Nov 10, 2017

Wisconsin Waterfowl Association Abrams Property

Hunting and Recreational Property for Disabled and Able-bodied Sportsmen and Women 

Over 150 acres of public accessible property, almost 2 miles of disabled accessible trails, 3 disabled deer blinds, 6 food plots, 3 disabled accessible duck blinds, disabled parking, deer, turkey, duck, geese, pheasant, woodcock, grouse and bear have been harvested from the property by visitors. Come visit a gem of a property in southern Oconto County.

Who could have foreseen that the construction of the Hwy 41/141 split in southern Oconto County, near Abrams in the mid 1990’s, would end up being a sanctuary for waterfowl and other wildlife more than 20 years later?

The story begins in early 1990 when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT) was tasked with construction of the Hwy 41/141 split in southern Oconto County. Their project called for fill, and LOTS of it! Like other similar WDOT construction projects, fill was provided by local properties purchased by WDOT. Thousands of cubic yards of fill was removed from a 112-acre parcel of property acquired by WDOT just north of the Highway project. After the soil was removed from the parcel and the highway work was completed, the WDOT worked with the staff at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to mitigate the borrow site for habitat improvement. The mitigation site was completed with WDNR’s expertise. Three islands were created along with 4-5 acres of standing water, which was hydraulically connected to Brookside Creek, which cuts through the property. The mitigation site was graded and planted with warm weather prairie grasses to encourage waterfowl nesting and wildlife rearing. As with any mitigation site, the next thing on WDOT’s agenda was to find a long-term steward for the property to insure the conservation mitigation would be maintained and enhanced. At the time, WDNR was not interested in acquiring the property because of its location outside their current project boundary. This is when the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association (WWA) stepped in.

Title to the 112-acre parcel was transferred to the WWA in May of 1996. Along with the transfer were numerous conditions, covenants and restrictions to insure that the property would stay in good conservation stewardship, forever!

The property continued in its final mitigation condition until the Green Bay Chapter-WWA members began to do some initial planning to enhance the site to further improve habitat, access and management. The development plan was an easy sell to the WWA Board of Directors, and the rest is history in the making.

The Green Bay Chapter-WWA began to implement habitat improvement in the winter of 2011 with the help and expertise of WWA Biologist Peter Ziegler. Green Bay Chapter work groups were put together to cut and burn invasive brush and spray stumps on the islands to reduce raptor issues. Additionally, more than 20 wood duck nesting boxes were installed over the ice to encourage local nesting and a prescribed burn was conducted in early May to release the dormant warm weather prairie grasses to enhance nesting. 

One Green Bay Chapter board member (Ryan Dorak) provided a vision of providing disabled hunting opportunities on the property. His vision and commitment has been the “spark” for the Green Bay Chapter’s work to make this a reality. The Green Bay Chapter of WWA began fundraising and writing several grant requests to the State of Wisconsin (State Stewardship and Federal Trails Grants), Oconto County LCD and LCD District grants, county conservation groups and local conservation and disabled clubs to begin funding a phased development project.

In fall of 2011 an improved driveway and parking area was constructed as well as a disabled accessible trail network along the northern edge of the property. The trail terminates near the ponds where a state of the art disabled accessible duck blind was constructed. A cooperative project with County LCS completed a pike spawning area and installed water control structures. Disturbed soil was replanted with native prairie seeds and signage was posted.

In 2012, phase 2 of the project was implemented. The disabled trail network was extended another ½ mile, several more disabled accessible duck blinds were constructed by a local Eagle Scout candidate and a disabled accessible observation deck was constructed for wildlife viewing. Two disabled accessible deer blinds were constructed on the north property along with food plots.

In late 2011, a second 40-acre parcel was donated to WWA, which abuts to the south of the current property and has access off Oak Orchard Road. The property was acquired with similar restrictions so that the property was to be used for public recreation and managed for wildlife habitat. Total acreage of the property is now just over 150 acres.

Phase 3 development was completed during 2013 on the Oak Orchard parcel with development of a parking area, fencing, ½ mile of disabled accessible trail and a third disabled deer blind along with food plots, and signage. Two more disabled deer blinds are currently under construction and are planned for completion soon.

Since development has been completed, the Abrams WWA property has hosted several local school field trips, as well as disabled veteran hunting groups, able-bodied hunters, Learn to Hunt Youth programs, hiking and wildlife viewing from people all over the State. Numerous deer, pheasants, turkey, grouse, ducks, geese, woodcock and even a bear have been harvested from this property over the past several years. US Fish and Wildlife Service have implemented a grouse/woodcock habitat improvement project on the property and on site woodcock banding by WDNR is planned for spring of 2018. Several local conservation clubs plant pheasants on the property each year, which are easily accessible by disabled hunters with a retriever.

Future development plans are still in the process. Original plans back in 2011 included an educational structure with electrical access, rough fish removal from the ponds and planting of wild rice. Rough fish removal and wild rice planting is scheduled for 2018.

This project could not have been completed without support and funding from state organizations, county conservation groups, local businesses, charitable groups and, of course, the members of the Green Bay Chapter of WWA. If you are interested in supporting the continued development of this property, please contact the WWA. Your support is appreciated.

If you have groups interested in a field trip to the Abrams WWA Property, you can contact Don Kirby, Executive Director of WWA, for information at 262-224-4949 or visit our website at wisducks.org at the Abrams tab for updates and event information.