Out and About with Bob

Bob Lamb

Get ready for the biggest snowfall of the season.
That's what weather forecasters are predicting for Friday through Saturday.
Who knows how much white stuff we'll get? 3, 5, 8 or more inches? Even the best weather prognosticators don't know or can't predict. What's knew?
What I do know is that ice fishing action has slowed in the past few days. I have struggled to find more than a dozen or so ice anglers concentrated in one central area. Anglers are far and few between in other so-call traditional ice fishing hot spots.
Slow ice fishing traffic is probably due to the rise in the Mississippi River. Several anglers have told me it's tough getting onto the ice because of open water near shore.
That should change in the next couple of days with frigid temperatures setting in and snow on the way. I guess we'll just have to wait and see... just like our local weather meteorologists tell us.
Meanwhile, deer and turkeys are showing up more often thanks to  fresh snow cover. Bird watchers are also getting more traffic to their feeders.
Skiers, snowmobilers, skaters and snowshoe enthusiasts are enjoying the white stuff, too.
Chad Knapmiller posted on his website at Schafer's River Rentals on Brice Prairie last Friday, that ice conditions continue to improve with the average thickness on the north side of Lake Onalaska around 8 inches.
"I saw some ATVs drive from here to the lights yesterday," Knapmiller posted. "Please use caution if you are going to do that." Knapmiller said fishing has remained steady from last week with crappies biting the best. Bluegills have moved around some, but he said anglers shouldn't be afraid to try different areas.
"Northerns have really started to take off and some big fish are being caught," he said. "Perch have been harder to come by. There was a school off of the Sailboat Club, but that seems to be over for now. Stop in and get the latest news!"
Across the Mississippi River, Minnesota DNR conservation officer Tom Hemker, stationed in Winona, reports the river rise has made for poor ice. In one case, three anglers who had driven back a path along the river found themselves in the water after a day of fishing. The water had risen throughout the day and was over the knee boots of one of the anglers. They were able to get all three vehicles out of the area.
Tyler Ramaker, a Minnesota DNR conservation officer in La Crescent, checked ice anglers and followed up on cases from the hunting season. Ramaker said panfish fishing has slowed some across the area. Ice conditions in Pool 9 have been variable with decreasing water levels leaving areas where ice is suspended above the water and newly-formed ice.
Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.

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Jerry Davis

From Southern Wisconsin

Bird feeding enthusiasts have been perplexed, complaining and concerned since bird congregations have been skinny throughout autumn and early winter.  
A lack of staying snow cover has not helped, but has exacerbated some of the best-intended efforts.
The situation has become so problematic a popular comic strip spent days highlighting why neighbors were sneaking through the night to discover why droves of birds selected one feeding station over another.
The cartoonist solved the frustration by showing bags of premium feed in a shed of a neighbor being inundated by hungry birds.
Bob Ross, at Wild Birds Unlimited in Middleton, had a better answer than trespassing.
“Each of the blends and mixes are tested before being sent to individual stores, so we know they are going to attract birds and there aren’t a lot of fillers in there mixes either, things that the birds won’t eat,” he said.
Look for mixes that are a morsel more expensive than bags with only one type of seed. An inexpensive mix is likely filled with seeds birds abandon.
Watch what birds eat, what they fly away to a perch with, to get an idea of what they want, will take and store or consume on location.
Generally, birds are not going to come to feeders stuck in the middle of a yard either, providing no place to perch or be protected from elements and predator birds.
With real winter upon us, look for most animals to be hungrier.  Deer are beginning to hit evergreens. Convocations of bald eagles are perched over open water.
Recent snows were welcomed by skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, trackers, and squirrel and rabbit hunters. However, most other small game seasons and deer seasons are closed.
Trout and open water anglers can do without snow. So can ice anglers because snow blocks light getting to underwater plants and insulates water, hampering good ice formation in places.
Firewood making had an extended season, which closed with recent snow and cold.
Watercress is doing fine, and springs are attracting some wildlife, including overwintering robins and bluebirds. Muskrats may be out on sunny afternoons.
Deer movement has stepped up, but the beginning of shed hunting will have to wait due to snow cover. Total deer registrations are 287,615 with 58.3 percent taken during the nine-day gun deer season. The 137,338 bucks registered during the gun season were 55.8 percent of the bucks taken by hunters during all seasons.
Assuming the statewide deer population was about 2 million deer, hunters accounted for reducing the herd by 14.3 percent. Disease, vehicles, predators and other causes took the lives of many deer, too. Some of these causes can be better estimated after the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer, and Predator Study is completed and some of the data analyzed.
GPS maps of collared deer may shed light on where the deer were hiding and how much traveling they did during the nine days and at what time of the day or night energy was conserved or called upon.     
A complete breakdown of all seasons and deer genders taken by hunters can be found on the DNR Web site under “Deer Harvest.”     
A firewood debate between two neighbors was resolved when they took to examining the winter tree buds to determine whether the wood was shagbark or yellow bud hickory. Shagbark hickory is denser and therefore better firewood.
Bald eagles continue to prepare for incubation. Numerous eagle watching days have been advertised, too.
Pussy willow flower buds are expanding and can be hastened by indoors temperatures.

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

Around the Badger State

Around the Badger State

Snowmobile trails continue to be in good condition in the north on the travelwisconsin.com Snow Conditions Report.
Still, some low/swampy areas continue to be hazardous, so use caution when riding. Ski trail conditions are good to excellent in the north.
Mild temps in the south have put a damper on ice fishing, but a cold front this week started to firm ice back up.
Some northern lakes have 10-12 inches of ice, but much of the ice is white/gray from mixing with snow and isn't as stable as black ice.
Some anglers have begun using ATVs and snowmobiles, but be sure to check the ice thickness.
Fishing was decent with good catches of walleye during low light hours, and bluegills, bass and northern being caught during the day.
Most bucks are still carrying their antlers, although there are reports of some antler dropping occurring.

CHIPPEWA COUNTY - Lake Wissota State Park trails are open and ready to use. We have good multi-use and ski trail systems that have plenty of snow and are maintained.

DUNN COUNTY - The groomers will be working at Red Cedar State Trail throughout the week on grooming the trails.

Wild Birds Unlimited

Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited

Brr... it's a cold one this morning.
Be sure no seed is frozen in your feeders. If you have tube feeders, give them a good shake. If you haven't filled them in a while, empty what's left in a bucket, put fresh in the bottom and top off with the old if it's not moldy or wet.
Make sure you have suet or one of our WBU Bark Butter products out as birds need the high fat when it is so cold out.
We have Bark Butter bits that can be put in feeders for birds that don't come to suet feeders. Birds love our Bark Butter.Some things to be on the lookout for:
* Listen for chickadees to start singing their two-note, "spring soon" call. I love hearing that song!
* Goldfinches will start to show small spots of bright yellow as they molt into their breeding plumage - another sign of spring!
* Don't be surprised to find flocks of robins at your heated bird baths. Not all robins migrate and they love finding a heated bird bath to bathe and drink in. Robins also love Bark Butter bits. Sprinkle some on the ground if you see robins out by the bath.
That's it for this week - stay warm - feed your birds and stop in and see us at Wild Birds Unlimited located in the Crosseroads Center across from Valley View Mall (608-781-5088).
Happy Birding!
Karen Perry