BY KEVIN NAZE
If you’ve been itching to go hunting lately, it’s prime time to scratch.
Some of the best hunting opportunities of the year are knocking on the door, and the tail end of the fall colors alone is worth making the time.
White-tailed deer have entered the pre-rut stage, with bucks already making scrapes and increasing rubbing activity hoping to find an early doe in heat.
While the peak rut is still two to three weeks away, now is a great time to try rattling, grunt calls, scents and decoys in an effort to lure a buck close enough.
State hunters have already taken more than 35,000 deer this season, a significant increase of about 50 percent compared to this time last year.
While a mild winter helped deer survive — and increased hunter effort could be playing a role — one thing we know for certain is the fall weather this year has been much better than last year’s warm, wet and windy conditions.
Deer aren’t the only game in town.
Wild turkeys are flocked up for the long fall and winter ahead.
If you forgot to buy a tag, leftovers remain in many zones.
The black bear, early teal, early goose and youth gun deer hunts are already in the books, but waterfowl and small game hunts continue.
The northern zone duck hunt runs through Nov. 22; the southern zone runs through Dec. 4; and the open water duck zone runs through Dec. 13.
The northern goose zone hunt ends Dec. 16, but southern zone opportunities stretch to Jan. 3 after a break from Dec. 5-17.
Meanwhile, game birds like woodcock and ruffed grouse are luring hunters to northern and central Wisconsin forests, and squirrels, cottontail rabbits and raccoons are abundant – and in many cases under hunted.
The pheasant season opened with a bang last weekend.
Public hunting grounds were crowded early and are best hunted during the week or midday.
For a complete look at state hunting opportunities, download the Hunt Wild app, pick up a copy of the regulations wherever licenses are sold, or visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Hunt.
Wolf plan soon?
It’s been eight years since the Department of Natural Resources said its updated wolf management plan would be ready for public review, so one has to wonder if the agency’s recent “this fall” comment will stand.
Whenever it does finally come out — the last one was written in 1999, with only slight tweaks in 2007 — don’t expect wolf advocates and those who want more aggressive wolf management to see eye-to-eye.
The DNR has worked with more than 20 wolf stakeholder representatives to formulate the plan, but the two sides were miles apart on their recommendations for a population goal.
It’s possible that the results of a new social science survey on public attitudes toward wolves could be released around the same time.
The last DNR survey was done in 2014.
Thousands of state residents living in and outside of wolf range received mailed surveys.
A key takeaway was that a slight majority favored keeping wolf numbers similar to where they were, or even increasing the numbers.
Critics said the questions were unfairly written to get a specific response.
Wolves have killed at least 21 dogs and injured seven others in Wisconsin so far this year.
In addition, wolves have killed at least 40 livestock (calves, lambs, chickens and heifers) and harassed more than 200 others.
There have also been more than 80 unconfirmed wolf complaints.
The attacks happened despite targeted efforts last year that resulted in more than 60 wolves killed by government trappers near farms with chronic livestock depredation.
Project FeederWatch, a citizen-science project, runs Nov. 1-April 30.
Your counts allow you to track what’s happening around your home while contributing to continent-wide data of bird distribution and abundance.
Learn more at feederwatch.org.
• Birders across the world set a number of records during October Big Day Oct. 8, including nearly 7,500 different bird species seen by more than 35,000 participants. Birders in Columbia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil all tallied more than 1,100 different species.
U.S. birders were 11th with 689.
Learn more at ebird.org/octoberbigday.
Fish meeting Oct. 24
The last public meeting to gather feedback on the 2023-2025 Lake Michigan and Green Bay salmon and trout stocking plan begins at 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Lakeshore Technical College’s Centennial Hall West in Cleveland, Wis.
There’s also a Zoom option.
DNR staff will share management options and stakeholders will be able to present ideas and input.
Learn how to participate at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Fishing/lakemichigan/LakeMichiganSalmonandTroutMeetings.
Trophy muskie bite is on
Muskie fishing on Green Bay is at its peak right now, with several fish over 50 inches landed in the past week.
Hot lures for these big fish include Tyrant Raz Shads, Super Shad Raps, and Tyrant 7-inch Czars.
Make sure you have weed catcher weights to make your trip a success.
Trolling is taking the most fish, and those who love to throw big baits are also meeting with success.
Fish are being taken in University Bay, Frying Pan Shoal, Longtail and Littletail points and in the Fox River.
Good walleye fishing continues too, with a good bite found on the Fox River, Oconto Shoal and in University Bay.
Smokeys Custom Blade baits, trolling crankbaits, jigging and casting spoons are all effective methods.
The perch bite is also good when Mother Nature lets us access them.
Vincent Point, Bayshore Park, Deadhorse Bay and Suamico are all good areas for perch.
Crawler pieces and minnows are best baits.
Shore fishing at the Metro Launch and Voyager Park is also doing well for all species of fish.
If you go, please be safe, and take a kid fishing.
For more information on what to use and where to fish call us at 920-593-1749.
Yah, only at Smokeys!
Capt. Jerry Ruffolo
Anglers Plus Guide Service LLC