Frequently Asked Questions


What is a Wildlife Area?  Wildlife areas are different from other state-owned properties, such as State Parks and State Forests.  They are managed to provide habitat for wildlife. 

Section 23.09 (2) (d) 3., State Stats., provides legislative authority and direction for the acquisition and management of state wildlife areas. The primary purpose of state wildlife areas as stated in this statute is to provide "areas in which any citizen may hunt, trap or fish". Section 23.11 (1), Stats., provides for the general care, protection and supervision of state lands. Section 23.30, Stats., deals with the provisions of the outdoor recreation program.


The management and uses of state wildlife areas are further defined in NR 1.51. WI Admin Code. While hunting and trapping are the primary public uses for wildlife areas; other uses, such as walking, nature study, berry picking, and other low-impact recreational activities are also allowed. Other compatible open-space uses may be allowed under the property's Master Plan when they do not detract from the primary purpose of the property; however, they may be limited in time and location to avoid interference with wildlife production or survival and public hunting and trapping.


When is the wildlife area open?  The wildlife areas are open all day (and night) every day.  There is no charge to enter the wildlife area.

Are dogs allowed in the wildlife areas?  Yes. Dogs are allowed.  They must always be under the control of the owner, and between April 15 and July 1 they must be on a leash.  If you are looking for a place to do water training with your dog, the boat landing on Phantom Lake Trail is a good spot.  Be advised that there are wolves and other wild animals within the wildlife areas, and if your dog gets lost, it may become prey.  Also, there are various traps set during the trapping season, so keep your pets close.  Dogs are also not allowed to kill any wild animal - please see the WIsconsin Hunting regulations for more information. 

Are horses allowed in the wildlife areas?  Wisconsin state policy is that horses are allowed only on the roads that cars are allowed on on state wildlife areas. Crex Meadows, Fish Lake, Danbury and Amsterdam Sloughs Wildlife Areas are owned by the state of Wisconsin.  Horses are NOT allowed on the hiking and hunter walking trails or the firebreaks within the wildlife areas.  The nearby Governor Knowles State Forest has several miles of dedicated horse trails. For more information, click here.

Where can I hike in the wildlife areas?  You may hike anywhere in the wildlife areas, on or off trail, with the exception of the refuge areas, which are clearly marked with signs.  There are many hunter walking trails, as well as designated hiking trails.  There is a 1 mile trail behind the visitor center, and a 1.5 mile trail at the rest area.  Walking on the many miles of roads is another option, which can be quite rewarding, allowing you to see and hear many animals you may have missed while driving the roads (and allowing you to avoid ticks!).  The trails are generally mowed mid-summer, and again in the fall.  Hunter walking trails are mowed in the fall.

Can I ride a bike in the wildlife areas?  YES!  But be aware that most of the roads are gravel, and thin street tires will not work well on these roads.  There are several miles of paved roads as well (some are currently stripped and waiting to be re-paved).  Fat Tire and mountain bikes are allowed on the hiking trails throughout the wildlife areas.  An interesting trail to try would be Camp Six trail on Stolte Road in Fish Lake Wildlife Area (4 miles).  Stop in at the visitor center for more info on a good biking route.

Can I canoe/kayak in the wildlife areas?  Canoeing or kayaking is a great way to experience the wildlife areas, and is allowed on all flowages and water transfer ditches except those inside the refuges. The best places would be Phantom Lake and Lower North Fork Flowage, which are larger flowages where you can traverse the waters over a period of a couple hours or more. We ask that during the breeding season you stay away from the marshes away from open water where water birds nest, but once the breeding season is over and the young water birds have fledged, you may feel comfortable paddling into the marshy areas.   Boat launches are available at many of the flowages, and can be located on the maps of the wildlife areas.  Waterfowl hunters are on the waters during the waterfowl hunting seasons, which run from early September (early Goose) through mid-November, and we recommend avoiding paddling the marshes during this time. 

Can I camp in the wildlife areas?  Camping is allowed only at the rest area on the north end of Crex Meadows Wildlife area.  The camping season is from September 1 through December 31st.  Campers should register at the Visitor Center either before they set up camp or the next morning if they arrive after the center closes.  The camping fee is $5 per vehicle, or $4 for members of the Friends of Crex or hunters with a valid Wisconsin hunting license.  Camping is NOT allowed anywhere else on the properties.  There are other places to camp in the region, including the Governor Knowles State Forest and canoe/walk-in sites along the St. Croix River.  

Can I set up a photography blind in the wildlife areas?  As long as you are not within the no-entry refuge areas, you are free to set up a temporary portable blind anywhere in the wildlife area.  If you intend to use a ground photography blind during any gun or muzzleloader deer hunting season (except waterfowl blinds), you must have a minimum of 144 square inches of solid blaze orange material visible from all directions.  You may not leave your blind up overnight, and all unoccupied blinds must have the owner's name and address displayed in a visible and conspicuous location near the entrance.   

Can I explore off the roadways and trails?  As long as you are not within the no-entry refuge areas, you are free to access any portion of the wildlife area by foot for the purposes of wildlife and plant viewing and study, berry picking, wild edible food gathering, hunting, trapping, photography, etc.  Motorized vehicles and horses are restricted to roadways, ATVs and Snowmobiles are not allowed anywhere within the wildlife areas except on marked and groomed snowmobile trails during the snowmobile season.  Dogs must be leashed during the waterfowl breeding season (April 15-July 31).

I've found a sick, injured or orphaned animal.  What should I do with it? 

If it is determined that an animal is injured, sick or truly orphaned, contact the department or a licensed wildlife rehabilitatorimmediately. Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed individuals trained and equipped to provide temporary care and treatment to injured, sick and orphaned wild animals for the purpose of release back into the wild. Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own. Wild animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and pets. They are also capable of inflicting injury to themselves or others as they fight to defend themselves against a perceived threat (humans or pets). They have very specific dietary and housing requirements that are not easily met in captivity. Plus, rehabilitating wildlife without a license is against the law in Wisconsin.  More information about Wisconsin's KEEP WILDLIFE WILD policies can be found at

Where do the cranes come from?  In the fall, Sandhill Cranes gather at Crex Meadows and the surrounding areas (15-20 percent of the entire world-wide population of Greater Sandhill Cranes are present here in western Burnett County in October and early November), where they feed in the crop fields during the day and roost in the sedge marshes of the wildlife areas at night.  They remain in the area until the marshes ice over - usually by the middle to end of November and then head south, stopping over in Illinois and Indiana, and finally arriving along the gulf coast in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle where they spend the winter. Sandhill Cranes nest from southern Wisconsin north, up into the UP of Michigan and as far north as central Canada, south of Hudson Bay, in sedge meadows. There are many pairs nesting at Crex Meadows and Fish Lake Wildlife Areas each summer.

The cranes at Crex Meadows are the Greater Sandhill Crane, and there are about 80,000 of them in North America (*We count 15,000 - 20,000 in the fall at Crex). The Lesser Sandhill Crane is another sub-species that winters on the Texas coast, migrates through Nebraska and the Dakotas, and nests on the Arctic tundra far to the north. They stand about a foot shorter than our Greaters, and their population tops several hundred thousand.

Where can we see the Sandhill Cranes?  In the spring, Sandhill Cranes return to the meadows early, usually in mid-march to early April, when the begin building their nests.  They may be found in pairs, or sometimes with last year's young.  Once these pairs begin to nest, the young from previous years leave and find other "bachelor" cranes to hang out with for the summer.  Once the eggs hatch, the parents will lead their babies further into the sedge meadows to evade predators while their babies grow.  In the fall, the cranes gather in the meadows at night and fly to the crop fields nearby to feed during the day.  A great place to see the cranes at Crex Meadows during the fall gatherings is along Main Dike Road in the mornings and evenings as the cranes depart or arrive back to the sedge meadows to roost.  

Is hunting allowed in the wildlife areas?  Hunting is allowed throughout all the wildlife area on state-owned land, with the exception of the refuge areas within Crex Meadows and Fish Lake Wildlife Areas (the Fish Lake refuge is closed only during the migrating waterfowl hunting seasons but opens after that time for other species).  See the hunting regulations for the species you are hunting for details.  Regulations can be found on the Wisconsin DNR website.  

Is trapping allowed in the wildlife areas?  Trapping is allowed throughout all the wildlife area on state-owned land, with the exception of the refuge areas within Crex Meadows and Fish Lake Wildlife Areas.  See the hunting regulations for the species you are trapping for details.  Regulations can be found on the Wisconsin DNR website.  

Are motorized boats allowed on the flowages within the wildlife area? Motorized boats are allowed in the wildlife area on all navigable waters, except within the boundaries of the refuge areas.  Please keep in mind that Wisconsin has wildlife harassment laws, and it is illegal to chase or intentionally disturb wildlife.  We discourage the use of motorized boats during the breeding season (April-June).

Are ATV's allowed in the wildlife areas?  Except for winter Snowmobile/ATV trail use, ATVs are NOT ALLOWED within the wildlife areas.  Some townships allow ATVs on paved roads, but they are not allowed on township roads that go through state property within those townships.  This means that ATV's are not allowed even on paved roads within the wildlife areas even if the township allows ATVs.  Roads within the townships that allow ATVs are clearly marked with signs stating that ATVs are allowed.  The ONLY exception to this is when a hunter with a handicapped hunting permit uses an ATV to hunt from within allowable areas as designated by the Wildlife Area Property Manager.  

Is snowmobiling allowed in the wildlife areas? When conditions are favorable, snowmobile trails through the wildlife areas are open to public use from December 1 through March 31. Please refer to Trails & Licensing for maps and regulations, and go toTrail Conditions for current conditions.   Snowmobiles are NOT ALLOWED off the trails - or along the roads or other trails within the wildlife areas.  

Is the Fish Lake Wildlife Area refuge open to hunting? The refuge, which is the block north of Grettum Dike Road, east of Highway 87, south of Assembly Road and east of Hickerson Road, is closed to all hunting during any waterfowl season, with the exception of the 9-day gun deer season, when hunting for white-tailed deer is allowed throughout the refuge block.  The last waterfowl season closes on December 16th, so from December 17th through the end of other hunting seasons access is allowed (i.e. for pheasant, turkey, grouse and bow deer hunting).

Is the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area refuge open to hunting? The refuge in Crex Meadows, which is south of North Refuge Road, west of East Refuge Road, north of Main Dike Road, and east of West Refuge Road, is closed to public use year-round.  

If your question has not been answered, please contact us at 715-463-2739 or email