Late January/Early February 2019
I’d like nothing better than to start out this week’s blog by talking about something other than the weather. But unfortunately, our current weather simply can’t be ignored. Truth is, everyone in our neck of the woods is talking about it. Apparently that’s what happens when you flirt with breaking the all-time record for a low temperature, only to have it warm up just enough to dump eight inches of snow, and then dive right back into the deep freeze again.
So what do I consider the “deep freeze”? Well, allow me to put things in perspective for those who can’t relate to -30 degree temperatures. Exposed flesh will freeze in just five minutes. And you haven’t taken steps to ensure it’ll happen, good luck getting your vehicle started after it sits overnight in -30 degree temps. (Wind chill temps in many parts of Wisconsin have been in the -50 degree range!)
Just before sitting down to start writing this weeks blog my wife and I heard that, due to the brutally cold weather we’re experiencing, all the schools in a large surrounding area will be closed for the next three days (Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday). Many area schools were also closed this past Monday because of our most recent snowstorm. So it’s going to end up being a very short week for area school kids.
But on a positive note there is light at the end of the tunnel. As I sit here writing this one of our local weather wizards on the radio just reported that we’ll be seeing a rise in temps by week’s end. In fact, the daytime high temp for this Saturday is forecasted to be in the upper 30’s, with a chance for evening rain showers. Then on Sunday we can expect a daytime temp in the mid 40’s with occasional rain showers. Not a great forecast, and certainly very weird weather for early February. We’re actually going to see a 70 degree swing in our temperatures in a matter of just a few days!
On another weather related topic, some of my social media friends have been reaching out to me recently to inquire as to how the brutally cold weather is affecting our deer herd? Normally I’d be concerned abut the welfare of our deer when temps plummet well below zero. But I’m not near as worried about it this winter. That’s because we experienced very mild weather conditions throughout all of December and most of January. In fact, up until just recently our daytime high temps were above normal and snow depths were far below normal for this time of year.
These non-winter like conditions have resulted in the deer being able to move about without much stress, and find food just about everywhere. Just a few evenings ago I actually saw a bunch of deer feeding in a large alfalfa field. During a “normal” winter that alfalfa would have been buried under a foot or more of snow and not available to the deer. Since they don’t have to work extra hard to find food, our deer are in especially good shape as we head into February.
Another important aspect of our mild winter conditions is that the deer are scattered far more than they normally are this time of year. Anytime snow depths increase and available food sources start disappearing, deer here in the northland have a tendency to yard up. And that’s when predators start taking their toll on the herd.
Coyotes and bobcats always take a few deer, but wolves can be especially devastating. Simple reasoning points out that it takes a lot more venison to feed a pack of wolves than it does to feed a few coyotes or a single bobcat. But like I said, to this point we haven’t had the type of winter weather that forces deer to herd up. We’re hoping it stays that way.
But all this being said, winter conditions in the far northern region of our state are far more harsh, especially in the Wisconsin counties of Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Iron and Vilas. I spoke with my good friend Jeff Evans this week and he told me that, depending upon the exact area, there’s anywhere from 18 to 24-inches of snow on the ground across our northern tier of counties. Making matters even more serious is the fact that the deer herd in that part of the state has been dealing with deep snows since early December.
On a somewhat related topic, a few days ago I asked my nephew Zane Miller if he had found any shed antlers yet. He told me that his dad had found a couple sheds. Zane then went on to say that he and his dad were seeing bucks that still had both antlers, as well as some that were sporting just one antler. Zane and I agreed that the blast of Arctic air that was headed our way would probably result in a lot of antlers hitting the ground. Of course, with our recent snowfall those antlers are now going to be a bit harder to find. But the only way to find them is to get out there and look, right?!
It’s been over a month (just prior to Christmas) since I made my first ice fishing foray of the season. As you might imagine, I’m chomping at the bit to once again check out the bite on some of our area lakes. But since I’m a person who’d much rather ice fish outside than from inside a shanty, I’ll be waiting until it warms up a bit before venturing out on another fishing expedition.
I should mention that just prior to the arrival of the cold weather my buddies Brody Moreland and Jeff Evans reported that the panfish bite in the far northern part of the state was fairly consistent. Depending upon the lake and species targeted, bluegills, crappies and perch were being caught in depths as shallow as 10 feet and as deep as 40 feet.
For those who might be wondering, the ice on our area lakes is now more than thick enough to support the weight of a vehicle, which is a good thing. At the time of my earlier ice fishing trip just prior to Christmas ice thickness was somewhere between 10″-12″, which is plenty enough ice for a UTV but definitely not for a vehicle. So from a safety standpoint, our lack of snow and recent cold temps have dramatically improved ice conditions.
Before wrapping up this week’s blog, I’d like to mention that it’s just a little past 8 am. At the moment the outdoor thermometer at our place reads -31 degrees. My pickup is parked in our driveway, and I though it might be a good idea to see if it would start. Initially the engine rolled over very slowly and sounded as if it was going to die. But then it suddenly began rolling over faster and actually started. So I guess things are looking up!