Wisconsin -(Ammoland.com)- The astronomical winter begins with the winter solstice, but unseasonably mild weather has continued through yet another week, making it feel anything but winter-like and delaying winter sports activity.
Most lakes and rivers in the state remain ice-free, and even most of the northern lakes that had ice have lost their ice cover.
Some of the smaller lakes still have a thin layer of soft ice, but it was not close to a thikness that would support any kind of ice travel.
With the re-opening of many northern lakes, there were a few anglers that took advantage of the situation and gave open-water fishing a try. Conditions have been rather windy and brisk, and success was generally low with just a few perch, crappie and small walleye caught.
The far north received from 1 to 3 inches of new snow this week, but not enough for any of the northern forests or parks to begin grooming ski trails. The mild weather has given park and forest staff and snowmobile clubs plenty of time to clear and mow trails, so when snow does arrive trails should be in good condition.
The ground remains unfrozen across much of the state, and rain in the last week – some very heavy – has many trails and roads soft and muddy. With up to 4 inches of rain in some locations in the last week, many rivers were at or near flood stage, including the lower Wisconsin, Rock, Baraboo and Pecatonica rivers. The DNR has been monitoring the levees along the Wisconsin River at Portage. Water levels have now begun receding in most locations.
Conditions were less than ideal for the four-day antlerless only hunt. Windy and rainy conditions dampened hunting pressure, and deer weren’t moving around much on their own. But the unusually mild weather has provided for some good late season grouse hunting. Hunters are finding near ideal conditions to work their dogs one last time before the snow falls. Archery and crossbow deer season is also still open through Jan. 3 and some hunters are taking advantage of the mild winter.
Bird sightings should start to pick up now that the Christmas Bird Count season has begun, with more than 100 being held across the state. With the mild fall, Wisconsin has yet to see the peak influx of Canada geese and other cold-hardy waterfowl. Common redpolls and American tree sparrows have been seen along the roadsides. Chickadees are out in force investigating anybody in their territory and pine siskins are flittering from branch to branch feeding on small seeds and cones.
Only a few sandhill cranes are lingering at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area but they are still plentiful in the south. The flooding out of Wisconsin River sandbars displaced high numbers of sandhill cranes that had been roosting there and flocks are crisscrossing the sky with their distinctive bugle filling the air.
Least weasels have pretty well completed their annual autumn molt during which their color changes from brown to all white. Snowshoe hares had also begun to really stand out in their white fur against a brown background, so the recent snow in the north should help conceal them from predators.
Some landowners have reported lilac buds beginning to swell and green up. The lack of snow creates an opportunity for landowners to access upland sights and do invasives control. This is a great time of year to do cut stump treatment of buckthorn, black locust, or other woody invasive plants.