In the Outdoors - Vilas County News-Review
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  • Last-minute muzzy deer caps the season
    THE FINAL afternoon of the 10-day muzzleloader season found the scribbler sitting on a trifold chair within the branches of a big balsam tree, my last chance at a buck with the gun.
    It’s been a tough season as the bucks seem to be extremely nocturnal and there’s been no sign of daytime rutting activity near the stands I’ve
  • Endangered grouse: warning on lost habitat
    SAY what you want about the downward slide in ruffed grouse hunting compared to the glory years, Wisconsin’s North Woods still ranks among the top regions in the country for chasing this elusive game bird.
    That thought came to mind the other day as I read about a proposal to list the ruffed grouse as an endangered species in
  • Our final shot at reasonable wolf control?
    IT APPEARS that the U.S. Congress has one shot in the next month at passing legislation that would give states management authority over gray wolves.
    Still controlled by Republicans until the first of the year, the House of Representatives passed the
  • Snow, lack of rut equates to slow opener
    FALLING snow and a lack of rutting activity in the snowbelt of northern Vilas County subdued deer movement on opening day last Saturday, making it a tough opener in the state forest.
    How tough was it? I heard only a half-dozen shots before 8 a.m. and
  • Shed, trophy buck add to prehunt fever
    THEY say you can’t shoot a monster buck if one does not exist in the area you are hunting, the point being that scouting and flexibility are essential for people who seek out trophy deer.
    I’ve never been an aggressive trophy nut in my hunting or fishing, choosing instead to let fate decide when I might get lucky enough to catch that
  • Native nonresidents deserve break on fees?
    HAVE YOU ever wondered why the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t treat our native sons and daughters a little better when they leave Wisconsin for a career, but still want to hunt and fish here?
    When it comes to fishing and hunting licenses, the only categories are resident and
  • Late fall was meant for chasing roosters
    WE LET the dog loose and turned our faces into a light breeze, ever anxious for the first rooster pheasant to bust from cover, cackling for all it’s worth.
    It’s on the cooler days of late October that hunters across the country get the urge to chase ringnecks, the king of upland game birds.
    Despite their nonnative history, pheasants fit perfectly into 
  • Unexpected glory from the grouse woods
    IF YOU said there was a chance I’d shoot a limit of grouse on a two-hour walk after work one night this month, the response would have included something about a doctor’s visit and a head examination.
    Grouse flushes have been hard to come by this fall after a crash in the population last year sent spring drumming counts to a
  • Deer debate: will rampant cheating return?
    WE WERE sitting around the campfire the other night, talking about the state’s brilliant new deer tagging and registration system, when the tone turned to downright cynical.
    Jackpine went on a little bit of a rage, talking about
  • Modern maps, apps point to best habitat
    THE DAYS of striking off into a public forest and walking miles just to locate pockets of aspen and other potentially good upland bird cover are quickly ending, for technology is about to revolutionize how we scout.
    Hunters are now honing in on the best locations long before they hit the woods, thanks to
  • A tree stand, a doe, a hunt to remember
    I CRAWLED into a tree stand at 6:15 a.m. last Saturday on the first hard-frost morning of the fall season, hopeful that deer would have fed heavily and might be filtering through the hardwoods after daylight with a late return to their favorite bedding area.
    As many northern hunters do these days, the scribbler had trekked to 
  • No better place to honor hunters, anglers
    IF YOU set your sights on finding the best places in America to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day, this unique area of northern Wisconsin would be among the top choices.
    That was on my mind last Saturday walking across a Pennsylvania pheasant field with son Brian as we snuck in a hunting trip on a visit to
  • In pursuit of birds: it’s all about the dog
    AS WE embarked on yet another grouse opener last Saturday morning, the scribbler walking trails with Gracie out in front, it didn’t take long to rekindle exactly why this sport is all about the dog.
    We were walking an old snowmobile trail corridor through some pretty young aspen when
  • Anyone can join DU’s wetlands legacy
    DID YOU ever wonder why there’s an army of volunteers in this country, more than 50,000 strong, who donate countless hours as chapter committee members for Ducks Unlimited?
    As a former committee member, the scribbler can testify to the fact that it’s not just
  • Like hunters, trappers are conservationists
    THE FLAP over whether the Wisconsin Trappers Association should be allowed to promote their cause at Forest Fest in Eagle River is nothing new, for there will always be people who
  • Rule may kill deer hunt faster than CWD
    FOR the first time in the history of Wisconsin deer hunting, most hunters will no longer be able to cross county lines with a deer they’ve harvested under a new state regulation.
    Claiming it wants to prevent deer carcasses from high-density chronic wasting disease counties in southern Wisconsin from moving northward, the
  • RGS leads fight for young forest habitat
    THE mission to engage more hunters in the future of their sport to help promote the creation of healthy forest habitat is gaining serious ground thanks to the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS).
    Membership in this conservation organization jumped
  • Tranquil trout streams: a cure for stress
    I FLIPPED a chunk of crawler toward the undercut bank and let the current do its thing, naturally, as the line peeled off the spinning reel until the bait reached its destination.
    The scribbler was working a deep hole on a sharp corner of 
  • Wolf issue proves need for Act’s revision
    THEY SAY the pendulum of power swings easier in the opposite direction when one group abuses the system, and that is exactly what is happening with proposed modifications to the Endangered Species Act.
    The Trump Administration, lawmakers and lobbyists have joined forces to overhaul that 45-year-old law because it has been misused in a variety of ways.
    More than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have been recently introduced or voted on in Congress. It’s only fair that each one be
  • Mysterious grouse plunge gets attention
    THERE is so much debate going over the mysterious drop in adult ruffed grouse numbers that the citizen-run Natural Resources Board (NRB) wants to close the grouse season early this year.
    At issue is an unexpected 34% decline in spring drumming counts this year despite a 30% increase the previous year, which records going back to 1964 indicate has never happened when the population is growing and headed toward the next peak in the 10-year population cycle.
    The board has instructed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to formulate an emergency rule that would close the Northern Zone grouse season on
  • Overcast skies perfectly timed for the kids
    SCORCHING temps this summer have caused water temperatures to exceed 80 degrees, pushing a lot of panfish out of the shallows and into deeper water.
    That was going to make finding fish a little more challenging for Kids Fishing Day in Eagle River, the scribbler surmised as he scouted several lakes prior to the July 12 event.
    But just before that special day arrived, there was a cooler night and some rain as clouds finally returned after about 10 days of hot, bluebird weather. It was great timing for
  • An ode to Dad: veteran, athlete, mentor
    THE MAN who taught the scribbler about fishing, hunting, camping, waterskiing, golf, newspapering, faith and life in general breathed his last July 12. My dad died last week, at age 89.
    Many have seen the face of Leland H. “Korny” Krueger on these pages in recent years because we had a decade-long stretch where he would give up chasing the little white ball for a couple of days each year to fish in the North Woods.
    And without fail, we caught up, we caught fish and we reminisced about the good old days when a family of six spent countless weekends every summer fishing and boating in Three Lakes or Boulder Junction while growing up in
  • 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 the unexpected things that occurred.
    For instance, I can’t explain why on one Monday night in early June a pair of common loons with two newborn chicks decided, after an hour of distant encounters, that a long white boat with a human aboard was
  • UNIQUE is the right word to describe the Three Lakes Fish & Wildlife Improvement Association, one of the few truly local nonprofit conservation organizations in Wisconsin.
    Few would guess that a community with a little more than 2,000 residents could support a full-fledged nonprofit that raises tens of thousands of dollars each year in the name of conservation, youth education, habitat work and the enhancement of facilities used by hunters and anglers.
    It’s one of the only community groups to be part of a conservation story series that Wisconsin Outdoors magazine published a few years back, because there are not many
  • Gathering wild things: a Wisconsin legacy
    WE WERE watching bobbers dance in the ripples of an east wind, attempting to suspend sucker minnows over thick, deep weeds where the northern pike like to lurk in June.
    It was bluebird weather with sunny skies and not very much wind, so jerk baits and swim jigs would have been ineffective compared to the teasing nature of a live, wounded-looking minnow.
    Live bait is always the answer when conditions aren’t favorable, especially if you are chasing minnow-loving crappies or aggressive northern pike that prefer a
  • Surveys confirm mysterious grouse plunge
    GROUSE drumming activity in the northern forest region dropped this spring to its lowest level since 2005, confirming last fall’s dismal hunting reports while puzzling wildlife biologists who had been tracking a population climb toward the next peak in the cycle.
    Spring surveys on 43 established northern transects produced only 1.28 drums per stop, a 38% decline from last year and the lowest level recorded in the past 13 years.
    The mysterious drop in adult ruffed grouse came after an encouraging spring of 2017, when drumming counts were up 30% over the previous year following a productive spring hatch and
  • Know what’s in the lakes you’re leaving
    THEY say variety is the spice of life, and so it is for anglers in early June when there are so many choices on what species to chase and what lakes to fish.
    The harvest seasons will be open for every species when the bass catch-and-keep season opens this Saturday, June 16, adding another choice to the lake mix with walleyes, muskies, northern pike and panfish.
    We’ve got a rich history of sport fishing in the Badger State, and the angling community has never been more mobile than it is today. The modern equipment of the information age makes it
  • Lowly turtles need break from motorists
    SEATED at a local bar and grill the other night, a fellow patron was entirely bent out of shape while looking at photos of a huge snapping turtle that was crushed and killed by a vehicle on a rural road near his house.
    “Don’t people realize that some of these freshwater monsters might be 100 years old?” he quipped in an angry voice. “What are they thinking? They’re not!”
    While accidents of all kinds do happen on Wisconsin’s roadways, it’s pretty hard to miss seeing a 40-pound snapping turtle on a rural road in broad
  • Nothing like jigging walleyes in the weeds
    WE WERE trying to explain how to detect the difference between a weed and a walleye while working a jig and minnow combination when suddenly, out of nowhere, our guest set the hook.
    It was an early-morning outing on the Three Lakes Chain, on a weekday, and we pretty much had the lakes to ourselves prior to the big holiday weekend.
    It was a fishing trip with the girls again, this time daughter Melissa and daughter-in-law Jalonna, so there was no big surprise that one of them came up with the first hook-set of the morning.
    But Jalonna doesn’t fish that often so

    MY QUEST to get more than still shots of a male ruffed grouse on his favorite drumming log, during spring breeding season, has been fulfilled.

    I love those nature photos of a fanned grouse at his best, don’t get me wrong, but they just don’t show enough to our readers about the exact manner in which the drumming sound is created.

    People have told me they beat their wings together. They’ve said they pound their wings on their chest to make that drumming sound. It appears that neither is correct.

    They make a percussion sound by

  • Crossbow gobbler steals the spring show
    IT WAS a long sneak to the top of the ridge, using gullys and depressions to hide my frame, but there were no turkeys to be found in that favorite strutting area upon arrival.
    The good news was that I didn’t spook anything along the way, which meant there could be a chance for success if a gobbler returned to his ridgetop playground.
    Some light calls from the slate produced no gobbles from close-by birds, so I lit the place up with a series of aggressive clucks, purrs and yelps. Spring turkey
  • World’s ‘best guide’ got out-fished, again
    THE ANCHOR had barely reached the bottom of the Wisconsin River before my fishing partner announced “fish on,” and a scramble ensued to free the net from a tackle box and bench seat in the old 14-foot Alumacraft — at one time, the staple of the fishing industry.
    Wife Alice had fired a cast downstream as I was still maneuvering the boat into position in the current, anxious for that first walleye to grab a jig and minnow that was suspended under a slip bobber. And her luck, on the first cast, pretty much told the story of how that outing would go.
    Moments later, I slid the net under a fat 16-inch walleye, a male fish that was squirting “milk” all over the boat, part of its annual spawning run. And we were on the board with a
  • Solid ice in late April — good and bad
    IT WAS hard to believe last Sunday morning that just six days before the open water fishing season officially opens, the scribbler was standing on 27 inches of ice catching crappies.
    And that was on the dark waters of the Three Lakes Chain, pretty much the second type of lake to thaw behind the really shallow waterbodies.
    The ice would be thicker and will last longer on those deep, clear lakes, which include North Twin, Trout, Lake Tomahawk, Butternut, Big Arbor Vitae and probably Big St. Germain.
    That list of lakes is probably where
  • Warblers: young forest conservation at work
    RECENT publicity from the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) about the importance of young forest habitat has mentioned the endangered Kirtland’s warbler as an example of a nongame species that is helped by vegetative management, i.e., logging.
    For the record, the organization’s use of several warbler species to argue for more active timber management in Wisconsin has integrity not found in the cries of wilderness proponents who used wolves, pileated woodpeckers and scarlet tanagers to argue their cause — with laughable results.
    Last week, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that after years of intensive habitat management involving young forest types, the Kirtland’s warbler was
  • Big Fork Lake: factory for little walleyes
    Tuesday, April 17, 2018 1:18 PM
    IF YOU’VE ever wondered why it is difficult to catch anything but a cigar-sized walleye on the Three Lakes Chain, there is an easy explanation.
    Natural reproduction is virtually off the charts on this stained waterbody, and when you combine that with slow growth rates, you end up with a ton of little walleyes.
    Part of the problem with growth rates is that there are just too many walleyes competing for the same food supplies, which is why the average walleye takes five years to reach 13 inches.
    So not only do small walleyes dominate the fishery, but
  • War on muskies raging in Minnesota
    Tuesday, April 10, 2018 11:06 AM
    THE age-old question of how a big predator fish such as the muskie impacts other species, including walleyes, crappies and other panfish, has developed into quite the battle in Minnesota.
    Headlines in some major newspapers there indicate that the Minnesota Legislature has declared war on muskies, introducing a bill that would blow up the long-range muskie management plan of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
    While the bill isn’t going anywhere fast and has lots of opposition from key legislators, its introduction is a sign of growing discontent from those who cherish the
  • Spring hearings: your best chance for input
    Tuesday, April 3, 2018 11:23 AM
    SOME wide-ranging, serious advisory questions on dozens of topics that might make their way to proposed rule changes in coming years are on the ballot in every county next Monday, April 9, at the annual spring fish and game hearings.
    The big ones come from the citizen-run Natural Resources Board, which wants to know if sportsmen and -women favor eliminating group deer hunting and shortening the length of the crossbow deer season for able-bodied, nonelderly hunters.
    The board is also trying to drum up public support for a $5 annual fee for all users of state fishery, wildlife, natural areas and leased public hunting grounds, which could raise more than
  • Another fishing adventure to remember
    Tuesday, March 27, 2018 11:32 AM
    WE WERE looking over a small spread of tip-downs when one of the rod tips popped, sending the line, bobber and tip slowly toward the icy hole below.
    My fishing partner was all over that bite, setting the hook with reckless abandon and hauling in a beauty of a crappie, all 11 inches of it.
    We were suspending small minnows under bobbers in deep water that’s adjacent to a rock bar when the bite occurred. That’s where anglers find those golden-sided crappies in late winter.
    What has been a challenging winter for finding a consistent panfish bite took a turn for the better last Friday as a good friend arrived for a weekend of serious
  • Bear quota signals stabilized numbers
    Tuesday, March 20, 2018 11:58 AM
    THE BEAR capital of the United States is suddenly setting a lower kill quota and is adjusting permit numbers to reflect lower hunter success rates, a sign that the population has finally stabilized.
    Wisconsin issued 12,800 permits and had a harvest quota of 5,000 bear in 2017, yet hunters killed only 4,159 animals. That’s a surprise considering that estimates still show we’ve got just shy of 30,000 bears in the Badger State.
    Though wildlife managers didn’t get the harvest they were hoping for, the Natural Resources Board responded with a lower harvest quota this year, dropping it to
  • DNR eyeing another statewide bass rule
    Tuesday, March 13, 2018 11:02 AM
    IN A YEAR when there are virtually no significant rule changes that will be voted on at the spring fish and game hearings, there are still some advisory questions that deserve public scrutiny.
    Fisheries managers with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are asking two bass-related questions that could form the basis of future rule changes.
    The first is whether anglers favor establishing a statewide, continuous open season for bass fishing but
  • Public land use annual fee being floated
    Tuesday, March 6, 2018 12:07 PM
    THE Natural Resources Board (NRB) is wondering whether state anglers and hunters would support a new $5 annual fee, a proposed permanent funding source for management of state public lands.
    It’s being floated as an advisory question at the spring fish and game hearings, scheduled in every Wisconsin county on Monday, April 9.
    While the nuts and bolts of the fee system are just as unknown as where the new revenue would be spent, the board claims the statewide automated licensing system could easily accommodate the new tax.
    Hunters, anglers and trappers are the
  • Group hunting, crossbows on the ballot
    Tuesday, February 27, 2018 11:29 AM
    THE Natural Resources Board is presenting two deer-related advisory questions on this year’s spring fish and game questionnaire, and there’s little doubt that both will be controversial.
    The first is whether sportsmen and -women in Wisconsin favor eliminating the group deer hunting law that’s been in place for decades, allowing gun-deer hunters to fill another person’s tag as long as they are in direct visual or audio contact.
    The second is whether hunters support shortening the length of the crossbow season for able-bodied, non-elderly hunters so that the success rate on bucks will decline — more in line with harvest rates for gun and
  • Wind wasn’t stopping this crappie duo
    Tuesday, February 20, 2018 11:54 AM
    THE WIND was howling with gusts up to 25 miles per hour as we set up the ice fishing tent on a Sunday afternoon, not to be denied an outing with today’s very portable, high-tech shelters.
    There wasn’t a soul on this particular lake, a very popular ice fishing lake for panfish, which should have told us that the wind forecast was a lot stronger than what we experienced in the driveway while packing the truck. Or maybe the fish weren’t biting.
    It was a rare window of opportunity for the scribbler and daughter, Melissa, to try for some winter crappies, which we haven’t chased together in years and
  • Latest wetlands bill is bad for Wisconsin
    Tuesday, February 13, 2018 3:28 PM
    WE’VE all seen or heard stories about some isolated instances where the state deemed some piece of land or part of a lot to be wetlands, causing headaches for property owners.
    In 2001, Wisconsin rushed into action after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and became the first state to approve protections for a class of land known as isolated wetlands — potholes, woodland depressions and lowlands that do not connect to interstate waterways.
    There have been some hardships caused by the national battle cry to protect wetlands wherever and whenever possible, no doubt about it. Any time you draw a line in the sand, passing 
  • Some snail mail is really worth getting
    Tuesday, February 6, 2018 11:22 AM
    THOUGH it’s the age of text alerts and emails that come to your cell phone, there is still some snail mail out there that’s worth waiting for with great anticipation.
    A few days have passed since the scribbler stumbled across a little yellow card in a stack of catalogs and junk mail, most of which were solicitations from credit card companies and premium television carriers.
    It brought a smile to my face long before I could get focused on small lettering that requires aging eyes to grab cheaters, for it could be nothing other than a
  • Need more study on ‘the people’s fish’
    Tuesday, January 30, 2018 11:28 AM
    THE maligned yet popular northern pike gets no respect, though it has saved many a slow fishing day and continues to be one of the best-eating fish in Wisconsin waters.
    They call its cousin the muskie the king of freshwater. Even the muskie/northern hybrid gets a rather cool name, the tiger muskie. 
    So what glorious name do we give to the aggressive, hard-fighting northern pike? Snake! Slimer! Hammer handle! Which is why outdoor writer Dave Otto once called pike the “Rodney Dangerfield of the weedbed.”
    Just go onto the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website and
  • Deer hunters turn to food plots, gardens
    Tuesday, January 23, 2018 11:32 AM
    THE STATE of the deer herd and deer hunting in Vilas, Oneida and Forest counties is a complex and often frustrating topic these days, especially since feeding and baiting were banned in response to diseased deer at a Three Lakes game farm.
    While there is no doubt that mild winters and buck-only seasons have helped the deer herd recover, hunter satisfaction doesn’t seem to be keeping pace.
    The talk in most hunting circles I’ve been party to is far from upbeat, focused mostly on a lack of decent-sized bucks along with plenty of frustration over failed attempts to pattern deer or to get them in archery range without the use of bait.
    Most surprising is the number of hunters who tell me they
  • Educating tomorrow’s conservationists
    Tuesday, January 16, 2018 11:11 AM
    WHEN IT comes to the great outdoors and all the natural resources that play into the equation, the importance of conservation really begins to hit home.
    The challenge is properly educating new generations that will carry the torch forward in the years to come, equipping them to strike that all-important balance between economic health and environmental stewardship.
    We’ve seen some eye-opening advances in sustainable forestry, waterfront stewardship, wildlife habitat improvement, reintroduction of endangered species, recycling of all kinds and general education regarding human impacts on the planet. More lies ahead.
    But too many of today’s youth live in
  • Stay active, get outdoors to enjoy winter
    Tuesday, January 9, 2018 11:48 AM
    GOD must work in mysterious ways because it always amazes me, during a cold spell such as the one we’ve had since Christmas, that people talk about how it is the coldest stretch they can remember.
    Of course it wasn’t even close to being our coldest weather, but isn’t it great that the human mind can just eliminate or subdue what might be bad memories of nasty weather, cabin fever and possibly, the urge to move to a warmer climate?
    It’s not my intention to stir up the bad, but in my years I’ve seen Decembers filled with below-zero weather and at least one January where the mercury stayed below zero, day and night, for
  • Bill would dump wolf management on feds
    Tuesday, January 2, 2018 11:54 AM
    SOME Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature are proposing that the state play hardball with the federal government to win concessions on wolf management, a move similar to what Idaho did in 2011.
    In a nutshell, the proposed bill would prohibit state law enforcement from enforcing any federal or state laws related to managing the state’s wolf population.
    Additionally, it would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from using any funds for the purpose of managing wolves in Wisconsin.
    My first thought after reading the press release sent out by the four legislators who authored the bill was
  • Spotty grouse numbers, but great hunting
    Tuesday, December 26, 2017 12:22 PM
    NOW that the ruffed grouse season is winding down for all practical purposes, it’s time to clean some guns, rest a tired dog, and reflect on what we saw and learned on dozens of outings.
    It will be extremely interesting to see what the spring drumming counts show us about the grouse population in the months ahead, following what might be the worst bird season in more than a decade.
    I’ve had calls and conversations with avid grouse hunters from all over the North Woods, and the focus of those talks has been on how unbelievably dismal the bird numbers are
  • Deer tags, wolves, dumping on ‘wish list’
    Tuesday, December 19, 2017 12:07 PM
    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 miracles and as we celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever known, it can’t hurt to ponder how we might help improve the future of Wisconsin’s outdoor traditions.
    We’ve got more than our share of turmoil these days over wolf management, deer baiting, deer tags for toddlers, deteriorating water quality, unfriendly fishing regulations, lack of
  • Tuesday, December 12, 2017 11:20 AM
    IF YOU thought there might come a time when eagle populations in lake-rich Vilas and Oneida counties would max out and stop growing, you should be nominated for a national honor.
    I really didn’t think that was possible until the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported this fall that habitat-rich Oneida County may have reached its biological carrying capacity for the big raptors, as the population remained stagnant despite record growth elsewhere.
    Longtime bald eagle surveyor Ron Eckstein, a retired DNR wildlife biologist in Rhinelander, said that for the very first time since detailed aerial surveys began in
  • A muzzleloader, a buck make the season
    Tuesday, December 5, 2017 11:38 AM
    IT WAS 4:10 p.m. on the final day of the gun deer season, the holiday weekend visitors headed back home, that I got one last brief walk in the deer woods before the traditional nine-day hunt ended.
    The weather was a little too calm and sunny for much hope in the way of pre-darkness deer movement, but having seen zero deer in the national forest on opening weekend, the hope was to just see a deer.
    And wouldn’t you know it, crossing a large clearing, my eyes came upon a stump in the woods ahead that looked mighty peculiar. I threw gun to shoulder and the scope showed a spike-horn feeding with its head down, basically standing
  • Deer harvest, registration is ripe for abuse
    Tuesday, November 28, 2017 10:38 AM
    WHEN I came to the North Woods some 40 years ago, as a young journalist and sports writer, biologists and wardens with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were extremely concerned about deer poaching and how it was impacting herd growth.
    The problem was so severe that some biologists believed that as much as one-third of the annual deer harvest could be attributable to poaching. Helpless to do anything about it, that’s when the fines were increased to more than $2,000 along with revocation of privileges.
    It didn’t take many years with those outrageously high fines to curb poaching and to see the results — a growing deer herd that began to produce some near-record
  • Celebrating the tradition of deer camp
    Tuesday, November 21, 2017 11:21 AM
    THE 2017 gun deer season opened last Saturday with a dusting of snow but less than ideal weather that included rain and a lack of crunch on the forest floor.
    The scribbler took a chance on the Twin Cities of Alvin/Nelma fame, hunting hardwoods in the national forest with the hope that there would be some rutting activity on the ridges.
    Apparently my scouting skills have slipped because I never saw a live deer between 6:30 a.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday, which is a tough and unimpressive way to
  • Let’s keep winning on hunting safety
    Tuesday, November 14, 2017 2:31 PM
    MUCH has been taught, written about and heavily marketed in recent decades on hunting safety, and the world should know that without a doubt, it is helping make our woods and fields safer.
    It is worth celebrating that Wisconsin’s hunter safety program and every spinoff project has resulted in making the sport of hunting one of the safest sports in the state.
    Most of us never imagined that in a year such as 2016, when nearly 600,000 deer hunters hit the woods on opening weekend of the annual nine-day gun deer season, that there would be just
  • Pheasants worth chasing close to home
    Tuesday, November 7, 2017 12:23 PM
    THE BEAUTY of game farm pheasant hunting is that spur-of-the-moment opportunity to sneak in a quick hunt, and so it was last Friday on what was pretty much the only dry, snow-free day of the week.
    Son Steve has been crazy busy this fall with work, kids and the construction of a new home in Minnesota, but he’s been trying to get out grouse or pheasant hunting for weeks.
    The tradition of these annual father/son hunts runs mighty strong, not to mention his
  • A magical moment in the grouse woods
    Tuesday, October 31, 2017 11:19 AM
    THERE are no world championship trap or sporting clays trophies in my future, but like most avid hunters, there’s always that chance for brief moments of shooting brilliance.
    Those of us who hunt basically live for those incredible moments when the sun and moon and stars align, and at the right place and time, we pull off a shot or two that are totally uncharacteristic.
    I’ve got one of those stories today, a story that defies the unwritten rules of outdoor writing, which pretty much tell writers to
  • Old hunting buddies are friends for life
    Tuesday, October 24, 2017 3:22 PM
    PEOPLE who share time in the great outdoors can develop a bond for life, even if the partnership gets sidetracked for say something like 40 years.
    I got a call a few months back from Steve Niemuth, a Marion native who’s been working oil rigs as a safety expert for most of his years since graduating from UW-Madison.
    We had spent virtually every weekend in the fall of 1977 in the grouse woods of central Wisconsin chasing birds, back in the day when populations were still strong because property owners weren’t solely focused on veneer-quality hardwoods. Young forest habitat, including
  • Wolf self-regulation is beyond reason
    Tuesday, October 17, 2017 11:15 AM
    THANK God I don’t have a big emotional hang-up over gray wolves and what some people believe is the wolf’s right to exist without control or regulation.
    If I did, you would be reading crap such as this from me: “Deal with the environment as it was meant to, as a self-regulating source of life’s processes.”
    That was an online comment on a daily newspaper website arguing against the permanent wolf delisting bill introduced earlier this year by U.S. Senators Ron Johnson, a Republican, and Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat.
    Self-regulating? The environment first stopped doing that about the time Christopher Columbus set foot in a new world. The desire of Europeans to farm and develop and conquer changed
  • We don’t hear much on CWD containment
    Tuesday, October 10, 2017 12:36 PM
    IN LIGHT of last week’s announcement that the state is ramping up chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance efforts in Oneida, Forest and Vilas counties, you have to wonder if we know the whole story.
    It seems a little crazy that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is doing all this testing on the wild deer herd when the problem should be confined to a game farm, a shooting preserve, in the town of Three Lakes.
    Did some deer escape the fenced preserve? Did a tree go down over the fence in a recent storm? Is there something else about the integrity of the containment system we 
  • Cool evening for first tree-stand adventure
    Tuesday, October 3, 2017 12:12 PM
    I WAS walking down a logging road headed for the first tree-stand adventure of the season when a small doe appeared in the distance, more than two hours before dusk.
    That put the scribbler into more of a sneak than a walk, hoping not to spook the first deer or worse yet, prompt a bunch of cautionary snorting that tells the whole deer world that something’s up.
    A trip to 
  • No better place to honor hunters, anglers
    Tuesday, September 26, 2017 3:21 PM
    IF YOU set your sights on finding the perfect place in America to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day, this unique area of northern Wisconsin would be among the top choices.
    That was on my mind last Saturday as we hit the grouse trails at the crack of dawn, the mercury already at 67 degrees and heading for the mid-80s with high humidity.
    On the last Saturday in September since 1972, we’ve celebrated with pride the fact that hunters and anglers were the earliest and most vocal supporters of conservation and
  • Heat, foliage make opener a tough one
    Tuesday, September 19, 2017 12:29 PM
    GRACIE lit up like a Christmas tree, tail wagging and body bouncing off the trunks of saplings, as we came upon fresh bird scent in a remote stand of aspen and blackberry brush deep in the hardwoods.
    We had walked for many unproductive hours just waiting for that one moment Sunday afternoon, when she took a track off the trail and flushed a grouse that I could barely see through the leaf-covered tops.
    Two quick blasts of 
  • DU’s wetlands legacy can’t be matched
    Tuesday, September 12, 2017 1:13 PM
    WETLAND conservation is crucial for a lot more reasons than what the average hunter cares most about, which is providing habitat to sustain huntable populations of ducks and geese for all time.
    That’s the greater story of the organization that goes by the name Ducks Unlimited (DU), for the 13.9 million acres of marshlands and grasslands it has conserved the past 80 years do so much more.
    Wetlands prevent
  • Stepp’s legacy is putting resources second
    Tuesday, September 5, 2017 3:22 PM
    THE WOMAN who became the front-running puppet in Gov. Scott Walker’s mission to dismantle and weaken the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Secretary Cathy Stepp, is calling it quits.
    She won’t be missed.
    Headed for a federal job with
  • Summer casting can be fun, productive
    Tuesday, August 29, 2017 2:49 PM
    IT WAS one of those overcast, windy evenings that every angler longs to see on a night when there’s time to fish, and in August that means grabbing the bass equipment and swim jigs.
    Armed with a 7-foot graphite rod and bait-cast reel loaded with 15 pound braid, the scribbler hit the water hoping for some action on a night last week.
    I was using a 3/8s ounce weedless swim jig with a black and blue skirt, tipped off with six-inch black grub that’s big enough for muskie baits. And of course, a steel leader, because those toothy northerns can cut everything else.
    The fishing was done in
  • RGS leads fight for young forest habitat
    Tuesday, August 22, 2017 11:01 AM
    WE’RE less than a month away from the start of the fall hunting season, so it’s a good time to think about what it might take to ensure we never miss out on the hope and anticipation of trudging through forests filled with birds.
    Late August is a time of transition, in both the weather and in the minds of hunters. Cooler nights. Shorter days. There’s a longing for autumn woods and flushing birds that is undeniable.
    But don’t take for granted that
  • Federal courts undermining wolf support
    Tuesday, August 15, 2017 2:42 PM
    NOBODY ever explained that reintroduction of the gray wolf would be a federally orchestrated nightmare for Wisconsin, or ranchers, hunters and pet owners would never have sanctioned the move.
    If they told us then what a federal appeals court ruled last week, that the Badger State’s efforts would mean nothing until seven other states got fully on board with the same effort, we would have laughed.
    But guess what. The joke is 
  • Nothing like that first trip to trout country
    Tuesday, August 8, 2017 9:57 AM
    WE WERE floating crawler chunks into corners and undercut banks on an overcast morning last week, as the scribbler attempted  to teach the art and skills of trout fishing to a rookie.
    Scott McCain of Three Lakes, the official winemaker at Three Lakes Winery, was proficient with rod and reel but hadn’t ever tried his hand at stream trout angling.
    Intrigued by years of trout adventure columns in this space, McCain said
  • Gotta love those feisty summer crappies
    Tuesday, August 1, 2017 10:53 AM
    WE WERE fishing deep wood with minnows and slip bobbers on a night that was way too calm, but it was a nice evening to spend on the water with a couple of youngsters from Oregon.
    My nephew Trevor and his buddy Ethan made the 1,700-mile journey with family members, and fishing was one of the recreational pursuits that were high on the priority list.
    They were staying on 
  • Mentors: a big plus for would-be grousers
    Tuesday, July 25, 2017 2:29 PM
    AIMING for the same results of a national push to introduce more people to the sport of hunting, the local chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) will offer a free New Hunter Mentor Program next month.
    The Chain O’ Lakes Chapter of this well-known conservation group is going to teach gun safety, marksmanship, dog handling, habitat awareness and field skills during two half-day sessions Aug. 19-20 in Three Lakes.
    The finale will be
  • It was an outing, a reunion, to remember
    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 9:45 AM
    WE WERE working some shoreline weeds with small minnows under pencil bobbers, hoping to catch a crappie or two before hitting deeper water, and two bobbers dropped at the same time.
    The fight was on and it turned out to be a double for my partners, who quickly rebaited and fired casts back toward the same pier. And both bobbers dropped again. Fish on.
    I truly?believe there’s 
  • Drumming up, production questionable
    Tuesday, July 11, 2017 11:06 AM
    THE GOOD news is that the state’s spring drumming survey for ruffed grouse shows a 30% increase in drums per stop in the 18-county Northern Region.
    The bad news is that the swing back toward a peak in the population cycle might stall for a year after a cold, wet spring — the kind of weather that can significantly impact nesting and brood rearing success.
    Of course it’s too early to 
  • Monday, July 3, 2017 1:41 PM
    DID YOU ever notice that some people drive with blinders on, paying little attention to their surroundings and focusing almost totally on the road, while others are constantly waving and beeping at friends?
    I’m not sure if that first group is too busy thinking to look around or too nervous to have their eyes leave the roadway, but I cannot relate to that group. My wife doesn’t affectionately call me a rubberneck without
  • Fishing trips are special in God’s Country
    Tuesday, June 27, 2017 3:16 PM
    ANGLERS usually have a number of favorite fishing spots to pick from depending on what species and what time of year, but sometimes there’s more to it than how many fish you catch.
    I’ve noticed lately that my truck seems to like driving east into the national forest, because for some reason, that feels more like home than anywhere else.
    Maybe it’s because the scribbler grouse hunts and
  • A great day, a bittersweet day, with Dad
    Tuesday, June 20, 2017 10:11 AM
    WORD that my parents were contemplating a permanent move to Texas messed a bit with my psyche this spring, for it meant that there might be just one opportunity left to fish here with my dad.
    Readers of this column know we get but one fishing adventure a year, for the man who taught me how to fish is aging and he’s generally too busy chasing around a little white ball.
    At age 88, the stamina
  • Gathering wild things: a Wisconsin legacy
    Tuesday, June 13, 2017 1:46 PM
    AS I was deep-frying crappie, northern pike and walleye last Friday night as a treat on setup night for a fundraiser, the favorable comments from fellow volunteers reaffirmed one of the reasons for my fishing passions.
    The gang from Three Lakes Fish & Wildlife Improvement Association was preparing for its annual Wild Game Feed, and it’s only fitting that the workers would be fed with something truly wild.
    Wisconsin law prevents us from
  • Those lowly turtles are getting more help
    Tuesday, June 6, 2017 11:57 AM
    IT WILL be days, not weeks, before the first turtles appear on area roadways as they trek toward their favorite sand and gravel areas to lay eggs.
    Those days are a grand event for turtle reproduction and long-term survival, but they can be a life and death situation for many that cross highways and roads to reach their egg-laying grounds.
    The good news this year is that
  • Teaching kids to fish with no regrets
    Tuesday, May 30, 2017 11:46 AM
    IF YOU teach your kids how to fish in the right way, keeping it fun and slowly planting the seed of fishing fever within them, the benefits will be many for all involved, and for many decades to come.
    That’s my conclusion after another
  • Know what’s in the lakes you jump from
    Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11:41 AM
    THEY say variety is the spice of life, and so it is for many anglers who want to chase different species in a given day, and not always on the same lake.
    We’ve got a rich history of sport fishing in the Badger State, and the angling community has never been more mobile than it is today. The modern equipment of the information age makes it easier to study lakes thoroughly, long before you arrive.
    Add to that better 
  • Hooked on fishing takes on new meaning
    Tuesday, May 16, 2017 11:03 AM
    THE GOOD news is that today’s small jerk baits for bass and walleye come with some incredibly tough treble hooks that are plated in black nickel and sharpened with absolute precision, a nightmare for any fish that strikes.
    The bad news is that 
  • Worst possible cold front, tough opener
    Tuesday, May 9, 2017 11:54 AM
    THE WORST type of cold front known to the world of fishing hit the North Woods last Friday night, and it messed with anglers in a big way on opening weekend of the walleye season.
    How bad was it?
    Some very talented, die-hard walleye chasers reported that
  • Drumming grouse: one of nature’s treasures
    Tuesday, May 2, 2017 11:31 AM
    THERE was very little light in the eastern sky as I left the truck, camera equipment in hand, headed for a tent in the aspen where the drumming log of an active male ruffed grouse had been located.
    The old moss-covered log was about 15 minutes down a logging road and then a skid trail. I walked quietly up to the tent and was reaching for the zipper, in the darkness, when the
  • Things happen fast in the turkey woods
    Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:27 AM
    WHAT began as a quiet morning in the turkey woods transformed into craziness as four hens fed their way through old corn in a nearby field, just off the wooded acreage the scribbler was hunting on opening day last Wednesday.
    It was disappointing that the toms I had seen with them an hour earlier were nowhere to be seen. The hope was they would drag them along in my direction. So it was time to put a 
  • It’s time for that first outing on open water
    Tuesday, April 18, 2017 3:32 PM
    THERE is something truly glorious about that first open-water experience of the season, that maiden voyage to test the motor, batteries and other equipment in your boat.
    It was just over a week ago, on the 
  • ATV/UTV use on state properties possible
    Tuesday, April 11, 2017 11:50 AM
    DEPENDING on your point of view regarding all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use on state forest properties, it is either a blessing or a curse that the state is initiating a new Recreation Opportunities Analysis.
    The process will help the 
  • Spring hearings: your best chance for input
    Tuesday, April 4, 2017 10:58 AM
    PROPOSED fish and game rule changes that include more liberal motor trolling rules and increasing the muskie size limit to 50 inches on more lakes are among dozens of topics that will be up for a vote next Monday, April 10, at spring fish and game hearings in every county.
    In response to
  • Gag order: bad news for resource protection
    Tuesday, March 28, 2017 11:28 AM
    THE STATE that once led the nation in conservation, wildlife ecology and natural resource protection has undergone some enormous changes in recent years, and not in a good way.
    A battle cry for
  • Dogs: companionship, loyalty like no other
    Tuesday, March 21, 2017 11:24 AM
    BARGING through the basement door from the garage, in a hurry to grab some clothing and hit the ice for a late afternoon outing on the lake, my black Lab got a little excited.
    Apparently my rushed movements were a lot like
  • Hurrah to the serious fishing weekends
    Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:14 AM
    THE fishing adventure didn’t begin so well last Saturday morning when below-zero wind chills kept the four-wheeler from running, made for challenging moments in securing the tent, and froze up the recoil on the auger.
    Those sorts of things are 
  • Tuesday, March 7, 2017 3:18 PM
    IF YOU are passionate about the northern deer herd and how it is being managed these days, let your voice be heard at a future County Deer Advisory Council meeting in your area.
    That directive was 
  • One definition of the perfect outdoor day
    Tuesday, February 28, 2017 12:00 PM
    WHAT many might consider the perfect day, from the viewpoint of an outdoor nut, started well before dawn as the truck was loaded with auger, fishing rods, minnows and other gear.
    Anticipation was high because the weather forecast was ideal, with highs in the 40s, which meant great fishing regardless of whether the catching part came together as well.
    There was
  • Trolling changes, muskie limits on ballot
    Tuesday, February 21, 2017 1:53 PM
    PROPOSED changes to the motor trolling rules and increasing the muskie size limit to 50 inches on Little St. Germain, Trout and North/South Twin lakes will be up for a vote at the spring fish and game hearings this spring.
    With hearings set in every county on Monday, April 10, the entire set of proposed rule changes and advisory questions is now available on the
  • Buck kill rose only 6% in Vilas, Oneida
    Tuesday, February 14, 2017 2:05 PM
    FOR THOSE still trying to wrap their brains around state figures that showed a 30% increase in the gun season buck kill here last November, a total kill number that is much lower might help explain things.
    If you look at the buck kill numbers in 2015 and 2016 in totality, including archery, gun and muzzleloader, you will discover that the increase was more like 6%.
    There were more bucks around for gun-toting 
  • The joy a little yellow postcard can bring
    Tuesday, February 7, 2017 2:23 PM
    FEW THINGS can bring a smile to my face faster on a cold, blustery winter day than discovering a yellow postcard in the mailbox from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
    The sight of that card starts a long, joyous process of planning, studying, strategizing and
  • Northern pike: a favorite target in winter
    Tuesday, January 31, 2017 1:28 PM
    WE WERE set up on the Wisconsin River north of Rhinelander, the tip-ups scattered in various depths with shiner minnows suspended off the bottom, hoping to get into a northern or walleye on a snowy January afternoon.
    It was slow going in the early afternoon hours,
  • Birding: a popular American pastime
    Wednesday, January 25, 2017 2:06 PM
    I’VE never really thought of myself as a birder, thinking that such a label fits those die-hard bird-watchers who hike long distances with binoculars and cameras for the sole purpose of seeing a new species.
    But according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 

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