Weather, sighting snow, an overlap with the mating season and ample deer populations in most areas aligned positively for the 2018 nine-day gun deer hunt. Those same factors rewarded most who view deer.
Even so, the numbers slipped back to a 6.8-percent increase above 2017 during the last days of the season. Hunters registered 211,430 animals compared to 197,733 in 2017. At the end of opening weekend, the percent increase was 12.8 ahead of 2017.
Continuing deer seasons, culminations of small game hunting and the beginning of hard water angling occupy outdoors-minded people, some with an eye on the second holiday release of extra pheasants in several public hunting lands.
The preliminary nine-day gun deer season summary and many other deer season reports now appear on the Department of Natural Resources web page. Searching using key words “deer harvest summary” will pop them up by deer management unit and season.
Review blaze orange coat and cap hunting rules for all hunts except waterfowl. License sales information appears there, too.
Gun hunters killed 104,388 antlered deer compared to 99,002 in 2017 for a 5.4 percent jump. Antlerless deer kill jumped from 98,731 to 107,733, marking an 8.4 percent increase.
Ice fishing continues to be a waiting game until an extended period of single digit lows are forecast, but a few have even looked ahead to Jan. 5, 2019, when trout season opens.
Adrian Alan, range manager at Vortex Headquarters in Barneveld, reminds hunters to clean rifles inside and out before storing them for the next sighting session. Inside a single cloth gun case is not a wise location for a rifle; a gun cabinet is far better.
Deer season continues to highlight interesting adventures, including Juliana Broek, town of Ridgeway, who at 80 and a mere month after a heart attack, shot a 14-point buck opening day. She had clearance from her cardiologist. Her only discomfort was what she described as buck fever after, not before, taking a deer.
Snowy owls continue to come farther south and in increasing numbers, with one showing along the Beltline in Madison. Eagles, too, are appearing in open areas now that some waters are beginning to ice over. Farm fields, where dead wildlife or domestic animals can be found, are likely locations, as are any roadsides where a rabbit, pheasant, squirrel or raccoon have met their demise.
Remember that many birds overnight in cavities, including bluebird houses or structures of their own making to serve as motels for chickadees and nuthatches.
Don’t overlook suet, shelled peanuts, game animal carcasses and some meat scraps as excellent feeder food for birds.
When snow beings to pile up, it is a good time to count and identify woodland evergreen plants. Some ferns and related plants, lichens and a few invasives continue to show their chlorophyll well after winter arrives.
Of course watercress is always a perk-me-up, as is visiting a bubbling spring where the plant thrives. Robins and bluebirds know this; we should, too.