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General hunting opener is welcome opportunities
Ruffed grouse populations continue their cycle downward.

Those who gather anything from hickory nuts to venison, in a variety of ways, are excited and looking forward to the opening of seasons as much as the person who lives for a fully-colored aspen tree and doesn’t carry a gun or bag.

     All of our sensations are at high alert, and maybe the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feels are more loaded than during other calendar seasons.  The colors are more brilliant, crisp air carries sounds and smells loader and farther. Our bodies are on full alert, mimicking a flushing ruffed grouse or stomping deer with her forward-cupped ears.

     Calm will come with the first pull of a trigger or the sound of that first hickory nut hitting the metal pail bottom.

     Many of the earlier seasons, including mourning dove, ginseng digging and lake sturgeon will continue for a while.  Welcome to the choices:  archery deer, ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbit, gray and fox squirrel, turkey (any bird), youth duck, gathering wild mushrooms, fruits and nuts, and more.

     Deer have been noticed feeding on red oak acorns, now completing their second year of development.  Corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wild apples are popular, too.  Antlers are now hard and without velvet; spots are absent from fawns and winter coats are now popular.

     Wild turkeys continue to be impressive in many areas with most poults nearly hen-high.  The growing popularity of .410 shotguning turkeys may hit a flat note with the gun’s shotshells; they are very scarce, still.   Bonus permits, with counter and computer sales, continue.

     The ongoing lake sturgeon hook and line season has the makings of disappointment due in part to the hot weather for the opener, very low water near Sauk City and fewer anglers on the river.  “We registered 17 fish during the month-long season last year and have not had a single fish come in yet,” said Wally Banfi, at Wilderness Fish and Game in Sauk City. Some teal and geese were taken during the early openers, but below expectations,”

     Supplies for hunting and fishing are good, according to Doug Williams, at D W Sports Center in Portage.  “The deer and turkeys are ready, but so are the ticks and plant stick-tights,” he said.

     Kate Mosley, at Kate’s Bait near Gov. Dodge State Park on Hwy. 23, said fishing is slow but cooler nights will begin turning things around.   “Plants are beginning to dry down, soybeans first, and there are some beginnings of leaf color on certain trees, vines and new blooms.”

     Kate is gearing up for deer registration and CWD sampling to help hunters if they don’t care to use the kiosks themselves.  She has a computer dedicated to registration, too; a step back in part to the in-person registration.

     For those who gather walnuts and hickory nuts, picking is likely to be slim with a good tree here and there.  Most wild apples and elderberries have fallen.  Wild grapes seem scarce, too, while decorative bittersweet looks good.  Stay away from the invasive

bittersweet species other than to destroy the plant so birds, and people don’t spread seeds and fruit to new locations.

     Many areas are yellow seas of blooms from goldenrods, sunflowers,and sneezeweed.

     Most ruffed grouse hunters are likely to wait a month for better visibility.  The population, based on spring drumming counts, continues to slide downward, but that generally does not turn hunters away. Cooler days and nighs are welcoming outdoors women, men, and children, those who gather and keep as well as those who hike, look or point a camera.

There is generally room for all to recreate safely. Communications among the people help.  Don’t be timid about asking a birder to identify a bird song with a phone app or explain to a hiker why an archer’s controlled movement is as important as camouflage.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608.924.1112.