Winter’s first gift was colder temperatures, then the beginning of measurable snowfalls.
Instead of pondering what cannot be enjoyed with cold and snow, look ahead to recreational actions brought on by this year’s last season and next year’s first.
Ice fishing, with great caution, is open when the ice is thick enough. While some anglers consider less than four inches to be firm; most wait for a few more close-to-zero nights before taking to a spud and bucket. The cautious ones are second on the ice.
Tracking is not just to follow rabbits, pheasants and deer. Events enjoyed by seeing nature’s trail camera images are endless. Identification games top some lists. Better sighting conditions is another opportunity. Modern-day hunters often use the phrase sighting and safety snow instead of tracking snow, but now all three are becoming possible as deer seasons are checked off.
The morning after a light snow, skid marks on a blacktop driveway recorded a young deer’s first attempt of walking on snow-covered slipperiness. She apparently wandered off into the woods having experienced another of nature’s tests.
The archery and crossbow seasons cut into January. Gun hunters in some areas can enjoy a holiday hunt beginning Dec. 24, and ending Jan. 1, 2018. Where gun hunting is permitted, blaze orange clothing is required. When only antlerless deer are legal (holiday hunt), that applies to all implement (weapon) types.
The recent muzzleloader season terminated with 1,556 bucks and 2,653 antlerless deer registered. To date, including all seasons so far, hunters have registered 291,022 deer. That total will grow with the remaining archery and holiday hunts, and include contributions from the recently concluded four-day, antlerless hunt.
Now that snow is accumulating, viewing and photographing wildlife, and daily nature changes, are again approaching early autumn’s endless chances. Covered is most of the drab landscape.
Not every day is cold and cloudy, or windy and wild. Every now and then a bluebird day pops up, usually unexpectedly. History reminds us that bluebird days have little to do with spring and even this bluish thrush member, which sometimes hangs tough throughout Wisconsin’s snowy season. A few rogue robins do the same.
A bluebird day is defined as a cloudless day following an evening snowfall. Last weekend gave up one such day. Interesting, however, about a dozen of the namesake birds flocked here and there searching for insects but mostly tiny, partly frozen crabapples, grapes and bittersweet berries. The males’ wings and backs matched that day’s cloudless sky.
With snow and cold, arrivals of otherwise missing feeder birds finally appeared. Add suet, water and perches to the bait to expand diversity for viewing, studying and photographing. Contact a local Audubon member or club and participate in a cool way in the Christmas bird count, beginning Dec. 14 and concluding Jan. 5, 2018. Experience is not required. Most counts last but a day.
The recent bald eagle nesting survey just released documented a 5.7 percent increase in nests compared to 2016. This year’s count was 1,590, compared to 1,504 in 2016.
Area counties continued to exhibit nests based on available habitat. Iowa (18), Dane (16), Sauk (19), Columbia (11), Richland (12), Juneau (15) and Adams (7) now offer numerous opportunities for spring and summer bald eagle viewing. Vilas (168) and Oneida (141) continue to top the over-100 list.
Fall turkey hunting continues in zones 1-5 until Jan. 7, 2018. Those who missed the Dec. 10 application deadline will probably be able to purchase an over-the-counter permit beginning in mid-March. The fall deadline is August 1.
Look for the bucket brigade to begin as panfishers take advantage of first ice, first on ponds and backwaters and soon after on larger lakes. It’s better to be second in this race, however.
A positive approach and attitude toward winter makes it seem like a season with endless opportunities. Like any good drink, take it in sips, mixed with ample indoors.