On a scale of zero to 10 with 10 the best, ice fishing success is about a 3 at best, according to most anglers. “They’re there, but all you can catch are small ones,’’ said one panfish angler earlier this week while stowing gear into the back of his pickup. ”Lots and lots of small ones,” said another couple as they walked off the ice, shaking their heads in disgust. “No fish supper tonight,” said an elderly gent, quitting for the day. Anglers are spreading out across the Coulee Region, hoping to catch enough panfish for a meal. One seasoned hard-water fisherman said he and his son were out a day earlier and caught a dozen or so perch. His son and brother went to the same spot the next morning and his son fell through the ice. Yes, ice conditions are ever-changing in many areas along the Black and Mississippi rivers. An arctic clipper moved through the Greater La Crosse Area on Tuesday resulting in a few inches of the white stuff. Deer and turkeys are moving about more in search of food. Birder feeder activity has also increased with the fresh layer of snow. Meanwhile, across the Mississippi River, Minnesota DNR conservation officer Tom Hemker, in Winona, reports continued high ice fishing pressure. There was some bad ice and some anglers reported getting wet. Minnesota DNR conservation officer Mitch Boyum, Rushford, spent time checking small-game hunters. Remember, take a kid hunting or fishing. It will be the best thing you ever did. Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.
From Southern Wisconsin
A white-tailed deer was slip-sliding on a road during a heavy, nighttime snowstorm. First thought might have been, “What is a deer doing out on a night like this?” Owls routinely do nighttime activities, too. Bald eagles were caught on video catching fish at night in Decorah, Iowa, where cameras have been watching eagles’ live for many years. Raccoon and coyote hunters, candlelight skiers and snowshoers, moon gazers and other enthusiasts have found venturing out at night rewarding. Daybreak and sunset also provide great and varied opportunities. With a flick of a switch, at 2:30 a.m., a very small and very fast nocturnal flying or gliding squirrel (pictured) made its way up a pear tree, then stopped seeming to say, “This is my time. How dare you turn the lights on. I don’t need them.” Most wildlife manuals devote disproportional space to describe southern flying squirrels. This tiny, ounces-heavy, mammal has night vision eyes, folds of skin between its fore and hind legs, which help in gliding and acts as sails. Its flattened tail becomes a rudder when landing on tree trunks from as much as a football field away. Weighing 1-2 ounces, flying squirrels need not be big eaters. Before bird feeders became common, more of this mammal’s foods consisted of lichens and underground fungi. Like birds spreading plant seeds, this glider, when eating, spreads nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which help trees obtain nutrients and water from the soil. In a way, these squirrels are farming the forest trees. And they love when some die creating hollow trees. Fox squirrels top the scale up to 38 ounces, more than 12 times that of the only nocturnal tree squirrel in North America. Owls, another nocturnal animal, are a primary predator of southern flying squirrels. While not a hibernator, gliders, as well as opossums, will hole-up during really cold spells. Torpor it’s called. Unlike opossums, who often get frostbitten ears and tails, flying squirrels do just fine venturing out during cold, dark nights. Interestingly three long-time outdoors enthusiasts answered similarly, but separately, when saying the last time they saw a jackrabbit in southern Wisconsin was about 40 years ago. Most of those big bunnies created nighttime occurrences. Most animal captures for the five-year, Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer, and Predator Project were at night. Data continues to show up in landowners’ email files when results from collared deer were taken by hunters during the seasons. One collared buck moved about 25 miles in six months from its collaring site. Watch for more information, available publically and written specifically for the layperson. The 2020 statewide Wisconsin DNR hunter ethics award winner will be recognized and presented with gifts from Vortex Optics in Barneveld this coming May. Public nominations will continue to be accepted through Feb. 19. Check with the selection committee, including Jerry Davis, for more details on submitting a short email nomination. Now, nearing the end of 2020 deer seasons (Jan. 31), registration has topped 331,127 animals, 190,619 being taken during the nine-day, gun deer season. The 2021 sturgeon spearing season, on the Winnebago system, opens Feb. 13, and runs for a maximum of 16 days. Big-fish registration will be by drive-thru only. Spearers will be required to remain in their vehicles throughout the process, although the DNR is committed to returning to a system more open to the public in 2022. Angling for smaller fish has been mediocre on most waters. A few tucked away lakes have been pleasant surprises. “Fishing is good, but the catching is spotty and the fish are not big ones either,” said Doug Williams, at D W Sports Center in Portage. “The ice is still not the best in places. There are a lot of guys out chasing rabbits and squirrels, too, if they can find cartridges.” “I have very few .22 caliber shells,” said Don Martin, in Monroe. “Interestingly, there was a new .410 shotgun shell I had last year for turkey hunting. A three-inch shell with 13/16-ounce of No. 9 shot, to be used with a turkey choke.” With shell shortages experiences during deer season, locating ammunition should be a top priority now for turkey hunters.
Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited
As the snow falls, I like to think about spring things that are going on in mid-January. Some of it involves being outdoors and: Listening - Listen for chickadees to sing their two-note “spring call.” Listen for the hooting of great horned owls (pictured) that are pairing up for breeding season. Watching - Goldfinches will start to show small spots of bright yellow as they molt into their breeding plumage. Remember, they are here all winter long. Some will fly a bit further south, but there are goldfinches in the area throughout the year. They just look duller, but easy to spot by their markings. If you’re in a wooded area, watch for small flocks of brown creepers lurking on your tree trunks. Spread some WBU Bark Butter on tree trunks to enjoy watching longer. Doing - Make sure none of the seed in your feeders has become frozen and stuck inside the feeding ports. Give the feeders a shake to make sure seed is flowing. Winter is not the time to let feeders go empty. Make sure you have rinsed and cleaned out your heated bath. Water is most important all year long. As always, happy birding and don’t forget to stop in and see us at Wild Birds Unlimited, Onalaska, 608-781-5088. Karen Perry