"Buffalo Bagels!!!" shouted Colonel Potter on the old MASH television series. That's just how "Junior" Muetze and I feel about the fast rising water from the recent rain deluge, especially up north. The river was just beginning to get to fishable levels below 7 feet (still 2.6 feet above normal river level in La Crosse), and fishing was becoming very productive. Now, we spend our time preparing the boathouse for more high water and another forecast crest of 12.5 feet, or .5 of a foot above flood stage on Monday. That's a rapid rise of more than 5 feet in six days. It will certainly be interesting to see how the pro anglers fare in the Bassmaster Elite Series event in La Crosse from Thursday through Sunday. My guess is their weight bags will be lighter than usual. Meanwhile, fawns are following their mothers through chest high grass along the creek below our condo in the country. The does stand out like sore thumbs with their reddish summer coats. It's difficult to see the fawns although look for the tall grass moving several yards behind the does. Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.
From Southern Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s state wildlife animal, the white-tailed deer, always attracts observers, but now more than ever with populations changing appearance, feeding variations, and fawn development. Unexpected presences vie for attention, too. It isn’t often that antlers are a minion magnet toward this animal, but until those growths get larger, fork more, and elevate above the ears, both adults’ ruddy hide colors get more notice. Fawns continue to be attractive fauna, but not quite the cuddly look first observed curled in grass, alfalfa and leaf litter. Camouflage still conceals them, but the look of a gangly teenager is beginning to stand out. Deer movement throughout the day has us eyeballing, too. Biting flies, the need to eat and drink, and accepting being gregarious again as family groups or bachelor herds all contribute to perceptions. Each day brings more changes, while vegetation challenges us to see deer in their competing habitat. These transformations create field, forest and roadside accidents, many not being animal’s fault. Later than usual first crop hay cutting was a life saver. Meanwhile, hunters are pondering spring drumming counts of ruffed grouse with September being several calendar flips away. Some data are not painting a positive picture, but there is still nesting and brooding information to be measured and inserted into the formula. In the Northern Region, which includes some of the best ruffed grouse habitat, drums decreased 38 percent, but within 43 routes, eight had increasing numbers of drums while 14 had no change. The other 21 routes, recorded decreasing numbers of drums by male birds. “This grouse drumming survey is definitely an anomaly this year,” said Mark Witecha, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. “To complicate the picture, the 2015 survey indicated the population did not seem to bottom out, so it started increasing in 2016 with numbers well above what we had in other cycles.” Drumming counts are a measure (males heard) of birds in the breeding populations and give biologists one measure of what is happening and indications of what’s out there and what’s possible. Because West Nile Virus is a suspect of causing some of the low bird population last fall, the DNR is working on plans to collect data and use hunter input this summer and fall. “We want to encourage hunter input and will make it known how to get involved,” Witecha said. “Gamebird populations can rebound from a year of poor reproduction very quickly if conditions are adequate. This is a great opportunity to work with the hunting public.” Serviceberry (juneberry) shrubby trees are still a top choice for early summer birds and homeowners wishing to attract woodpeckers, cardinals, catbirds, grosbeaks, waxwings, robins and many more bird species looking to live for a time as a frugivorous animal until the fruits are gone. While this shrub is underscored as having useful fruit for our purposes, the birds find it first, much before we would and strip the branches. One 10-year-old shrub acts as a month-long feeding station, filled automatically by flowering, pollination and fruit set. The 2018 hunting season will change dramatically for four who pursue big game. The four winners of Wisconsin elk permits for the 2018 hunt have been notified by information arriving at Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha and Merrill mail boxes. The fifth permit will be drawn from raffle ticket purchases. These hunters will be in the Clam Lake area and joined by an equal number of Native Americans. The permit process generated over $400,000 for the state in donations and permit application fees. Summer’s heat begins to increase the excitement of looking ahead to autumn’s gathering in many ways, notably hunting, but also less intrusive and invasive activities of silent viewing and documenting.
MERRICK STATE PARK - Due to recent heavy rains in northwestern Wisconsin, water levels on the Mississippi River are rising quickly and will cover roads and campsites in the south and island campgrounds. Both campgrounds and the south boat launch are closed as of June 20. The north campground, nature center area, and upper boat launch will remain open. The water is moving fast, so if you launch at the upper landing, please be aware of the dock and railings. Areas will re-open after floodwaters recede and damage is assessed for visitor safety, said Lois Larson, park manager.
CHIPPEWA RIVER STATE TRAIL - The trail is flooded between Jopke Road and Porterville Road in Eau Claire County. The river is expected to remain at flood level through June 23. The rest of the trail is open, so plan to use alternative access points such as the Highway 85 wayside, Caryville, or Meridean.
LAKE WISSOTA STATE PARK - Camping season is in full swing! We often have availability during the week, but we regularly fill up on weekends so it is a good idea to make a reservation if you plan on staying a Friday or Saturday evening. Species of birds seen or hears include scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, towhees, golden finches, rose-breasted grosbeaks, robins, red polls, a variety of wrens, phoebes, Canada geese, turkey vultures, northern juncos, pileated woodpeckers, great blue herons, green herons, barred owls, bald eagles and belted kingfishers. We are seeing a number of young turkeys and deer fawns. Painted and snapping turtles have been digging nests throughout the park property. Blue flag, dog violet, orange hawkweed, wild columbine, ox eye daisy, wooly yarrow, grove sandwort, marsh marigolds, trillium, wild columbine, bellworts, and the false rue anemones, blackberry and raspberry vines, and common and wood strawberry are in bloom. Wood strawberries are beginning to produce fruit, said Nathan Fries ranger.
Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited
Well, we certainly have had enough rain the last week. With rain brings up the need to check our feeders and our birdbaths. Please make sure that the seed is flowing through your seed tubes and not damp and clogging up. If that happens, mold and bacteria can build up quickly causing harm to our backyard friends. Same is true for the birdbaths. Dump out the water, clean it with either one of our awesome "natural" cleaners or 1 part bleach to 9 parts of water. There are a lot of fledglings out there so if you are having window strikes due to babies "learning" to navigate, we have a product called Window Alert that works awesome on your windows to help this problem. The baby grackles have fledged... ugh. They are so noisy and there are so many of them. I have cut back on the offering of my good seed blend and switched out to mostly safflower and black oil sunflower. This has helped keep the count down. I do put out some good stuff once a day so my "pretty" songbirds can have a treat. Make sure you don't have any standing water around. Mosquitoes love to lay their eggs in standing water, so take a walk around your yard and dump any water from items that may hold water. Refreshing the birdbath every day will help so it's not the same water. Let's hope for some sun and dry weather SOON! Happy Birding! Karen Perry Wild Birds Unlimited, 608-781-5088
Around the Badger State
Heavy rains across northwestern Wisconsin last weekend and early this week have flooded some roads and caused washouts on some highways, roads, state parks, forests and trails. According to the National Weather Service the area has received 7 to 12 inches of rain from Friday through Monday. Several park system property or portions of properties are closed due flooding. Amnicon Falls State Park, closed temporarily, but has re-opened, though some roads, trails and observation areas remain closed. Pattison State Park is open for camping only; all trails, observation areas, picnic and day-use areas are closed. There are washouts on the dam that forms Interfalls Lake and Highway 35 over the dam is closed. A campground and horse trail are closed at Governor Knowles State Forest and the day use areas along the river at Interstate Park are underwater. All rivers in the region are running extremely high. The falls at both Amnicon and Pattison are roaring, but road closures mean observing the falls now is challenging. The Bois Brule and Flambeau rivers are high enough that some canoe launches and campsites are underwater. The water is making its way downstream and the Lower Wisconsin River is running very high with all sandbars submerged and canoeing and kayaking not recommended. The river is expected to crest Muscoda this weekend at 40,000 cubic feet per second. Sections of the Tuscobia, Saunders Grade, Wild Rivers and Gandy Dancer state trails are currently closed. People should use caution as they recreate in the coming days and weeks. Stay out of areas, roads and trails posted as closed. Keep a safe distance away from the edge of fast moving water, streams and rivers. Slow-no-wake ordinances are in place on lakes Kegonsa, Monona and Waubesa in Dane County and likely other locations. Thursday is the summer equinox, the astronomical start of summer and longest day of the year. A lot of people were out enjoying the hot weather last weekend but the storms that followed slowed lake activity and reduced fishing pressure and success in many areas. Trout streams through central Wisconsin are very high and unfishable, but bass fishing on many inland lakes has been very good. Anglers were still catching walleye on lower Green Bay but the only fish that was biting with consistency and ferocity were freshwater drum. Bass fishing has been excellent across the northern part of Door County but was slower out of Little Sturgeon Bay and Sawyer Harbor. Lake Michigan anglers out of Kewaunee, Algoma and Manitowoc were coming back with chinook, some lake trout, and rainbows. The fish that are being caught are large, with a 34-pound king caught out of Manitowoc and two 31 pounders were caught on the same day out of Two Rivers. Bucks now have velvet antlers 8-10 inches and are feeding in alfalfa fields. Strawberries are ripe and blueberries are soon to ripen, so bears, people and other critters are enjoying the delicious fruit. Bears are highly visible right now as it is their mating season. Elk cows are moving into cow-calf groups for safety in numbers. The first wave of monarch caterpillars are being seen. Blue flag iris, dog violet, orange hawkweed, wild columbine, ox eye daisy, wooly yarrow, bellworts and the false rue anemones are blooming.
Schafer's River Rentals
If you haven't been paying attention to water levels, the biggest factor for fishing in the next few weeks will be water height. We are forecast to get to 12.5 feet at the La Crosse gauge, which will be 6 inches over flood stage. It will be really interesting to see how the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament goes with water rising as fast as it is. Just because the water is going up doesn't mean that there won't be fishing opportunities. I always like to take the opportunity to explore new areas when there is high water as well. The fish will be moving off of the main channel and into the backwaters to get out of the current. I know of guys who do really well on panfish and bass in flooded timber as well as the chutes and sloughs. If you can target the areas that the fish are moving into, you can have a day that will be hard to beat! Stop in and get the latest water report and find out what's working best! Thanks, Chad