Connections with food bond new and seasoned hunters

MADISON — Have a favorite wild turkey recipe that’s ready to be shared with new hunters? Share it during a spring Learn to Hunt Turkey event where food always is a major theme.

Learn to hunt events are about harvesting food by also learning how to hunt with a mentor.
Learn to hunt events are about harvesting food by also learning how to hunt with a mentor.
Photo Credit: DNR

“Food is a great way for new and experienced hunters to bond,” said Keith Warnke hunting and shooting coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “It’s the perfect bridge.”

Learn to hunt events are about harvesting food by also learning how to hunt with a mentor. Novices learn practical skills, such as gun handling and game cleaning, and get a primer in biology, regulations and ethics.

“Many adults who did not come from hunting families and are interested in hunting often have no idea how to start,” Warnke said. “These learn to hunt events are a great way for them to learn in a controlled and safe environment with an experienced hunter. If you are interested in a new and rewarding experience, give me a call.”

Winter: Ideal time to plan spring Learn to Hunt turkey event

Learn to Hunt events truly are for interested novices who would not otherwise have the chance to explore hunting which, Warnke says, is key to successfully preserving our conservation heritage. Eating nutritious and tasty wild game has always been a pivotal part of this heritage.

Another potential benefit of the Learn to Hunt goes to the experienced hunter whose passion for the outdoor activity may be recharged by serving as a mentor during an event, or organizing an event to share expertise with enthusiastic novices.

Eating and hunting are natural partners

Recruiting and retaining new hunters, along with reengaging hunters who have not enjoyed the outdoors in a while, is a high priority for the state’s and the national hunting community.

Learn to hunt events are one way to do this because they link the state’s hunting heritage with food – particularly local and sustainable food that can be enjoyed through hunting.

“The composition of learn to hunt events has continued to evolve, with increasing focus on food,” Warnke said. “We have seen a big demand for our classes from young adults and I think it would be really easy for groups, clubs, and mentors to copy our blueprint of reaching out to adults and families.”

Learn to hunt events may be scheduled before, during or after the six spring turkey periods. However, most are held in late March and early April. Interested individuals and clubs are urged to start organizing the events now to complete the necessary steps.

The department has made it easy for sponsors to organize learn to hunt events with on-line applications, reimbursement opportunities, assistance in finding event insurance and event promotions on the DNR’s website.

Sponsors will need to:

  • Submit a completed application form to the local wildlife biologist for approval; and,
  • Should make sure at least one of the event instructors is a certified Hunter Education Instructor.

Mentors assisting in the event will need to:

  • Submit an application to be a mentor.

Following the event, sponsors must:

  • Submit a report of event participants; and,
  • May apply for a $25 reimbursement per participant to assist with event costs.

In addition, Warnke says the program will help promote events by posting them on the Learn to Hunt page of the DNR website and the Hunter’s Network Facebook page.

More information on the Learn to Hunt program is available on the DNR website, keyword “LTH.”

Interested in taking hunter education? More courses being offered now than other times of year, search for keywords “hunter safety.”

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Wisconsin’s Deer Management Assistance Program now accepting applications for 2017

MADISON — Conservation-minded people throughout Wisconsin are encouraged to enroll in the Deer Management Assistance Program to improve wildlife habitat on property they own or hunt.

DMAP provides resources for wildlife habitat management, which complements land use activities like agriculture and timber management on properties of any size.

March 1, 2017 application deadline for properties over 160 acres

The application deadline is March 1 for properties larger than 160 acres, which may be eligible for a site visit and management plan in 2017. While applications may be submitted at any time, landowners are encouraged to apply now to receive immediate access to informational resources, including:

  • habitat and deer management information;
  • communication with local DNR staff;
  • annual DMAP reports and publications;
  • volunteer opportunities; and
  • invitations to DMAP workshops.

“DNR staff current work with more than 1,000 DMAP cooperators and two public land agencies on nearly 221,000 acres of land across the state to improve habitat for the wildlife resources we all enjoy,” said Bob Nack, DMAP coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. “We continue to develop new ways for cooperators to get involved and expand their knowledge of habitat and wildlife management.”

Neighboring landowners with properties within one-half mile of each other are encouraged to enroll as a group cooperative. Landowners in a group cooperative with a combined acreage of 160 acres or more receive a site visit and management plan. Group cooperatives also provide an opportunity to monitor local wildlife populations and share costs and equipment on habitat projects to benefit deer and other wildlife over a greater area.

Another benefit open to all DMAP cooperators is a series of annual DMAP workshops held regionally throughout Wisconsin. Six deer and habitat workshops were offered to DMAP cooperators in 2016, and additional workshops are slated for spring and summer 2017. Topics range from invasive species management and how to conduct a timber harvest to aging deer by tooth wear.

“DMAP workshops are a great opportunity to network with other conservation-minded people,” said Nack. “DMAP cooperators share a common goal of promoting the principles of land stewardship and sharing their experiences with others.”

For more information regarding DMAP and to apply, go to and search keyword “DMAP.”

To receive DMAP email updates and other information, visit and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page for “subscribe for updates for DNR topics.” Follow the prompts and select the “Deer Management Assistance Program” option, found under Wildlife Management.

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Wisconsin birders, take a bow! One million bird sightings reported through eBird website

MADISON — Wisconsin birders identified and reported more birds through eBird, an internationally popular online bird observation website, than birders from most other states and nations in 2016.

The tropical kingbird, a flycatcher that is extremely common in the American tropics but barely reaches the United States in Texas and Arizona, was reported by birders for the first time in Wisconsin in 2016.
The tropical kingbird, a flycatcher that is extremely common in the American tropics but barely reaches the United States in Texas and Arizona, was reported by birders for the first time in Wisconsin in 2016.
Photo Credit: Ryan Brady

In 2016, eBird gathered 1,406,422 observations in Wisconsin from 4,111 birders who submitted 110,807 checklists. The Wisconsin eBird site (exit DNR) contains photos, interactive maps, and write-ups sharing the highlights from the year.

eBird users recorded the first ever tropical kingbird in Wisconsin, and documented a gyrfalcon in the Superior area that has set a longevity record for the species at 15 years and 8 months. Site submissions also helped bring hundreds of people to Trempealeau County in early 2016 to see a rare pinkish, greenish woodpecker more commonly found in Western states.

“Wisconsin’s citizens are some of the leading users of eBird and that’s something to celebrate. I strongly encourage other recreational birders to give it a try and record their own sightings to help bird conservation,” says Ryan Brady, Department of Natural Resources bird monitoring coordinator. “eBirding is fun, user friendly and the most simple form of avian citizen science you can participate in.You don’t have to be an expert to do it.”

eBird was launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers.

Birders enter information via the eBird website (exit DNR) about when, where, and how they went birding. Then they can fill out a checklist of all birds seen and heard during each outing. Automated data quality filters developed by regional bird experts review all submissions before they enter the database and local experts review unusual records flagged by the filters.

eBird helps Wisconsin complete its breeding bird survey

In addition to being an easy way to record birding observations, information collected on eBird helps provide a richer data set for researchers and natural resource professionals from Wisconsin and around the globe. eBird data is used to help complete the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, a volunteer-based survey to help understand which birds breed in Wisconsin and how that has changed over the past 20 years since the last atlas survey was done.

For more information regarding eBird, visit, People can also find the Wisconsin’s 2016 eBird year in review on the Wisconsin eBird (both links exit DNR).

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Join DNR experts for online chat about upcoming Lake Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season

MADISON — Lake Winnebago’s sturgeon population is benefiting from a rebound in gizzard shad and other prey species heading into the 2017 spearing season.

Daniel Bloesl registered this 77-inch, 147.9-pound female sturgeon at Indian Point. It was the largest fish harvested during the 2016 season.
Daniel Bloesl registered this 77-inch, 147.9-pound female sturgeon at Indian Point. It was the largest fish harvested during the 2016 season.
Photo Credit: DNR

Sturgeon spearing opens on Feb. 11 at 7 a.m. and state fisheries biologists expect a season offering great opportunities to experience this unique tradition and pursue the fish of a lifetime. To answer questions about the season, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will host a live online chat with fisheries and law enforcement experts on Tuesday, Jan. 31 starting at noon.

“In terms of our sturgeon population, things continue to look very good with respect to both fish abundance and size structure of the population,” said Ryan Koenigs, DNR Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist. “We continue to observe big fish in the system each spring during spawning stock assessments and we’re pleased with the results from bottom trawling and chironomid lake fly assessments indicating a strong forage base to sustain the population.”

Wisconsin’s current sturgeon ice spearing season dates to 1931, when the Legislature created a season after all sturgeon harvest had been banned in 1915. The DNR’s careful management provides spearers with annual sustainable harvests unparalleled in the U.S.

Interest in sturgeon spearing continues to be strong with 12,962 licenses sold for the 2017 season, including 12,479 for Lake Winnebago and 483 for the Upriver Lakes. For 2017, the system-wide harvest caps are similar to 2016 with 430 juvenile females; 950 adult females and 1,175 males. It takes at least 10 years for a sturgeon to reach the legal harvest size of 36 inches, while fish at the 100 pound mark are at least 45 years of age.

The season may run for up to 16 days until Feb. 26, 2017; however an earlier closure may be triggered when pre-set harvest caps are reached.

One important difference for successful spearers this year involves tagging procedures. Tag validation must occur immediately upon harvest by writing the date and time on the tag, but the tags do not need to be attached prior to registration unless the spearer leaves the fish before registration. If you leave it, tag it. DNR recommends spearers bring a clear plastic zip-top bag and tie to protect and secure the new paper tag to the fish.

Spearing hours run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and all sturgeon must be presented at a registration station by 2 p.m. on the same day they are harvested for registration by DNR personnel.

The online sturgeon spearing season chat will cover everything from tips on spearing techniques to the latest water clarity conditions. To join the chat, which runs from 12-1 p.m. Tuesday, visit and look for the box on the right to enter the chat, or search the phrase “ask the experts.” Or, enter via DNR’s Facebook page by clicking the “Cover it Live Chat” box at the top. The online chats are archived and available for viewing after they are held.

To learn more about the upcoming sturgeon spearing season, tagging or to sign up for emails about Lake Winnebago management, visit and search “Lake Winnebago Sturgeon.”

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Bridge replacement may result in the incidental take of state threatened mussel

MADISON — The replacement of the U.S. Highway 63 bridge over the Mississippi River may result in the “incidental taking” of a rare mussel under an authorization the Department of Natural Resources proposes to issue for the project. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.

The Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation propose to replace the Highway 63 bridge crossing of the Mississippi River at Redwing, Minn. The project encompasses removing the existing bridge and replacing it with a new bridge. The new bridge will be located immediately upstream of the existing bridge. The purpose of the proposed project is to provide a structurally sound bridge crossing of the Mississippi River, continuity of Highway 63 between Minnesota and Wisconsin and create a more accessible roadway to Trenton Island for emergency service vehicles.

The project will impact mussels during removal of the existing bridge and construction of the new bridge. A mussel survey indicated the only state listed mussel species found live along the Wisconsin side of the river was the state threatened wartyback (Quadrula nodulata). DNR staff determined that the proposed project will result in the incidental taking of this species.

Department staff concluded that the proposed project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence or recovery of this species within the state, the whole plant-animal community of which it is a part and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.

The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on the endangered species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the Wartyback mussel are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Lisie Kitchel at 508-266-5248 or by e-mail at Public comments will be taken through Feb. 8, 2017, and should be sent to Lisie Kitchel, Wisconsin DNR Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921.

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Volunteer workdays help burn calories while caring for state natural areas

An easy way to live up to your resolution to get more exercise in 2017

MADISON – Looking to make good on your new year’s resolutions to get outside and get more exercise? Join in volunteer workdays at more than two dozen state natural areas to help care for and enjoy some of Wisconsin’s most pristine public lands.

Enjoy spectacular views of the Mississippi River while helping these volunteers care for Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area in Pepin County.
Enjoy spectacular views of the Mississippi River while helping these volunteers care for Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area in Pepin County.
Photo Credit: DNR

Morning workdays are held throughout the winter to cut brush and burn it at these sites, including four where new volunteer groups are forming or recently underway. New signup lists have been added for people interested in helping out at these sites in Crawford, Marquette, Pepin, and Winnebago counties.

“Winter is a great time to get some exercise helping care for the state natural areas that belong to you,” says Jared Urban, who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program for the Department of Natural Resources.

“We have some exciting opportunities to get involved coming up, including some newer sites in Marquette, Pepin and Winnebago counties and one brand new volunteer effort at the Hogback Prairies in Crawford County.”

Volunteers need no training beforehand but are provided equipment and training on site to do the work. Winter work typically involves helping cut, pile and burn brush or scattering prairies seeds on snow. Typical workdays run from 9 a.m. to noon and allow for breaks and snacks are often provided.

Find a list of workdays and flyers on each event on the SNA Volunteer webpage. From that web page, people also may sign up to receive email notices for workdays at state natural areas in different parts of the state.

Since starting in 2011, the DNR State Natural Areas Volunteer Program has grown to include volunteer groups caring for more than two dozen sites statewide.

Sites with new volunteer groups seeking helping hands

Hogback Prairies State Natural Area in Crawford County is known for its striking geology, dry prairie, rare plants, and rare animals. With brushy plants overtaking the prairie and prescribed fire limited to protect two endangered butterflies, the regal fritillary and the Ottoe skipper, DNR land managers turned to goats to help control the shrubs. The goats are carefully monitored and rotated through paddocks on site. Such restoration work by goats and DNR crews have helped contribute to high regal fritillary populations there.

“Due to efforts by DNR crews in recent years the site quality is improving and the prairie is expanding, but invasive brush remains a threat and more hands are needed to remove it and encourage native plants to thrive,” Urban says.

Prescribed fire and these grazing goats have helped beat back invasive brush at Hogback Prairies State Natural Area in Crawford County. Join a new volunteer team forming to help continue the progress at this site, home to several rare butterflies.
Prescribed fire and these grazing goats have helped beat back invasive brush at Hogback Prairies State Natural Area in Crawford County. Join a new volunteer team forming to help continue the progress at this site, home to several rare butterflies.
Photo Credit: Dean Edlin

The next volunteer workdays are set for Jan. 23 and Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. to noon at the site. Sign up for the Driftless email alerts to learn of future workdays.

Observatory Hill State Natural Area in Marquette County is one of the boyhood haunts of John Muir, the famed naturalist who is considered the father of the national park system. The site features a 300-foot outcropping that’s the highest point in Marquette County. The valleys and ridges radiating out from that point are being restored to the cedar glade and oak savanna landscape that Muir enjoyed exploring in the 1850s.

Volunteers started working on the site in 2016 to help remove invasive plants. Though the site does not yet have workdays listed in January or February, check back or sign up for the Central Sands email to get notices about coming events.

Oshkosh-Larsen Trail Prairies State Natural Area in Winnebago County features a series of three low prairie remnants along a 4-mile segment of a former railroad right-of-way. The prairie contains a diversity of native prairie species ranging from little blue-stem, Indian grass, prairie drop-seed, and prairie cord grass, to heath aster, shooting-star, sunflowers and blazing-star. Restoration efforts got a boost there after volunteers trained through the DNR Rare Plant Monitoring Program were asked to check for rare plants. They found a few of the plants but also alerted DNR about a prairie in dire need of attention. DNR was able to secure a federal grant and DNR crews conducted a prescribed burn to knock back the brush. Volunteers will continue brush removal at that site.

Sign up for the Upper Lake Michigan email to get notices about workdays for this site.

Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area in Pepin County is renowned for its mile-long bluff rising 400 feet above the Mississippi River, and for its nesting peregrine falcons, a bird of prey listed as endangered in Wisconsin. Efforts there have strengthened the rich prairie and oak savanna communities found there. Work has included removing cedar and buckthorn from hill prairies, establishing new fire breaks, planting prairie, and thinning around oak trees. Buckthorn, an invasive shrub, is a big problem at the natural area and volunteers have been working since 2015 help remove it. The Lower Chippewa River Alliance, Lower Chippewa Invasive Partnership, the Pepin County Land Conservation Department and DNR have worked together to get the volunteer group going.

Sign up for the West Central email to get notices about workdays for this site.

Workdays are scheduled at other sites in the state. Go to and search “SNA volunteers” to reach the page where you’ll find links to flyers for each of these events and where you can sign up to receive email notifications. Or contact Jared Urban at to see if there are volunteer groups near you looking for help.

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