Saturday, February 27, 2016

White-tailed deer abound in Wis. woodlands

White-tailed deer can run up to 40 miles per hour. Courtesy of Photoree.
Trail marked in alternating red and yellow line.
Map courtesy of Barron County. 

Ice Age Trail segment runs through Barron County forest


Day hikers will have several opportunities to spot the impressive white-tailed deer on a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in a western Wisconsin forest.

The 2.6-miles round trip segment of the Ice Age Trail runs through Waterman Lake Area County Forest in northeast Barron County. The Ice Age Trail runs 1200 miles across the state, mostly marking the farthest advance of the last glacier to touch these parts some 11,000 years ago.

To reach the trailhead, from Cumberland, take U.S. Hwy 63 north. Turn left/west onto 24-1/2 Avenue. The road becomes 4th Street when it begins running along Beaver Dam Lake and gradually curves north. When 4th Street splits, the main road turns west and becomes County Road H/3-1/2 Street, passing several farms, then upon veering north turns to 3rd Street. After the 29-1/2 Street intersection, look for the gravel parking lot on the road's left/west side. Park there.

Take the access trail from the lot's northwest corner for about 0.05 miles to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Go left/southwest onto the Ice Age Trail.

The trail generally heads south through a mixed hardwoods forest. This habitat is perfect for the white-tailed deer, which often grazes on agricultural fields at the edge of woodlands.

In about 0.6 miles, you’ll reach a junction to a side trail; continue right/west. In about 0.1 miles, you’ll come to the junction for where the side trail reconnects with the main trail.

Wisconsin’s official wildlife animal, white-tailed deer are quite common across the state. They can grow up to three-feet high at the shoulder and weigh up to 200 pounds.

As heading west, wetlands areas can be found off both sides of the trail. At 0.8 miles from trailhead, you’ll junction a trail heading north; continue left/west on the main trail, though.

Fawns usually are born in May and June, so a great time to hike this trail is late summer when mothers bring out their young. Newborns typically remain low in the grass, and their reddish brown coats with white spots makes for perfect camouflage.

About 1.1 miles in, the trail turns northwest coming along the shoreline of Lake 4-8. This is a good location to spy whitetail taking a drink.

Should you spot a deer, unless it is in the distance or freezes, don’t expect to see it for long. Despite long skinny legs, they can run up to 40 miles per hour, jump nine feet high (allowing them to clear almost any fence), and can swim about 13 miles per hour. When broad jumping, they can leap up to 30 feet in a single bound.

At 1.25 miles from the trailhead, the Ice Age Trail veers away from lake; upon reaching a junction with a trail heading north, turn back. The trail does continue west through the county forest, but the landscape gets significantly swampier for the next mile or so.

Read more about day hiking Barron County in my Hittin’ the Trail: Day Barron County, Wisconsin guidebook.