Snow, cold prompt late season migrations for divers, cranes

The snow and a rapid downturn in temperature are bringing December back to wintery life. As evening temperatures continue to drop over the next several nights, it looks like these layers of powder may be here to stay.

State forest and park staff have begun to roll and pack some ski trails, but as of yet there isn't enough snow for trails to open. The colder temperatures have allowed crews at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest to begin snow-making this week.

The snow cover was good news for those looking to spot deer over the four-day antlerless-only hunt statewide from Dec. 8 through 11. Hunters may fill any unused antlerless tag while hunting in the proper deer management zone, unit and land type specified on the tag. Deer are continuing to put on winter weight, meaning later season bow and crossbow hunters should also continue to see good hunting opportunities.

Fishing pressure has been low across much of the state as ice-anglers eagerly await the first deep-freeze. Most water bodies of size still have open water, though some skim ice has been developing in the last few days. There have still been some open water anglers out, with some decent walleye and crappie action reported on the Wolf River.

The single-digit low temperatures predicted for this week, particularly in the Northwoods, should start to form some good ice. While ice anglers look forward to early ice, most experienced anglers and recreational safety specialists say 3 to 4 inches is needed before people should venture out, and even then to be cautious for changing ice depths.

Pheasant stocking is now wrapping up on most stocked wildlife areas, but there are still some good hunting opportunities for birds that were stocked through the season. Those looking to hunt geese may want to take advantage of the remaining barren fields before the snow thickens. Trappers have reported some difficulty as a result of the wet season and fluctuating temperatures.

The cold weather has spurred on bird migrations with the first big group of divers, primarily mergansers, seen along Lake Michigan last week. Along the Mississippi, canvasbacks, bluebills and pelicans remain for the time being, but the cold front did provoke late season exits for sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans and more. It also heralds the arrival of the tundra swans to their chosen winter holdings. They have already been spotted in smaller groups around the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge.

People interested in cutting their own Christmas trees can obtain permits to cut trees from a number of northern state forests, including the Black River, Brule River, Flambeau River, Peshtigo River, Governor Knowles and Northern Highland-American Legion state forests. And 2017 Wisconsin State Park admission stickers are now on sale at park and forest offices and can also be purchased over the phone. The stickers make great holiday gifts for outdoor lovers. For details, search the DNR website for keyword "sticker."


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