WILD THINGS: Early Ice Will Have to Wait

A weekend thaw and a chance for rain isn’t what anglers anxious for ice were wishing for, but there’s hope on the horizon.

After last year’s near-bust of a season on Green Bay, hard-water fishermen were liking the colder nights during the gun deer hunt. By last weekend, in fact, there was already enough ice to support walk-on action on some waters in the northern half of the state.

However, a string of high temperatures in the 40s, including the possibility of mid-40s and rain Saturday, will likely put an end to that in many areas.

Even after a return to sub-freezing air, we’ll need a full week or two before you can cautiously spud your way out to try for perch, pike, walleye or whitefish here.

That gives you a little time to make sure you have fresh line on reels, auger blades that are sharp, and enough of your favorite hooks, jigs, bobbers and depth finders.

Once there’s at least three to four inches of clear ice, wise anglers still use a spud bar as they carefully move away from shore. That’s because thickness can vary widely, especially in areas with moving water. 

The use of a life jacket or flotation suit is strongly encouraged, as is attaching a length of rope and ice picks to your jacket sleeves in case you do fall through. Extra rope is a good addition to your jacket or bucket in case someone else breaks through. Also solid ideas: having your cell phone in a waterproof, floating bag, and using studded creepers on your boots to prevent slipping on smooth ice. 

Racking up Whitetails

The muzzleloader season in Kewaunee and Door counties and extended firearm hunt in the Brown County metro subzone ended Wednesday, but was immediately followed by an antlerless-only gun deer hunt that ends Sunday. 

More than 5,100 deer were taken the first week of the muzzleloader hunt, including 64 in Kewaunee County (13 bucks) and 48 in Door County (17 bucks). 

Through Sunday, Wisconsin’s 2023 fall deer harvest stood at 144,734 bucks and 128,104 antlerless deer for a total of 272,838. The Door count was up to 3,340 (1,689 bucks) and Kewaunee County tally at 2,622 (1,281 bucks).

Crossbow users had registered more than 51,000 deer, including 32,000-plus bucks. Archers were up to more than 33,700, including nearly 21,000 bucks.

All deer and small game hunters must comply with blaze orange regulations this weekend. In addition, bow and crossbow hunters may not target antlered bucks. 

Meanwhile, duck hunting is closed in all but the open water duck zone. It ends Dec. 12 there. The southern zone goose hunt reopens Dec. 16 and runs through Jan. 2. 

Wild Turkey News

Through Sunday, wild turkey hunters in our Zone 2 had registered 1,052 birds during the fall season, nearly double Zones 1 (523) and 4 (557) combined total. Zone 3 had 699, Zone 6 276, Zone 5 203 and Zone 7 143. 

The fall and winter season runs through Jan. 7 in Zones 1-5. It ended in mid-November in Zones 6 and 7.

Meanwhile, if you want a chance at a spring wild turkey hunting permit for one of the earlier periods, be sure to apply by Sunday, Dec. 10. If you’re reading this after that, you missed the draw but can still try for a bonus tag when they go on sale in March.

The spring wild turkey hunt begins with Learn To Hunts in select areas in early April, followed by the youth turkey hunt weekend April 13-14. The regular six-period hunting season begins with Period A, April 17-23, and ends with Period F, May 22-28.

Bird Counts Dec. 16-17

Bird enthusiasts across the state or across the country can join in on Audubon’s 124th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) this month. Led by a compiler at each location, groups of volunteers identify and count all the birds observed within a portion of an overall 15-mile diameter circle. 

New, enthusiastic participants are welcome. CBC compilers typically assign volunteers to teams based on their bird ID skills and the amount of time they can participate. 

More than a half-dozen counts are planned in Door, Kewaunee and Brown counties. Many of them are Dec. 16 or 17. To learn more and find the local compiler’s information, zoom in on the map and click on a circle at

Water Levels Update

Green Bay and Lake Michigan water levels are down three inches in the past month, an inch below levels at this time last year. Water levels are about 31 inches lower than the record December high (1986), and 34 inches above the record monthly low (2012). 

Tasty Wild Game 

What affects taste and tenderness in wild game? Check out this video for some interesting information: