Deer council, waterfowl hearings planned

Snow is now gone from most areas of the state, with the exception of the far north, where a few inches remain in wooded areas. Very strong winds have taken ice out of many lakes in the south, including Monona and Mendota, which tied its record for second earliest opening -- nearly a month earlier than average.

The high winds and loss of snow cover have also led to an early spring wildfire season, with more than 30 acres burning this week, including one fire near Eau Claire that resulted in the evacuation of some homes, but was contained before it burned any structures.

Trails at many state properties are now open again for hiking, but most off-road biking and horse trails remain closed at this time due to muddy conditions. The last two candlelight hikes of the winter were held last weekend at Pattison and Copper Culture state parks.

There is still ice on northern area lakes/waterbodies, but it should be considered seriously suspect, as this time of year can be especially deceiving. The lower Wisconsin River has dropped from its record highs last week. The high winds made open water fishing difficult, but there were some walleye anglers out on the Wisconsin as well as the Fox, Wolf and Eau Claire rivers.

A few late season ice anglers have been fishing off Door County shorelines that have some remaining ice but they stayed pretty close to shore as there are cracks opening up and open water not too far out. Anglers have been catching brown trout in the Milwaukee Harbor and steelhead in Oak Creek at Grant Park.

The spring migration is growing with numerous reported sightings, from tundra swans, to rough-legged and red-tailed hawks, with sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese and mallards spotted by the dozens and sometimes by the hundreds across the state.

River otter sign along creeks and streams may be more evident this time of year as male otters increase their movements during the March to April breeding season in search of female companionship. There was a report of a whitetail buck still with antlers attached this week, but many have shed and the darkened ground makes this a great time to go shed hunting. There have also already been numerous reports of ticks this year, so remember to take precautions if hiking.

People interested in all things deer have an opportunity to let their voices be heard by attending the County Deer Advisory Councils annual meetings that begin March 13.

Councils will review key deer metrics in order to develop preliminary antlerless harvest goals and antlerless tag recommendations within their county for the 2017 deer hunting seasons. Each CDAC meeting is open to the public - a statewide meeting schedule is available by searching the DNR website for “CDAC.”

And people interested in the meetings or just in deer management can access a new deer metrics system that includes deer harvest figures, population trends, deer impacts on agriculture and forest resources, herd history and more. To check out this new system search “deer metrics.”

Also coming up this week are public hearings throughout Wisconsin regarding the fall waterfowl hunting season structure.

The public input process for establishing waterfowl hunting seasons is slightly different from previous years, which will allow hunters to know waterfowl hunting season dates by late April, rather than late August as in years past.

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