Late December


Whoa, how did it get to be the last week of December already?! But here we are, with Christmas in the rear view mirror and a New Year on the horizon. Anyone besides me having trouble digesting the fact that it’s going to be 2019 in only a few days? Time just keeps tick, tick, ticking away.

Christmas 2018 is just a memory, and 2019 is right around the corner.

You know, we have a saying here in northern Wisconsin that goes something along of the lines of, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it’ll change.” Well, I don’t know about the five minute thing, but I can tell you that our weather definitely has changed since my last blog.

A week ago found me on an area lake doing a bit of ice fishing. There was very little snow cover and only about 10″-12″ of ice on the lake. Temps were right around the freezing mark with just a hint of a south wind. Simply put, it was perfect weather for some December ice fishing. And as it turned out, the big crappies were very cooperative.

My first ice fishing trip of the winter provided a meal of crappie fillets.

However, things have changed dramatically since my ice fishing trip last week. To begin with, our daytime high temps had been in the low to mid 40’s, with nighttime temps barely getting below the freezing mark. As you might imagine, the warmer than normal temps pretty much put the kibosh on what little snow cover we did have. And then the temps turned cold again.

So while I really wasn’t planning on doing much in the way of late season bowhunting here at home, I did spend some time earlier this week checking out a few spots, just in case. That short trip confirmed what I had suspected and told me all I needed to know. In a nutshell, our local whitetails can find food pretty much everywhere they look.

With very little snow on the ground our local whitetails can find food just about anywhere.

During my drive around the countryside I saw evidence of deer feeding activity in cut soybean fields and recently harvested corn fields. But the most sign of activity I saw was centered around alfalfa fields where a fourth crop had not been harvested. The alfalfa in those fields is roughly up to my shins in height, quite thick and, despite being brown in color, is apparently very appealing to deer at the present time.

Freshly picked cornfields seem to be playing host to some deer feeding activity.
Though it didn’t look like much to me, some local whitetails obviously find this yellowish-brown alfalfa quite appealing.

But even though the alfalfa appears to be appealing, trying to predict exactly which food source the deer are going to visit on any given day is still a guessing game. Like much of the upper midwest, we desperately need measurable snowfalls to cover up some of the existing food sources and force the deer to concentrate on only a handful of spots.

And that’s just what some of us here in Wisconsin thought was going to happen last night. Sometime around midnight we were hit by the first phase of a huge winter storm. As predicted this first phase brought several inches of snow to our area. But then the second phase of the storm hit–and it brought fairly heavy rainfall. That’s right, I said rainfall. In fact, as I write this at 1:15pm today, it is absolutely pouring rain outside. Not exactly the kind of weather we usually see during the week leading up to New Year’s Day!

We initially received a base layer of 3″-4″ of snow, which was immediately followed by rain, rain and more rain. Here’s the result.

As for my coveted Iowa nonresident late season muzzle loader tag, that hunt has been put on hold…again. The nonresident zone where I’ll be hunting was hit dead center by this recent winter storm. Unfortunately, every bit of the precipitation they’ve received has been in the form of rain. Also, the temps are predicted to stay above normal for the foreseeable future. So for now I’ll once again be biding my time hoping for some snow and/or much colder temps.

From a few years back. A snow cover and cold temps had this Iowa whitetail on his feet during daylight hours.

In last week’s blog I mentioned that, in some respects, our unusually mild and open winter could be considered somewhat of a blessing. With deer numbers in our area lower than they’ve been for some time, the herd could definitely use a break from fighting harsh winter weather. The almost total lack of snow also makes it much tougher for large predators to devastate our deer numbers even further. Trust me when I say that wolves, bobcats and even coyotes do put a real hurting on our deer herd during years of severe winters. But thankfully, that hasn’t been the case thus far this winter.

Deep snows and brutally cold temps make it much easier for large predators to take down deer.

More later….