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Wisconsin was blanketed by two snow storms in the last week that left anywhere from six inches to more than a foot of snow on the ground, enticing many winter recreational enthusiasts outdoors. Many state parks and forests have begun grooming cross-country ski trails. Some parks update their trail conditions on their current conditions pages of the DNR Web site, but contact the state park or forest office directly for the most current conditions. Snowmobilers are also anxious to hit the trails, but they need to remember that trails are opened on a county by county basis, and riding the trails before they are officially open is trespass. Volunteer trail clubs need time to clear and groom trails before they are opened. Additionally, there is a four-day antlerless only deer hunt that runs from Thursday, Dec. 6 through Sunday, Dec. 9. Some counties and snowmobile clubs are waiting until after this hunt to open snowmobile trails. Snowmobile, cross-country and downhill ski condition information is also available through the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s online Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

This weekend’s antlerless deer hunt is open statewide, and is an excellent opportunity for hunters to help reduce deer populations that are currently above established goals in most of the state as well as to prequalify for any Earn-a-Buck requirements that may be in place in 2008. Deer management units that are on the watch list for possibly being Earn-a-Buck in 2008 can be found in the deer hunting section of the 2007 Wisconsin Fall Hunting Forecast. Hunters can harvest an antlerless deer in Earn-a-Buck and Herd Control deer management units with the free antlerless EAB & Herd Tag they received with their license if they have not already used it, or additional tags for those units are available for $2 at any license vendor. Hunters in regular units may only harvest an antlerless deer with a unit-specific antlerless tag, which are available at $12 each for most regular units, though a few have now sold out. With the antlerless gun season going on through Sunday, skiers, snowshoers, Christmas tree cutters and anyone else venturing out into the outdoors this weekend is encouraged to wear blaze orange or other bright colors.

Some lakes in northern Wisconsin now have as much as six inches of ice, though the larger lakes that just froze over may have areas with just an inch or two of ice, so anglers and others venturing out on frozen lakes need to be extremely cautious. As always, check ice depths regularly as you venture out. Larger lakes in southern Wisconsin are starting to freeze along shorelines, but most remain open at this time. There have been a few early-season ice anglers creeping out onto northern lakes, but their success has been generally low, with only a few nice catches of walleye reported.

Cold temps and snow throughout the state have pushed many of the late migrant waterfowl and other birds out of the state. Small numbers of swans, ducks and geese remain along the Mississippi River. Bald eagles are congregating along the Mississippi and are feeding on the ducks and coots that died-off from trematode infections, which have pretty much stopped now that most waterfowl have migrated. Bohemian waxwings and pine grosbeaks are being seed at being seeing near fruiting trees in northern Wisconsin. Good numbers of northern shrikes are being seen in southern Wisconsin. Longspurs, snow buntings and horned larks have been easy to find with the increased snow cover.

And for those looking for stocking stuffers or holiday gifts for the outdoors lover on their list, 2008 Wisconsin State Park and Forest admission stickers are on sale now at all park and forests offices and DNR service centers.



A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling (608) 266 2277.

A new report is put on the line each week.


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Statewide Birding Report

Cold temps and snow throughout the state have pushed many of the late migrant waterfowl and other birds out of the state. Birders have reported increased activity at bird feeders with the additional ice-covered snow. Remaining areas of open water have good concentrations of gulls, waterfowl and eagles. Northern Wisconsin birders have noted that fruiting trees in and around towns/cities have bohemian waxwings and pine grosbeaks. Other winter finches have been scarce and somewhat local. It is shaping up to be a good northern shrike year with many birders in southern Wisconsin reporting shrikes. The Madison lakes still have remaining tundra swans although most of the birds pulled out when rivers and lakes froze over. Longspurs, snow buntings and horned larks have also been easy to find with the increased snow cover by driving past freshly plowed country roads after a recent snow event. Rare birds sighted in the last week include a snowy owl in Ashland, spruce grouse in Bayfield County, varied thrushes in Door and Ashland counties, white-winged dove and Baltimore orioles in Door county. As always please report sightings to ebird (www.ebird.org/WI) to help better track bird populations across the state.


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NORTHERN REGION


Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - Winter is not officially here yet but the outdoors sure has the look and feel of winter. Over the past week about 17 inches of snow has fallen in Brule, creating a winter wonderland. The Afterhours Ski Trail is up and running with the new snow. The trails have been rolled but the classic track has not been reset (as of 12/05/07) since more snow is forecasted tomorrow. The ski conditions are considered to be good with a 3 inch base. Keep in mind that the antlerless gun season will be going on through December 9th, it would be wise to wear blaze orange or bright colors when out skiing. The snow is good for the hibernating animals as it helps insulate them which helps conserve their energy. Ruffed Grouse are also taking advantage of the snow by snow roosting (going under the snow for warmth). More information about ruffed grouse and how they adapted to surviving Wisconsin winters see [http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/eek/critter/bird/grouse.htm].


Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The cold weather of the past week has thickened the ice cover on local lakes, with most waters now having about 6 inches of ice. However, some of the open-water areas that were present on the larger lakes just froze over this past weekend and may only have 1 or 2 inches of ice. As such, any early season anglers should be extremely cautious when traveling on any waterbody and be especially wary around inlets, outlets, the centers of the larger lakes, and around any moving water. In addition, the 6 to 8 inches of snow the area received has caused some slushy areas and this could further weaken the ice cover. There have been a few early-season ice anglers creeping out onto area lakes and their success has been generally low. A few nice catches of walleye have been reported from the edges of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage, but fish have been hard to come by on most other lakes in the area. Action should improve as the ice thickens and the mid-December period approaches. Walleye anglers should target the mud flats in 6 to 10 feet of water, use medium-size suckers or golden shiners and fish them 6 to 8 inches off the bottom. Northern pike anglers should try to find old weed beds and then hang a large golden shiner near any green weeds that are found.


Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Please remember that even though the lakes have begun their freeze-over, ice thickness is not stable. Ice thickness varies considerably as the last of the larger lakes have just frozen over. Heavy snow this past week is going to make ice conditions worse. Most lakes had just a few inches of ice before the snow arrived. This is going to cause water to seep onto the ice and potentially cause melting to occur or inhibit greater ice formation. Before you venture out onto the lakes, please remember to follow these precautionary measures: Use common sense, test the ice thickness before you travel on it, and use the following guidelines for safe and enjoyable ice fishing. 1) Immediately following freeze-up, ice toward the middle of the lake is thinner than the ice along the shoreline; 2) Beware of lakes covered with snow. Heavy snow cover slows freezing and causes overflow seepage of water on top of the ice; 3) Cloudy ice or ice formed by the freezing of slush and overflow or under windy conditions is weaker than clear ice; 4) Ice thickness is not always an accurate measure of its strength. Clear lake ice is strongest. New ice is stronger than old ice; 5) Beware of areas that attract lots of other people. Continuous travel over the same path will weaken thinner ice; 6) Keep weight spread out; 7) River/flowage ice thickness can vary throughout the winter in different parts of the body of water, according to the strength of the current beneath it, and whether we are having a cold or warm spell; 8) River/flowage ice is 15 percent weaker than lake ice. Some of the snowmobile trails will be opening next week however snow conditions are just beginning to improve. The forecast for this week is cold temperatures and more snow. Snowmobilers need to remember that if you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1985, state law requires that you have a certificate of completion of a snowmobile safety course in order to operate a snowmobile in Wisconsin. If you are looking for a stocking stuffer or another type of Christmas gift, you may want to consider purchasing park stickers, trail passes, stamps or fishing or wildlife licenses. Anglers are reporting some success on walleye activity but with no real patterns to rely on. Reports indicate that fish are being taken at all times of the day and late into the night.


Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Grooming of cross-country ski trails will start next week after the Dec. 6-9 antlerless deer hunt. Crews will be packing the snow that has been received to form a base. Raven trail Red loop will be closed most or all of the season due to logging that should start this month. When the loop is closed it will be signed at the trailhead and at the start of the closed section.

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NORTHEAST REGION


Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Birds are waiting at the feeders for seeds and suet as the snow has covered the ground and temperatures drop. Juncos, finches and several woodpecker species can be found at feeders now. Turkeys have flocked up and retreated to lower areas with more shelter. Ice is forming at a good rate on inland waters. Snowmobile trails in Marinette County are not open at this time, although snow is expected this weekend. Snow depths vary from 6 inches to bare spots in open fields.


Oconto County - The fresh snow blanketing the ice on inland lakes can give a false impression of good ice. Use caution as the ice is newly forming. Deer are starting to move a little more since opening gun deer weekend. The statewide antlerless hunt is Thursday through Sunday, giving hunters another opportunity to harvest a doe towards next years EAB pre-qualification. Christmas tree growers are in good condition overall for sales with many trees being harvested this past weekend.


Shawano County - There is some snow but the snowmobile trails are not open yet. Ice conditions vary and due to the heavy snow were not safe as of late. The Birnamwood Trail Riders Snowmobile Club is hosting a safety course beginning December 13th through the 15th. Please sign up at the Birnamwood School or by calling the instructor at 715-449-2687.

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SOUTHEAST REGION


Milwaukee County - Ice is forming on most area tributaries, but the Milwaukee River remains open near the harbor. Shore anglers behind the Summerfest grounds have been catching a few browns on minnows or spawn sacs fished near the bottom.


Racine County - In Racine flows on the Root River are improving after last weekend’s snow and rainfall. The upstream portions of the river are fishable, but downstream of the 6th Street bridge the river is ice covered. Some steelhead and brown trout were being found in the deeper holes upriver. The Root River Steelhead Facility is closed until spring. During the fall spawning season DNR crews handled 3,547 chinooks, 1,169 coho, 98 steelhead, and 242 brown trout.

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SOUTH CENTRAL REGION


Horicon DNR Service Center area

Dodge County - The Dodge County ATV Trail on the Wild Goose State Trail from Hwy. 60 to Hwy. 49 opened Dec. 2. Temperatures are forecast to remain below freezing for the week and the trail will remain open as long as the trail surface remains frozen and not subject to damage from riding. Temperatures are expected to rise to near or above freezing this weekend, thus trail closures are likely by the weekend. Despite the recent snowfall, the Dodge County snowmobile trails remain closed. Snow cover on the trails remains insufficient and not all trail sections are marked and ready for safe use. Snowmobile trails will also remain closed until after the special antlerless deer hunt ends on Dec. 9. Updates to the Trail Status can be heard on the trail status line at (920) 386-3705 (24 hours/day). The trail status line should always be checked prior to riding the trail. Also the Dodge County Trails Web site [www.dodgeparks.com] will carry updated trail conditions during the week.



Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Sauk County

Devil’s Lake State Park - The first significant snow of the season on fell Dec. 1 and 5 leaving a total of 12 inches of snow at the park. Cross-country ski trails have not yet been groomed, but an early bird skier reported the trails to be in “beautiful condition,” though there were a couple of newly fallen trees that maintenance staff will have to clear. Ski trails may be groomed before this weekend. The lake currently has no ice coverage. Freeze-up varies year to year, but usually falls between late December and early January. A portion of the Quartzite Campground is open throughout the winter.


Dane County

Governor Nelson State Park - Cross Country ski trails have been packed and tracks have been set. Estimated packed snow depth to 6 to 8 inches. The Oak Savanna Trail does have three icy sections on the hill tops. The park office answering machine has the most current ski conditions and update on a daily bases at (608) 831-3005. All piers have been removed for the season.

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WEST CENTRAL REGION


Baldwin DNR Service Center area

St. Croix County

Willow River State Park - Cross-country ski trails officially opened for skiers Dec. 2. All trails were rolled, but no classic track was set. Skiers skied in a classic track in some places. The base became too hard for skiers to set track later on. Conditions are very good for skaters. Skiing conditions were reported as “good” by several skiers. The snow the area received was dense and it has provided good coverage throughout the trail system. On average, about a 2-1/2 inches of base exists. Aggressive skating will cut through. Bring the good skis and the rock skis. Start on the rock skis and decide if the trails are good enough for the good skis. More snow was falling Tuesday. If enough sno falls, the trail will be re-groomed and track set on all trails by the weekend. With the opening of ski season, designated ski trails are closed to other activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, and pets. This includes the following trails on the south side of the Willow River: Pioneer (yellow), Knapweed (orange), Willow Falls (blue), White-Tail (red), Trout Brook (purple), most of Little Falls (green), Oak Ridge (brown), and the campground training loop (green.) Hikers and pet walkers have other multiple use trails open to them including access to Willow Falls. The Hidden Ponds trail behind the Nature Center is open to multiple uses with the exception of pets. The Willow Falls Hill Trail, the Burkhardt Trail, and Mound Trail are designated to multiple use. Hikers also have the park road, parking lots, the disc golf course, and sled hill open to them. The Tuesday and Wednesday evening training sessions will continue at 5:30 p.m. at the campground entrance. If that is parked full, park at the group camp and walk down to the campground. These "on snow" sessions tend to be unstructured and work skills you need to improve. The group warms up on the training loop in the campground and then splits between skaters and classic skiers. There has been some ice fishing, no reports available.


La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Looking for some late season hunting opportunities? How about setting your sights on squirrels? These abundant mammals are found statewide and offer plenty of challenges for beginning and advanced hunters alike. Squirrels remain active throughout winter but will hole up for several days during the nastiest winter weather. With a daily bag limit of five and an open season that runs through Jan. 31, there are numerous opportunities for hunters.


Mississippi River - Small numbers of swans, ducks and geese remain along the Mississippi. Eagles can be found wherever open water offers a food supply. Dead ducks and coots from the trematode die-offs are providing much of their food now. Trematode caused die-offs have almost stopped now that most waterfowl have migrated.


Vernon County

Wildcat Mountain State Park - Cross county ski trails have been groomed for classical and skating and are in excellent condition. The trail has 5 inches of new snow over existing base.


Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

The area received about 6 inches of snow Sunday.


Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Trails are groomed, tracked and in very good condition. Hoffman Hills is not open for any hunting except deer. It will be open for deer hunting in November for the regular deer gun season. It is not open for bow hunting. Dogs are not allowed.

Red Cedar State Trail - Trails are groomed, tracked and in very good condition. In general Red Cedar State Trail is not open to hunting. However the trail is open to hunting in the Dunnville Wildlife Area which is the last 2 miles on the south end. This is the section south of County Y that junctions with the Chippewa River Trail.


Chippewa River State Trail - The trail is open to hunting from Caryville to the junction with the Red Cedar State Trail in the Dunnville Wildlife Area. There is no hunting on the trail from Eau Claire to Caryville


Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park -

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The campground and facilities are currently closed for the season, but the park remains open for day use. Roche-A-Cri is accessible through the winter parking lot on Czech Avenue, the southern border of the park. The stairway up the Roche-A-Cri Mound is open, but not maintained for winter use. The 2008 photo contest is now underway. Take advantage of winter photo opportunities! The Roche-A-Cri Woods state natural area east of Highway 13 is open for hunting and trapping.


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VHS fish disease update as of December 6, 2007


State Natural Resources Board members on Dec. 5 reaffirmed their earlier decision to apply statewide rules to prevent the spread of a deadly new fish disease, including requirements that anglers drain all water from boats and from containers holding the fish they caught and leftover bait before leaving the shore. Information is on the DNR Web site at: [http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/news/rbnews/BreakingNews_Lookup.asp?id=715]

Last Revised: Thursday December 06 2007

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