Signs of autumn are everywhere, even as we’re still days away from its official start Sept. 22 at 8:31 am.
The first spawn-minded chinook salmon have made it to Forestville on the Ahnapee River and to the Besadny Fisheries Facility on the Kewaunee River. Bird migration is well underway, with nighthawks, warblers and many other seasonal visitors on their way south. And across the rural landscape, the first hints of fall colors are showing on sumacs, maples, chokecherry and dozens of other shrubs, trees and plants.
It’s a great time to get outside and explore.
Whether through hiking, fishing, boating or hunting, one of the unexpected and positive side effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in people realizing the positive health benefits – mental and physical – of discovering or rediscovering the outdoors.
All signs point to a banner year for boat dealers, and the Department of Natural Resources has reported year-to-date increases in the sale of many fishing and hunting licenses.
There’s something special about having a front-row seat to the change in seasons, especially while hoping you’ll be able to put some free-range food on the table. Wild game is a renewable resource and as organic as it comes – a tasty and nutritious bonus to time spent afield.
Deer are Wisconsin’s most popular game animal, and for good reason. They’re exciting to hunt, and adult whitetails can provide 40 to 50 pounds of delicious venison steaks, stew meat and hamburger.
Wild turkeys are another local favorite. They’re challenging to hunt and great in the crock pot, deep fryer or any other way you like to cook ’em.
Will small-game and waterfowl hunters return to the woodlots, marshes and potholes in large numbers this fall? That remains to be seen, but there are plenty of geese, ducks, rabbits and squirrels around.
Birdathon Nears Goal
The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is closing in on its $100,000 fundraising goal, but there’s still time to get involved. The event has been extended into October to give teams and individuals more time to bird and donate.
A project of the Natural Resources Foundation, the Great Wisconsin Birdathon is the largest fundraiser for bird conservation in Wisconsin, uniting hundreds of bird enthusiasts while raising funds to support priority bird-conservation projects. The effort has raised more than $500,000 for priority conservation projects since 2012.
This year’s Birdathon is focused as a tool to connect with birds, local spaces and safely with family and friends while raising awareness of the importance of birds and their habitat. New this year – due to concerns about COVID-19 – participants were invited to take part in a separate Backyard Birding Challenge, and they reported an incredible 184 species.
Even as the U.S. Department of the Interior prepares to delist Great Lakes gray wolves – and hoping to follow successful legislation in Montana and Idaho – Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) have introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would essentially do the same thing.
Tiffany said he doesn’t believe a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisting can ever be successful as long as animal activist groups keep suing the feds and getting their petitions heard in front of urban judges who don’t understand wolf-restoration programs.
Stauber said that despite the gray wolf’s recovery, well-funded animal protectionist groups have been able to litigate the species back on the Endangered Species Act, much to the detriment of hunters and farmers.
“It was never the purpose of the Endangered Species Act to permanently list a species,” Stauber said.
Whitefish Virtual Meeting Sept. 22
A second meeting to engage stakeholders who have an interest in lake whitefish has been set for Sept. 22, 6 pm. The DNR will be developing new regulations for lake whitefish for the commercial industry and would like stakeholder participation from a wide variety of sources.
Members of the public can access the virtual meeting beginning at 5:45 pm via Zoom or by calling 312.626.6799 and using meeting ID number 961 9714 5544.
Information will be shared during the meeting through a PowerPoint presentation. The call-in number will allow attendees to listen to the discussion, but to better understand the information and see the presentation, use a computer and this Zoom link: zoom.us/j/96197145544.
Information, meeting notes and presentations for the first meeting can be found by searching for the DNR’s Lake Michigan Whitefish Management page online.
As of Sept. 11, Lake Michigan was 33 inches above its 100-year monthly average, four inches higher than last year and an inch below the previous September record, set in 1986.