Tag Archives: Hunting

Wisconsin Outdoor News: Unless Congress acts, wolf delisting years out

Unless Congress acts, wolf delisting years out
By: Jim Servi
First published in Wisconsin Outdoor News on November 3, 2017.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

Washington D.C. – The August 1st ruling on the federal protection status of Western Great Lakes wolves by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was touted by sportsmen’s organizations as a short-term setback for wolf management, but one that would likely set the stage for ultimately returning Great Lakes gray wolves to state management. However, unless recently introduced Congressional bills are approved, that delisting process “may take 2-4 years,” according to George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director.

The rationale is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) essentially needs to start the delisting process over with the Great Lakes wolves as a “distinct population segment.” The August 1st ruling states: “The central dispute in this case is whether the Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits the Service to carve out of an already-listed species a “distinct population segment” for the purpose of delisting that segment and withdrawing it from the Act’s aegis. We hold that the Act permits such a designation, but only when the Service first makes the proper findings.”

With that language, the USFWS can delist wolves in distinct locations, such as the Western Great Lakes region or Northern Rocky Mountain area of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming while maintaining Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection in all other locations. “Basically, the lower court decision from 2014, there were about ten things that the judge ruled on, one of them was the most damaging to relisting wolves in the Great Lakes and that was a provision that they could not be delisted until their former range was re-populated again,” Meyer explained, referencing the December 19, 2014 decision by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell that returned federal protection to wolves. “You don’t need to be a scientist to know that is impossible. Had that decision been affirmed, there was no way to ever delist (wolves) under the ESA.”

The Humane Society of the United States; Born Free, USA; Help Our Wolves Live; Friends of Animals and Their Environment argued that since wolf populations haven’t recovered in all their former range, that they must remain under federal protective status. Based on this most recent ruling, they have limited options for recourse. The first reason is due to the prominence of the court issuing the ruling. “The appellate court (U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit) issuing the ruling is really the second most powerful court in the country and is viewed strongly by the Supreme Court,” Meyer discussed, meaning the Supreme Court would likely not take up the case or would affirm their ruling. Second, is that the groups advocating for additional protection technically won the case. “They cannot go to the Supreme Court because they won the case. Now, they can ask the DC Circuit to add a word or two, but basically, they have to accept the opinion and that’s it,” Jim Lister, legal counsel for the U.S. Sportsmen Alliance, explained.

Assuming there is no appeal, the next step for the USFWS would be to re-start the delisting process with a specific focus on the distinct population segment of the Western Great Lakes gray wolves. USFWS guidance on Delisting a Species under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act states: “To delist species, we are required to determine that threats have been eliminated or controlled, based on several factors including population sizes and trends and the stability of habitat quality and quantity.” That begins with developing a recovery plan with benchmarks from partners and stakeholders in the recovery effort. The aforementioned recovery plan has been in place for several decades with continuous monitoring efforts by the Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) along with substantial assistance from the US Forest Service, National Park Service, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Service, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the USFWS.

A 5-factored analysis is then completed, answering the following questions:

  • Is there a present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of species habitat or range?
  • Is the species subject to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes?
  • Is disease or predation a factor?
  • Are there inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place outside the ESA (taking into account the efforts by the States and other organizations to protect the species or habitat)?
  • Are other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence?

These questions will need to be answered with the framework of the Great Lakes wolves as a distinct population rather than wolves as an entire species. With the recovery goals met and 5-factor analysis approved, the USFWS would then publish their proposal to delist in the Federal Register. At this point, three species specialists would need to conduct a peer review while seeking input from the public, scientific community, Federal and State agencies. If that process indicates continued support, as it has in the past, the USFWS would publish a final rule to delist, again in the Federal Register. At that point, Great Lakes wolves would be removed from the Endangered Species List and the population, now under state management, would be monitored for five years to ensure their sustainability.

“If you very carefully read the opinion, they (USFWS) need to fix three things they did wrong,” Lister, who has been actively following the appeal process for years, explained. “The simplest issue, the DC Circuit asked them to account for present impact of the loss of their historical range when recovery began. Essentially, they (USFWS) would have to say something like, we acknowledge that wolves roamed over much of North America, their range shrunk through the 1800s and first half of the 1900s, until only a pocket of wolves were left in Minnesota. With protective measures, over the next 50 years, the range of wolves has steadily increased. That 50 years gives us confidence that with their current range they are no longer in danger of extinction now or in the future.”

“Second, they have to address the impact on the chance of other wolves outside the Great Lakes region surviving if they (Great Lakes wolves) are delisted,” Lister continued. “They (Great Lakes wolves) have very little to do with wolves in California, Oregon, Washington, and the northern Rockies because of the vast gaps and unsuitable habitat. We thought the 2011 delisting addressed that, but the DC Circuit wants them to clarify. This shouldn’t be difficult considering they already have extensive records and solid evidence. And there are no wolves anywhere else in the Eastern United States, so by carving out the Great Lakes wolves, there will be no impact on recovery of wolf populations elsewhere. That’s what they need to prove and explain.”

“The most abstract and toughest to explain is the distinct population segment,” Lister acknowledged. “The ESA recognizes full species, essentially every wolf on the entire globe. When you take a distinct population segment, there are wolves that don’t fit, such as California or Washington, so they need to add another paragraph explaining why other wolves are kept on the endangered species list. The lawyers need to explain how the ESA has the flexibility to do that.”

The USFWS has been through this process several times before with gray wolves, and it is unclear how much will need to be completed again and what can be re-used, but it does appear they will have to start from the beginning. “The ruling was sent back to the USFWS and they can’t just mend what they’ve done,” Meyer said. “They have to start again at an early stage of the delisting process.” That process could take 2-4 years, but may prove to be unnecessary if either the House of Representation bill, HR424, or Senate bill, S1514, muster enough support for passage.

The House bill, Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017, has 17 co-sponsors including five Wisconsin representatives and bi-partisan support. It is direct and to the point declaring, “This bill requires the Department of the Interior to reissue two rules that removed protections under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 for the gray wolf populations located in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes (all of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, as well as portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio). In addition, this bill prohibits judicial review of the reissued rules.”

However, “the key has always been the Senate,” Meyer explained. “It (The Senate bill) has bipartisan support in Wisconsin and passed out of the Senate natural resources committee after several areas were added that brought in Democratic support. To avoid a filibuster, they need 60 votes and have 55 right now. They put the other things on to get five more votes, then it goes to the House, which would likely pass as is.” Looking more closely at S1514, titled “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act” or the “HELP for Wildlife Act,” the additional elements include construction and expansion of public target ranges on Federal land, amendments to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act, re-authorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and Chesapeake Bay Program, modifying the definition of sport fishing equipment under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and expanding partnerships to improve fish habitat conservation. Although the original focus was delisting wolves, the intent of the Senate bill is to add enough balanced provisions to gain passage through bi-partisan support.

The “Reissuance of Final Rule regarding Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes” is addressed in Section 7 of the Senate bill. It states: “Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on December 28, 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 81666), without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance shall not be subject to judicial review.” There is also a similar section reinstating the removal of Federal protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming. That final rule referenced on December 28, 2011 officially removed gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List, and returned management of gray wolves to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

There have been several other similar Congressional bills that have ultimately floundered. However, Meyer is “more optimistic” than he has been. “They are likely to have all that done by December and there is a better than usual chance it will get done legislatively, I’d say 60-40 chance, maybe 65-35 percentage chance, that it will get enacted into law.”

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

 

On Wisconsin Outdoors: Snow Scraping Buck

Just a Coincidence or a New Tactic?
Snow Scraping Buck on Opening Day

By: Jim Servi

Every fall, big bucks visit scrapes throughout my hunting area, but almost always at night. Daytime visits most likely consist of a quick scent check and then on to the next, without triggering the trail camera. There is one exception. Immediately after a snowfall, bucks tend to visit scrapes during the day. Thinking it was just a coincidence, I didn’t make the connection until the 2016 Gun Deer Season.

Walking into my stand on Opening Day, a light snow covered the ground. Fresh wolf tracks, made just hours before, sent a shiver through my body. After climbing into the sanctuary of my tree stand, darkness was just beginning to give way to the morning light. Gusts of wind were already forecasting the high winds to come. This stand is a special place for me and I generally only hunt it this one time of year. Like many young hunters, I went through my share of struggles in my early years, missing bucks that still haunt my memories. This stand was different though. Hunting it since 2009, I didn’t see a lot of deer, but the ones I did were often bucks, and my aim was always true.

Light now filled the entire woods and I found familiarity in the landscape. A gradual, downward slope leading to a thick swamp was my facing view, mostly hardwoods, but sprinkled with hemlocks. On the sugar maple ridge behind me, I saw a flash. Two does had come out of the swamp and disappeared. Suddenly, three more does appeared in front of me, uneasy from the wind. They lingered. I had already seen more does this morning, than the previous two years hunting this location. Trying to stir something up, I hit my grunt call. Suddenly, there was another deer at the base of my tree. A little nub buck was trying to figure out where that noise came from. All morning they came and went, but no bucks. Finally, in the early afternoon, they departed and so did I. My wife’s delicious Opening Day chili was waiting.

Warm and full, I made my way back out to the stand, taking a different approach, making sure to stay clear of the bedding area to the south. That unknowingly turned out to be a good decision. Settled back in, the wind was still swirling, but the deer activity had slowed. It was now mid-afternoon. Suddenly, I heard a noise behind me. I slowly turned. Cleaning the snow out of a scrape, all I could see of the buck was his long tines protruding into the hemlock branches above. I got ready, hoping he would continue towards me. Satisfied that his scrape was refreshed, he stepped out from behind the tree, a perfect shot.

Rushing to the spot, I could see it was a good hit. A short tracking job and there he was. The largest buck I had ever seen hunting was now the largest buck I had ever harvested.

Always curious, I backtracked his tracks in the snow. The scrape near me was the last of a half dozen scrapes he cleared out that afternoon, leading back to his bed in the area I avoid, just south of my stand. Little things matter when you are hunting and the route to my stand made all the difference that day. What about the snow? Was it just a coincidence that it had snowed the night before, covering the scrape? Or had he come to clear them out because of the snow? Days later, there was another hot scrape cleared out during the middle of the day after another snowfall. Trail cam pictures from past years confirmed the same. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe there was something to it. Either way, I know where I’ll be sitting after the first fresh snow this year.

To read the latest copy of On Wisconsin Outdoors, please visit  the On Wisconsin Outdoors website.

First Published in On Wisconsin Outdoors on November 1, 2017.

On Wisconsin Outdoors: May/June 2017 Product 6-Pack

Product 6-Pack
Fishing in full swing, trying to tag a late season turkey, or just taking it easy

Turkey on a Stick
You may have seen the video and if you haven’t – take a look. A big gobbler is slowly trailing some hens, that are clearly not interested, through a field. Calling doesn’t get his attention. Finally, the hunter emerges behind a Jake decoy and the gobbler goes crazy. Defending his territory, the big Tom runs to chase the competition away. But the hunter is waiting and they are in for some close, quick action. I was skeptical at first but this product really works and brings a whole new excitement level to turkey hunting. ($48.45)
primos.com

Crazy Creek Comfort Chair
This one comes from a friend who spends every waking minute in the outdoors. “What took me years to figure out was how awesome a sitting pad is,” was his advice. Perfect for making all your outdoor activities more comfortable, plus you can use it for taking in a ball game this summer. Easy to carry handles, light at 783 grams, and foam padding to insulate you and make hard surfaces more comfortable. Quick release buckets for multiple back angles. Available in multiple sizes and configurations. ($29.50)
crazycreek.com

 

Irish Setter 2870 Vaprtrek Waterproof Boots
Perfect combination of UltraDry waterproof lining and synthetic material over leather for waterproof, yet breathable boots. That means you can practically use them year-round for all your outdoor adventures. Even utilizes ScentBan scent control and Realtree Camouflage. Ankle-high at 8-inches weighing 1.3 pounds. ArmaTac Toe Protection saves you the pain of stubbed toes. Rubber soles. Great reviews on price/value, comfort, and fit. ($106.35-$149.99)
irishsetterboots.com

Mepps Musky Flashabou
Musky fishermen are always looking for the edge and this just might be it to hook your trophy this year. Increase hook-ups and decrease thrown hooks with a holographic flashabou tail tied around two solid treble hooks on a split-ring assembly. Spinners designed to cast a larger profile to attract fish from long distances. Single and double blade configurations available. Both blade and tail come in 10 different color combination to match any fishing situation. ($25.20)
mepps.com

Live Target Swimbait series
Newly designed, the level of innovation in these lures is impressive. Seven freshwater species from yellow perch to gizzard shad are designed to replicate the movement of that particular species with precise internal weight systems and customized tails. Extremely detailed coloring. Dorsal fins are positioned to acts as a weed guard. The realism is unbelievable. This lure is a solid addition to any tackle box. ($9.99-$18.99)
livetargetlures.com

Siberian Cooler’s Alpha series
Started only recently, this company is dedicated to creating coolers that meet the needs of outdoorsmen. It looks like they accomplished that with this series. Cooler walls are made with up to 2.75 inches of insulation to keep your food and beverages chilled or preserve your hard-earned game. Latches were carefully designed with anodized aluminum to withstand harsh environments, yet open and close with ease. Four sizes – 22, 45, 65, and 85 quarts. Lifetime warranty. ($159.99-$349.99)
siberiancoolers.com

First published in On Wisconsin Outdoors on May 1, 2017

On Wisconsin Outdoors: Birding Continues Growing in Popularity

Birding Continues Growing in Popularity
Searching for Wisconsin’s Most Unique Birds

Birding continues to grow in popularity around the United States with an estimated 85 million Americans taking advantage of the popular outdoor activity. Interest ranges from keeping a life list of birds and travelling to find new species to those that like to feed wild birds in their yards. Wisconsinites are lucky with over 400 different species recorded and an abundance of viewing opportunities in every corner of the state. We also host some very unique birds.

Photo Credit: International Crane Foundation

Birding is a natural outdoor hobby for those that hunt, fish, and camp throughout Wisconsin because you are already near the best locations. My interest was sparked by my uncle Mark, who teaches in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, and just notched his 500th bird. Started in 2002, my list of 269 birds, spanning 11 countries and 17 states, has many more adventures to go to match that lofty feat.

For anyone interested in great birding opportunities Mark had this to say, “I’d mention Wyalusing State Park as a place to visit. I also saw a Western Tanager and Harris’s Sparrow at the same time in Gay Mills in Crawford County, along with both cuckoos. Willets and Avocets were two rare sightings for me at Wyalusing beach. Thayer’s and Iceland Gulls in Milwaukee County were biggies for me as well.” Definitely some great places to explore and near the top of my list. To find the most unique Wisconsin birds, it will take some work, but like anything that requires hard work, the reward is also greater.

Standing nearly five feet tall, Whooping Cranes instantly come to mind as a unique Wisconsin bird. At one time, there were only 15 Whooping Cranes remaining. Thanks to Operation Migration, a program using ultralight aircraft to help the cranes to their migration grounds in Florida that recently ended, and other volunteers the population is now over 600, including those in captivity. Still endangered, and one of the rarest birds in the United States, a flock that hovers around 100 lives in Wisconsin each spring and summer before returning to Florida. They make their Wisconsin home where Mark discovered his first years ago, “I was able to add the Whooping Crane at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge,” he said happily recalling the memory as all birders do when asked about a personal discovery.

Kirtland’s Warbler’s are another extremely rare bird that can be found in Wisconsin. Placed on the endangered species list in 1967, they were thought to only breed in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Now they nest in the Upper Peninsula, Canada, and Wisconsin. From only two successful nesting pairs found in Adams County during monitoring in 2008, the monitoring census has grown to observations of 30 singing males last spring in Bayfield, Vilas, Marinette, and Adams Counties. Adams County reached a high of 12 successful nesting pairs in 2015 and is still the best location to find the elusive Kirtland’s Warbler. Habitat is vital when searching. They generally only live and breed in relatively large, dense stands of jack pines that are 5 to 20 feet tall (6-22 years old).

Piping Plovers are a small, endangered shorebird that live along the shores of the Great Lakes. Only a handful of breeding pairs have thrived in Wisconsin in recent years, but 2016 saw a big announcement for the Piping Plovers. For the first time in 75 years, Piping Plovers nested at the newly restored Cat Island Chain in the Lower Green Bay area. Prior to that, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was the only regular nesting sites. Several other areas have been established as critical habitat in Marinette, Manitowoc, Douglas, and Ashland County to continue that momentum.

All of these locations are great places to begin or continue your journey. The great thing about birding is you only need a backyard or local park to begin and Wisconsin has a lifetime of destinations to explore.

Published in On Wisconsin Outdoors on May 1, 2017

Wolves in Wisconsin – Part 4

As Wyoming is preparing for their first wolf hunt in four years, it appears Wisconsin may soon follow suit. During a recent meeting I attended, a representative from Senator Ron Johnson’s office indicated that they now have bi-partisan support to de-list wolves from the Endangered Species Act once again. This is something the US Fish and Wildlife Service, our federally funded agency that manages wildlife species, has been advocating for years until a federal judge with no wildlife experience returned them to the Federal Endangered Species List in 2014. Time will tell whether Congress will act.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

First published in Wisconsin Outdoor News on January 24, 2014. Click below to read the entire article:

Jan 24, 2014 – With wolf numbers down DNR suggesting 2014 quota of 156 animals

On Wisconsin Outdoors: Disappear into the Middle of Nowhere

Disappear into the Middle of Nowhere
Backcountry Camping, Hunting and Fishing

Stars shine so bright that it nearly hurts your eyes, despite the fact that it is pitch black outside. With no one around for miles, the only sound you hear is the trickle of a nearby stream and the occasional owl call echoing through the trees. Images like this often conjure up thoughts of an Out-West or Alaskan adventure. However, there are plenty of opportunities right here in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to disappear into the woods for some backcountry camping, hunting, and fishing.

There is no better location here in Wisconsin than the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. Over one million acres of wild forest make up the Chequamegon with lakes and streams around every corner. Dispersed camping is what it’s referred to here in Wisconsin and you don’t even need a permit. Recent easing of regulations for deer transportation and registration including quartering in the field and phone/online registration, have created a perfect opportunity for backwoods hunters here in Wisconsin. For those adventurous souls, what better opportunity to take advantage.

Hilary Markin, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Public Affairs Officer, recommends that “people that want to participate in dispersed camping call the local offices before proceeding because they can point you in the right direction. Plus, they can update you on storm closures, especially this year, and make sure the area is open.” She added, “it’s best to narrow down what experience you’re after since there are so many opportunities out there.” Trout fishing, mountain bike riding, fishing remote lakes, hiking, grouse hunting, deer hunting, snow-shoeing, the list goes on and on and there are certain places that are better than others. The local offices can provide you the best places based on the experience you are seeking.

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Headquarters: (715) 362-1300
Lakewood/Laona Ranger District: (715) 276-6333
Park Falls/Medford Ranger District: (715) 762-2461
Eagle River/Florence Ranger District: (715) 479-2827
Washburn Ranger District: (715) 373-2667
Great Divide Ranger District – Hayward/Glidden: (715) 634-4821

Markin stressed the importance of, “Leave No Trace.” Quite simply, when you leave the area, it should look like you were never there. According to the Dispersed Camping manual, it’s not just for hikers and campers, recreation vehicle (RV) enthusiasts can take advantage of this program as well. They are able to park their RVs at pull off areas on Forest Service roads. This is a perfect opportunity to set up a hunting camp this fall or plan an adventure next summer.

The Chequamegon may be the natural place to start given the size, but it is certainly not the only opportunity to disappear into the woods. County and State Forests as well as State Parks have been expanding opportunities in recent years. “Our members are exploring all over the state,” says Jeff Guerard, Chapter Chair for The Wisconsin Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “I’m actually going after ducks in the Chequamegon this weekend.” Formed in March 2016, this group is new to Wisconsin but one that many people passionate about the outdoors can relate to. “Our focus is on preserving public lands,” Guerard explained. “Our goal is to stop the transfer of federal land to state control, where the state sells it to private ownership. We’ve seen this a lot out west already and now with the bill in 2013 here in Wisconsin to sell state land, our plan is to lobby the Natural Resources Board not to sell.” To do that, they are currently trying to expand their membership to give their organization more clout with state politicians and ultimately protect the great places that so many of us hold dear.

Published in On Wisconsin Outdoors on November 1, 2016

Dispersed Camping Information

Wolves in Wisconsin – Part 3

Pressure to take action on the wolf issue is once again on the doorsteps of Congress. What the outcome will be is anyone’s guess but it increasingly looks like they will take action. This is great news for anyone that realistically understands that wolves in Wisconsin, and elsewhere, need to be managed. For others, their disillusion to think that wolves haven’t recovered until they roam the streets of Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, and Minneapolis are foolish and have now set a dangerous precedent. Congress shouldn’t need to be involved in removing wolves from the Endangered Species Act. Science should and clearly shows that they have recovered and established a viable, sustainable population in the Great Lakes region. Unfortunately, now Congressional action is the only way to take action because scientists are fighting over this issue (with most supporting removing them from the Endangered Species List) and making it political rather than relying on the science that is telling them that the wolf recovery has been an astounding success.

Isle Royale Wolf Track

Isle Royale Wolf Track

For two years, I had the pleasure of covering the Wisconsin Wolf Committee for Wisconsin Outdoor News. This body was designed to provide recommendations to Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board on how to effectively manage wolves at the state level in Wisconsin. There were a wide variety of opinions, but I believe they had a practical, pro-active approach to managing the growing wolf population in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, when wolves were returned to the Endangered Species List this committee was essentially disbanded. With ongoing pressure to remove wolves once again from protective status, my guess is that this committee will be quickly reinvigorated. Hopefully, I’ll be there covering their progress once again.

This article is one of my early ones covering the committee:

Dec 27, 2013 – Wolf committee ends year with long to-do list