A fox dashes through the underbrush with his nose down, apparently late for a dinner appointment. A coyote stands perk-eared, listening for her next meal. A flock of turkeys parades across the frame like a crowd exiting a theater. And a doe and her yearling pose for several shots, nuzzling and hamming it up for a family portrait.
With trees stripped of leafy concealments, late fall offers one of the best times to view wildlife in Driftless Wisconsin. In fact, decaying leaves on the ground are more likely to warn you of approaching critters. Just sit quietly on a trail and listen for the telltale rattle of leaves. Or drive slowly through Wildcat Mountain State Park near Ontario or Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien and scan the forest for deer on the move.
If birds are your focus, Mississippi Explorer Cruises will host Fall Migration Cruises on November 5 & 6 and 12 & 13. The cruises depart from Lansing, Iowa, right across the river from Ferryville and De Soto. The excursions will tour the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, where you can view the migration of Tundra Swans, Bald Eagles, and numerous species of waterfowl. Naturalists and birders are on board to narrate the cruise and answer your questions.
The Kickapoo Valley Reserve near La Farge is another great place to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. Numerous animals and over 100 species of nesting birds make the reserve their home. My wife and I recently enjoyed a 3-mile hike that loops above the Kickapoo River through standing pines, rust-colored oak trees, and open prairies. Hunters were combing the fields for pheasant, which can be hunted in the reserve by permit. Judging by their wagging tails, I think the hunting dogs were having more fun than their masters.
One of my favorite sights is watching Bald Eagles soar over the river valley, which can be seen along both the Mississippi and Kickapoo Rivers. Scouting for fish and rodents below, the eagles can hang on a breeze or slide windward on a graceful glide over one of the many overlooks available for viewing.
Whether watching through the lens of a camera or your own eyes, the excitement of wildlife sightings awaits you. It only takes time and patience, which are also in plentiful supply in Driftless Wisconsin.