Opening weekend of the gun-deer hunting season in Wisconsin starts Saturday.
With an already wet year mixed with well below average fall temperatures, hunters are facing an usual early obstacle this season: Ice.
Jake Holsclaw is a Department of Natural Resources Recreation Warden. He said hunters need to remember to watch their step.
“I think one of the big things they are going to want to remember is that even know we have had some cold weather, it’s still pretty early in the year,” said Holsclaw.
Wisconsinites will be heading into the woods in hopes of bagging that big buck. However, hunters need to pay attention to their surroundings, including marshes and ponds, especially if they are unfamiliar with the area.
“The ice could be varying from a couple inches to basically just skim ice,” said Holsclaw. “If they are hunting, especially in an unfamiliar area, they’re going to want to make sure that they check the area out ahead of time before they go out there opening morning.”
Holsclaw recommends keeping something with you to check the strength and thickness of the ice.
“One of the things they could do is having a spud bar, which is basically just a long metal bar that’s heavier on the end,” said Holsclaw. “If it is going to be thick enough to walk on, it’s not going to crack when you tap it and it’s not going to have a real hallow sound, it’s going to be a more dull sound, a thicker sound.”
Holsclaw said although the ice may look safe, that may not actually be the case.
“One thing we really want to stress is there is really no safe ice thickness because ice can vary so much,” Holsclaw said. “Ideally, try to go around any ice. If you know it’s a lot deeper, go around this time of year.”
If someone does fall through ice, Holsclaw said hypothermia can set in in a matter of minutes.
“If someone is in the water, they don’t even have to be completely submerged in cold water. They can become disoriented, confused. They are going to have a lot of trouble with fine dexterity”
Most of all, he said to make sure people know where you are while hunting.
“Let people know where you are going,” said Holsclaw. “Have a cell phone with you, have some extra clothes with you, just in case you do fall in or even partly fall in just up to your knees.”
Holsclaw also recommends checking with local fishing or sports club in your area, they may keep track of how thick the ice is in that area. He said the most important thing for hunters to do is check out the area before they go out.