An early fall snowstorm dropped a foot or more of snow across northern Wisconsin this week. Snow depths ranged from 1 to 2 inches through central Wisconsin to nearly 2 feet in parts of Iron and Vilas counties.
While the snow may have snowmobilers and skiers itching to hit the trails, most snowmobile trails in Wisconsin do not open until early to mid-December following the gun and muzzleloader deer seasons. Many snowmobile trails are on private property through easements with landowners that usually don’t begin until Dec. 1. Using trails before they are open can jeopardize those easements with landowners and damage trails making it more difficult for groomers when they can get out.
A number of state forest properties – including the Northern Highland-American Legion, Brule River and Flambeau River state forests — indicated they would be rolling, or packing down cross-country ski trails, but not setting tracks. Cross-country skiers may ski on the packed trails, but they also remain open to hikers and snowshoers until they are groomed for skiing. Many hunters use these trails to access hunting sites, so they too will not be groomed until after deer season. Archery deer and other game seasons are open now and hunting and trapping in state parks opens Nov. 15, so skiers, snowshoers and hikers should wear bright colored or blaze orange clothing if hitting the trails this weekend.
Deer are in full rut throughout the state and bucks can be seen pursuing does throughout the day. Bow hunters — and motorists — have been seeing a lot of deer activity, and there have been reports across the state of many large bucks being shot. The snow in the north has made it much easier spotting deer and other wildlife.
Pheasant hunters have been successful and the snow and cold brought many more northern waterfowl into the state with large flocks moving south along the Mississippi and along the western shore of Lake Michigan making for some incredible duck hunting this week.
A few of the smaller and shallow Northwoods lakes have developed a thin layer of ice cover, but the majority of lakes were still open but the deep snow across most of the north has nearly all boat landings inaccessible and, for all practical purposes, the open-water fishing season has come to an abrupt end. Single-digit low temperatures are in the forecast for the next few days and will likely result in many lakes becoming completely iced over but early season ice will be thin and dangerous and any thoughts of early ice fishing should be put on hold for a few weeks yet.
Anglers fishing Lake Michigan harbors and piers have been dwindling but those out have been catching a few brown and rainbow trout and a few are still being caught on tributaries but flows are low and the run is winding down. Walleye and sauger continue to be caught on Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River below the dam in Prairie du Sac.
Sandhill crane numbers are probably near peak or beginning to decline at traditional staging areas. Good numbers of pine siskins are being seen statewide and more snowy owls moved into the state this week so folks should keep an eye out.