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DNR Weekly News Update for October 16, 2018

2018 Wisconsin ring-necked pheasant season opens Oct. 20

Contact(s): Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Jaqi Christopher, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458

MADISON - The longtime and popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2018 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20. The season will run through Jan. 6, 2019.

Several other seasons also open that day including bobwhite quail, Hungarian partridge and ruffed grouse in Zone B. Like pheasant, the bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at 9 a.m. The ruffed grouse season opens with the start of legal shooting hours.

Hunters should check the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations [PDF] for rules and season structures for the game species they will pursue.

Pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2018 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20. - Photo credit: DNR
Pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2018 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.Photo credit: DNR

"Pheasant hunting offers a fantastic means to experience the outdoors, and it complements the other upland bird hunting opportunities in Wisconsin very well," says Mark Witecha, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "Pheasant hunting offers the chance to explore landscapes and habitat types you might not otherwise see," added Witecha.

Pheasants are one of the most sought-after gamebirds in North America, and populations do best in the agricultural landscape of southern and western Wisconsin provided there is habitat present in sufficient quantities to meet their food and cover needs throughout the year, according to Witecha.

The 2018 spring pheasant surveys in Wisconsin show that pheasant abundance is above the 5-year average with the highest pheasant detection rate in the west-central part of the state.

To pursue wild pheasants, hunters should look for areas that contain adequate winter cover, such as cattail marshes and dense brush, intermixed with cropland, hay and idle grasslands which provide food and nesting cover. It will be important for hunters to identify areas with high-quality habitat, concentrating their hunting efforts in those areas, according to Witecha.

During the 2017 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 42,450 hunters went out in search of pheasants and reported harvesting 301,490 birds. The top counties for harvest included Fond du Lac, Kenosha and Jefferson.


A 2018 Pheasant Stamp and a valid small game license are required to hunt pheasants statewide. Please note that the free leg tags previously required on the hen/rooster areas are no longer required. The daily bag limit is one pheasant daily for the first two days of the season and two pheasants daily for the remainder of the season, with a possession limit of three times the daily bag limit. More information is available in the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations, available online at, keyword "regulations."

A new hunting app also allows hunters to brush up on regulations as well as explore public lands on an interactive map, see up to the minute shooting hours, or even listen to podcasts. For more information and how to download the app, visit, search keywords "hunt app."

Pheasant Stocking Program

Pheasant stocking. - Photo credit: DNR
Pheasant stocking.Photo credit: DNR

In addition to wild pheasant hunting opportunities, the DNR wildlife management staff plan to release approximately 75,000 pheasants from the state game farm on 90 public hunting grounds. These numbers are similar to the 2017 stocking efforts. Pheasants raised by conservation clubs as part of the Day-old Chick Program will also be released this fall. The Day-old Chick Program involves conservation clubs that typically receive about 35,000 rooster chicks annually. These clubs release pheasants on public hunting land and private land open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to be polite and notify the landowner before hunting on private property open to public hunting as part of this program.

A list of all properties stocked with pheasants is available on the 2018 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet [PDF], or go to, and search keyword "pheasant."

Where to Hunt

Hunters can use FFLIGHT, the DNR's gamebird mapping application, to locate and explore properties stocked with pheasants, as well as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat and managed dove fields. FFLIGHT allows hunters to use aerial maps, topography and measuring tools to easily navigate and identify areas of interest and make their trips more productive and enjoyable. To learn more about FFLIGHT, visit, keyword "FFLIGHT."

Land enrolled in the Voluntary Public Access Program (VPA) is open to public hunting this pheasant season. The VPA Program has more than 30,000 acres of private land open to public hunting, fishing and bird watching year-round. Many properties are located within a short driving distance of urban areas and are popular pheasant hunting spots. To find properties enrolled in the VPA program, visit, keyword "VPA."

Mentored Hunting Program

The Mentored Hunting Program allows any hunter, born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without first completing Hunter Education, provided they hunt with a mentor and comply with all the requirements under the program. For additional information and the requirements of the program, visit, keyword "mentored hunting."

"Pheasants are a popular gamebird, and they offer a great hunting experience to both novices and experienced hunters," said Witecha. "I wish hunters safe and successful trips this fall."




Oct. 31 deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses

Contact(s): Ryan Koenigs, , 920-303-5450, or

MADISON - The deadline to purchase licenses for the 2019 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is Oct. 31, with state biologists forecasting great opportunities to land the fish of a lifetime.

Kyle Jenkins speared an 84.5 inch, 143.7 pound sturgeon on Lake Winnebago in 2018. It is the longest fish harvested in Wisconsin but official records are tracked by weight so the official state record remains an 84.2 inch, 212.2 pound fish speared in 2010.  - Photo credit: DNR
Kyle Jenkins speared an 84.5 inch, 143.7 pound sturgeon on Lake Winnebago in 2018. It is the longest fish harvested in Wisconsin but official records are tracked by weight so the official state record remains an 84.2 inch, 212.2 pound fish speared in 2010.Photo credit: DNR

"The fish population is strong - we've got more fish than we've had in decades and plenty of big fish," says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist. "As always, the biggest driver of spearing success will be water clarity, and we won't have an idea what clarity will look like until the weeks leading up to the season."

The 2019 spearing season opens Feb. 9, 2019, with separate but simultaneous seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes. Participation in the Upriver Lakes season is determined by lottery.

The seasons run for 16 days or until harvest caps are reached; system-wide harvest caps for 2019 are 430 juvenile females, 950 adult females, and 1,200 males.

A mid-winter warmup before the 2018 spearing season resulted in reduced water clarity and contributed to a lower harvest: a combined total of 951 sturgeon. That total is down from averages over the last decade, but still the largest recreational spear harvest for sturgeon in the world and an increase over the 2016 season total of 703 fish, and 2017 total of 847 fish, Koenigs says.

How and where to get spearing licenses

Licenses are again $20 for residents and $65 for nonresidents and can be purchased by visiting or any license sales location. To find a license agent near you, go to and search with key words "license agent."

The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2018, and the last day of the 2019 spearing season can still buy a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after Oct. 31.

There are unlimited license sales on Lake Winnebago, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a lottery and limited to 500 permitted spearers. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, they are not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago.

Spearers are now able to transfer Upriver Lakes spear licenses to youth spearers (age 12-17) and can do so by filling a transfer of license form at least 15 days before the 2018 sturgeon spear fishery. Spearers who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the lottery but were not drawn for a license receive a preference point and can still purchase a Lake Winnebago license before the Oct. 31 deadline.

For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, visit and search "Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing."




Join in the fun Oct. 27 at Wild Rose Fish Hatchery open house and lake sturgeon presentation

Contact(s): Jesse Landwehr, hatchery supervisor, 920-622-3527

Open house runs 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; "Indigenous Perspectives on Lake Sturgeon" set for 4 p.m.

 WILD ROSE - Families and fish enthusiasts of all ages will want to visit Wild Rose Fish Hatchery one last time on Oct. 27 for an open house, fun fishing-related activities, and a presentation by a Menominee tribal elder on "Indigenous Perspectives on Lake Sturgeon."

Enjoy family friendly activities, see big brown trout up close, and tour the beautiful historic grounds at the Oct. 27 Wild Rose Hatchery Fall Open house.    - Photo credit: DNR
Enjoy family friendly activities, see big brown trout up close, and tour the beautiful historic grounds at the Oct. 27 Wild Rose Hatchery Fall Open house.Photo credit: DNR

"Our open house ends up being a nice family day," says Jesse Landwehr, Wild Rose supervisor. "Visitors get a good chance to see what we do and why we do it, and it helps get everybody outdoors more."

The hatchery in Waushara County is the workhorse of the state's fish hatchery system, producing more fish and more diverse species than any other, and it features beautiful, century-old historic hatchery grounds where people can see Lake Michigan fish up close.

Open house and sturgeon presentation details

The open house runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free and open to the public, and is the last big opportunity to visit the hatchery before it closes to visitors in November through March.

The hatchery is located at N5871 State Road 22, in Wild Rose, Wis., and during the open house, visitors can enjoy exhibits and aquaria in the education center, including a new exhibit on lake sturgeon. They can join in fish printing, fly tying and casting and other fun activities at the center, and then stroll the historic hatchery grounds and see big brown trout up close in the show pond and raceways.

Visitors also can see what modern fish rearing techniques and equipment look like through a viewing window into Wild Rose's coldwater facility up the hill. Here, hatchery crews are raising 800,000 chinook salmon and 400,000 each of brown trout and coho salmon for stocking into Lake Michigan. Wild Rose also operates a "coolwater" facility where crews raise lake sturgeon, muskies, northern pike, Great Lakes spotted musky, and walleye; those facilities are not open to the public.

At 4 p.m. in the education center, visitors can join Mike Hoffman for stories and conversation about "Indigenous Perspectives on Lake Sturgeon." Mr. Hoffman is an Elder who is a descendant of the Menominee and Ottawa tribes. He is a fluent speaker of the Menominee language and serves as Cultural Consultant to the Menominee Clans Exhibit at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Museum of Natural History.

The presentation is the last in a series on lake sturgeon sponsored by the Wisconsin Humanities Council, one of the sponsors of the new sturgeon display, along with Sturgeon for Tomorrow, the DNR and Sport Fish Restoration dollars.




Halloween events at Wisconsin state parks, forests and wildlife education centers

Contact(s): Paul Holtan, DNR Office of Communications, 608-267-7517

MADISON - There will be multiple opportunities for costumed Halloween revelers to hike along trails lit by jack-o-lanterns or other luminaries, some with visits from "non-scary" costumed wild creatures, and then enjoying hot cider 'smores and other treats around bonfires at Wisconsin State Park properties October 19, 20 and 27. Many of the events also offer games, arts and crafts, storytelling and music.

Halloween revelers of all ages are encouraged to dress in costumes at the many events being held across the state. - Photo credit: DNR
Halloween revelers of all ages are encouraged to dress in costumes at the many events being held across the state.Photo credit: DNR

Events at state parks are free, but all vehicles entering parks are required to have a current Wisconsin State Parks daily or annual admission sticker.

For a listing of events, search the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website for "Get Outdoors" and then select "festivals" under the "type" button.

Friday, October 19, 6-9 p.m.

  • Governor Nelson State Park, Waunakee, 608-831-3005 - Halloween Hike and Bonfire. As we approach the end of autumn, come and celebrate Halloween with an evening hike on the Woodland Trail (1.2 miles) lit with glowing luminaries. Enjoy marshmallows, hot dogs and hot chocolate while supplies last alongside a bonfire at the beach shelter. Come dressed up in costume or regular attire. Bring a flashlight. Pets are welcome, but must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet.

Friday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, Oct. 20

Meet animals of the forest at the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. - Photo credit: DNR
Meet animals of the forest at the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.Photo credit: DNR
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit - Campbellsport, 920-533-8322 - Four on the Floor Halloween Nature Hikes. Meet those animals with four on the floor: the Forest Sprite waits to greet visitors as they begin an extraordinary evening adventure that includes a menagerie of costume characters including the know-it-all bobcat, the bumbling Urban Trio, super villain star-nosed mole, and overly confident treefrog awaits you and your friends as you stroll through the dark autumn woods. The hikes take place at the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area located off County Road GGG south of County Road SS near New Prospect (approximately 20 miles north of West Bend and 20 miles south of Fond du Lac). Guided groups leave every six minutes with the last one going out at 8:30 p.m. Each hike lasts about one hour. These non-scary hikes are best for those over the age 5. Before or after the hikes, play exciting games and create clever crafts. The Friends of the Kettle Moraine provide free apple cider and popcorn for all the hikers to enjoy by a roaring campfire. 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 20

  • Devil's Lake State Park, Baraboo, 608-356-8301 ext 140 - Candlelight Halloween Hike. There's a lot of Halloween fun at this annual event sponsored by the Friends of Devil's Lake. Go on a 1-mile torch lit hike; show off your costume by the campfire while roasting a marshmallow or two, and listen to the songs of Campfire Kevin; enjoy some tasty treats sold by the Friends group; and find out about bats! You can even make a bat to take home with you. The event is held at Chateau (North Shore Concessions). 6-9 p.m.
  • Heritage Hill State Park, 920-448-5150 - Heritage Hill's Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Halloween EventCome one, come all and join us at Heritage Hill for a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Halloween Event. Meet Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots, and Snow White, and many more. Visitors can Trick- or-Treat in a family-friendly environment and visit each area of the park to hear stories from the Brothers Grimm and play Games, like Pumpkin Plinko and candy abound throughout the park. Children and adults alike are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes. Make a Halloween craft and a Brothers Grimm print! Play our traditional snap apple game, a fun twist on bobbing for apples. Special Admission Rates Apply: $7 for All Adults & Children Ages 3 and up, and Children Ages 2 and under are free. If you purchase online there is a 50 cent convenience fee will be applied. For more information visit 3-8 p.m.
  • Horicon Marsh Visitor and Education Center, Horicon - There is no better place to enjoy "fangtastic" October than at Horicon Marsh! The Horicon Chamber of Commerce and Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center are uniting to present two unique, spooktacular events: Invasion on the Marsh and the Horicon Haunted Marsh Tour. Although these events are free, a donation of $5 per person is strongly suggested. During Invasion on the Marsh from 6:30-8:30 p.m. families are invited to "creep it real" with their best costume as they join forces with DNR staff to keep wicked invasives from taking over the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center's hair-raising exhibit, the Explorium. The evening's frightful festivities won't be limited just to the Explorium. Join us in making batty crafts, playing games by moonlight, and other eerie activities. Enjoy a spider egg cookie or poison apple during a ghoulish bake sale held to support the Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. Invasion on the Marsh! tours will depart at designated times. Space is limited, and slots open on the day of the event will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. All tour participants must check in at the front counter upon arrival; please arrive 10 minutes early. Participants can pre-register on Eventbrite at: Horicon Haunted Marsh Tour: With the help of our volunteers, the 0.8 mile Indermuehle trail will transform into the place of your spookiest nightmares. A kid-friendly "light fright" will take place 5:30-6:30 p.m., before dark. Older audiences are invited to a scarier, spine-tingling walk 6:30-8:30 p.m. With more monsters released every hour, audiences will startle their senses as they courageously brave the haunted woods and are rewarded with a sweet treat. Participants are not required to pre-register for this walk on the Indermuehle trail.
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit, Eagle, 262-594-6200 - McMiller Fall Candlelight HikeEnjoy the smell of leaves in the air and take a 1.1-mile hike around the seldom-hiked McMiller Trails. The trail loop will be lit by LED lights. Hike at your own time and pace. There will be a bonfire, kids crafts and activities, and snacks for sale. Pets are allowed at this event but must be on leash at all times. Meet at the McMiller Trailhead-Hwy NN, about a half mile west of Hwy 67 (South of Eagle). 6-9 p.m.
  • Lake Kegonsa State Park, Stoughton, 608-873-9695 - Candlelight Hike. Enjoy a beautiful autumn evening hiking along the 1.2-mile White Oak Nature Trail which will be lit with hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns and luminaries. When you are finished, warm up by the bonfire and enjoy refreshments sold by the Lake Kegonsa State Park Friends Group. 6-8 p.m.
  • George W. Mead Wildlife AreaMilladore, 715-457-6771 - Spooktacular & Food Drive8th Annual non‐scary, family fun night Halloween event: Play games, craft a craft, decorate a pumpkin or cookie, warm‐up by the campfire. Admission is free with a non‐perishable food item, or $2 per person. 5:30-8 p.m.
  • Merrick State Park, Fountain City, 608-687-4936 - "Not So Spooky" Hike. Join park staff and volunteers for a "Not So Spooky" self-guided night hike on one of the trails lit by jack-o-lanterns and tiki-torches. Try your hand at making fall decorations or just hang out by the bonfire and roast a hot dog or marshmallow! There will be s'more-making materials on hand along with hot chocolate and hot apple cider. Bring a flashlight, if you wish, and please dress appropriately for the weather. Meet at the Nature Center. 6-8 p.m.
  • Mirror Lake State Park, Lake Delton, 608-254-2333 - Halloween Mystery Candlelight Hike. Join park staff and the Friends of Mirror Lake for a fun, family evening at Mirror Lake. There will be an easy 1-mile trail lit with clue stations along to way to help discover the Mystery Guest. Start at the beach, read the clues and try to identify the Mystery Guest you will see at the Amphitheater. When you are not out on the trail, enjoy stories and songs around the bonfires. The Friends will have food and beverages for sale as a fundraiser. Meet at the beach picnic area. 6-8 p.m.
  • Richard Bong State Recreation Area, Kansasville, 262-878-5600 - Eco-Halloween Hike. You are invited to meet some "Cold-blooded Creatures" at this non-scary, family event. Enjoy jack-o-lanterns, Halloween nature skits, fires, games and crafts. Refreshments for sale. You may arrive anytime between 6:30 and 8 p.m. to sign up for a hike. Hikes take about a half-hour. Entire event is held outdoors: dress accordingly. Meet at Shelter #1. $2 fee per person (ages 4+) payable at registration. 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 27

  • Willow River State Park, Hudson, 715-386-5931 - Willow River Halloween Bash. Join Friends of Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks and PowerUp on this fun and spooky evening with free snacks, crafts, storytelling and more for the family to enjoy. Don't forget to wear your costume! No pets allowed. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please contact the park if you'd like to help out with this event! 5:30 -7:30 p.m.




Lured by a chainsaw, now honored for using one to benefit State Natural Areas

Contact(s): Jared Urban, 608-228-4349,

Beloit man recognized for work restoring prairies

MADISON - A dozen years after Ron DeGraff investigated the sound of chainsaws coming from a State Natural Area near his property, the Beloit man has won a volunteer award for spending hundreds of hours behind a chainsaw clearing invasive plants and restoring wildflowers at the site.

DeGraff was recognized as the State Natural Area Volunteer Program's 2018 Steward of the Year during the annual potluck for volunteers in September in Rio.

"Ron is a determined force," said Jared Urban, who coordinates the volunteer program for DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation bureau. "When he has set his mind towards a goal he works at a steady pace until it is thoroughly completed.

"As a result, a LOT of autumn olive, cedar, brush, and weeds have been removed in the last 12 years and the prairie is filling in with great native plants. The prairie would not be the same without him!"

Jared Urban, left, coordinator of State Natural Area Volunteer Program, congratulations Ron DeGraff, right, on receiving the 2018 Steward of the Year Award. - Photo credit: DNR
Jared Urban, left, coordinator of State Natural Area Volunteer Program, congratulations Ron DeGraff, right, on receiving the 2018 Steward of the Year Award.Photo credit: DNR

DeGraff has spent 700 hours volunteering at State Natural Areas since 2011 alone, and says he got involved because he was curious. "The prairie is almost adjacent to my property and I was temporarily laid off in 2006 and I heard chaw saws one day over there," he says. "I walked over and they were clearing cedar. I met Matt Zine (now field operations team leader) over there and he got me into this."

Now, most days in the prairie he can be found removing cedar, autumn olive, and brush. He also has helped remove two large trash dumps, offering his tools, equipment, and expertise to help, and has helped coordinate firewood sales by connecting with interested local residents, including providing cedar to the Rock River Thresheree for demonstrations using a steam-powered mill to make cedar shingles.

DeGraff has also conducted rare animal surveys, removed weeds, helped install fire breaks, served as a watchdog, collected and spread seeds, and burned countless numbers of brush piles. He works alongside the Rock County Conservationists to do work on DNR sites.

"What I enjoy is the fact it's close enough I can walk over there whenever," DeGraff says. "It's amazing to me to see the wildflowers that come back after you get rid of the invasive species. Flowers like rough blazing star and wild indigo."

State natural areas protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.

Urban started the State Natural Area Volunteer program in 2011, and new groups have been forming to help supplement work done by state SNA work crews. In 2017, 35 groups directly impacted 3,464 acres on 43 sites.

See a calendar of volunteer workdays and sign up to receive notices of these opportunities in your area. Go to and search "SNA volunteers."