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Outdoors Overview: Pheasant forecast fairly familiar
Jerry Davis

When the pheasant season opens at 9 a.m. October 20, hunters and their dogs will see much of the same as previous years with a tuck or expansion here and there.

Last year’s Holiday Hunt was at Christmas time, when many students were home from college, on high school Christmas break, or just happened to have time while waiting for ice fishing.

A few more state properties will be stocked than in 2017 and more birds will be placed overall for this hunt. Instead of 1,700 extras, about 2,200 roosters will be released.

deer in fog
Morning fog helps conceal two deer in a harvested corn field.

Before that special hunting time, which requires no additional tags, licenses or permits, about 75,000 birds will have been released, similar to 2017. The season closes down Jan. 6, 2019.

The day-old-chick program started with conservation clubs receiving 34,000 chicks, and those birds who made it through the summer they will be released on public lands and other parcels open to hunting.

Summer storms, winds, tornados and floods pretty much flew over the game farm, leaving most pens and fences tight. Those that opened a hole here and there were repaired and many of the escapes were rounded up and put back where food, water and cover are provided.

A dew-covered checkered butterfly waits to be sun-dried.

In spite of flooding in some release areas, it is assumed most if not all areas will be able to be stocked, first before season, then breaking for gun-deer season, and more stocking after the gun season closes Nov. 25.  Because the season opens Oct. 20, which is a bit late, a few more stockings will occur after gun season, as well as the dropping of holiday birds, 2,200 of them.

Some positive reports came in from early season openers, including doves, teal and geese. Sturgeon hook and line was generally slow due to very high water. Ginseng diggers welcomed the cooler, drier days with prices for green root about as last year. A few diggers found really large roots special and a buyer here and there opened up the checkbook a touch more.

This weekend squirrels (abundant from last fall’s mast crop), turkeys (generally the same because of extra food), and deer (ditto) will challenge hunters, but grouse are still a question mark. Hunters who venture out should have a West Nile Virus sample kit for a grouse tissue sample.

spider webs
Spider webs, with morning dew, are easier to see and more attractive.

Mushrooms of all sorts have put smiles on faces of gatherers, and others. A small group from Italy was amazed at the variety of Wisconsin’s fungi crops, even though edible “shroons” have been a bit scarce. Be careful. Know the species. Stick with the fool-proof ones.

Moisture and fog have made scouting for deer and turkeys a challenge, but take note while driving backroads. Hen turkeys are generally twice the size of poults. Large rafts are still together; many visiting corn fields that have been chopped for silage. There are still waste grains among the stubble in these fields. Deer, too, are frequenting corn fields and alfalfa. Some apple trees have been real salad bars for deer and other wildlife.

The moisture seems to have held most leaves in the chlorophyll stage, with only walnuts and a few soft maples and sumacs showing a touch of color.

grey catbird
A grey catbird spreads its wings and fluffs its feathers to dry morning dew.

Some of the larger insects, including butterflies, are finding it necessary to hang and dry before flying. Larger birds, too, including eagles and vultures spread their wings to dry. When upland gamebird hunting begins, moisture could be a reason to hold tight in the morning, have a second cup of coffee, and then kick the bush.

Most everyone has noticed that even with a touch of autumn, moods are higher and lighter. No better way to express that mood than to enjoy some form of outdoors recreation hiking, biking, or gathering.

— Jerry Davis is an Argyle native and a freelance writer who lives in Barneveld. He can be reached at or at 608-924-1112.