In the Outdoors - Vilas County News-Review
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  • Dry weather gives boost to grouse hunt
    WE WERE walking an old grass-covered two track on state land last week, my black Lab Gracie out in front searching for the scent of our favorite upland game bird, the ruffed grouse.
    About a mile into this particular hike, Gracie’s movements changed entirely. She was
  • Slab crappies saved dismal grouse opener
    TO SAY that the ruffed grouse opener last Saturday was the highlight of the week would be the normal thing, but it just wouldn’t be the truth this year.
    For those who didn’t experience it, the rain started about 3 a.m. Saturday morning, went virtually all day and into the evening, and then finished with some downpours after
  • Stewardship program up for renewal
    IT’S HARD to be good stewards of the land and waters we’ve been entrusted to protect without some monetary commitment, and Wisconsin is once again being asked to pledge its support.
    The Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Program (KNSP) is up for reauthorization after a decade of
  • Pandemic gives boost to hunting, fishing
    IT’S BEEN a big year for Wisconsin’s great outdoors as more people escaped a public health emergency thru the isolation of hunting, fishing, boating, camping and other activities.
    Booming sales of
  • Foresters protect water quality, not aesthetics
    LOGGERS are going to be cutting about 215 acres of timber near Whitney Lake in Boulder Junction, part of timber management on the Northern Highland American Legion (NHAL) State Forest.
    And a second timber sale that has yet to be finalized will result in
  • Logging, better habitat can offset new virus
    IT APPEARS Wisconsin has a larger West Nile virus (WNV) problem than Michigan or Minnesota, as for the second straight year, testing shows exposure rates that were nearly double neighboring states.
    While it’s too soon to
  • NRB micro-managing Vilas deer herd?
    DESPITE all the work done by county deer committees and biologists with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to set antlerless tag numbers for this fall, a citizen-run oversight board decided to cut the numbers.
    It makes little sense for the
  • Time to get the bird dog, shooting eye ready
    AS THE last full month of summer arrives and overnight lows begin to drop, it’s time to start getting the bird dogs in shape and the dust out of that shooting eye.
    The fall hunting seasons are
  • Find tranquility, escape to a trout stream
    IT WAS shortly after 5 a.m. when the truck made its final approach through the jack pine to one of my favorite places in the world, a quiet trout stream surrounded by national forest.
    Trout country, you see, is
  • It’s been 35 years, over 1,800 columns
    IT’S BEEN 35 straight years of writing an outdoor column in this space, a milestone that couldn’t have occurred without the support of loyal newspaper readers who share a passion for hunting, fishing and the great outdoors.
    Let’s be clear that
  • More focus needed on wildlife habitat
    THE question of the day for public forest managers is why, if creation of wildlife habitat has emerged as such a popular byproduct of logging, that they can’t revise some logging policies to maximize that benefit? 
    It has long been the policy of
  • Don’t overlook shallow weeds in summer
    IF YOU’RE one of those anglers who believes that the only place to find fish on warm summer days is in the deepest parts of your lake, you might want to rethink that.
    Having been at this fishing game for more decades than I care to admit, it
  • 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