WILD THINGS: Season’s First Hunts Opens Wednesday

Locally Raised Canada Geese Abundant

It’s still summer on the calendar, but many area hunters are gearing up for the first “fall” hunting openers Sept. 1.

The early goose season will start with a bang Wednesday, when wildlife officials and plenty of urban property owners hope hunters can help trim a booming population of locally raised Canada geese. There’s a generous daily bag limit of five geese during the early, two-week hunt. It’s designed to help reduce the numbers of Canadas, which have become so abundant that a growing number of municipalities have resorted to lethal summer round-ups when the birds are molting. The carcasses are then donated to local food pantries. 

Also opening Wednesday will be the early teal and mourning dove seasons, followed a week later (Sept. 8) by the black bear hunt with dogs in Zones A, B and D, and with bait in Zones C, E and F. Those baiting in Zones A, B and D may begin hunting Sept. 15.

The most popular openers of the month – bow and crossbow deer – will begin Sept. 18. That’s also the starting date for fall turkey, gray and fox squirrel, and Northern Zone cottontail rabbit, as well as the youth waterfowl hunt weekend.

New this year, the duck-zone structure includes an Open Water Zone for Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Regular waterfowl hunting will run for a 60-day season, with open and close dates set by the harvest zone. The Northern Zone will open Sept. 25, the Southern Zone Oct. 2 and the new Open Water Zone Oct. 16. 

After the early hunt ends, goose hunters will have a 92-day regular season, which includes two splits to allow hunting during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The South Canada Goose Zone has a daily bag limit of three Canada geese during the first portion of the season and five Canada geese during the Holiday Hunt (Dec. 20-Jan. 4).

Duck and goose hunters will see a state waterfowl stamp fee increase from $7 to $12 to adjust for inflation since the last increase 24 years ago. Numerous conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited and the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, advocated for the fee increase. Stamp fees fund crucial waterfowl-habitat restoration work across the state to improve breeding, bird health and hunter opportunity.

Shanty Days Fishing

A 27.72-pound Chinook salmon, 19.15-pound lake trout and 11.48-pound rainbow trout were the heaviest fish caught in each category during the annual Shanty Days fishing contest in Algoma. Notable was the number of fish caught by youths in the Ahnapee River. 

Many anglers are crediting the Forestville flowage drawdown during the past two years with dumping more than just sediment. Fast action for small northern pike seemed to be a direct result of the pond emptying, with anglers often catching multiple fish per hour. The longest measured during the event was a 35.5-incher. 

Bowfin (“dogfish”), yellow perch, bullheads, sunfish, bluegills, bass (mostly largemouth and rock) and crappie were among the other fish species seen.

Ian Stanz of Algoma caught the largest northern pike during the Aug. 15 Shanty Days fishing contest: a 35.5-incher. He also won the bluegill division with a 10-incher. Photo courtesy of Wayne Stanz.

Wolf Tally Climbing

Gray wolves killed two more dogs and two captive white-tailed deer since our last report, bringing the total to nearly 60 pets and livestock depredated so far in 2021.

Nearly two dozen other animals have been confirmed as injured or missing, and more than 550 others have been involved in verified wolf-harassment complaints. There have also been more than 235 pets and livestock involved in depredations or complaints that were not able to be confirmed. 

Wolves have killed, injured or harassed pets and livestock in at least 23 counties in Wisconsin so far this year.

Merlin Can Identify Birdsong

The free Merlin Bird ID app can now help you identify the songs and calls of more than 400 species of North American birds.

Pull out your smartphone, press Record and Merlin will show matches in real time. Every species you identify with the new Sound ID feature can also be saved to your life list.

Merlin’s new feature was made possible by thousands of citizen scientists who contributed recordings to the Macaulay Library and shared bird sightings with eBird, breakthroughs in machine learning and artificial intelligence, and volunteers who spent myriad hours training Merlin.

Apply for Hunt by Sept. 1

Eligible disabled hunters can apply to participate in a special gun deer hunt on private property across the state through a DNR- and landowner-sponsored program.

This year’s hunt will take place Oct. 2-10 on select private lands, and hunters must contact a landowner sponsor by Sept. 1. To be eligible, hunters must possess a valid Class A, C or D disabled permit or a Class B permit issued for longer than one year, authorizing shooting from a stationary vehicle.

Nearly 90 sponsors have enrolled in this year’s hunt. Those who are new to this opportunity can learn more on the DNR website.