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  • 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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