Wild Things: With No End to COVID-19 in Sight, 2021 Sport Show Season in Jeopardy

COVID-19 concerns forced the cancellations of dozens of state and national sport shows this year, and with no end to the pandemic in sight, one has to wonder how many will fold if they can’t make a go of it in 2021.

There are some signs of optimism from two of the biggest, however: The Archery Trade Association (ATA) and National Shooting Sports Foundation plan to move forward with their shows. (UPDATE: The Archery Trade Association announced Thursday that they have cancelled their Jan. 7-9 event. “We hold the ATA Trade Show to an extremely high standard, and it became clear that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we wouldn’t be able to provide the trade show environment that you’ve all come to expect and enjoy,” show organizers said in a statement.) The Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show is set for Jan. 19-22 in Las Vegas.

Even if they do go ahead, the SHOT Show will look different than in the past, with, most likely, mask mandates and other safety protocols in place, larger aisles with one-way traffic, and social-distancing efforts made when and where possible.

There’s no official word yet on the many popular Wisconsin deer, turkey and fishing shows. Though dates are available online, it’ll likely be a while before we learn just which ones are going to take a chance. 

The American Sportfishing Association’s ICAST show was virtual in July, and much was learned about the ability to showcase the latest tackle online. Will others follow suit? Stay tuned.

Long-ranging Wolf

The DNR’s new large-carnivore specialist, Randy Johnson, passed along an interesting report from his colleagues in Michigan.

It has long been known that young male cougars can travel hundreds of miles in search of a mate. One famous example was a South Dakota mountain lion that covered more than 1,100 miles before being struck and killed by a vehicle in Connecticut in 2011. DNA samples of scat (droppings), blood and hair from four sites in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010 were an exact match. 

But wolves? Although they’ve been known to make some pretty large moves of their own, one particular adult male went a lot farther. 

The Michigan DNR fitted him with a GPS collar Jan. 30, 2020, in Mackinac County, and he was illegally killed in northwest Minnesota on Aug. 2. Data from the collar showed that, during those six months, the wolf had traveled a minimum of 1,973 miles through parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba, going about as far north as Winnipeg before turning around.

Male black bear and moose have been known to take some sizable journeys, too, and they often end up looking for love in all the wrong places. Some are struck by vehicles, but some relocate to a better habitat – and a few just might get lucky. 

Deer Meetings after Hunt

County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) would normally be meeting this month to set new, three-year local management objectives, but the process has been pushed back until after the gun deer hunt to give stakeholders the latest information on which to base population objectives.

COVID-19 forced a phone meeting in the spring. The DNR plans to add a video-format meeting this time around to share more visuals during presentations. We’ll keep you posted. 

Meanwhile, after more than eight years as the state’s top deer and elk biologist, Kevin Wallenfang recently took a new job as the manager of the DNR’s CWD processing center in Black Earth (and then in the new facility in Poynette).

Another deer-program employee, Dan Adams, found a job with Pheasants Forever in his home state of Pennsylvania. Matt Gross is the new CDAC contact.

Whitefish Meeting Oct. 20
A third meeting to engage stakeholders who have an interest in lake whitefish has been set for Oct. 20, 6 pm. Members of the public can access the meeting beginning at 5:45 pm via Zoom or by calling 312.626.6799 and using meeting ID number 967 7139 3836.

Some of the topics will include a discussion of whitefish quota distribution scenarios and options, a report of the current bycatch assessment project, a review of whitefish information gathered to date, and a discussion of future engagement timelines and opportunities.

Find information, meeting notes and presentations from previous meetings by searching for the DNR’s Lake Michigan Whitefish Management page online.  

More Seasons Opening

The pheasant, Hungarian partridge, southern-zone cottontail and Zone B ruffed grouse hunts will open Oct. 17. Find all of Wisconsin’s hunting opportunities summarized in the new, larger 2020-21 regulations publication – the first time they’ve all been compiled in one place. Pick up your copy wherever licenses are sold, on the DNR’s GoWild app, or online at

Water Levels Dropping

As of Oct. 9, Lake Michigan was still 32 inches above its 100-year monthly average, but an inch below last year during the same week, and down four inches since early September.