It would probably be enough to know that the Green Bay Packers were about to start their season.
Or see yellow buses transporting students to and from schools.
But for a part of the population of Wisconsin, there is another sign that fall has arrived: the beginning of the hunting seasons.
“The best time of year is upon us,” said Jay Snopek of Nelson, who hunts white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and waterfowl in the cliffs and waters of Buffalo County. “It’s time to escape this crazy world and enter the swamps and woods.”
Snopek is among the roughly 1 million license buyers who will be continuing the game in Wisconsin this year.
Conditions are once again very good for most species, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The agency has released forecasts for the 2021-22 seasons, notes on rule changes, safety guidelines and recommendations for keeping the state’s woods and waters healthy and reducing the spread of invasive species. .
With many hunting seasons opening on Saturday, here’s a rundown of the information for the fall.
With a mild 2020-21 winter and below-average harvests in 2019 and 2020, Wisconsin deer hunters can expect increased harvest opportunities in the state, according to the DNR.
This includes northern Wisconsin, where the mild winter has allowed a growth in the deer population in the area, according to the MNR.
It is important for hunters to remember that the amount and quality of habitat varies widely from landscape to landscape, and the number of deer inhabiting individual properties can vary widely.
This season, 36 counties will be offering antlerless holiday hunting only from December 24 to January 1.
In addition, archery and crossbow seasons have been extended in 27 counties, until January 31.
Due to recent discoveries of Chronic Wasting Disease, baiting and feeding regulations have changed in some counties. For example, a CWD positive deer found this summer on a Taylor County deer farm resulted in a new bait and feeding ban in that county; it entered into force on September 1.
A record-setting of around 130,000 people applied for Wisconsin bear harvest permits in 2021, an indication of the strong and growing interest in bear hunting in the state, according to the DNR.
The agency has made 11,530 bear licenses available for this fall.
New this year is a six-zone bear management structure. The reconfiguration was a central recommendation of the Wisconsin black bear management plan finalized in 2019.
The new areas are designed to better reflect the distribution of Wisconsin’s bear population and to resolve human-bear conflict, the agency said.
The Wisconsin Spring Waterfowl Survey in 2021 estimated the state had 522,426 ducks, a 7% increase from the previous survey.
Mallards are Wisconsin’s most abundant ducks, making up 32% of the state’s total duck harvest. The number of mallards has fallen 5% this year, but remains within 4% of the state’s long-term average.
The estimated 2021 breeding population of Canada Geese in Wisconsin was around 181,000 birds, almost 70% above the long-term average and a sign of a continued increase in the population of state geese, according to MNR.
This year’s Wisconsin waterfowl seasons will include a change in hunting areas. The Mississippi River area was eliminated and replaced with an area of open water at Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The Mississippi River will follow the seasonal pattern of the southern zone.
Also new this year, the scaup bag limit will be changed to one for 15 days and two for 45 days based on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s seasonal setting.
Again this year, Wisconsin’s duck seasons are 60 days long with daily bag limits of six ducks. A full breakdown of the daily bag limit is available on the MNR website.
MNR issued 81,710 fall turkey harvest authorizations in 2020, and hunters recorded 4,600 birds, a 21% year-over-year increase.
The 2020 season saw a hunter success rate of 5.6% (unadjusted for non-participation), similar to 5.1% in 2019. Many people hunt turkeys in the fall at the same time as they hunt deer during bow season.
Following:Smith: The reintroduction of the wild turkey is a success story from Wisconsin, but will it last?
The results of the spring 2021 ring-necked pheasant song survey and the rural mail carrier survey are not yet available.
The results of the 2020 Rural Mail Carrier Survey indicated an 18% decrease in pheasant populations compared to 2019, with the highest number of pheasants seen in the northwest, particularly in the counties of St. Croix, Polk and Fond du Lac. A long-term decline in stable grass cover across the state has contributed to the decline in collared pheasant populations.
State Game Farm is raising pheasants again this year and plans to release 75,000 pheasants on public property.
In 2020, 42,532 hunters spent 29,586 days in the field chasing pheasants and harvested 272,023 birds, down from 291,400 in 2019.
The ruffed grouse is on the downward portion of its traditional 10-year population cycle, but is still present in good numbers in areas with good habitat, according to MNR.
A new permanent rule will come into effect this season and will close the grouse hunt on January 9 in Zone A (northern Wisconsin). The season ended on January 31 in the previous format.
Chronic wasting disease
CWD is a fatal contagious neurological disease of deer, elk, moose and reindeer caused by a distorted form of a protein called a prion. It has not been shown to cause disease in humans, but health experts advise against consuming meat from animals that are positive for CWD.
The disease is spread to healthy animals through contact with saliva, urine, blood, feces, carcass or the contaminated environment of an infected animal.
By taking precautions in the field, hunters can minimize the spread of CWD. The MNR recommends using synthetic fragrances, refraining from baiting and feeding and properly disposing of deer carcasses.
In 2021, CWD testing will be available to all hunters through a combination of in-person, self-service and on-demand sampling locations.
Individuals and organizations can volunteer to sponsor a MDC self-serve kiosk or deer carcass dumpster through MNR’s Adopt-a-Kiosk and Adopt-a-Dumpster programs. Again this year, the ministry will offer a cost-sharing option to offset the expenses of sponsoring a dumpster. Find more information on how to get involved on the MNR website.
Help prevent the spread of invasive species
MNR is also asking waterfowl hunters to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species this fall.
A few minutes of preventative action can help preserve and protect hunting grounds for generations to come, according to MNR. Before entering and leaving a body of water, waterfowl hunters should:
- Inspect waders, boats, trailers, motors and hunting equipment, including boots, blinds and dogs.
- Remove all plants, animals, and mud to the best of their ability.
- Drain all water from lures, boats, engines, livewells and other hunting equipment.
- Remove all seed heads and roots when using vegetation for duck blinds.
- Never move living plants or animals, such as snails, far from water.
MNR encourages all hunters to take a Hunter Safety Course or a quick pre-season skills refresh.
More than 20,000 people take hunting training courses in Wisconsin each year, according to the agency. Anyone born on or after January 1, 1973 must have a hunting training certificate to purchase a hunting license, unless they are hunting under the law on supervised hunting.
Until October 1, hunters of all ages can take their safety course online or in person. Visit dnr.wi.gov for more details.