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WILD THINGS: Winter’s Coming, But Only on Calendar

Winter is coming Thursday, Dec. 21, but only on the calendar. 

If the long-term forecast is accurate, those of us who love ice fishing, skating, sledding, skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling will need to be patient.

Highs in the low 40s late this week and mid- to upper 30s the next seven days or so mean the chances for a white Christmas aren’t looking very good, either.

Weather experts say we could experience the impacts of an El Niño weather pattern this winter, leading to warmer and drier conditions.

Whatever the case, you just know that sooner or later we’ll get blasted with frigid air, and enough snow to make those of us north of a certain age sore from shoveling.

While waiting for the right conditions, get your outdoor gear organized and ready (yes, even the ice-melt salt and shovels) so you’ll be able to sneak away once the snow flies and the ice sets up.

A number of open-water anglers have been casting spoons on the Ahnapee River and catching a mixed bag of northern pike, coho salmon and brown trout.

In addition, a few shore and small-boat fishermen were still braving the cold wind for perch, pike, walleye and even muskies from Little Sturgeon to Sturgeon Bay, while northern Door harbors were giving up an occasional trout, pike or ‘eye. 

Air temperatures above freezing are best, or rod guides quickly ice up. 

Deer and Turkeys

Any legal deer is again fair game if you’re a bow or crossbow hunter and have an open tag. The four-day antlerless-only season ended Dec. 10. The next antlerless-only hunt is set for Dec. 24-Jan. 1 in many farmland counties, including Brown, Door and Kewaunee.

Nearly 6,800 deer were taken statewide during the 10-day muzzleloader hunt, more than 4,000 of them antlerless. The count included 139 in Brown County (58 bucks), 91 in Kewaunee (25 bucks) and 65 in Door (24 bucks). 

Nearly 7,000 antlerless deer (and 18 bucks) were reported during the four-day “doe” hunt that ended Sunday, including 89 in Door, 59 in Kewaunee, and 45 in Brown.

Crossbow users have registered more than 51,600 deer, including about 32,300 bucks. Archers have taken more than 33,900 deer, including nearly 21,000 bucks.

Through last weekend, the all-seasons 2023 fall deer harvest was at 145,797 bucks and 136,473 antlerless deer for a total of 282,270. That included 2,533 (1,348 bucks) in Brown County, 3,456 (1,698 bucks) in Door and 2,712 (1,296 bucks) in KC.

Meanwhile, wild turkey hunters in Zone 2 had registered 1,105 birds. That’s nearly double the combined total of Zones 1 (548) and 4 (576). Zone 3 had 732, Zone 6 276, Zone 5 213 and Zone 7 143. 

Salmon School

Author and charter captain Dan Keating is offering two schools – Big Water Wisdom and Advanced Tactics & Seasonal Strategies – Jan. 27-28 at the Green Bay Yacht Club. 

The first day covers the nuts & bolts of what it takes to set up your boat, lure selection, how to run spreads of line tangle free, electronics and more. The second day is a deep dive into how to locate and catch kings, cohos, steelhead and trout all season. Learn more at captaindankeating.com/shop.

Stocking Stuffers

You’ve got until the end of the month to get in on a special $5 deal for a subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. It’s good for both renewals and gifts. A subscription is normally $8.97. Go to wnrmag.com or call 1.800.678.9472.

Another stocking stuffer idea is a 2024 state park and forest annual admission sticker. They’re available online through yourpassnow.com/ParkPass/wi or at state parks via drive-up window service. 

Silent Night at Virlee

Virlee Gunworks Shooting Center in Sturgeon Bay is holding a Silent Night Celebration from 2-6 pm, Saturday, Dec. 23. 

The shooting range will be open for complimentary lane and gun rentals, offering the public a chance to experience something new, including experts demonstrating the use of suppressors (often referred to as “silencers). 

Water Levels Update

Green Bay and Lake Michigan water levels are down three inches in the past month, but are just an inch below levels at this time last year. Water levels are about 32 inches lower than the record December high (1986), and 33 inches above the record monthly low (2012). 

Bird Counts Dec. 16-17

A handful of Christmas Bird Count (CBC) efforts are taking place this weekend in Brown, Door and Kewaunee counties. 

You can learn more about the 124th Audubon Christmas Bird Count and find a local connection at gis.audubon.org/christmasbirdcount/.