We enter the final month of the year in a somewhat unsettled state for outdoor sports. The major hunting seasons are over. Ice fishing has stalled. Snow sports need snow and that’s not happening. So we are into a no man’s land of sorts, hung out between the late autumn activities and the yet-to-come winter sports. It’s as if the outdoors scene has simply taken a break, breathed a deep breath and relaxed for a short time.
Any visions of a stellar ice fishing year have come to ruin as warm weather has degraded the remaining ice on most area lakes to the point of unsafe. Three weeks ago we had a good start with hard freezes and clear, pure ice. Then came mild weather and, day by day, the good ice has turned soft and gray and mushy. Temperatures in the 40s this weekend and into next week will serve no good on making ice and for now ice fishing is off the table.
That same run of warmer temperatures has not helped snow sports. The key to a good snow season for skiing and snowmobiling is a hard base of frozen ground. As with lake ice we saw that develop a few weeks ago and held into deer season. Now that is at some risk as overnight lows in the 20s combined with daytime highs above freezing has, at best, stalled the freeze and at worst softened the ground to the point where it will not hold snow well. It is critical in the next weeks that we get enough cold weather to freeze up low, wetlands so that when we do get snow it will hold.
Taking ice and snow sports off the table in early December does not leave much. Muzzleloading season for deer ends this weekend and archery runs later and will attract some attention. Grouse hunters still have some time to take to the field and woods but December grouse hunting is not a hugely popular activity.
We are left, this week, with time to reminisce about the rifle season and at the same time prepare skis, snowmobiles, ice fishing gear and winter clothing for the winter season ahead.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander, where a variety of outdoor products is available.