Out and About with Bob

Bob Lamb

Christmas will be here before we know it. We have ice. We have snow.
What does it all mean?
All the kids and grandkids are coming to our condo in the valley for Christmas.
For sure, Gramps will be taking the grandkids ice fishing.
For sure, the kids will be taking the grandkids sledding.
It should be an interesting few days at the Lamb home beginning Dec. 23.
Gramps has lots to do from now to then - fish poles to rig up, spud to sharpen, bait to buy, holes to drill at the boathouse.
Grams is already busy baking and frosting Christmas cookies, decorating our home from top to bottom and making out an exhaustive menu. Hey, Gramps is doing his part by staying out of the way, frosting a few cookies, and most important providing the "Christmas cookie taste test."
Meanwhile, my daily drives reveal the fish aren't biting that well,  depending upon where you go and who you talk with. Some guys are hush-hush. Others spill their guts, showing proof of their day's catch.
I know fishing has been slow off the south end of French Island near Veterans Memorial Marina. I saw a handful of anglers last weekend, but didn't see anyone pulling in any fish.
I talked with two anglers coming off the ice and they said, "It's really slow. Nothing."
I drove there the next four days and no one was fishing.
Fisherman's Road, off the northeast end of French Island, was producing several anglers. There were reports of "good days and bad days."
Minnesota DNR conservation warden Tyler Ramaker of La Crescent, said ice anglers have been increasingly fishing the backwaters of the Mississippi River.
Ramaker said ice is thickening, but anglers should always remember that ice on the river is unpredictable.
Rabbit hunting is picking up, with beagles, for the most part, able to run atop the snow and circle cottontails to their handlers.
Pheasant hunters report they are finding birds grouped up. Turkeys dine daily in the huge picked cornfield adjacent to our condo in the valley.
Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.

Jerry Davis

From Southern Wisconsin

‘Tis the season to bring evergreens indoors. Wreaths, too, will do.
Of all the choices, even during a Wisconsin winter, three evergreens dominate: Fraser fir, balsam fir, and white pine.
There are others, but these three win hands down for a number of reasons. They are more fragrant, hold their needles, and have soft, flexible leaves (needles).
We can, and sometimes have to, go cheap or traditional and select a spruce, a native red or white cedar or grab hold of a deciduous oak with a few clinging broad leaves.
Literature and buyers usually give the out-of-state Fraser fir the nod, but our native balsam fir is close behind. Older dead and brown needles may cling. Just pull them off. Seed cones are usually spent and dropped, but sometime the Frasers hold them or their upright spikes where the seeds were attached. That’s normal, too. Knock them off or allow nature to take a hand.
Fresh trees usually don’t need water, but if it makes one feel better, supply it and watch it evaporate into the dry indoors air.
Do not cut trees on public land, even if it isn’t a Christmas tree. Fines may be waiting. A few deer hunters usually find out the expensive way.
A few other green things also remain, including a few ferns, lichens, clubmosses and some invasives.
Meanwhile, preliminary gun deer license sales topped 589,650 with residents claiming 541,515. Minnesota chipped in for 17,448 and all the other 48 states purchased a small number, along with 33 sold to residents in foreign countries. Some leader states spent as follows: Alaska 225, Colorado 670, Florida 960, Illinois 7,210, Michigan 1,043 and Texas 553.
It’s a lot cheaper for someone who has never purchased here to buy for the first time. Get them hooked and then ask more the next time around is the idea.
Grouse hunters have returned 219 sampling kits for West Nile Virus, and Michigan and Minnesota have done about the same. A University of Georgia laboratory will get to work on analyses when the seasons close, Dec. 31, in Wisconsin.
Ice is holding up a few anglers, but go easy if at all.
Wolf and coyote animal depredations continue, mostly in northern Wisconsin.
Deer predator study crews are out in force erecting circus-like netting and luring deer with corn bait to begin their third winter of trapping and collaring adult deer. Bobcat and coyote collaring also continues.
Even without ample snow, most bird feeders are emptied daily. Watch DNR reports on its web page for unusual sightings, including snowy owls in Dane and Iowa counties.
While some winter outdoors activities are limited by meager snow, others are made easier. Take advantage.

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

Billy Isbell

Billy Isbell from Island Outdoors on French Island

Hey, it's Billy from Island Outdoors.
Fish are pretty active right now. Ice is 6-inches in most low current spots.  
Bluegills are doing really well along weed edges just above the weeds. Natural colors have been doing great - browns and oranges.
Crappies have been doing good in 20 to 30 feet of water suspended about 10 foot down.
Bass and northern have been doing really well early. Use shiners anywhere from a foot to halfway down.

Wild Birds Unlimited

Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited

Well, now that we have some milder weather, it's a good time to get outside and clean up the feeders.  
Check for wet seed on any hopper style or fly through feeders, get rid of that and replace with fresh dry seed.
Clean out that bath if you haven't for a few days. Refresh with water.  Birds love their heated baths this time of year. If you haven't invested in one, please consider as it's a great investment. We've had our two for over 15 years and they still work great.
Birds love suet, peanuts and tree nuts this time of year. The are high in fat to keep them warm on cold winter nights. Our Wild Birds Bark Butter is now "Hot Pepper" flavor to keep the squirrels away from it. There's no harm to our songbirds and they love it!  
I have a pair of Carolina wrens that come everyday for the snacks and/or bark butter I have in a dish.
The Christmas Bird Count started Wednesday in the La Crosse Area. The count week period includes the 3 days before and 3 days after our count day. Therefore, it runs from (12/12) through Friday (12/14) and again from Sunday (12/16) through Tuesday (12/18).
If you see any unusual species of bird that may not be seen on Saturday during the count week period, please let me know. If that species isn’t counted on Saturday, we can still include the species as a count week addition. Some candidates would be Carolina wrens, unusual late visitors at feeders that normally are gone, and migrating gulls and waterfowl along the river.
I enjoy participating in this count. You don't have to do it every day and if you can just do an hour or so that's perfect as well. I like to try and do it at a time when I know there will be a lot of activity at my feeders. For more information you can contact Dan Jackson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'t forget Wild Birds Unlimited is the place to shop for all your backyard bird feeding and nature gifts. Our seed products are the best in town! Most of our feeders are made in the USA and a lot of them have guarantees on them.
Stop in and see us in Onalaska. We are located in the Crosseroads shopping center across from Valley View Mall. Contact us at 608-781-5088.
Happy Birding!
Karen Perry

Chad Knapmiller

Schafer's River Rentals

Fishing has been excellent so far on Lake Onalaska ever since the ice thickened up and guys were able to spread out a bit more.  
Ice from the shop to Marge's Island (with the exception of the dredge line running the shore of Rosebud) is around 7 inches. The dredge line next to Rosebud is around 4 inches because of the current.  
The bite has slowed down directly in front of the shop, but to the east the fishing has been very good. Guys are catching a mixed bag of crappies, bluegills and perch with 10-13 feet being the best depth to target. There are some jigs and plastics that work better than others.  
Stop by and I can show what has been working!

Wisconsin Birding Report

The longest-running citizen science survey in the world, Audubon's 119th annual Christmas Bird Count takes place this year between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
Each count is held on a single day in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and Wisconsin is home to more than 100 circles across most counties in the state.
Volunteer birders of all ages and skill levels are needed to help with the counts, contributing sightings from field or feeders in effort to help monitor early winter bird populations. Find a count circle near you at http://wsobirds.org/christmas-bird-count.
This year's counters will be treated to mild weather conditions, likely meaning slower feeder activity, but more water birds.
Madison birders reported excellent numbers of ducks and swans on area lakes, including an estimated 1000-plus tundra swans on the Dec. 9.
Farther north, trumpeter swans have begun congregating on the St. Croix River near Hudson, a traditional wintering area for them, with as many as 65 birds this week.
Bald eagle numbers have been modest below southern dams such as at Alma and Prairie du Sac, and are likely to remain so until colder weather returns.
There have been 59 snowy owls reported from 34 Wisconsin counties this season, a far cry from the 174 tallied by this date last year, but better than the meager total of 13 found by now in 2016-17.
The much-anticipated winter finch season is off to a slow start. Common redpolls have been scarce, while the south continues to host small numbers of pine siskins.
Evening grosbeaks are making their best showing in years, but have not inundated the state by any measure.
Bohemian waxwings were reported in Bayfield, Tomahawk and Eagle River, as well as one amid cedar waxwings in Sheboygan county.
Pine grosbeaks remain across far northern counties, a trend bucked only by a small flock observed in Waupaca.
The week's biggest bird news was the discovery of a Hammond's flycatcher in Iowa County, marking the first state record of this western species. It was first found on Dec. 9, and continues as of Dec. 13.
Other rarities of note included varied thrush in Polk, Townsend's solitaire in Sauk, summer tanager in Waukesha, Baltimore oriole in Eau Claire and a very late American redstart in Brown.
Find out what others are seeing and report your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi.
Good birding!

SOURCE: Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

West-Central Wisconsin

West-Central Wisconsin

KINNICKINNIC STATE PARK - Cross-country ski trail grooming will not begin until after Dec. 15, according to Eric Klumb, ranger.

BLACK RIVER STATE FOREST - All trails are still open to hikers until we get enough snow to groom trails for skiing. Snowshoers can enjoy the 1-mile and 0.6-mile trails at the Smrekar parking lot, the 3-mile trail that connects Pigeon Creek to Smrekar Road or the 1.5-mile loop around Castle Mound. Snowshoers are allowed anywhere on the state forest that is not a groomed trail.
Winter ATV and UTV trails open on Saturday, Dec. 15. Snowmobile trails remain closed at this time due to lack of snow. UTVs are allowed on winter ATV trails, except for designated snowmobile only trails or any other trail that was previously closed to UTV use. Jackson County Forestry and Parks maintains and grooms all of the state forest's snowmobile and winter ATV trails. Grooming updates are posted on the Jackson County [https://www.co.jackson.wi.us/ website.
A reminder that Jackson County has a temperature restriction of 28 degrees. If temperatures are above the 28 degree mark, we ask that you stay off the trail system to ensure it will be in good condition for the entirety of the season.
If you would like to cut a Christmas tree from the Black River State Forest, Forest Product permits can be purchased at the Castle Mound campground office. Please call ahead to verify office hours at 715-284-4103, said Emily Alf, visitor services associate.

BUCKHORN STATE PARK - Cross country ski/snowshoe trails are not packed or groomed at this time. There are areas of trails with grass showing and we had under 3 inches of snow. Trails will be groomed when we get at least 3 inches more of snow.
Snowshoes will be available to use in the park when we have more snow.
Ice is starting to form on bays with the cooler weather. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions, said Heather Wolf, park manager.