Gosh, did the grandkids, their father and I ever have fun last Saturday. We went down to my favorite brook trout stream just after noon. The grandsons, 11 and 9, watched me flick my fly rod line near the opposite shore of the narrow creek. They watched. They listened. They learned. Grandpa hooked more than a dozen brook trout within an hour, passing the rod to the kids to bring in the fish. They managed to get five to shore. Just enough to take back home to Cloquet, MN, on Sunday. I don't know who was happiest, Jackson and Bryson, or grampa. Bryson, the youngest grandson, brought in a 13-inch brookie, one that I would have had mounted... it was that nice. The kids had fun, their dad, Jon, had fun, and gramps, well he just smiled all the time. Meanwhile, the river is WAY TOO HIGH to try fishing at "Ol Tom's boathouse. Cresting over 11 feet, I can't even make it to the walkway, let alone fish. I could paddle out in the canoe, but I'm not brave enough for that either. Duck hunters are also complaining about high water as they struggle to find dry land to stand on. Meanwhile, bucks are on the move as the mating season or "rut" heats up. Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.
From Southern Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s fall pheasant seasons continue, in spite of a need to release 75,000 thousand birds in part because this is an opening for young hunters and flushing dogs to determine if hunting is a recreational form they can relate to. Were it not for this game bird season and similar endeavors at hunting preserves, new hunters may never feel the excitement of watching a clock on Saturday morning, hunting with family members, and learning to share a field, marsh or swale before moving on to turkeys, ducks, deer and squirrels. In spite of many hunters participating in a put-and-take ring-necked pheasant season, this outing continues to be much anticipated by young and seasoned hunters, and their pointing and flushing dogs. Fields and forest lands interactive game bird hunting tool (FFLIGHT), is an interactive mapping device hunters can use to locate properties stocked with pheasants, as well as managed mourning dove fields and ruffed grouse and woodcock habitats. Remember, too, the holiday stocking in late December. Check the DNR Web page for more details on FFLIGHT and holiday pheasant stocking. In general, wild pheasant numbers continue to be relatively low with the reduction of CRP idle cropland enrollment. Survey numbers support a slight increase from 2017, with higher numbers of wild birds in Barron, Calumet, Dunn and Oconto counties. Hunting (small game license and pheasant stamp required) begins Saturday, Oct. 20, at 9 a.m., with a daily bag of one rooster on opening weekend, after which the bag is 2 roosters and possession of six birds. Color foliage displays continue to come south, but remember this region of Wisconsin expresses great forest diversity and not all trees are on the same page when it comes to dumping chlorophyll for livelier carotenoids and anthocyanins. Look small for elevated autumn excitement levels. Waterfowlers are back at it with premier weather conditions compared to season openers. Chronic wasting disease testing meets up with HANK while continuing to be more convenient with numerous kiosks noted on the DNR Web site. Any hunter should be able fill in the necessary paperwork and bag the animal’s head. The acronym, HANK, reminds hunters testing laboratories need the animal’s head and upper neck (head and neck kiosks). Some hickory nut gatherers are frowning double, not finding many nuts and those that are quickly bucketed have bad meats inside. Check a few before picking a peck and heading home. Deer registration continues and is updated weekly on the DNR Web site. Last week’s youth deer hunt totaled 7,672 animals, 3.478 of which were bucks. A few county totals displayed are Waupaca with 240 deer; Taylor, 241; Sauk, 136; Green, 32; Dane, 46; La Crosse, 104; and Buffalo, 209. Grownups, with many young hunters mixed in, have registered 15,168 deer, with 5,574 being antlered. These are combined totals of archers and crossbowers. As interesting as an increased bobcat population in southern Wisconsin is for many, it is even more inciting when names are applied to subsets of these sightings. Earlier this summer a queen and tom bobcat were noticed with four kittens tagging along. The bobcat family clowder or clutter was the talk of the Town of Dodgeville, especially the kindle of kittens. Shorter daylight hours do not diminish the time crepuscular animals are active, but simply means dawn and dusk sightings appear earlier on the clock’s hours. Don’t blink. Autumn can turn white quickly.
Billy Isbell from Island Outdoors on French Island
Bass are biting really good and fattening up for the winter. This would be the time to catch some big ones. Northern pike are also on the move along with the bass. I recommend using crankbaits like a Rattle Trap or jerkbait. Guys have been catching walleye on shallow flooded sand points with crankbaits. Even though it has slowed down, sunnies and bluegills are still being caught up on Lake Onalaska with a white grub tail and pink jig head or waxie. Crappies have turned on and with this high water you can find them on submerged tree branches and brush.
Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited
Well, here we are in mid October already. Man, I can't believe how fast the year has gone by. I know a lot of you are cleaning up your yards for the winter. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind to help your backyard birds get through the winter: * As you are raking leavings and picking up brush, how about making a brush pile or two somewhere in your yard. Birds can use it as a safe spot to hide while waiting their turns at the feeders or to get away from predators. * The nesting season is over, so now is the time to clean out your nest boxes from the summer nesting season. Open the box and brush out the contents with a whisk broom or brush. A clean nest box is an inviting winter roost for chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, titmice, etc. * Several birds will huddle together to keep warm on those frigid nights. If your nest box has a convertible front, switch the opening from the top to the bottom of the box to retain more heat. A clean owl box might invite a screech owl to roost during the coming winter days. * Leave the heads of your perennial flowers go to seed as a source of food for goldfinches, house finches, titmice and chickadees. These birds enjoy the seeds of many backyard flowers including bee balm, black-eyed Susan and coneflower. * Remember water, if you have a heated bath that you stored over the summer. Bring it out and clean it up, place some fresh water in and plug it in. The nights are chilly now, so water in the morning will be most inviting. Birds need water both for drinking and keeping their feathers clean. Make sure to stop in and see us for all your backyard bird feeding needs. October is our bird food sale. All bird food is on sale. It's a great time to stock up. Wild Birds Unlimited is located across from Valley View Mall in Crosseroads Shopping Center in Onalaska. Give us a call at 608-781-5088 if you have questions or need directions. Happy Birding, Karen Perry
Schafer's River Rentals
I am starting to feel like a broken record, but weather continues to create problems! The front that came through on Sunday with the snow completely shut down the fishing. By Tuesday, the fish started cooperating and it seems to improve day to day. There have not been a ton of guys out with the challenging conditions, however, the guys that I have talked to are catching bluegills and crappies. I don't have a good feel for the perch right now as I haven't spoken to anyone who has been targeting them specifically. With the exception of Saturday, the extended forecast looks pretty steady as far as temps go, so I expect the bite to remain decent. Stop in and I will let you know what I have heard! Thanks, Chad
Wisconsin Birding Report
The past week saw several good migration events. A major hawk flight took place along Lake Michigan on Oct. 15, where over 300 sharp-shinned hawks, 100 merlins (pictured) and many other species were seen. Elsewhere, golden eagles from the Canadian arctic have begun their earnest descent into the state, where some will spend the winter. The hill country of Wisconsin's Driftless Area is the best albeit not the only place to find one. The Mississippi River Valley is also host to large numbers of waterfowl now, one observer reporting an estimated 100,000 ducks and coots on Lake Onalaska on Oct. 16, many of which were canvasbacks and American coots. Oct. 17, featured an excellent flight of Canada geese statewide and nearly 1,000 red-breasted mergansers past a waterbird watch at Harrington Beach State Park. The day also yielded large numbers of migrating dark-eyed juncos, ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets, hermit thrushes, yellow-rumped warblers, purple finches, and other late-season species. Migration of northern saw-whet owls is at or near peak with several nocturnal research stations banding dozens of the small owls this week. The first short-eared owls were also reported. Common loons are on the move, now showing on the Great Lakes and various inland water bodies, including the Madison area lakes. Thousands of sandhill cranes were reported at Navarino and Crex Meadows state wildlife areas and other locations as they stage for their southward departure in coming weeks. Other signs of winter include the arrival this week of rough-legged hawks, northern shrikes, and snow buntings. American robins and a few cedar waxwings are taking advantage of fruit sources across central and southern Wisconsin, while some lingering species there include eastern towhee, eastern phoebe, American redstart, and a few shorebirds such as killdeer, Wilson's snipe, greater yellowlegs, and dunlin. Among the rarer birds spotted this week were pomarine jaeger in St. Croix County, long-tailed jaeger in Wood, Townsend's solitaire in Monroe, and rufous hummingbird in Fond du lac. Look for more great migration conditions and better weather to enjoy it over the week ahead. Good birding!
SOURCE: Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland
Around the Badger State
Fall colors continue to be near peak across much of the center part of the state on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Fall Color Report. Colors are past peak in the far north where tamaracks have now turned gold, and many leaves are dropping. Colors are still approaching peak in the most southern tier of counties. Drier weather for the past week has allowed some rivers to begin to drop, but many waterways across the state are still well above average for this time of year. Strong winds resulted in slow fishing this past week in Green Bay. When anglers could get out, they found turbid waters that made fishing difficult. Many areas of the Fox River were seeing white caps. Those anglers that ventured out on the Fox had some luck catching a couple of walleye each. Along Door County, yellow perch anglers had success fishing in Little Sturgeon Bay and Sawyer Harbor. Bass anglers fishing from Sister Bay, Ellison Bay and Gills Rock have been finding a few bass, including fish over 6 pounds being caught. The fall salmon run is slowing down. Anglers fishing on the Manitowoc River found murky water conditions that made it harder to target salmon moving upstream. Anglers fishing the East Twin River were still catching chinook by the Mishicot dam. Browns and coho are starting to be caught more frequently. Despite high West Twin River water levels, anglers were able to catch chinook up by the Shoto dam. Sauk Creek saw a lot of fishing pressure with some anglers reaching daily bag limits. The Milwaukee River and Oak Creek were seeing higher fishing pressure with anglers finding some success catching kings or the occasional brown trout. Fish were still being caught on the Root and Pike rivers where water levels are starting to drop. Snow in Canada and colder weather brought a rush of ducks migrating through this past weekend. Hunters were having success on the rivers and in the marshes. Grouse and woodcock hunters are happy that the leaves are falling quickly now. Woodcock hunting was very good last weekend in northwestern Wisconsin. Conditions are shaping up for a wet, windy pheasant season opener this Saturday due to the high water still persisting across many areas. The underbrush is opening up and making for more visibility in the woods. Archery hunting activity is picking up. Hunters are encouraged to search the DNR website for "CWD sampling" to find locations where they can drop off a head from their harvested deer for sampling for chronic wasting disease. Increased numbers of car-killed deer are being seen, indicating deer are becoming more active. Pay attention while driving in the north not just for deer, but for eagles feeding on dead deer along roads. Give them plenty of room to take off as they are slow to get out of the way. The Mississippi River Valley is also host to large numbers of waterfowl with a report of an estimated 100,000 ducks and coots on Lake Onalaska. Nearly 1,000 red-breasted mergansers were seen along Lake Michigan. Common loons are on the move showing up on the Great Lakes and various inland water bodies. Thousands of sandhill cranes were reported at Navarino and Crex Meadows and other wildlife areas as they stage for their southward departure in coming weeks. This will be a spooky weekend at Wisconsin state properties with nearly a dozen Halloween-themed events taking place. Search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.