In the Outdoors - Vilas County News-Review
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  • Grouse numbers, without survey, are unknown
    AT A time when ruffed grouse management is at a crossroads, boosted by a new plan but hit with unknowns such as the West Nile virus and mid-summer population declines, a worldwide pandemic wipes out the best tool for estimating bird numbers.
    Biologists and volunteers with
  • Photographers don’t mind wounded fish
    WOUNDED fish are never wasted in nature, the saying goes, because there’s always something that’s going to get a meal from them.
    The scavengers might include other fish, crayfish, snapping turtles, raccoons, crows, sea­gulls, ospreys and eagles. And I’m sure there are a host of smaller bugs and larvae willing to
  • Father-daughter fishing trips never get old
    THE PLAN was to fire jig and minnow combinations into shoreline trees on the Three Lakes Chain, hoping to find some post-spawn walleyes feeding in the shallows on a sunny evening.
    By some fluke of scheduling and timing during 
  • Time to keep watchful eye for lowly turtles
    IT MAY be too early to celebrate but I haven’t seen a dead turtle squashed on the road yet this year, so maybe more motorists are showing some concern for the lowly turtles.
    In fact we might be gaining some ground on turtle survival, as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reporting a
  • A strange season; a memorable morning
    IT HAS been a different kind of fishing season thus far, for social distancing has robbed me of opportunities to fish with visiting family — including my grandkids.
    I’m blaming COVID-19 for that though the truth of the matter is, son Steve and
  • Cold fronts were meant for northern pike
    WHAT does a walleye angler do on a rainy Sunday evening with an east wind and a cold front, when Mother Nature is pretty much throwing you a lemon?
    If you’re going to make lemonade, as the popular saying goes, then you should be thinking
  • Know what’s in the lakes you’re leaving
    IN A perfect world, every angler and boat owner would learn which lakes contain invasive plants and organisms in order to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
    If everyone had that knowledge, you see, they would be
  • Proof that even blind squirrels find acorns
    TURKEY fever still had a grip on me last Thursday evening as I headed for farm country for a final morning of hunting during the fourth week of the six-week season.
    It was my last tag and
  • Virus, wind didn’t keep anglers off lakes
    WE GOT more than a walleye ripple on opening weekend of the 2020 fishing season, as strong winds and gusts up to 35 mph put whitecaps across most lakes and made for some challenging conditions.
    Anglers got blown off some of the larger lakes and
  • Turkey hunter confesses: ‘I might be aging’
    IT WAS somewhere in the middle of a great hunt, a setup on a hot tom turkey last Wednesday morning, that the scribbler discovered he might be getting older.
    The scenario could not have been better, a
  • Trump’s people boost hunter, angler access
    WE ARE so fortunate in northern Wisconsin that there’s a ton of places to fish and hunt, with very little locked up in refuges and hatcheries to prevent public access.
    So unless you chase
  • A harmless forest walk ends in tragedy
    IT STARTED as just another adventurous afternoon walk for Jim and Vicki Spanske, strolling down a gravel road in the national forest with their dogs.
    The Nelma couple was exercising while bonding with their 3-year-old rescue dogs, which included Gracie, a female German shepherd, and
  • 72-hour online voting window starts Monday
    ADVISORY questions on shortening the crossbow  season, lengthening the gun-deer hunt, banning lead shot on state lands and opening catch-and-release muskie fishing in early May will be up for a vote next week.
    While the spring fish and game hearings have been
  • Congress floats early 16-day deer hunt plan
    THOUGH it would require legislation, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress has revived the age-old question of whether Wisconsin’s gun-deer season should start earlier — during the rut — and last for 16 days.
    That’s one of
  • Vote could help revive early muskie season
    REMEMBER the days when the May fishing opener was such a big deal that we had bait shops open past midnight, fishing contests and landings that were beyond full?
    Everyone knows that tribal spearing and reduced walleye bag limits helped erode that big boost to the tourism industry, but
  • Wind, freezing temps didn’t stop the boys
    THE GUYS got together for some serious crappie fishing last weekend and we had a blast on the world’s largest chain of lakes, but it wasn’t because of ideal conditions.
    They showed up about
  • DNR wildlife managers want lead shot ban?
    HAVE you ever opened up the gizzard of a wild turkey, pheasant or grouse to discover the wide array of little stones they ingest so that organ can grind up food?
    I opened a pheasant gizzard last
  • Trees: resource education and added benefits
    COULD IT BE that those of us who live, work and play in this natural resources paradise don’t fully appreciate the benefits of our own nonprofit environmental education center?
    Trees For Tomorrow in Eagle River has been using
  • Lakes improve for game fish last hurrah
    THERE’S something strange but magical, and filled with anticipation, about lowering a bait into a hole in the lake ice in hopes of catching a walleye or northern pike.
    That’s where I
  • They didn’t see crossbow popularity coming?
    THE citizen-run Natural Resources Board that opened up crossbow hunting to people of all ages just six years ago now appears to be backtracking, toying with the idea of shortening that deer-hunt season.
    An advisory question to that effect, limiting the crossbow hunt to
  • Declining hunter numbers bring challenges
    AS THE total number of American hunters slowly declines in the decades ahead, we’re going to face new challenges on how conservation gets funded.
    Forecasts for the decline have been around for decades now, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that license sales have fallen from a peak of about 17 million in the early
  • Our deer hunt tradition impacts the world
    THE deer hunting tradition in Wisconsin is rooted so deeply that you could say it impacts the entire world, and for the first time, we have some proof of that.
    Thanks to technology that includes an
  • Logging boom enhancing Nicolet habitat
    THERE’S nothing but good news in the world of wildlife habitat coming from the U.S. Forest Service, which last year sold a whopping 123.7 million board feet of timber from our national forest.
    A federal agency once hamstrung by an eight-year planning process and another six years of legal battles between 1996 and 2009 is
  • Man’s best friend studies your every move
    JUST a month after heavy snow pretty much ended the season for chasing grouse and pheasants, I still have to be careful about any mid-afternoon stops at my house.
    I learned that last week after
  • Lakes, eagles and ospreys — God’s Country
    ABOUT the time the scribbler arrived in the North Woods some 42 years ago, there were just 108 bald eagle nests statewide.
    Though many of them were located in the lake country of Vilas and Oneida counties, you could go weeks without seeing an eagle unless you were fortunate enough to 
  • No chance for ‘the magic’ if you don’t go
    AFTER a half-mile walk sloshing through two inches of water most of the way, I came across an open ice-fishing hole that looked more like a toilet.
    I couldn’t believe my eyes because it was the last Sunday in December, not March, and it was pretty much unprecedented to see
  • Lack of hope fuels vigilante wolf efforts?
    THAT comprehensive wolf story you may have read in the News-Review two weeks ago brought to light the frustrations of Wisconsin hunters, farmers and pet owners over today’s overpopulation of wolves.
    Scott Walter, large carnivore specialist for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), summed up
  • Wolves, grouse, deer top 2020 ‘wish list’
    IN THE heart of the Christmas season, it is time once again to formulate a “wish list” in regard to some of the nagging issues that impact those of us who live to spend time in the great outdoors.
    They call it the season of
  • Deer camp, a muzzy doe capped the hunt
    THERE’S just something about pouring gunpowder into a barrel and seating a lead bullet with a ramrod that intrigues those of us who pursue whitetails with a muzzleloading rifle every fall.
    Maybe it’s the legacy of 
  • Named or not, we all have favorite places
    MOST hunters over the course of a lifetime have put a name to some favorite places in the great outdoors, locations of ideal habitat for ruffed grouse or the perfect funnel for steering deer in a predictable direction.
    Part of the motivation is
  • Chasing pheasants with the boys, once again
    WE LET the dog loose and turned our faces into a light northeast breeze, ever anxious for the first rooster pheasant to bust from cover, cackling for all it’s worth.
    It was a holiday reunion of sorts, on Thanks­giving morning, the first time in years that
  • You never know what treestands will bring
    THOSE WHO hunt the national forest while observing the tri-county baiting ban are a hardy bunch living on optimism, for their odds of seeing a buck without the rut are quite slim.
    Yet we do it for the tradition of
  • Rutting buck caps early morning hunt
    IT WAS 90 minutes into the fifth outing of the 2019 deer rutting period, on a crisp weekend morning in November, and I still hadn’t seen a live deer from my tree stand in the hardwoods.
    Deer hunters know their odds of seeing a buck will
  • Deer baiting, feeding ban is huge failure
    TWO DEER were playing tug of war with a full white bag of corn they had dragged off a gas station pallet the other night, a goofy and laughable sight as I drove through Eagle River.
    The incident reminded me of 
  • Misstated facts don’t help wolf argument
    IF YOU think this newspaper is heavy-handed when it comes to declining letters that criticize our work and opinions, then you missed last week’s letter to the editor from a Marshfield reader.
    The scribbler got lambasted for not paying attention to
  • Many grouse surviving West Nile exposure
    WHILE the big summer die-off of adult ruffed grouse in 2017 remains a mystery, the state has released results from the first year of a three-year sampling program to test grouse for exposure to West Nile virus.
    Out of
  • The glory days of October are slipping fast
    AS I STRUGGLED to choose between grouse and deer hunting with a crossbow late Saturday afternoon, wondering how to fill a fall turkey tag, trap a fisher and shoot some pheasants in the days ahead, the reality of time and its limits hit home.
    That glorious
  • Hunting dogs fit state’s conservation ethic
    DUSK had dimmed the lights in the grouse woods as we made our way back toward the truck, the scribbler and his trusty Labrador retriever, Gracie.
    It was still shooting hours but I was tempted to let up on the strict gun-ready posture after six miles of walking, knowing we were backtracking on a trail we
  • Group harassing dog-running bear hunters?
    BY NOW most bear hunters and a lot of others have been made aware of a pro-wolf entity that calls itself the Wolf Patrol, mostly from the videos they’ve posted online.
    They begin by claiming to be
  • Heat can’t ruin a farm-country deer hunt
    THERE’S nothing overly fun about bow hunting for deer when it’s 75 degrees and humid, as it was last Friday evening, but then the scribbler isn’t always lucky enough to be sitting in Wisconsin farm country.
    So despite the sweat beading on my
  • Thick foliage, few birds on opening day
    THE GROUSE opener began last Saturday with damp forests following a week of rain, so it wasn’t surprising that what few birds we found were tucked back into heavy cover or spooky and on the run, because that’s what they do when predators are tough to detect.
    We didn’t much care because it was the start of another grand season of
  • Support growing for wetland conservation
    IT’S OBVIOUS that people from every corner of the United States are connecting more and more with the wetland conservation mission of Ducks Unlimited (DU).
    That’s the bottom line summary given recently by
  • Deer carcass disposal becoming big deal
    THE DISCOVERY of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in both fenced and wild deer in Oneida County should prompt extra prevention efforts, and the state’s Adopt-a-Dumpster program might be worthy of embracing.
    As you may know, several deer from a game preserve in
  • Good old days on Stormy Lake are gone
    THE GOOD old days for fishing in the North Woods come up in conversations from time to time, and it’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly why fishing isn’t what it used to be.
    We’ve lost a lot of size structure in the
  • RGS leads fight for young forest habitat
    THE mission to create healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other forest wildlife is gaining serious ground thanks to the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS).
    From last year’s report that membership had
  • Grouse, deer seasons just a month away
    YOU KNOW fall is just around the corner when you are standing in a store watching someone purchase multiple bags of deer corn and a big pack of batteries for the trail cameras.
    Of course we all know the deer feeding and baiting part isn’t
  • Grouse plan: habitat focus, shorter hunt
    HUNTERS are being asked this month to comment on draft language of a first-ever ruffed grouse management plan for Wisconsin, a focused effort that’s long overdue.
    Biologists have
  • Summer: time to hit a quiet trout stream
    I’M REALLY hungry for some trout, my wife declared the other day, and what great words those are in the ears of an angler looking for any legitimate excuse to go fishing.
    That statement was enabling for me, in a good way, and
  • Summer ‘soft fillet’ issues easily avoided
    SITTING in one of my favorite watering holes on an evening last week, I listened patiently as an angler explained to his buddy why he doesn’t keep crappies, northerns and most fish caught in summer.
    The man said the flesh is
  • Fishing: where strangers turn into friends
    IT’S FUNNY how a couple of hours in a boat with perfect strangers, catching fish, can open up new worlds of friendship, teamwork and camaraderie.
    It always starts a little slow with introductions, some paperwork and a few question