Preliminary registration numbers from Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season show an increase in statewide harvest. Overall, preliminary figures show that 211,430 deer were registered during the nine-day gun deer hunt, compared to 197,733 in 2017. The nine-day gun deer season continues to show hunting as a safe, recreational activity, as the season ended with three hunting incidents and no hunting-related fatalities, which DNR law enforcement staff say is the safest season on record.

The statewide muzzleloader deer hunt runs through Wednesday, Dec. 5, and there is a statewide antlerless-only hunt that runs from Thursday, Dec. 6, to Sunday, Dec. 9.

Ice is forming on lakes across the state, but state recreational safety wardens are reminding people that no ice is safe and that early-season ice conditions vary greatly from water body to water body.

Ice levels in the far north have reached 3–4 inches and ice anglers have begun to venture out. Trout Lake in Vilas County froze over this week but not with thick enough ice to support anglers yet. Search the DNR website for “ice safety” for tips on staying safe on the ice.

There seems to be a good, strong population of bobcat this year in the Flambeau River State Forest. Their prey—snowshoe hares, cottontail rabbits and rodents—are also well populated. Most puddle ducks are long gone, but some open water areas still have diving ducks using them. Lots of geese around yet through southern and central Wisconsin—it takes not only cold, but snow to cover up their food sources before they leave. Rough-legged hawks are now more frequently seen hunting Horicon Marsh. Thousands of sandhill cranes are still being seen in a single farm field around the marsh. The lack of snow and late harvest has provided an ample food supply for them late in the season.

Bird feeder watchers are reporting many of the standard species now, like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and goldfinches, in addition to a few specialties, such as pine siskins statewide, evening grosbeaks up north and the occasional common redpoll. 

Spring is a long way off, but don’t forget the spring turkey and 2019 bear applications are due by Monday, Dec. 10.

The 2019 state parks & forests vehicle admission stickers and trail passes officially went on sale, beginning Saturday, Dec. 1, at park and forest offices and DNR service centers. They can also be purchased over the phone by calling the DNR customer service line at 888-936-7463 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. They make great holiday gifts.

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