2016 Black Bear harvest was a record


MassWildlife Furbearer and Black Bear Project Leader Dave Wattles recently reported that a new record of 283 bears were harvested over the three 2016 seasons. The previous record harvest of 240 bears occurred in 2014.

During the first (September) season, 190 bears were taken, 46 were taken in the second (November) season, and 47 were harvested during the shotgun deer hunting season. According to Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden, 205 bears were taken in the Western District with 94 in Berkshire County.  Some of the higher Western District  harvests occurred in the following towns: Blandford accounted for 17 of them, Granville 13 and Cummington 10.

Madden also reported that 93 wild turkeys were harvested statewide during the fall turkey hunting season.  Some 15 of them were harvested in the Western District.  Earlier this year, MassWildlife’s Wild Turkey Project Leader David Scarpitti reported that the statewide spring preliminary harvest figures indicated that 3,054 wild turkeys were taken   So it looks like about 3,147 wild turkeys were harvested this year.


No 2016 deer harvest figures have been released yet.


Remembering Peter Mirick

It was reported in a recent MassWildlife newsletter that Peter Mirick, retired editor of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, avid sportsman and herpetologist, passed away in December from cancer. He began his career with MassWildlife in 1977 as a staff writer for the magazine and served as an assistant biologist before becoming the magazine editor in 1981.


During his time with the Division, he earned a Master’s Degree in Biology from Worcester State College. Pete was an avid herpetologist, conducting research on the endangered Black Rat Snake and assisting with projects related to other reptiles and amphibians. During his career, he was active with professional organizations including The Wildlife Society, New England Outdoor Writers Association, and the Association of Conservation Information. He received a number of awards for his writing and editing and was the lead editor of the “Trapping and Furbearer Management in North American Wildlife Conservation” publication, which is used by state conservation agencies across the country.


He also authored the recently published “Massachusetts Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles.  (An excellent book currently on sale at the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton, MA).


Pete was a strong believer in educating people, particularly youth, about wildlife conservation and was a passionate advocate for hunters, anglers, and trappers. He will be greatly missed by many, including the folks at MassWildlife, natural resource professionals, naturalists, and sportsmen and women.


Water Flowing at McLaughlin Fish Hatchery

In the same MassWildlife newsletter it was announced that last month officials turned on the water pipeline at the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown. Construction began in June 2016 on the nearly mile-long water pipeline and hydropower turbine that will supply six million gallons of water daily to the hatchery, produce renewable energy, and reduce the hatchery’s electric demand.

McLaughlin Hatchery, built in 1969, is located in Belchertown near the Swift River and is the largest of MassWildlife’s five trout hatcheries. This hatchery is responsible for half of the state’s entire annual trout production, approximately 225,000 pounds, with a “retail value” exceeding $2 million dollars. Fish raised at McLaughlin Hatchery are stocked in nearly 500 rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout Massachusetts.

The water pipeline project taps water from the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct and provides the McLaughlin Trout Hatchery with a reliable, gravity-fed source of cold water, eliminating the environmental and biological risks associated with the water withdrawal from the Swift River. The result will be an energy cost savings of $60,000 per year. The project also includes installation of a hydropower turbine on the pipeline. The construction of the building for the hydropower generator is well underway and the hydropower generator has been delivered to the site. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has received a grant to fully cover the cost of the hydropower unit which will generate almost $53,000 in annual revenue for the MWRA. As MassWildlife put it, “This project is a win – win scenario for the MWRA, the hatchery, and the Commonwealth”.

 Fly Fishing Show

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 20 through 222 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day.  While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.  I always pick up one or two autographed books and fly tying stuff while there


All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod.  Some of the celebrity authors this year include Gary Borger, Bob Clouser,  Ed Engle, Bob Popovics and many other flyfishing stars and they will be happy to autograph your books. There will be more than $60,000 in door prizes.


Show Hours are:  Friday:  10AM – 6PM, Saturday:  9AM – 5:30PM and Sunday:   9AM – 4:30PM.  Ticket costs:  One day $15, Two-day pass $25, Three-day pass $35, Children under 5 free, under 12: $2, Scouts under 16 in uniform: free and Active Military with ID: $10.   Click onto  flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details.


Every year I write this,  but it is true – for flyfishers/flytyers this is a must-attend event.


Truckload of goodies raffle

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Truckload of Goods raffle winners were:   Truckload – Cara Aherne of Pittsfield, 2nd – Derek Wells of Adams, 3rd – Joe Fuller of Lee 4th – Dave Harmon of Pittsfield, and 5th – C. Barrie of Pittsfield.  Now that’s a good way to start off the new year

Sweren receives Crooked Staff Award


At its December meeting, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) presented Henry Sweren of Dalton its most prestigious award, the Crooked Staff Award.  He was also presented a plaque and, newly instituted this year, the use of the late Mr. Ernest Goodrod’s fly rod for the upcoming year.

Henry is a Life Member of TU.  He originally joined the Merrimac River Chapter of TU (New Hampshire) in 2001, but after moving to the Berkshires, he became a valuable member of the Board of Directors of the Taconic Chapter. He has helped in arranging the International Fly Fishing Festivals which have been held locally.  He participated in the OLLI (Osher Life Long Institute) program teaching people how to fly cast, tie knots, etc.  He is also a life member of the Farmington River Anglers Association.

I first wrote about the Crooked Staff 14 years ago and it occurred to me that some readers were young tykes back then and perhaps know nothing about this rich Taconic TU tradition.


Well, nearly every year since the mid 1980’s the Chapter’s Board of Directors selects one of its members to receive this coveted award. The person is selected as the member who best represents the ideals of T.U. (conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds).  This member holds the Crooked Staff for the following year until it is either passed on to another deserving member or is held, if none is deemed deserving.


The staff itself was the brain child of Ken Welch, one of the chapter’s past members who has since moved to the New York State Finger Lakes area. He related the following story about the origin of the staff which he claimed was true. However, members wonder if the social hour preceding the meeting when he introduced it affected his veracity.  In any event the moral of the story is still solid:


“Many years ago there lived a trout fisherman who was the epitome of the ultimate gentleman angler. He was a man who was honest to a fault, one who needed no guidelines such as game laws by which to live. He was a man who always did the proper thing because it was the right thing to do. Mr. Ernest Goodrod was that man.


He would never wade into another man’s pool, he never kept under-sized fish, nor exceeded the lawful limit. In fact he felt those laws weren’t written for him since he had always practiced Catch and Release. Mr. Goodrod stopped to help young anglers that he felt could use his expertise; he never lied about the quantity or the quality of his catches. He was free with his advice and shared the location of favorite fishing holes with strangers. He was truly a gentleman’s gentleman.


In spite of a heart condition he fished frequently, and often alone. Being of an advanced age he always had his wading staff tied to his belt with a rawhide tether. It was cut from a strong, straight tree and left in its natural state. Straight, strong, and pure, not unlike Mr. Goodrod. But alas, the day came when he didn’t return from his favorite stream; his heart had finally failed him. He was found at the Bridge Pool by the local near-do-well, a despicable man who lied cheated and connived his way through life. He was noted for following the trout stocking trucks to take as many trout as possible. When this awful man found Mr. Goodrod, he stripped him of his rod, vest, waders and wading staff. For most of that summer he used his stuff, including the staff, but every time he broke the law the staff would get shorter due to it taking on a coil and eventually the staff became unusable.


One evening the local game warden arrested the bum, jailed him and confiscated all his fishing tackle, including the crooked staff. Everyone knew that the staff was once the property of Mr. Goodrod and the story spread that if a real gentleman of Mr. Goodrod’s caliber were to handle the staff it would straighten out to its original splendor.


Ken Welch obtained the staff but in spite of him being a fine gentleman the staff remained crooked. Somewhere Ken had a hidden flaw. He was aware of the fine character of the members at the Taconic Chapter of T.U. and figured one of its members could remove the coils. Ken suggested that if the staff was presented to the one who most represented the ideals of T.U., the staff would be restored, but alas after many, many recipients, it remains crooked. Apparently each honoree had a hidden flaw in his or her character. Some day the likes of Mr. Goodrod will be found, so it is hoped.”  Let’s see if Henry Sweren can straighten it out.


Recently, charter member Homer Ouellette, himself a Crooked Staff recipient, passed beyond the river bend. Unbeknownst to the TU members, he had gained possession of Mr. Goodrod’s flyrod.  Homer’s brother Paul Ouellette, from Lanesborough, brought it to the recent TU meeting hoping that it would be presented to future deserving crooked staff recipients.  On it is inscribed, “Property of Mr. Ernest Goodrod”. A new TU tradition has been formed.


License-to-Carry Courses

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association and the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club are both sponsoring Massachusetts LTC courses. Completion of these courses awards the candidates a MA State Police Certificate which is required to apply for your MA LTC.  The Lee course is on January 14 from 9am to 3pm. The cost is $125 per person.  Contact Rob M. at 413-232-7700, or e-mail robmcdermott@verizon.net to register.


The Lenox course is on January 15, from 10am to 2pm. The cost is $70.00 per person.   Contact Tom Nadolny at 413-822-6451 or tnadolny1@gmail.com to register.


Darey retires from Fish & Wildlife Board

George “Gige” Darey, of Lenox, recently announced his retirement from the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board.  He has served on that Board for 38 years and 35 of them as its Chairman.


The 88-year old Chairman stated that he had missed only 5 monthly meetings in 38 years, and he always felt that he couldn’t have had a more fun job. He enjoyed watching the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) grow with all the new staff over the years.  He will now enjoy working with environmentalists and sportsmen closer to home.


He has been appointed to the Board by at least 7 governors and has served with 4 different DFW directors.   He stated that the directors were all great people.  He expressed his admiration that current Director of DFW Jack Buckley was working so well and so closely with his staff and on so many different projects.  Darey is aware of all the things he has been able to accomplish as Chairman, and also some things that were not accomplished. But he believes that it is important to know when to walk away.  Rest assured, I intend to do a future column or two on Gige and his remarkable career.


No one has yet been appointed by Governor Baker to replace him representing the Western District.  At the December Board Meeting, Dr. Joseph Larson of Pelham was elected the new Chairman and Michael Roche of Orange was elected Vice Chair.


Dr. Larson, is the Board’s specialist in endangered species habitat.  He serves as the Board’s liaison to MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee.  He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from UMASS and a Ph.D. in zoology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.  He has held research appointments with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the University of Maryland. He is professor emeritus and former Chairman of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management and Director of the Environmental Institute at UMASS.

He has served as Executive Chairman of the National Wetlands Technical Council and Chairman of the U.S. National Ramsar Committee that represents non-governmental interests to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. He received the national Chevron Conservation Award in 1990. Internationally, he has been a member of diplomatic delegations to the Ramsar Convention and has lectured and conducted wetlands training seminars in India, China and Europe. He is a member of the Commission on Ecosystem Management of the World Conservation Union.

Dr. Larson has served on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. He drafted original legislation to define wetlands in the Commonwealth and has served on all of the wetland regulation advisory committees convened by the Department of Environmental Protection. He was a member of the Secretary’s Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Committee during the original establishment of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. In 1997 the Massachusetts Wildlife Federation honored him as Conservationist of the Year.

Roche, Secretary of the Board, represents the Connecticut Valley Wildlife District. He is a graduate of Salem State College and holds a Master’s degrees in Administration and Organization from Endicott College.

He teaches social science at Mahar Regional High School as well as forestry and wildlife management electives in the science department. He serves as advisor to the Mahar Fish and Game Club, believed to be the oldest high school fish and game club in the Commonwealth.  For four years he was the Regional Director for Ducks Unlimited in Massachusetts. Over the past twenty-five years, he has served as a volunteer hunter education instructor, a member of Massachusetts’ Project WILD advisory committee, and was a staff member and director of the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp.

He is an outdoor columnist for the Athol Daily News and has had free-lance work published in various periodicals. He is an active member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

The seven person Fisheries and Wildlife Board was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1948 and is assigned the responsibility of supervision and control of the DFW. The Board’s mandate is to protect and manage the wildlife of the Commonwealth as an essential public natural resource for the use and enjoyment of all citizens who hunt, fish, trap, and enjoy nature study and observation. This includes all mammals, birds, and freshwater fish, plus insects, invertebrates and plants that are listed under state and federal regulations as rare, endangered, threatened, or of special concern – over 400 species in total.

State law requires that the Governor appoint one member from each of the five regions of the state, with one being experienced in farming. Of the two additional at-large members, one must be a wildlife biologist and the other must have expertise in endangered species conservation.

The Board Assures Professional Responsibility for the Wildlife Resource by:

·         Establishing personnel policies that require persons appointed to positions in the DFW have appropriate professional training.

·         Adopting policies and regulations that are based upon sound ecological science.

  • Approving appointments of the members of the scientific Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee .
  • Fostering research that obtains factual information and data as the science base for regulations and policies.
  • Reviewing and approving land acquisitions though use of the Land Stamp Fund, Massachusetts Waterfowl Stamp fund, state bond issue funds, and other financial sources.

The Board fosters close working partnerships between the DFW and other state and federal agencies, private conservation organizations, sportsmen’s organizations, municipal conservation commissions, land trusts and private firms.   It operates under multiple layers of public oversight – the Governor, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game and The USFWS on federally funded projects.

You are never too old to go deer hunting

There is no doubt about it.  Lou Carmel, of Hinsdale, MA, loves to deer hunt.  The table top full of large deer racks in his cellar gives testimony to his love of and success in the sport.   And there aren’t too many places in North America that he won’t travel to bag a large antlered buck, even at age 90.  The attached picture of him and his big buck was taken earlier in Saskatchewan, Canada, near Candle Lake.  None of his friends or family could join him on that hunt, so he went alone.  Incidentally, the last buck he got there was in 2015, the last time he made it up there.


He has been hunting Saskatchewan for about 12 years now going after big trophies.   He flies into Saskatoon, and then has a 5 or 6 hour automobile trip to his hunting spot.  The main road is good but off of that it gets kind of rough.  He usually camped on Candle Lake and there you have to hire local guides.  They drove him by 4-wheeler to his ground stand (blind) in the morning and picked him up at night or whenever he wanted.


He always hunted the first week of the season due to the cold weather up there.  It frequently gets down to 10 below zero.   For the last several years a 15 degree day was a good day.  “You have to open the blind to shoot out and it doesn’t take long to get cold”, he said.   About two years ago, someone suggested that he have the guides put a little heater in his blind.  He did that and it made all of the difference.  Incidentally, the last deer he got there was in 2015, the last time he made it up there.


I asked him how he got the deer meat back to Massachusetts as there are regulations here regarding the importation of deer from some Canadian Provinces in order to curb the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.  He said that after he shot the deer he would keep the antlers and never saw it again.  There are a lot of poor people up there and he always left the meat for them.


I asked him how it came about that he started hunting up in Saskatchewan. He said that a deer hunter from Adams heard that he liked to hunt in Canada.  He was going to Albany to buy some hunting clothes and invited Lou to accompany him to meet John Kilmartin, a guy who booked hunting trips to upper Canada.  After meeting him and discussions, Lou decided to go hunting there.   He went  by himself.   The only problems that he encountered were flight connections in Toronto and he missed his plane. The airline put him up for the night and got him to Saskatoon, SK the next day.  After he made 2 or 3 trips with similar problems, he learned to go through Minneapolis rather than through Toronto.  It was a lot easier.


The last three years that he went to Candle Lake his son-in-law Kevin Farrell of Dalton went with him. Candle Lake was exceptional, with thousands of acres to hunt; however, the outfitter decided to convert it archery hunting only.  After that Lou went with another outfitter run by natives.  The last few years he went alone.


I asked him the size of his biggest deer and he said 150.  The picture that I saw certainly had a bigger deer than that in it.  But when Lou talks deer numbers, it is not in weights, it is in inches of the antlers as determined by the Boone & Crockett official scoring system.  Incidentally, while looking at Lou’s photo album of all of the deer that he bagged in Saskatchewan, I noticed that he was usually all dressed in white.  Lou said that wearing white is mandatory when you hunt there in Canada.


According to Lou, the cost of such a trip would be roughly $3,500 which includes air and stay at Candle Lake.  To stay over a night in Saskatoon would probably be another $100 or so.


Lou has been hunting since he was around 15 or 16.  He starting hunting with his father who was a fox hunter.    After he came home from school, he used to immediately head for the woods with him fox hunting.  His father also taught him how to trap muskrats, beavers, etc., and many a morning he would get up at 4 AM and check his traps before going to work.


In addition to hunting around here, he used to hunt the Allagash region of Maine.  He hunted there for more than 25 years with the late John Zuber of Pittsfield and also with Clem Caryofiles also of Pittsfield.  If their names sound familiar, both of these well known hunters won numerous sportsmen awards from the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen as well as the Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council.   They also moose hunted in Labrador with Lou a couple of times.


When I asked Lou if he intended to hunt in Saskatchewan again, he said that he would think about it provided his wife Pauline was sufficiently recovered from some health issues.


Lou will be the first to admit that he has no super human genes.  He has had his share of serious medical issues over the years, but has overcome them.  He attributes his hunting longevity to immediately contacting a doctor when he didn’t feel right and getting the best doctor he could afford.


Lou Carmel, an inspiration to us all.


Updated State Wildlife Action Plan is presented

Recently, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) presented the 2015 update to the Massachusetts SWAP as required by Congress. The Plan presents the 570 Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Commonwealth, the 24 types of habitat that support these species, and the actions necessary to conserve them.


Upon releasing the plan, DFW Director Jack Buckley made the following comments:  “The citizens of Massachusetts have a long history of working together to conserve our state’s biodiversity. The state Fisheries Commission, the predecessor to the current Division, was permanently established almost 150 years ago, in 1886. The first land trust in the country was The Trustees of Reservations, still a highly successful force in Massachusetts conservation today. The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, one of the strongest in the country, was enacted a quarter-century ago. Today, more than 25 % of the state’s acreage is protected from development, an astounding achievement in such a densely populated state.”


“With so much land protected, our focus going forward now moves to an equal emphasis on land acquisition and the management of these conserved lands. The Division itself has made a strong commitment to habitat management on our own 200,000 acres, particularly on the areas–the Key Sites–with the highest and best concentrations of rare species and other elements of biodiversity.

As well, we intend to assist our dedicated conservation partners in determining appropriate habitat management on their own lands.


It is the continued, strong dedication of the Commonwealth’s citizens to our natural resources that has made these accomplishments possible, and it is in concert with our many conservation partners that we intend to move forward with the goals of this plan.”


You can read this plan by clicking onto the MassWildlife web page.  Allow yourself some time for it is about 500 pages long.


Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Massachusetts

MassWildlife recently announced the release of the Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Massachusetts. This 94-page book includes vibrant, detailed photographs and descriptions of the frogs, toads, salamanders, snakes, and turtles – including sea turtles – found in the Commonwealth. The field guide, the only guide of its kind specific to Massachusetts, features species accounts, images of common pattern and color variations, and information about reptile and amphibian conservation.

Lead author Peter Mirick, an avid herpetologist and recently retired editor of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, combined and updated materials from magazine issues on reptiles and amphibians with additional contributions from MassWildlife’s Dr. Tom French and biologist Jacob Kubel. The majority of the photographs were taken by MassWildlife’s talented photographer Bill Byrne with supplemental images generously shared by agency staff, herpetologists, scientists, and photographers.

If you order your copy today you’ll be ready for spring outings and summertime hikes.  The field guide also makes a great Christmas gift for the wildlife lover on your list. Hopefully, its not too late to order it.

Youth Artists, take note

There is still time to enter the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) contest,” advises MassWildlife’s Wildlife Education Specialist Pam Landry. “Any student, from kindergarten through grade 12, regardless of whether they attend public or private school or are home-schooled, can submit original artwork in this fun and educational competition. Even if students do not enter the art competition, the related information can serve as a valuable resource in art or science classrooms.” The entry deadline is February 15, 2017.

The JDS program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students in grades K-12 learn about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese and then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, by creating a drawing or painting which can be submitted to the JDS art contest. The art is judged in four age group categories in a statewide competition; the entry judged Best of Show moves on to represent Massachusetts in the national JDS competition. Art teachers, science teachers, and parents who home-school can visit the MassWildlife website for an information packet and entry information.

Primitive Deer Hunting

Primitive Firearms Deer Hunting season, also known as Black Powder season and Muzzleloader season opened last Monday and it is much too early to forecast how the season will go. As of this writing, the weather certainly is cooperating, save for the frigid temperatures.  There is a nice snow cover for tracking and if you hunt the mountains, there should be enough snow to strap on the snowshoes.  Primitive deer hunting and snowshoeing seems to go together.  Just don’t wear a coonskin cap.  Regulations require you to wear a blaze orange cap and vest.

Hunting on snowshoes can be very strenuous, especially if you are dragging a deer.  Take your time and enjoy the moment.


Incidentally, if you plan to hunt during this season, or if you know someone who does, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden has a request.  If someone shoots a doe in Zone 2 or Zones 4N or 4S, please contact his office in Dalton.   DFW would like to look at the deer’s age in order to boost the numbers from these zones in their data base so that they can feed that into the population model.   During the muzzleloader season, successful hunters are allowed to check in their deer online and are not required to check them in at a station.  However; if hunters just want to drop off the deer head at his office or even call him, someone will pick it up if it is somewhere convenient.  Obviously, they would prefer a recently killed deer’s head and not one that is smelly and partially decayed.


2016 was a busy year for MassWildlife

The following information was taken in part from DFW Director Jack Buckley’s annual message:  On June 4, MassWildlife celebrated its 150th anniversary. Over 1,000 people visited the new Field Headquarters on that day to celebrate. The event was an opportunity for staff to highlight its diverse programs from archery for kids to black bear research to butterflies. The day was so successful it is planning a similar event for next year.


During the year, it began construction of a water pipeline that will provide gravity-fed, consistently cold water from the Quabbin Reservoir to the McLaughlin Hatchery in Belchertown. Although a significant investment of angler’s dollars, when completed in 2017, this project will produce long-term benefits through reduction of energy costs, establishment of a long-term stable water source for the hatchery, and result in an improvement in the quality of stocked trout.


During the 2016 trout stocking season MassWildlife launched a new web-based tool for trout anglers that provides daily online trout stocking reports.  Anglers are encouraged to check out the new tool during the spring trout stocking season at mass.gov/trout.  (For those who aren’t into these new fangled computers, I hope to continue providing timely stocking information in this column.)


Making improvements to the Hunter Education program continued to be a focus of the agency. Its goal is to make hunter education easily accessible and convenient without a wait to sign up for a course. Over the past year new Hunter Education staff members were hired to provide enhancements to the program. The primary objectives of these staff are to schedule, plan and conduct Basic Hunter Education courses across the state, particularly in low service areas, as well as to conduct other courses that are developed and administered by the program.


In 2016, the Hunter Education Program staff concentrated solely on: 1) increasing the number of Basic Hunter Education Courses being offered in underserved areas of the state such as Boston and Springfield, and 2) increasing the number of participating students. This past year, 94 Basic Hunter Education courses were held across the State, a 14.6% increase over the previous year. A total of 3,952 students participated in the basic course representing a nearly 6% increase in attendance.


MassWildlife is implementing the Learn-to-Hunt Program assisting new Hunter Education

graduates in the transition from the classroom to the field. Designed for adult Basic Hunter Education graduates with little or no hunting experience, participants can sign up for a one-day clinic or a 3-day in-depth workshop. Classroom and outdoor exercises help new hunters learn more about the skills and techniques used to hunt different game animals. Taught by Division staff and volunteers from sporting clubs and related organizations, this program utilizes the experience and knowledge of seasoned sportsmen and women. In the first year of this new program, 321 hunters participated.


During the year, it expanded programs in archery and recreational shooting resulting in the development of the Explore Archery Program.  This program was created to promote a lifelong interest and participation in the sport of archery to participants of all ages.  MassWildlife continued to train and certify instructors from recreation departments, nature centers, Scouting organizations, and schools. Successful completion of this program allows any certified instructor the ability to offer an archery program in their area and to borrow equipment from MassWildlife free of charge.


It has continued its very successful Youth Deer Hunt Day. Beyond the intrinsic benefits, this hunt serves as a great recruiting tool for developing hunting mentors.


In 2017, to complement the above programs, MassWildlife plans to partner with the UMASS Extension 4-H Youth Development Program to launch a 4-H© Shooting Sports Program in Massachusetts.  It will focus on youth development and will be designed to empower young people with skills they can use for a lifetime. Young people will develop an understanding of natural resources and conservation ethics while learning marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and other valuable life skills including self-confidence, personal discipline, responsibility, and sportsmanship.


MassWildlife has updated its logo and has begun re-designing agency publications, signs and web pages for a consistent look and easily recognizable agency identity.


Director Buckley and his staff have got to be proud of the above accomplishments.  However; Buckley acknowledges that what the Division does would not be possible without the strong support of hunters, anglers, and trappers. “Although we manage wildlife for the benefit and enjoyment of all citizens of the Commonwealth, the sportsmen and women are the financial backbone of MassWildlife. Your willingness to step up in supporting everything from land acquisition to the conservation of rare and endangered species demonstrates the broad view of the interconnectedness and importance of all wildlife … Thank you!”


Hoosic River Ranger

The mission of the Hoosic River Revival is to reconnect the community to a healthy, scenic, accessible, flood-controlled river, which will enhance North Adams’ recreational, cultural, and economic vitality.


The Hoosic River Revival has collaborated with the North Adams Public School System in the creation of an outdoor education curriculum which focuses on the historical and environmental learning opportunities along the Hoosic River levees at Noel Field in North Adams.  This new offering, called “the Hoosic River Ranger” program, is an inter-active, interpretive walking tour for elementary school children.


Supplementing the River Ranger outdoor education curriculum is a new self-guided brochure from the Hoosic River Revival: the “Hoosic River Family Wildlife Walk” brochure. Created by Johanna Wasserman and the River Revival’s Social Media advisor, Bert Lamb, the brochure highlights a half-mile walk from Joe Wolfe Field to Hunter Foundry Road, and is now available in the North Adams Public Library, and at the Colegrove and Brayton schools.  The brochure may also be downloaded from the Revival website: http://bit.ly/HRRwildlifewalk

2016 shotgun deer hunting season off to a good start



As of noon last Wednesday, 82 deer were checked in at the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton, MA. Some 52 were checked in on opening day.  That figure is significantly higher than last year’s figure at the same time.  Some of those deer were bruisers with beautiful antlers and good body weights..  For example, Peter Derby shot a 6 point buck in Hinsdale that weighed in at 202 lbs.  Thomas Wiencek shot a 9 point buck in Cheshire that weighed 198 lbs.  These were field dressed weights.  To estimate their actual live weights, multiply the field dressed weight by 1.26.  So the estimated live weight of Derby’s deer was approximately 255 lbs and Wiencik’s deer weighed approximately 249 lbs.  Nice deer, ey?


The season was only two and a half days old and preliminary harvest numbers were not available from the outlying check stations.  We do know that the Mill River check station weighed three huge deer; a 10 pointer weighing 181 lbs, an 8 pointer weighed in at 186 lbs and another 10 pointer which weighed 157 lbs.   There was an 8 pointer shot in Richmond that weighed 176 lbs, an 8 pointer that weighed 179 lbs and a 10 pointer weighing 184 lbs shot in Lee.  There was an 11 pointer that weighed in at 164 lbs in Monterey and a 12 pointer taken off of Mt Greylock that weighed 174 lbs.  These large deer were in addition to the “normal” sized deer.
DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden said that his office and the outlying check stations all exceeded last year’s harvest numbers for opening day.  He attributed the high harvest numbers to the almost ideal conditions:  ample snow for tracking and pleasant temperatures.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, when I was at the office, the conditions were less than ideal with pretty good downpours.  Even so, the hunters were not deterred.  Around noon time on Tuesday there was a steady stream of hunters checking in their deer.   That kept Madden and Wildlife Technician Derek McDermott out in the rain most of the day checking them in.


Effective last year, a third black bear hunting season was started which runs through the 2 week shotgun deer hunting season.  As of noon on Wednesday, 4 bear were checked in at the Western District Check Stations.  According to Madden, this indicates that all of the bears have not yet denned up for the winter in spite of the large snowfall which occurred the previous week.  He did say; however, that hunters can still tag bears online during this season, so he doesn’t yet know  what the tally is.


With the hard rainfall and fog on Tuesday and Wednesday, much of the snow melted and tracking might have been more difficult.  But there was plenty of mud and soft ground so it was still possible to track the deer.


The shotgun deer hunting season runs until next Saturday, December 10.  If you haven’t been able to get out yet, don’t worry.  There appears to be a lot more deer out there this year, possibly due to the mild winter we had last year.   This year’s shotgun harvest numbers should be relatively high.  After that season, the primitive firearms (black powder) deer hunting season opens on Monday, December 12 and runs through Saturday, December 31.




Coyote Derby

Dave’s Sporting Goods in Pittsfield is having its Coyote Derby again this year.  It will run until the end of coyote hunting season which is March 8, 2017.  Entrance fee is $10 and prizes will be awarded to the person who bags the most coyotes, the largest coyote and there will also be a random draw.


Licenses on sale

The 2017 hunting, sporting, freshwater fishing, and trapping licenses are available for purchase through MassFishHunt, at a license vendor location, or at a DFW office.   Good news!  There are no increases in the license fees this year.    In fact, there has not been a license fee increase since 1996.


At that time, Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey of Lenox, and the then DFW Director Wayne MacCallum calculated that with the $10 fee increase they imposed, they wouldn’t have to request another increase until the year 2006.  It has now been twenty years.


How is that possible, you ask?  Darey attributes it to several factors:  good grant writing, division downsizing, modernization and priority.  Darey said that during the downsizing, no one lost their jobs.  One examples of modernization is that more and more pheasants are being bought, rather than raising then.  This allows for excellent birds at  lower prices because they are saving money on manpower costs.  The Division is also utilizing more economical ways of raising the fish, too.


2016 Guides are available

You can now download your 2017 Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing and Trapping Laws (formerly called the abstracts) or pick one up at a licensed vender or at a DFW office.  This year’s cover has a nice picture of a coyote.


Listed in the 2017 Guide are the following changes:  1) Migratory game bird seasons and bag limits are now set in the Spring;  2) Federal Migratory Game Bird Stamps may be purchased online through MassFishHunt (mass.gov/massfishhunt) when purchasing your hunting license and state waterfowl stamp and 3)There are new Learn-to-Hunt and Explore archery and bowhunting programs that provide unique opportunities for new hunters and archers to gain important knowledge and skills.


In the 2017 Guide, DFW Director Jack Buckley highlighted some of the Division’s accomplishments during 2016.  I plan to list them in next week’s column.