Forest Zone are reminded that each county has a limited antlerless quota for public and private lands. As a result, bonus harvest authorizations can be purchased starting on Aug. 13. Farmland Zone antlerless tags are not valid within any county portion that falls within the Central Forest Zone. Wildlife Biologist Darren Ladwig said for the third consecutive year, the winter severity in the Central Forest Zone portions of Adams and Juneau counties was low, allowing for excellent recruitment this spring. Like other areas within the district, the April blizzard dumped significant snowfall on Adams and Juneau counties, but five days later most areas were snow free, and the late snow had negligible impact. Ladwig also reminds hunters, “Adams and Juneau County are split by the boundaries of the Forest and Farmland Zones, so hunters need to pay close attention to utilize the correct antlerless harvest authorizations based upon their location of harvest.” The Central Forest Zone counties are comprised mostly of wooded habitat, and most counties have active timber management occurring. Wildlife Biologist Scott Roepke recommends focusing effort on areas with recent timber harvests. “Timber sales can be dynamite hunting locations if you put time into scouting," he said. "If you aren’t seeing much sign where you have been hunting, try a new area! You may be surprised at what you find just a short distance away.” Roepke also has observed increasing deer numbers within the Central Forest Zone portions of Jackson and Clark counties. Hunters in Clark County should be aware of a change to the Farmland and Forest Zone boundary that will allow the zones to better reflect the actual habitat conditions on the landscape (mainly farmland habitat was removed from the Forest Zone) and allow managers to better manage deer populations in those zones. The boundary will follow several county highways so hunters are encouraged to review the new boundary prior to purchasing antlerless harvest authorizations or hunting. This change will add a significant area of public land to the Farmland Zone, increasing hunting opportunity for hunters in an area that had lacked public land in the past. Hunters that focus on Chippewa and Eau Claire counties will see a number of changes compared to last year. Due to an increase in deer populations in the Eau Claire Central Forest Zone, a modest number of bonus antlerless harvest authorizations will be available for hunters to purchase. “Eau Claire’s central forest area is known for extensive tracts of public land with a wild and remote character and a long-time tradition of deer camps," said Wildlife Biologist Bill Hogseth. "Hunters who go the extra mile to find locations away from roadways are often rewarded with solitude and fewer hunters, providing less pressured deer and a good chance for success.” In Chippewa County, the CDAC advanced recommendations to designate the northern portion of the county that is predominantly county forest, as part of the Northern Forest Zone. As a result, a zone boundary change was made, and will allow management that can better focus on the varying habitat and land ownership in Chippewa County. Eau Claire and Chippewa counties also have a new metro sub-unit focused on the cities of Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Hallie and Altoona. This change also was recommended by the CDAC to better manage deer numbers in residential areas to reduce negative impacts. Hunters in the metro sub-unit will enjoy both extended gun and archery seasons, as well as additional antlerless harvest opportunities. Deer numbers within the central Wisconsin counties of Marathon, Wood and Portage are also growing, and these counties will provide ample opportunities for hunters this fall. “The late snow storm didn’t seem to affect adult deer health or fawn recruitment," said Wildlife Biologist Brandon Stefanski. Recruitment in Marathon and Wood counties looks great and antler growth looks very good.” Year after year, Marathon and surrounding counties are the leading counties for deer harvested. With a quota of 6,500 antlerless deer and one antlerless harvest authorization offered with each deer hunting license, Marathon County hunters will again be provided with great opportunities to recreate and harvest deer. Deer hunting is a rich and time-honored tradition in Wisconsin thanks to the dedication of hunters and landowners. This season, consider providing that experience to a new hunter so they can enjoy that tradition as well. Those considering hunting deer within the West Central District are asked to please consider participating in the District-wide CWD surveillance detailed above, and with ample harvest opportunities this fall, consider donating a deer through the Venison Donation program. Donation sites can be found at dnr.wi.gov, search keyword “deer donation”. Finally, remember to safely enjoy the time afield this fall with family and friends!
Here's your first peek at Wisconsin's deer season
Compared to the previous three mild winters, heavier snows and colder temperatures were measured across much of the north in 2017-18. However, except for a relatively small area centered on Iron County and diminishing outward, most of the north experienced moderate winter conditions while the southern two-thirds of the state received considerably less snowfall, more mild temperatures and little impact on the deer herd. A late April snow storm caused some concerns due to its lateness in the winter during a critical time for deer. While the storm likely had little impact on overall deer survival or fawn recruitment, antlerless harvest quotas were reduced in some northern counties. An excellent growing season that is providing abundant food sources and reports from across the state indicate plentiful deer sightings are fueling enthusiasm of good prospects for Wisconsin’s deer hunting seasons in 2018. For a complete overview of all deer hunting rules including changes for this season, please check the 2018 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations available online or at any hunting license vendor or DNR Service Center. For additional information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “deer.” There, you will find an abundance of helpful information including FAQs, maps, resources to help find a place to hunt and more.