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Taking a tour of southern Wisconsin includes stop at wildlife area

Garrin and Brady in halftrack at Russell Military Museum.

Every few months Sal and I drive down to northern Illinois to visit our twin grandsons, Garrin and Brady.

My son Matt, his wife Angela and the two boys live in Grays Lake, Ill., which is not too far from the Wisconsin border. The boys will be 3 years old this October.

We take I-94 toward Milwaukee, then take the I-894 bypass, which allows us to miss downtown Milwaukee. It is a reasonable six hour drive but traffic around Madison and Milwaukee can be heavy and road construction inevitable.

Miller Park

At least once a year we attend a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. Our August trip was no exception and we had the pleasure of watching the Brewers beat the Houston Astros 6-2.

Watching a game in Miller Park is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Miller Park is, in my estimation, one of the best, if not the best, baseball park in the nation.

The facility allows easy access both coming and going and the extensive parking lots give the term "tailgating" real meaning. Thousands of fans will break out the grills, filling the air with the aroma of charcoal broiled food several hours before game time.

Camaraderie runs high and everyone has a great time, including the kids. Win or lose, Brewer fans are the best in either league.

Miller Park has a retractable roof which can be closed in case of inclement weather so there is never a rainout. A new stadium without a retractable roof and adequate parking lots for tailgating is really not much of a stadium at all.

Military museum

When we visit, Matt usually plans various activities. We've been to the Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Field Museum, various arboretums, Navy Pier and a Blue Man Group presentation on other occasions in Chicago.

On this trip we had the choice of visiting the Renaissance Fair or tour the Russell Military Museum near Zion, Ill. To me it was a no-brainer and we were off to the museum.

Russell Military Museum is situated on 15 acres of what was once a parking lot but now is covered with a large display building and hundreds of military items spread outside across the landscape. The equipment is stored unprotected from the elements. This adds to the ambience of the place and the kids had a great time crawling in, around and through the tanks, trucks, planes, helicopters and other assorted pieces that spanned all wars and countries.

The excursion was topped off by Grandpa purchasing a toy machine gun and flying toy Army helicopter for the boys. It doesn't get much better than that.

On our way back from the military museum, Matt drove past the Golden Pyramid House located near Wadworth, Ill. on Dilley's Road. It features the largest 24-karat gold plated object ever created. A triple pyramid garage and a 64-foot-tall statue of Ramses grace the grounds. It is actually the private home of an Armenian family. Tours are no longer given but this rather interesting place can be viewed from the road and the best part about that is it's free.

Both the Russell Museum and Golden Pyramid House are located right off I-94 so they are easy to find.

Mead Wildlife Area

On Aug. 22, I attended a Conservation Congress Alternative Funding Committee meeting at the Mead Wildlife Center located six miles north of Milladore, off State Highway 10.

While I had driven by the area numerous times, I had never taken the time to stop and visit the center or investigate what the wildlife area had to offer. After visiting there, it will now be a required stop.

The Interpretive Center houses some of the most interesting displays and beautiful animal mounts imaginable. A full body mounted albino buck greets visitors at the door. A friends group volunteer is on site to answer any questions about the area, with the center open on Saturdays for public access.

The wildlife area is made up of more than 33,000 acres of wetlands, grasslands and forests. It also has 70 miles of hiking and biking trails, and with more than 267 bird species residing there or known to pass through the area annually, it is a birders' paradise.

Sal, I and the dogs took advantage of some of the walking trails on our visit and would rank them top quality for scenery and maintenance. Hunting is also allowed.

If you are in the area, schedule a stop. You won't be disappointed.

Warden Paul's Corner

Lake Sturgeon Regulations

The 2009 hook and line season for lake sturgeon opened Sept. 5 on the St. Croix River. The season has been shortened and ends Sept. 30, and the minimum length for harvesting sturgeon has been increased to 60 inches.

Anglers who harvest a legal-size fish must immediately attach the harvest tag to the fish and take it to a registration station by 6 p.m. the next day for registration. The only registration station in St. Croix County is Willow River State Park, 1034 County Road A, Hudson. Anglers can also call the Baldwin Department of Natural Resources Service Center (715-684-2914) during normal business hours to register a legal sturgeon also.

All anglers must have a Wisconsin general inland fishing license unless they are younger than 16 years old, or were born before Jan. 1, 1927.

Military personnel who are Wisconsin residents and in active service but on furlough or leave are eligible to received a free annual fishing license. They still need to purchase the $20 lake sturgeon harvest tag if they plan to keep a lake sturgeon.

If anglers plan to harvest a sturgeon this season, they must purchase a harvest tag before they fish. The sturgeon harvest tag was implemented for the first time in the 2006 hook and line season.

All revenues from the harvest tag sales go directly to projects dedicated to the improvement of sturgeon populations and habitats and therefore better fishing opportunities. No tag is needed if anglers are catch and release fishing only. Anglers can only target sturgeon during the open season.

The harvest tag is available throughout the season and costs $20 for residents and $50 for non-residents. It can be purchased over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center; by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236); at license sales locations; or DNR service centers during their regular business hours (check service center link for hours of operation, which vary by service center; service centers are closed Saturdays).

Lake sturgeon are slow-growing, late maturing fish, with females spawning for the first time when they are 20 to 25 years old and then only every three to five years thereafter. Because females are larger than males, they are often targeted by anglers and their over-harvest can cause population declines that may take years to recover.

For any questions or to report a violation, call Conservation Warden Paul Sickman at 715-685-2914, ext. 120.