Warm weather playing tricks with normal wildlife patterns

Wisconsin’s nine-day regular gun season ended Sunday, with more than 612,000 hunters out in the field.

Preliminary registration totals indicate hunters brought in 201,812 deer during the nine-day season. A muzzleloader gun season is now open statewide and runs through December 9.

This will be followed by an antlerless-only firearm hunt from December 10 through 13 in those parts of the state open to antlerless hunting. As a reminder, all hunters, except waterfowl hunters, are required to wear blaze orange clothing whenever a firearms deer season is open.

Parts of northern Wisconsin received 2 to 4 inches of snow last week, but much of the snow has melted, as has the snow that fell in southern Wisconsin.

Many lakes across the Northwoods became ice covered in the last week, but thickness is variable and only in the range of 1 to 3 inches. As such, ice conditions are extremely variable and generally unsafe for any kind of ice travel.

With that said, there have been the first sightings of early season ice anglers venturing out, but they are staying in shallow water and close to shore. The first reports indicate minimal success with just a few smaller walleye caught.

Lakes remain open through most of central and southern Wisconsin, allowing anglers to continue to fish from boats.

Some skim ice has been forming along shorelines, but the very warm temperatures should make most of that melt away.

A few duck hunters are taking advantage of the last few days of the southern zone season, which closes Dec. 6. The freeze-up starting on northern lakes has moved some additional ducks down, but the unusually warmer temperatures have promoted a slow migration throughout the fall.

Turkeys have begun forming winter flocks, so late-season turkey hunters may see a change in the daily patterns they’ve been observing.

Pheasant hunters are still having good success with many birds seen in recent days drying out alongside the road ditches and parking areas.

Pheasant stocking has resumed and will continue to provide opportunities for pheasant hunters through the rest of the season, which runs through Dec. 31.

Squirrel numbers in southwestern Wisconsin have been very strong this year and have been offering plenty of challenges for beginning and advanced hunters alike.

A reminder that Thursday, Dec. 10, is the application deadline for 2016 spring turkey and bear permits.

A lot of eagle and crow sightings have been reported with all the gut piles left over from the nine-day season.

Waterfowl viewing opportunities still abound along the Mississippi River, with bluebills, canvasbacks, goldeneyes, buffleheads, mallards, ringnecks, and tundra swans remaining in numerous areas along Highway 35, especially between Ferryville and Lynxville.

Lake Michigan has good numbers of red-breasted mergansers along with some scoters, redthroated and common loons, and other regular species.

Great horned owls are already ramping up courtship activities. Listen for dueting pairs on calm nights, with the male’s deeper hoot standing out from the female’s higher-pitched response.

After an atypically large influx in October, reports of snowy owls have dropped off precipitously. As of November 30, approximately 87 have been tallied in 40 counties statewide.

However, only 22 new birds were reported in all of November and only a handful of owls have been detected in recent weeks. Get the latest update on the snowy owl page of the DNR website.


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