In the Outdoors - Vilas County News-Review
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  • 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 questions from parents, then suddenly it’s off to a boat landing during Eagle River’s Fishing Day for
  • I’VE HAD some pretty crazy moments in the woods and on the lakes over the years, taking photos of everything from bear and angry fishers to fawns, fox pups, dive-bombing eagles and albino deer.
    While the list of species is quite long, some of those outdoor experiences turned out to be real adventures because of
  • Larger boats bring bigger AIS challenge
    IF YOU look at the average boat trailer sitting at a landing these days, you soon discover just how big these boats have become and that the majority are transported on bunk trailers with no rollers.
    While the faster, more stable and luxurious watercraft are
  • Time to keep watchful eye for lowly turtles
    OUT OF the first five turtles I saw on or near roadways the past week, four of them were dead — struck by vehicles while heading for their traditional egg-laying sites.
    C’mon motorists. These aren’t
  • Grouse rebounding from mysterious plunge
    BRINGING at least a temporary sigh of relief from grouse hunters, the state reported last week that spring drumming counts in the northern forest skyrocketed by 48% this spring.
    It’s the best news of the year from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) after a 38% decline in
  • Let’s keep the booming bass legacy alive
    IF YOU’VE never caught 30 to 40 bass in a day’s time, grab some leeches or minnows and head for one of those clear lakes in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest east of Eagle River.
    That’s my suggestion to anyone who
  • Some Eagle Chain, Kentuck ramblings
    AFTER seeing that tribal spearers had taken 546 walleyes from Cranberry Lake and 411 walleyes from Catfish Lake this spring, I put a call into the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last week.
    The harvest totals were
  • High winds often turn on walleyes, bass
    HIGH WINDS that arrived way too early last Saturday morning put a damper on a lot of outdoor activities, with gusts over 30 miles an hour creating white-capped waves on the smallest of waterbodies.
    It meant that anglers adjusted locations, some golfers stayed home and
  • Cold fronts were meant for northern pike
    THREE slip bobbers were dancing across big waves over a patch of weeds when one of them tipped sideways and then plummeted downward, out of sight in the blink of an eye.
    It was one of those nasty cold fronts last weekend that all anglers seem to despise, for they can
  • They often appear when you least expect it
    THE ALARM sounded at 3:30 a.m. and that was surprisingly welcomed due to building anticipation for another rare day of hearing the turkey woods come alive.
    You don’t have to be an environmental nut to appreciate what happens in the spring forest before dawn, as the
  • Sometimes it’s about who’s in your boat
    WE FIRED our first jig and minnow cast of the new fishing season just after dawn last Saturday morning, a father and daughter team elated to be sharing boat space once again.
    Daughter Melissa made the trek home in hopes of getting in some hook-setting action, and this year, we were
  • Turkeys: moment of glory just slipped away
    IT WAS pretty much the last hour of my first turkey hunt of the year last Saturday morning when to my surprise, a gobbler answered the slate call.
    Work dictates that I get several brief turkey hunts every spring in central Wisconsin, where tags and birds are plentiful. Sometimes the hunts last only one day of the week-long season, but I
  • THERE are folks in Chicago who are having a hard time figuring out the difference between a bald eagle and a gray wolf, so thank God the scribbler is here to help them out.
    The confusion surfaced recently after the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed to
  • Spring hearings dead: online forum next?
    JUDGING by what we witnessed in Oneida County last week, the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) spring fish and game hearings should be declared dead on arrival.
    When 35 people show up for a hearing compared to
  • ‘Plan B’ ended up being the best choice
    AS WE headed out ice fishing in the early afternoon and discovered somebody else was in the holes we planned to fish, I’m sure my buddy was hoping there was a viable Plan B.
    It was the annual trek northward for Mike Krueger of
  • Spring hearings: your best chance for input
    A MIXTURE of proposed rule changes and big-issue advisory questions will be on the ballot in every county next Monday, April 8, at the annual spring fish and game hearings.
    The spring hearings start in every county at
  • Wildlife adds to ice-fishing adventures
    I WAS bent over a hole in the ice while hooking a new crappie minnow to a tip-down rig when a rush of wings startled me.
    The fish were biting and my attention was so keenly focused on getting another minnow down that I had forgotten about the small, gill-hooked crappie I tossed out for
  • Cure for CWD: discovery or wild claim?
    DON’T BET the back forty or even your worst deer rifle on this one, but a researcher claims to have found a previously undiscovered bacteria that’s the real cause of chronic wasting disease (CWD), fueling hopes for in-field testing and a vaccine.
    Dr. Frank Bastian, a veteran neuropathologist formerly with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, said he’s
  • Spring hearings to see first online voting
    THE Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says that through a new online voting system, the public will have greater opportunities to weigh in on proposed fish and wildlife rules at the spring hearings in April.
    There will be two new choices available. Those who attend can just
  • Pay a bounty for CWD-positive deer?
    WE MIGHT develop a new profession and boost farm revenue at the same time if the public supports a pilot project that would pay hunters for every deer they turn in that has chronic wasting disease (CWD).
    The proposed program is called
  • A wild idea: allow broadcast deer baiting?
    TO PROTECT the health of our wild deer population, would you support a statewide ban on baiting and feeding of deer?
    That’s one of the questions that will be up for a vote on Monday, April 8, at the spring fish and game hearings in every county.
    It’s an advisory question from the
  • THERE are numerous reasons for today’s push to control gray wolf numbers in northern Wisconsin, but none of them are more significant to me than taking some pressure off the national forest deer herd.
    Despite increased logging in the
  • Muskies are too valuable to be speared
    IT HURTS to see photos from those tribal muskie spearing tournaments every winter because I know well the heart and passion of die-hard muskie anglers who release everything and can hardly sleep at night when a fish gets hooked too deep.
    To see more than a dozen of their favorite fish lying frozen on the ground, some nearing the trophy 50-inch mark, is
  • Wolf River bag limit going to three walleyes?
    IF YOU like picking on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) when they goof up in one way or another, you’re going to love this one.
    The first proposed rule change that went to the Natural Resources Board last month for approval, to get on the spring fish and game questionnaire, was a proposal that would reduce the daily walleye bag limit from
  • Three grouse found with West Nile virus
    THE BAD news is that for the first time, the West Nile virus has been discovered in Wisconsin ruffed grouse.
    According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), it was found in three of 16 grouse that were found sick or dead last fall.
    The good news is that right now, there is still no evidence to confirm that West Nile virus (WNV) is having population-level impacts on
  • Deep-water crappies: the king of panfish
    I WAS feeding line down an ice hole in 26 feet of water, a nasty wind biting at wet hands as it became far too apparent the lead sinker was too small for this depth of water.
    Stubbornly, there was no turning back now as I
  • Oneida hasn’t reached its eagle ceiling
    IT TURNS out that Oneida County has not maxed out on bald eagle nesting territories, as the state’s 2018 population survey showed 13 new nests and yet another statewide record as part of the bird’s remarkable comeback in Wisconsin.
    What a difference a year can make. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported last year that when Oneida stayed at 141 territories, it