Contests feature the best of Wisconsin’s state parks

If you enjoy photography, have a favorite state park, or preferably both, there are two contests you’ll be interested in.

The 2019 Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Gold Seal Award contest voting deadline is Friday, Aug. 30. Sponsored by this umbrella group for 80 local “friends” groups that supply volunteer support for state park properties, the annual contest aims to spotlight the many different offerings provided by state parks, trails and recreation areas.

Anyone who visits or appreciates state parks can vote, explained Patty Loosen, Friends of Wisconsin State Parks executive director.

The voting categories are the best state park:

• for ice cream (park concession)

• for a family picnic

• with a handicap accessible trail

• with scenic bluffs

• nature center for children’s activities

• trail to view wildlife

• beach to build a sandcastle

• with rustic campsites

• with a variety of fitness options

• (or trail) for winter recreation

To vote, visit

The winners will be honored Nov. 10 with a Golden Seal Award at an annual banquet.

The photo contest includes photos of state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas. Scenery photos with people count higher than wildlife shots. Only horizontal photos are accepted.

Only amateur photographers (defined as making less than half your total income from photography) age 14 and older may enter the contest. Photos must have been taken since Jan. 1, 2017. There is a maximum of four entries per person.

Photos must be submitted electronically by midnight Sept. 3. For complete rules, go to

The winning photos will appear in the 2020 Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Calendar, which is released this fall. The December issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine includes the calendar.

Bonus fall turkey permits on sale Saturday

Bonus fall wild turkey permits go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 17). Anyone who has purchased a fall turkey license or conservation patron license is eligible for a bonus permit (one per day) until they are sold out. There are no drawings for fall turkey permits.

Zones 1 and 3 each have 5,000 bonus permits available, while Zones 2 and 4 have 2,000 each. There are no bonus permits available in the other zones.

The bonus permits are $5 for hunters under age 12, $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents. They are sold at any license vendor or at

The fall turkey season in Zones 1-5 is Sept. 14 through Jan. 5. The season for Zones 6-7 is Sept. 14 through Nov. 22.

Learn to Hunt Programs and hunter safety classes

If you are new to hunting, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers Learn to Hunt Programs that can introduce you to the sport.

This is also the time of year when many hunting newcomers look for hunter safety classes, which are required of anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, if you have not yet obtained a hunter safety certificate in Wisconsin or any other state.

Learn to Hunt programs include both classroom and field instruction before pairing the newcomer with an experienced hunter. Local conservation clubs and other groups can host a Learn to Hunt program by contacting a state wildlife biologist at least 30 days before the program. There are various programs aimed at teaching how to hunt deer, pheasants, raccoons, bears and food in general, as well as trapping.

Learn more by visiting

The DNR website now offers a number of online hunter safety classes that enable newcomers to learn the basics of hunting at their own pace, then take an internet field course in person at a local location in order to obtain a hunter safety certificate required for hunting.

The first step is to obtain a DNR customer ID number. Visit to get an ID number or find a hunter safety course.

New hunters also may hunt without a hunter safety certificate under the state’s mentored hunting program. Search “mentored hunting” at the DNR site for details.

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at