WILD THINGS: Giving Thanks for the Outdoors

There’ll be plenty of leftovers after the hunt

One of the hardest parts about being selective while hunting is answering the question, “Did you get your buck?”

Those in the know understand that many hunters would rather take an antlerless deer than drop a young buck with its first or second rack, but it doesn’t make it any easier to explain to those who don’t.

The fact is, even in the best of seasons historically, only about one in five hunters registers an antlered buck. Far fewer are fortunate enough to take a mature whitetail, age 3-1/2 or more.

No matter. A half-century of hunting has taught me it’s about so much more than shooting a whitetail buck with bow or firearm. 

For me – and I’d bet a majority of an aging hunting population – pulling the trigger is necessary only to procure some of the healthiest protein on the planet. 

Those of us who’ve been doing it since we were kids don’t need a researcher to tell us that spending time outdoors taking in the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of nature is good for our mental health, reduces stress, and leads to better sleep at night. 

If you’ve yet to tag “your” buck (as if the natural world owes us anything), don’t sweat it: you’re in good company. I’d rather hear about what you saw than what you didn’t, anyway.  

It’s been said that you can learn more about a hunter by what they don’t shoot than what they do. This week, I’m thankful for a little time to unwind outdoors; watching, waiting, hoping and praying. 

Hunters were wildlife watchers before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service even came up with the term (which they seem to use to describe non-hunting individuals in surveying changes in outdoor recreation). 

No venison yet? Year in and year out, only about 20 percent of the deer population is harvested. That means there’s a whole lot of leftovers out there. 

Good luck and safe hunting to all.

More Days of Blaze

Even after the regular nine-day gun deer hunt ends Sunday, it’s immediately followed by a 10-day muzzleloader season here and an extended firearm hunt in the Brown County metro subzone. After that, it’s four days of antlerless-only Dec. 7-10. 

If you hunt a property that could use some herd reduction, consider taking an extra doe to share with those less fortunate. Some hunters share with friends or family members who don’t hunt. Others contribute their registered carcass to the state’s Deer Donation Program.

Haberli’s Deer Processing near Sturgeon Bay and Marchant’s Venison Processing near Brussels are participating again this year. Deer must be field-dressed and registered (bring the confirmation number) before being dropped off. You must donate the entire carcass, though you can make arrangements to keep the head, cape and antlers.

All hunters, except those after waterfowl, must comply with blaze orange regulations when gun deer hunting is open. It’s also a good idea for anyone recreating outside to wear a highly-visible color when afield. 

For more on the gun deer hunt, visit

Sticker Sales Nov. 24

The 2024 state park and forest annual admission stickers and trail passes go on sale Friday, Nov. 24. Cost is $28 for Wisconsin residents, $38 for nonresidents. State residents age 65 and older can get one for $13. 

There are also price breaks for additional stickers for vehicles registered to the same household ($15.50 for residents, $20.50 for nonresidents). Annual trail passes are $25 for residents and nonresidents.

Stickers will be available online through or at state parks via drive-up window service. 

Vehicle admission stickers provide access to more than 60 state parks, forests and recreation areas across Wisconsin. Learn more at

Committee Advances Bill

The Assembly Sporting Heritage Committee approved a bill to require the Department of Natural Resources to set a statewide population goal in its wolf management plan.

Last month, the Natural Resources Board approved a new wolf plan, eliminating the previous minimum wolf population goal of 350 and instead managing for a range of 800 to 1,200 wolves. 

See a two-minute legislative segment of opposing views on whether or not to set a specific goal at

Weekly Water Levels

Green Bay and Lake Michigan water levels are down one inch in the past month, and are just an inch lower than last year at this time. As of Nov. 17, levels were 34 inches lower than the monthly record high, set in 1986, and 34 inches above the record low, set in 1964. The seasonal decline continues, with a drop of two inches predicted by mid-December.