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MADISON — Each year, thousands of outdoor enthusiasts use Wisconsin’s public lands for a variety of activities, ranging from birdwatching to hunting. For those interested in exploring all Wisconsin has to offer, the Department of Natural Resources has a number of tools available to help users find a new favorite spot in the wild.
Most public lands are open to hunting; however, some have closed areas and special regulations and season dates. Be sure to check the property web page or contact a property manager for more information.
Public Access Lands atlas
Those in search of public hunting and trapping grounds this fall are reminded to check out the DNR’s Public Access Lands atlas. The atlas includes all DNR properties, as well as nearly all federal and county-owned lands. Hunters are reminded to contact landowners beforehand to verify that hunting is allowed on a given property. People can download and print these maps free of charge from a home computer. For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “atlas.”
Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive program
The Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture NRCS, provides financial incentives to private landowners who open their property to year-round wildlife-dependent recreation. Currently, 257 VPA properties totaling more than 36,000 acres are available for public use this fall through the Voluntary Public Access program. These lands are open to public use under certain guidelines. VPA lands are displayed on the PAL interactive map viewer. Search keyword “VPA” to learn more.
Lands are clearly posted with a ‘Private Lands leased for Public Access’ sign. Property access is limited to foot traffic only and only portable, temporary blinds and stands can be used. Feedback about user experience is essential to the continued success of this program – users are encouraged to complete an evaluation survey found at each VPA property, or use the QR code found on the sign posting to access the online version of the survey.
For a code of conduct (available in three languages), maps and additional information, search keyword “VPA.”
Managed Forest and Forest Crop Law Programs
Managed Forest Law and Forest Crop Law are landowner-incentive programs that incorporate sustainable forest practices, like timber harvest and wildlife management, while improving public access to these lands.
Landowners who enroll may choose an “open” or “closed” designation for public recreation. Lands open to public recreation are available only for hunting, fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing, and sight-seeing. Hunters are encouraged to contact their local DNR Forester to learn more about these programs-search keywords “forest landowner,” then click “find professional help” and use the Forestry Assistance Locator to find a DNR forester who has responsibility for that area of Wisconsin.
A mapping tool shows the approximate location of all MFL-Open and FCL lands in Wisconsin. Here, landowner information, acreage, and enrollment information is also available. To access the mapping tool, search keywords “MFL open land.” For more general information regarding these programs, search keywords “managed forest law” and “forest crop law” for an FAQ and other helpful information.
State parks provide a range of recreational opportunities. Fall hunting and archery are allowed in the open areas of state parks during the open season from Nov. 15 – Dec. 15. Be sure to visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “hunting state parks” to learn more and find park hunting maps.
The Fields and Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool gives hunters an interactive summary of young aspen and alder habitat to find woodcock and ruffed grouse hunting areas, pheasant-stocked public hunting grounds, and dove fields found on public hunting lands throughout Wisconsin
Features available within the program help hunters locate DNR public parking areas, overlay township descriptions, and provide access to maps and aerial photos of prospective hunting areas. Users can also print maps and find GPS coordinates to assist in navigation and estimate acreage and walking distance.
The mapping application is compatible with all major desktop and mobile web browsers (internet access is required). Mobile users can use FFLIGHT on-the-go to find habitat suitable for the species they wish to pursue. To learn more, search keyword “FFLIGHT.”
Pocket Ranger Application
The free Pocket Ranger App gives hunters the tools to make it easier than ever to find a place to enjoy the outdoors and stay safe in the field – current features include: find a place to hunt; deer registration locations; advanced GPS mapping features; and much more.
Since the application’s launch in November 2013, total downloads have eclipsed 210,000. To learn more and download this free application, search keyword “mobile apps,” or search “Wisconsin Pocket Ranger” in the Apple App Store or Android Market from your Apple or Android device.
Adopt a Fish and Wildlife Area
The Adopt a Fish and Wildlife Area program provides an opportunity for those who frequent Wisconsin’s public lands to give back to their favorite state wildlife or fisheries area.
Participants receive a first-hand look at how DNR staff use management goals to maintain thousands of acres of property throughout Wisconsin and play a key role in enhancing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for others to enjoy.
Whether through habitat and maintenance work on the property or a financial donation, it has never been easier to play a direct role in conservation. Partner efforts are recognized through signage on the adopted property and department outreach efforts.
Those interested in adopting a State Wildlife Area can participate individually, or as part of a group. If you or your organization is interested, please submit an application at the nearest DNR office location. To learn more about adopting a Wisconsin Wildlife Area, visit the department website, dnr.wi.gov, and search keyword “volunteer.”
How else can you connect with the department?
The department uses current technology to reach users of all ages and backgrounds and provide for convenience, whether they are already in the field or looking for new places to explore. Be sure to visit DNR’s Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn pages to learn more and connect with staff.
People who missed a live chat on finding a place to hunt with DNR staff Thursday, Aug. 4 can review the chat record at keyword “expert” – select “Deer: Available Tags and Where to Hunt” to learn more about these programs.