Ruffed grouse hunters have charged woodward, maybe earlier than when they normally get serious. West Nile Virus test results from 2018 are still uncertain and cutting off January’s pursuits have not dimmed enthusiasm, but lingering summer vegetation has. Still flushes and woodcock twitters have kept interest.
Wisconsin’s ring-necked pheasant was initially introduced in Waukesha County in 1916 and spread to Jefferson County, with hunting allowed in 1927; then came stocking throughout the state.
Several bright spots will excite hunters when the season opens Oct. 19, at 9 a.m. and continues through Jan. 5, 2020.
There was an 8 percent increase pheasant in survey results compared to 2018. The highest numbers of birds seen per 100 miles driven were in Polk, St. Croix, Dunn, Pierce, Pepin and Eau Claire Counties.
Kelly Maguire, game farm manager at the Poynette farm highlighted several bright spots, too, including having a few thousand more birds to stock than the usual 75,000. Another 2,000 birds will be released during a holiday stocking the week prior to Christmas, too.
Those holiday birds will be stocked on the same eight state properties that were part of the Holiday Hunt last year, which includes Mud Lake (Columbia), Mazomanie (Dane), Brooklyn (Green), Waterloo (Jefferson), Richard Bong (Kenosha), Avon Bottoms (Rock), Sauk Prairie (Sauk) and Vernon (Waukesha). Each of these eight sites will receive about 250 birds.
Backing up, Maguire’s wildlife biologists will stock state public hunting grounds the week prior to the October opener, then biweekly for three weeks before cutting back to once-weekly stocking.
“For safety (stockers), we will not be out during gun deer season, but pheasant hunters will still be out (in blaze orange),” she said. “Stocking will resume after deer season, ending the second week of December.”
Jason Cotter, DNR wildlife biologist in Green County, said wood ducks seem to be the most common bird in his areas, but expects cooler temperatures to push more mallards in.
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The acorn crop is hit and miss, he said, and the common pin oak fruits are not as tasty to deer. Blue jays seem to have no displeasure with them; however, revisiting trees dozens of times building a cache of nuts deeper in forests.
There seems to be a slurry of hunters heading west for large game and some upland birds, too, according to Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe.
Avid hickory nut gatherers have seen the same, some excellent picking, other trees not so much or with tiny fruits.
Wayne Whitemarsh, in Sauk City, has heard talk of some dove hunting, squirrel hunting and nut picking, but said fishing, even for the last few days of trout season, has been hampered by high water.
Nancy Frost, DNR wildlife biologist at Tower Hill, reported more deer movement throughout the day and dawn and dusk.
Prairie seed collecting is waning, but small birds continue to “seed” cone flowers and wild carrot. Most hummingbirds have departed, and are being replaced by common feeder birds.
Road kills have spiked with deer, raccoons, gray squirrels, groundhogsand opossums making up the bulk of scavenger foods.
Notice a pulse of autumn color now that the weather has normalized and while the early leaf drop continues to show the deciduous nature of most hardwoods. White pines are changing and then losing a set of needles, while witch hazel is just beginning to flower.