Life Along Wisconsin’s Great River Road And Why You Need To Go
By ANASTASIA PENCHI
The opportunity to experience nature as a participant is often cited as the top reason why hunters like to hunt.
Hunters also like knowing more about their food, and they are proud to be part of the herd management process. Sharing stories with other hunters is often part of the tradition, as is teaching kids to hunt safely and playing cards while having adult beverages with friends at “the cabin.”
There are 6 million acres of public lands in Wisconsin, which means there are also plenty of places to hunt along Wisconsin’s Great River Road, a 250-mile stretch of Highway 35 running adjacent to the Mississippi River from Kieler, Wis., in the south, to Prescott in northern Wisconsin.
Whether your game of choice is whitetail deer, turkey, duck or even bear, here are four places to hunt when private land isn’t an option:
Something to quack about
The south end of the Great River Road near Prairie du Chien is a puddle duck hunter’s paradise thanks to the Wisconsin River, which is augmented by shallow marshes and nearby agricultural fields. Since puddle ducks like to eat the foods farmers grow (in addition to river plants and fish) this area is a big draw. Waterfowl hunting is a huge deal in the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, which includes about 95,000 acres of land on both sides of the river that can serve both single hunters in canoes and larger hunting parties in motorboats. Success here means you’ll be eating bacon-wrapped duck breast in no time.
Venison for miles
Wisconsin has a Managed Forest Law that allows the public to hunt any of its open Managed Forest lands, and in exchange the private landowner gets a property tax reduction. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Web site has maps that show thousands of acres of these lands, along with the owner’s name and information on how to contact them. While not required, contacting the owner might help you identify the best access point to the property or find a hidden game trail. There are several maps identifying spots in the Town of Freeman, just south of Ferryville, but many other locations are noted up and down the Great River Road for those who don’t own hunting land. Can you hear the backstraps sizzling on the grill? I can.
A wildlife area to gobble up
Wisconsin’s Wildlife Areas are often used for bird watching, but they are also available to those who prefer to hunt and eat their birds. Van Loon Wildlife Area, which is an almost 4,000 acre property just north of La Crosse, is made up of flood plain forest, sand prairies and oak savanna habitat. Woodland birds like wild turkeys and pheasants are drawn to hardwood forests, grassy areas and water, which is why they have been spotted here. We’re not talking turkey – visit a Wildlife Area and thanksgiving dinner need not be limited to November – only to open hunting seasons.
The mighty hunting ground
One of the reasons hunting is so popular in Western Wisconsin is because of the Mississippi River. Much of its corridor and many of its islands offer opportunities to hunt deer, squirrel, wild turkeys and other critters. However, the big draw to the river proper is ducks – canvasbacks to be specific. Start at the northern end of the road by Trempealeau. This area of the river (heading south to Lynxville) tends to harbor the most canvasbacks. Some reports cite up to 400,000 birds per fall, which makes it one of the biggest concentrations in North America. The attraction is in part thanks to the abundance of wild celery and other tasty diving duck treats that grow in the river. They eat; you eat. Isn’t that a win-win?
Meet the Writer
Anastasia Penchi is a self-employed writer who lives just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road. You can read more about Wisconsin’s Great River Road, and the festivals and people of Western Wisconsin, at the Web site: www.loislaneforhire.com.