A year ago my friend and talented taxidermist Jeff Lane of Comstock, Wisconsin, predicted Wisconsin would produce a big crop of large-antlered bucks. Standing over a pile of racks about waist high, some 90 or so Lane’s taken in for mounts, he reminded me of what he’d said in 2009. Most will agree that 2010′s deer season was a significant turnaround from the previous year.
Wisconsin and other Midwest states ALL reported deer harvest higher than 2009′s. Why? First, more than 90 percent of the corn was harvested, greatly reducing hiding refuges for deer. Last Fall corn harvest lagged well behind normal. A lot of bucks that made it through the 2009 season were still around for 2010.
Plus, hunters this season generally had snow and other favorable hunting conditions, so deer were a bit more visible than 2009. So, what does Lane predict for 2011? Look for fewer big bucks but more deer overall, unless winter plays nasty with the Upper Midwest deer herd.
Right now, Wisconsin and Minnesota are off to one of their snowiest winters in a long time. Combine that and Nature starts adding up winter severity index days that eventually determine how many deer survive and in what condition. We’ll try to keep track.
All of the heavy snow has created a headache for ice fishers. The 8-22 inches that fell in mid-December is creating slush problems on lakes, most of which had only about 5-7 inches of good clear ice. With the deep snow cover just about everywhere several inches of slush form after holes are drilled or the ice cracks and shifts unable to handle the added weight. Strong winds can blow some of the snow off a lake surface, which enables it to freeze deeper than it does with deep snow cover.
By the way, early ice fishing reports were very encouraging…some panfish being taken, plus some decent walleyes. No matter where you head, use EXTREME caution walking on what looks to be “safe” ice, or driving on it with ATVs. My rule of thumb is to NEVER DRIVE on ice thinner than 12-15 inches. Remember, ice NEVER FREEZES EVENLY. It could be a foot beneath your feet, and a foot away, just a few inches thick.
I like to spud my way out as an early season precaution. Carry a stout rope, ice picks and extra gloves, too. Go with somebody, or at least tell your plans to family or friends.
On another front, a new group of faces, many of them Republicans, are entering state legislature and congressional offices this winter. Enamored with their “victories,” some are beginning to flex their newly obtained political muscle, saying they plan to do “this or that” when it comes to many issues, including outdoors recreation and environmental matters, to make their communities, states and country more “business friendly.”
Just remind them that hunting, fishing and a long list of other outdoors recreation are “businesses” that generate billions in revenues and taxes, and provide tens of thousands of jobs. Remind them that providing more access and more public land and a cleaner environment ensures the health of the outdoor recreation industry and our natural resources for us and future generations. And when the talk gets ugly…becomes “us (hunters, fisher, etc)” versus “them (conservationists, environmentalists, etc )”…we ALL should be of one spirit and mind in the great outdoors. After all, more than 50 years “out there” has taught me that we begin as “consumers, harvesters etc ” – and through the taking, come to realize that for what we cherish and depend upon to be sustained, we must be “conservationists” and that for conservation to really work at its best and fullest, we need to understand how ALL THE PARTS are arranged and depend upon each other…in doing so, becoming an “environmentalist.” Try to wiggle out of that…
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This post was written by bkurtenbach on December 14, 2010