With over 160,000 acres of public land, hunters can bag an experience of lifetime in The County of Trails.
Langlade County is home to the seventh largest tract of county forest land—at 130,800 acres—in Wisconsin, and with very few exceptions it is open to public hunting. In addition, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is responsible for an additional 30,000 acres of public lands, again open to hunting with very few exceptions.
“Langlade County is right on the end of the transition to the big forest and that allows for a terrific diversity in hunting opportunities,” Eric Borchert, DNR wildlife technician advanced for Langlade and Lincoln counties, explains. “That, along with large tracts of public lands, allows hunters the opportunity to get that big woods experience.”
Deer hunting, both archery and gun, remains a mainstay, but Langlade County is also popular for bear, grouse, waterfowl, turkey, and small game.
Predicting the season
Borchert said Langlade County is coming off an “above-average” year for gamebirds, and barring some unusual weather, he is expecting a good harvest for the gun deer season November 19-27, 2022.
“Our deer numbers are higher than they have been in a long time. There is no question about that,” Borchert said. “We had a mild winter and good fawn production and that is a recipe for a good deer season.”
Of course, many factors can influence the final tally. Chief among them is weather, along with hunter effort and pressure, rut activity, and stand site locations.
In 2021, hunters registered 175,667 deer during the gun deer hunt, including 84,952 antlered and 90,715 antlerless deer. In Langlade County, hunters harvested 1,603 whitetails over the nine-day hunt, including 1,113 bucks.
After this month’s gun hunt, the remainder of the 2022 deer season schedule includes:
Muzzleloader: Nov. 28-Dec. 7.
Statewide Antlerless Hunt: Dec. 8-11
Farmland Zone Holiday Hunt: Dec. 24-Jan. 1, 2023.
Crossbow and archery continue through Jan. 8.
Feeding and baiting of deer continues to be banned in Langlade County due to chronic wasting disease regulations. Access permits are also available for hunters with handicaps. Check the DNR website for details by clicking here.
Becoming a destination
“Langlade County does an exceptional job with timber management,” Borchert says. “That, combined with the state and federal lands we have here, make this a prime location.”
Hunting is allowed on all county lands entered into the County Forest Crop Law, along with some private and industrial lands entered into the Forest Crop Law or Managed Forest Lands Law and designated State of Wisconsin lands. These lands can be accessed from any road found on the official County Road Map. Access beyond these official roads, by motorized vehicle, is a matter of rules and policies approved by each entity.
Borchert said a great place to start exploring public lands is the Ackley Wildlife Area located on State Highway 64, 12 miles west of Antigo.
This property was originally created in 1951 as an area to manage prairie (sharp-tailed) grouse. Since that time, wildlife managers have developed 27 shallow waterfowl flowages encompassing more than 400 acres of water. The remainder of the property is a mix of native grasslands, aspen, and northern hardwood stands.
“Ackley provides excellent opportunities to pursue a variety of game species, such as deer, turkey, black bear, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and waterfowl,” Borchert said. “Beavers, muskrats, fishers, and coyotes are abundant on this property and on the 27,000 acres of surrounding county forest lands.”
The area is managed to provide opportunities for public hunting, trapping, and other outdoor recreation while protecting the qualities of the unique native communities and associated species found on the property.
Another option is the Peters Marsh Wildlife Area, located on County Highway A nine miles northeast of Antigo.
At 1,687 acres, Peters Marsh features habitat types including forests, fields, wetlands, and native grasslands. The variety of cover provides access to numerous wildlife species including waterfowl, ruffed grouse, deer, turkey, black bear, woodcock, snowshoe hare, and beaver. Six parking areas provide access to more than 10 miles of grass walking trails. Motorized vehicle travel is prohibited.
Another Langlade County Forest option is the Hunter Walking Trails located along County Road T at Pearson. The tract features 24 miles of primarily forest roads that have been widened, mowed, and maintained annually. This block of county forest is focused on creating an ideal habitat for whitetail deer, ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and other "young forest" wildlife species. The trails are accessible off County Highway T, Jack Lake Firelane, Camp 23 Road, and Stevens Springs Grade.
“Langlade county has many smaller parcels available as well and I often steer people towards them,” Borchert said. “There are more opportunities than people realize.”
The Upper Wolf River Fishery Area is comprised of many DNR owned properties along the Wolf River in Langlade County. Borchert explained that although the area is known for the Wolf River and spring ponds that dot the region, about 95 percent of the watershed is wooded and wild and great for hunting.
“There isn’t a lot of difference from a management viewpoint between fisheries and wildlife properties,” Borchert says.
The Crocker Hills Legacy Area is a mix of private and public land at Elton, known for its horseback riding, and dog sledding opportunities. The private lands are protected from development through a conservation easement and are open for recreation, including hunting.
“All these areas are a good bet for hunting, and many don’t get the pressure the larger tracts may,” Borchert says. “Most of these properties are dynamite grouse, woodcock, and deer habitats with a lot of diversity. Hunters who only concentrate on the larger tracts are really missing out on some good opportunities.”
Over the decades, Borchert says Langlade county has been transitioning from being a “family” hunting area to something more.
“Langlade County is becoming a destination,” he says, adding that he is seeing more and more sportsmen and women visiting from the Fox Valley, southern Wisconsin, and points farther south. “When people are coming north, Langlade County is the first county they reach with large tracts of public lands for hunting and recreation. It is an easy drive.”