Will “Hoggin Paws” make another appearance this year?

Last June, Jay Rhind of Stockbridge just finished his bike ride when he turned into his driveway and found a car parked there.  Two people in the car told him that a bear just jumped through his front screened door and was inside.

Jay immediately called 911 then started his recon.  Peeking through the kitchen window he saw nothing out of place.  He walked around to the back door and noticed a crushed empty ice cream container (Vanilla Haggen Dazs) on the ground and then he noticed the back screen door had been pushed through.  He figured that the bear entered the front door, found the ice cream, exited out the back door and went on his way. He slowly entered the house and found himself instinctively on high alert as he rounded the corner entering the kitchen.  Just then he saw a big Black Bear exiting.  He was in what seemed like a very long standstill between the bear and himself, both frozen in their tracks. The “Fight” in the “Fight or Flight” clearly wasn’t an option as he wasn’t about to start bear wrestling in his kitchen wearing bike shorts without a referee.  Instead he quickly decided to plan for his “Flight”- he’d turn and bolt out the back door slamming it behind him before the bear had any idea what was happening. He barely (no pun by Jay) made a move to turn for the back door when, in an instant,  the bear took his cue and raced past him and jumped out the front door leaving that overpowering musky black bear scent behind. Somehow in the middle of all this Jay thought he should take a few photos because no one would ever believe him. He whipped out his trusty iPhone, composed a photo and pressed the button.  “photo library full, clear space to take photos” was all the screen showed.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Jay thought to himself.  He rapidly pressed delete, delete, delete and took a picture.  Not his best photo but under the circumstances…..

After the bear ran past him and jumped out the front door it spun around resting his paws on the door’s lower edge ready to jump back in.  Jay yelled “NO BEAR NO!” as he got down. He jumped up again, again “NO BEAR NO!”  This happened a few times before the bear realized that he must be dealing with a mad man (Jay’s words) and decided to walk away out through the back yard. Jay walked back to the kitchen to assess the damage.  A loaf of bread was on the counter untouched, and their little yellow canary with all his bird seed next to the refrigerator was also untouched (although the canary hasn’t been right since).  Then Jay noticed the freezer door slightly ajar with muddy claw prints on the edge.  He couldn’t believe it. The bear walked past the bread and bird seed and went straight for the freezer, opened the door, removed the Haagen Dazs and had what appeared to be a very nice treat. After this incident at Jay’s house, the police were called for similar events nearby where bears had entered houses.  This particular bear however had his routine down.  Head for the freezer, eat ice cream.  According to Jay, it became known as Public Nuisance #1, Hoggin Paws the Bear.

Jay wrote to Ben and Jerry’s, thinking maybe “BEARly Vanilla” might work, but never heard back.

DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden said a bear broke into about a dozen residences in the area last summer and there were multiple reports that it went to the freezers after ice cream.  The Stockbridge police were actively involved and asked for assistance from DFW.  The difficulty was being there at the right time to nab the suspect.  DFW trapped a bear in the neighborhood but they couldn’t determine if it was the right bear.  Usually troublesome bears are male juveniles, but the one they trapped, marked with an ear tag and relocated was a female.  There have been plenty of bear sightings since but no further incidences.

 

According to Madden, a bear actively trying to get into residences is a serious issue, not good for bear or people.   Fortunately it came to an end, whether it was a result of their trapping or the result of the changing of people’s behavior.  That bear is lucky to still be around.

 

MassWildlife says that now is time to take down birdfeeders and other sources of food.   Bears will often ignore natural foods such as skunk cabbage and head to a bird feeder for an easy meal.   Once it gets food from a feeder, garbage can, or open compost, it will revisit the site and look for similar foods in other yards.  Conflicts can arise that pose hazards to both bears and people.  They encourage people to view their new video about Black Bears as well as their revised website section which addresses  living with Black Bears and preventing conflicts.*****

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation will be holding a kid’s fishing derby at the lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, from 9 to 10:30 AM.    Children under 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult. *****

Next Sunday at 4:00 PM, the Lenox Library will feature Stephen Booth who will reflect on the space between city and wilderness as a place of rest, retreat and repose in the Housatonic River Valley.  He will explore the “middle landscape” of the river valley through art and literature. A former HVA board member, cold water conservationist and excellent fly fisherman Booth is researching the links among culture, communities and conservation. This free lecture is sponsored by HVA in memory of Berkshire conservationist, Professor Chauncey C. Loomis, Jr.   A reception will follow.

Half a million trout to be stocked this spring

 

According to Mass DFW, close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked by them this spring. The fish will come from their five hatcheries located in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland, and Montague.  The Western District should get about 100,000 of them. They reported that it has been another challenging year for the hatcheries given the extremely cold, icy, and snowy conditions that have prevailed this past winter.

Nevertheless, they report that the close to 500,000 trout being stocked this spring, coupled with the more than 67,000 twelve plus inch trout stocked last fall should provide some excellent fishing in the coming months.  Due to the heavy snow and thick ice that remains on lakes and ponds across the state, trout stocking likely will not begin until the first week in April, beginning with the eastern region of the state moving westward as the ice and snow melts.

Here are some 2015 trout stocking facts provided by Mass DFW:  45% of the trout average over 14 inches, 72% of them average over 12 inches, 218,000 rainbows will average over 14 inches, 46,500 rainbows will average over 12 inches, 10,000 rainbows will average between 9 and 12 inches, 750 brown trout will be over 18 inches, 46,600 brown trout will average over 12 inches, 79,400 brown trout average between 9 and 12 inches, 1,350 brook trout will average over 15 inches, 37,600 brook trout will average over 12 inches, 47,000 brook trout between 9 and 12 inches and 2,500 tiger trout that will average over 14 inches.

Anglers are encouraged to check the trout stocking schedule for the district near them, or contact individual district offices for the latest stocking information. Trout stocking schedules will be updated every Friday between the end of March and Memorial Day.

There is a Tags ‘N Trout program which is a cooperative venture between MassWildlife and participating clubs, businesses and other groups.  A certain number of trout are tagged and stocked into selected water bodies in each MassWildlife District.  The tagged trout in each water body are sponsored by a local sportsmen’s club, business, or other entity.   Any angler who catches a trout with a bright pink tag will receive a prize from the local cooperator in the Tags ‘N Trout Program.

In the Western District, tagged trout will be stocked in the following waters:  Ashfield Lake, Westfield River, Upper Highland Lake, Deerfield River and Littleville Lake.   If you catch one, contact the sponsor for your prize.   A listing of the sponsors is available on the MassWildlife web site. *****

The Onota Boat Livery’s 2015 Ice Fishing Contest ended on March 15.  Congratulations to the following winners who won $50 store prizes:  Largest pike – 23 lbs 8 oz, 42 inch out of Onota Lake, caught by John Kozlowski of  Pittsfield,  Largemouth Bass – 4 lbs 1oz, 21 inch out of Pontoosuc Lake caught by Austin Dufur of Adams; Smallmouth Bass – 3 lbs 15 oz out of Long Pond by Ed Vidal of  Pittsfield; Perch – 1 lb 2 oz out of Pontoosuc Lake by Bubby Carofiles of Stephentown, NY;  Crappie – 1 lb 5 oz out of Onota Lake  by Bruce McCauley of Hinsdale; Pickerel – 3 lbs 7 oz out of Onota Lake, by Corie Tremont of  Pittsfield and Trout – 1 lb 10 oz, 17 inch, out of Laurel Lake caught by Joe Chague of Pittsfield.  Congratulations to all.

 

Vicki and Cliff White will be teaching basic pistol classes in the near future at two sportsmen’s clubs.   The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club is offering a course at its club house in Lenox on the evenings of April 14 and April 17 beginning at 5:00PM.  The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be offering one on Saturday, April 11 from 8:00AM to 6PM at its clubhouse in Lee. These classes provide great opportunities to learn the skills, knowledge and attitude to be a responsible gun owner.  Information on these classes can be obtained from the clubs’ web pages or at  cliffxring@gmail.com *****

 

Congratulations to 7 year old Emma Ranzoni of Lee for catching the above pictured 5 lb 2 oz, 20 ½ inch largemouth bass out of Buckley-Dunton Lake in Becket last Saturday.   According to her dad Matt, the fish made a long run, the tip-up spooled out, the line knotted up at times and all sorts of maladies happened before finally landing the fish.  She will receive a bronze pin under the MA Freshwater Sportfishing Awards program.  Her dad, who does some taxidermy, will mount it for her.

 

What a wonderful story to wrap up the 2015 ice fishing season.

 

Cub Scouts take to the ice

 

 

Last weekend, Joe Chague of Pittsfield had his second annual ice fishing class on Laurel Lake for Sacred Heart Church Pack #20 Cub Scouts.  He was assisted by friend Mark Markham also of Pittsfield.  Some 15 scouts, siblings and friends showed up for the class.  They were taught how to cut holes through the ice, sound the holes, set up and bait tip-ups, jig for fish, etc.  Midway through the class, they stopped for cups of hot chocolate and hot dogs.

 

They had a great time and were unaffected by a couple of snow squalls that passed through.   Although none of them caught fish of their own, they got to see and handle some nice white and yellow perch caught by Mark.  He caught them using a jigging stick as well as on tip-ups.

 

Some parents had a thrill, too, and perhaps learned a thing or two about ice fishing.  Joe had several different types of tip-ups on display; from very old to new Y2K compliant.   I set up a tip up that was probably made in the 1930’s.  It was a single piece tip-up with no reel, the kind that I learned to ice fish with when I was a kid.  You can well imagine the thrill when that flag went up and I caught a pickerel. Never thought I would ever catch another fish on such a tip-up again.

 

As the picture indicates, these kids really got into this sport. Did you ever see 15 excited kids racing to respond to a tip- up?  Well, don’t get in their way.

 

Such events as this and the R.O.P.E.S. (Respect Other People Encouraging Self-esteem) ice fishing derby are wonderful ways to get kids (and parents) outdoors and interested in ice fishing. *****

 

Some 46 coyotes were entered into Dave’s Sporting Goods Coyote Contest this year, and the winners were as follows:  Carl Dolle of North Adams bagged the most coyotes with a tally of 22.  He also got the heaviest one which weighed 46 ½ lbs.   Cliff Briggs of Great Barrington won the random raffle.  If Carl’s name sounds familiar, it is because he bagged the largest coyote in last year’s contest, one weighing 50 lbs.  In the 2013 contest, Carl got the most coyotes with a tally of 24, and in 2012, he bagged the most coyotes with a tally of 16.  Do you think that maybe he knows what he is doing?  *****

Governor Baker recently appointed former State Representative George Peterson, from Grafton, as Commissioner of the Department of Fish & Game.  Peterson served 10 terms in the House before deciding to not run again in 2014.   Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, who served with Peterson in the House, also appointed Mary-Lee King deputy commissioner of Fish and Game.  This announcement came as great news to sportsmen statewide.

 

“As an avid outdoorsman and former commercial fisherman, George will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as a unique understanding of the issues most important to sportsmen and commercial fishermen across the Commonwealth,” said Beaton. “I am honored to lead the DFG, and look forward to upholding the Department’s ongoing commitment to the protection of the Commonwealth’s wildlife, open space, and outdoors educational programs,” said Peterson.  King previously held the title of Legislative Director for the DFG, and worked as a chief policy advisor for former Gov. William Weld and chief of staff to then-Sen. Paul Cellucci. *****

 

Getting that urge to go fly fishing?  Well, this Friday evening, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited is hosting an International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield.   You are invited to see some of best rated fly fishing videos of 2014 taken from around the world.  You are encouraged to bring the whole family.

 

Doors open at 6:30 PM and the film will be shown at 7 PM.  The cost is $12 for advanced tickets or $15 at the door.  The first 45 attendees will receive a free copy of Stonefly Magazine.  There will be a 50/50 raffle and a handmade 9’ 4wt fly rod will be given out as a door prize.  Refreshments will be available.  Tickets can be obtained by calling Bill Travis 413-447-9720, by contacting any Taconic TU Chapter Board member, (listed on its website  http://www.taconictroutunlimited.org, under “Members”) or on-line at: www.THEF3T.com and search for the date.

 

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818

 

 

2014 County League of Sportsmen Award winners are announced

 

Shaun Smith of Lee was selected to receive the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) 2014 Sportsman of the Year Award.   The Lee Sportsmen’s Association’s nomination states that “Shaun has been a long time sportsman over the years, and last year celebrated his 40th year being a volunteer for the Massachusetts Paraplegic Hunt program.  For many years he has taken the lead organizing the South County paraplegic hunt to make sure all hunters have a great time.  Shaun is also involved in Hunter Education Courses as a basic instructor and in firearm training as a NRA certified pistol and rifle instructor and a range safety officer.  Shaun runs the indoor archery league and has been working very hard to move the club into the 21st century.”

 

Former Massachusetts DFW Director Wayne MacCallum of Grafton was selected to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.   His many achievements were the main focus of last week’s column.

 

The Adams Outdoor for Youth organization was selected to receive the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.  The 31-year-old non-profit organization was founded by town resident James “Jimmy” Carpenter, who also served as its first president. Meetings occur on a monthly basis, and there are more than 130 “family members.” Among the youth-focused activities and events offered by the group are ice-fishing derbies, a well-attended spring fishing derby held in conjunction with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the BCLS, and another very popular annual youth fishing derby. Annually, it holds a well attended game dinner and 100% of the proceeds are used for financial scholarships for youths interested in attending sports camps and a state-sponsored conservation camp.  Education-focused scholarships are also offered to Berkshire area high school seniors.

 

BCLS President Mark Jester of Pittsfield was selected to receive the prestigious John Zuber Lifetime Achievement Award.   Just look at his accomplishments:  BCLS delegate since 1982 and its president for 17 years, former Lakewood Sportsmen’s Club Secretary; Lenox Sportsmen’s Club Secretary, Board Member and VP since 1984. He was Instrumental in the Adopt-a-Forest Program, involved in getting the ACEC designation for the Housatonic River,  serves on several different environmental and non-profit charitable organizations, former founding member on the Governing Board of the Housatonic River Restorations, Sportsmen for Land Preservation, Western Mass Sportsmen’s Alliance, Berkshire Environmental Coalition, Board of Directors for GOAL, BCLS Representative on the Mass Sportsmen’s Council, appointed to the Massachusetts Zebra Mussel Task Force, leader of the local effort to get the National Archery-in-Schools Program established in the Berkshires.  In the last 4 years he has signed up 10 schools into the program with thousands of students participating.  He has taught youth archery classes at Lenox Sportsmen’s Club since 1996 and coordinates and hosts the Conte Banquet every year. He is constantly meeting with City, State and Federal Legislators, DCR, GOAL, DFW, USF&W and Massachusetts F&W Board on sportsmen’s issues.  He has even testified before the EPA in Washington DC.

 

He has worked on behalf of sportsmen’s issues with and for National Wildlife Federation (NWF) surrounding federal legislation with EPA on the Mercury Rule/ Clean Air and Clean Water Act.

 

He hosts a local TV outdoor sports programs “GOAL Show” with Executive Director James Wallace and “The Outdoor Report” with the NWF. He was named the 2000 BCLS Sportsman of the Year, 2001 Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council Sportsman of the Year and the 2014 recipient of the MSC’s highest award, the Ray Gribbons Award.

 

The richly deserved awards will be presented at the Silvio O. Conte Memorial Banquet at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club on the evening of April 18.   Tickets can be obtained from any BCLS delegate.   *****

 

The East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club will be conducting a Basic Hunter Education Course at its club location at 312 Henderson Road, Williamstown. The dates are April 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 and May 1 from 6 to 9 PM. All first-time hunters who wish to purchase Massachusetts hunting or sporting licenses must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  For more information, call 508-389-7820. *****

 

The next Lee Sportsmen’s Association Pistol Course will be held on Monday March 23rd and Monday March 30th. The cost is $100.  Participants will be given a student packet and learn the attitude, skills and knowledge necessary to become a responsible gun owner.  Course includes handling, dry firing, parts and operation of revolvers and semi auto pistols, cleaning, storage, opportunities to shoot in different venues, and the current MA gun laws.  Upon successful completion, participants will receive a MA State Police Certificate for application for their LTC.  Contact Larry K. at 442-780 for more information. *****

DFW is sending out electronic hunter surveys to approximately 32,000 licensed hunters through Novi Survey, an online survey company. The survey is designed to understand hunter effort and preferences and to collect important local “on-the-ground” information that will help manage game in the Commonwealth. The survey takes approximately 5-15 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous, identifying information such as email and IP address will not be recorded.  If you haven’t received the survey by the end of this month, check your junk or spam folder for an email from MassWildlife/Novi Survey.  A reminder will be emailed to license holders who have not responded within a week. ****

The Locker Room in Lee recently held its 23rd annual ice fishing derby at Laurel Lake.  Tournament Director Butsy Crawford, who recently turned 90 years old, ordered up some great weather and about 100 fishermen participated.   The Adult Heaviest Fish, a 5lb 1 oz pickerel, was taken by Bill Ahern.  The Kid’s Heaviest Fish, a 2 lb 1 oz pickerel was taken by Jack Clarke.  A pasta dinner with raffle prizes was held at the Locker Room afterwards.  All of the proceeds went to Lee Youth Football.

 

DFW Director Wayne MacCallum retires

 

 

This Thursday marks the last day on the job for Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) Director Wayne MacCallum.  He is retiring as Director after 27 years.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Biology from UMASS in 1968 and his Master’s Degree from Penn State University where he studied the nesting ecology of Black Ducks.   He joined the then Massachusetts Division of Fish & Game as a waterfowl technician.  Shortly thereafter, he entered the private sector and over a ten year period progressed from Staff Scientist, to Manager of Environmental Management Services for Woodward Clyde Consultants.

 

MacCallum returned to the DFW in 1983 as the Assistant Director of Wildlife and became Director in 1988.  He has served as President of the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Directors Association and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.  He served as Chairman of the Atlantic Flyway Council, the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, and the Woodcock Task Force.  He received a Presidential appointment to the North American Wetlands Conservation Council where he was elected its Chairman.  (This Council was in charge of various measures including how to disseminate $100 million to repair damages to the environment and native species from the BP oil spill).

 

He was a member of the Sea Duck Joint Venture, and the International Task Force on Waterfowl Regulations.  He has been honored by numerous conservation and sporting groups in Massachusetts and by professional and national conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Wildlife Society and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

 

A lot of wonderful accomplishments were achieved under his watch from 1988 through 2014:  State lands increased from 59,189 acres to 204,164, deer harvest went from 5,596 to 11,165, turkey harvest from 57 to 2,550, bear harvest from 37 (west of CT River only) to 240 (Worcester County and west).   His focus was not only on game, but also on the rare and endangered species.  For example, Bald Eagles increased from 3 pairs to 40 pairs nesting in MA (486 chicks have fledged since 1989) Peregrine Falcons increased from 2 pairs to 31 (48 fledged last year) and Piping Plovers increased from 135 pairs to 670. As Marion Larson, DFW Chief of Information & Education pointed out, “Wayne will be quick to point out that all that has been accomplished is due to the hard working, caring and professional staff. Still, it all flows from the leader and these are the results of his leadership.”

The Fish & Wildlife Board has appointed Acting Director Jack Buckley to fill in until it hires a permanent successor.

 

Although a resident of Grafton, MA, MacCallum is well known and respected here in the Berkshires, too. He has attended every Berkshire County League of Sportsmen awards banquet as well as the various local DFW land acquisition ceremonies.  He is on a first name basis with many local sportsmen.

Mary Romaniec, Reporter for the Grafton News wrote a wonderful piece about MacCallum and his similarities with Henry David Thoreau. “As Thoreau found and wrote about prolifically, the natural environment is ours as stewards to protect.  It seems that MacCallum and Thoreau would have been friends in their love for the environment mixed with pragmatic application on how it is managed.  Thoreau too must have wondered what the future held for the generations to come as he looked to the future.  (Throeau) wrote, “Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of 500 or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation.”

“In MacCallum”, Mary wrote, “He would be glad to know the legacy of stewardship for the land was well entrusted.”   Many sportsmen and conservationists agree. *****

The coyote and bobcat hunting seasons ended yesterday. Bobcat and coyote must be checked no later than 4 working days after the close of the season.  The cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare and fox hunting seasons ended on February 28.  With the exception of a special upland bird hunting option (page 34 of the Fish & Wildlife Guide), the only hunting season that is still open now is crow hunting, which ends on April 10.    The next hunting season to open in our area will be turkey hunting on April 27.  (The Youth Turkey Hunting day is April 25.) *****

The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club Sunday Ham Shoots begin today and run every Sunday in March.  Ticket sales begin at 12:30PM and shooting commences at 1:00PM.  The cost is $3.00 per shot with chances to win your choice of a Ham or a gift certificate to Harry’s Supermarket.  The full kitchen will be open.  Contact Brady Kerr at (413) 212-0894 for more information.

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is also having Turkey Shoots every Sunday in March from 1:00 to 4:00PM.   The cost is $2.00 a round with chances to win a choice of turkey, steak, spiral ham or pork loin.  They will also have a money-shoot for $3 a round.  Grilled lunch available.

 CARRY LEAGUE – THE MUCH ANTICIPATED RETURN

Next Sunday at1PM the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will be holding a multi-state firearms course.  It includes firearm laws covering licensing, storage, transportation, operation and safe handling of firearms, shooting fundamentals, etc.  Participants will receive a course certificate which will allow them to apply for licenses in Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire and Maine.  A Utah firearm permit is honored in 30 states.   The fee for the entire 5 hour course is $140 or one can take just the Massachusetts or Utah segments for $100.   Preregistration is required.   Call or e-mail Robert J. McDermott at (413)232-7700 or robmcdermott@verizon.net.*****

6, 3th, 20th, and 27th is tentatively organized for March

Berkshire waters account for 4 gold pins in 2014

 

In the Freshwater Sport Fishing Awards Programs, anglers receive bronze pins for catching fish of certain minimum weight requirements for 22 species.  They must have their catch weighed at a certified weigh station and submit an affidavit and photo to the Sportfishing Awards Coordinator.   Beginning in 2005, a youth category (aged 17 and under) was added to recognize anglers 17 years and younger for their accomplishments.

Anglers who catch the largest fish in each category receive a gold pin and plaque commemorating their accomplishment. During 2014, Berkshire waters yielded four trophy fish.

No adults won any gold pins here last year, but the following youths did:  Tauri Adamczyk of Taunton caught the largest carp in the youth division.  It weighed 27 lbs 8 oz and was caught in the Housatonic River in Lee.  Jake Burke of Pittsfield caught the largest Northern Pike, weighing 27 lbs 2 oz and it came out of Onota Lake in Pittsfield.  It was nearly 4 lbs larger that the largest pike caught by an adult.  Dylan Crea of Pittsfield caught the largest Tiger Muskie weighing 13 lbs 8 oz out of Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield.  It was nearly 1 lb larger than the largest Tiger Muskie caught by an adult.  (Readers may remember reading about Dylan in my column of March 9, 2014).   Christian Gougeon of Williamsburg caught the largest Tiger Trout in the youth division.  It weighed 2 lbs 10 oz and came out of Stockbridge Bowl.

Once again, it is interesting that so many out-of-area fishermen are coming to the Berkshires to fish our waters.  Our area truly has become a destination point for fishermen.

Since 2002, the Angler of the Year Award has been given to the person who weighs in the largest number of species that meet minimum weight requirements.  The award promotes awareness of the Commonwealth’s underutilized fish species and recognizes an angler’s ability to catch a wide variety of trophy species.  Since 2013, the Angler of the Year is now awarded in two categories, Youth and Adult.

In 2014, there was a tie for the Adult Angler of the Year; Mark Mohan Jr. of Pembroke and Todd Matera, of Palmer.  Mohan caught the following pin fish last year:  a gold pin Brown Trout (weighing 8 lbs 4 oz), a Bullhead, Crappie, Landlocked Salmon, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Sunfish, White Perch and a gold pin Yellow Perch (weighing 2 lbs 9 oz).

Matera caught the following pin fish: Brook Trout, Bullhead, Carp, Channel Catfish, Landlocked Salmon, a gold pin Smallmouth Bass (weighing 5 lbs 6 oz), Sunfish, White Catfish, White Perch, and five Yellow Perch.

The 2014 Youth Angler of the Year was Jake Souza of Berkley. He caught the following pin fish: Brook Trout, three Brown Trout, two Bullhead, two Chain Pickerel (one of which came out of Onota Lake in Pittsfield), Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, two Sunfish, Tiger Trout, White Perch, and Yellow Perch.

Familiar names? Well, Mohan was Angler of the Year in 2013, Mantera was Angler of the Year in 2005, and Souza was Youth Angler of the Year in 2013 and 2012.  There is a little more than luck involved here, they’re just good fishermen.

Incidentally, beginning this year, MassWildlife will be including a Catch and Release component to its Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program.

  • Fish must be taken on hook and line from State or interstate waters that are open to the public at all times.       Private ponds or sporting club ponds are not eligible for awards.
  • Fish must be measured at the site of capture, photographed against a standard measuring device, then immediately released.   The photo must include the entire fish and the measurement must be clearly discernible.   In addition to a side view photo, all affidavits for catfish and bullheads must also include a full body, dorsal (back) view of the fish.
  • Fish measurements will be rounded up to the nearest ¼ inch.
  • C&R anglers will receive the classic bronze pin for each eligible fish submitted.   Additionally, the longest of each species annually will be awarded a gold pin and plaque.
  • A C&R Angler of the Year trophy will be awarded annually to the angler who submits the widest variety of eligible species.
  • Anglers aged 17 or under are eligible for Youth C&R Sportfishing Awards.

Check out the MassWildlife website for more details.  *****

A Basic Hunter Education Course will be held at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire, on March 2, 6, 9, 13, 16 and 20 from 6:00 to 9:00PM.   All first-time hunters who wish to purchase Massachusetts hunting or sporting licenses must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.   For more information, call 508-389-7820. *****

DCR will be holding a Public Trails Workshop for the Pittsfield State Forest this Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8:30PM at the DCR West Region HQ, 740 South Street, Pittsfield. They will hold another workshop for October Mountain State Forest, same place and time on March 4.

DCR staff will share information on the trails planning process and will work with trails system users to identify destinations and desired experiences, trail constraints and maintenance issues, and long-term trails management considerations.  The intended outcome is an environmentally sustainable trails system that all users can enjoy in the future.  *****

Next Saturday, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association is holding a “Zumbation” to raise money for the Lee High School Senior Class and the LSA. Call Mary at (413)243-2710 for more details. *****

 

Last week I erroneously listed the bear population in Massachusetts as being 50,000 instead of 5,000. My apologies!  Hope I didn’t cause panic and a rush of people to sell their homes and move out of the state.

 

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.

What a brutal winter! Good time to head for the man-cave.

 

Winter is a wonderful time of year for the ice fishermen, rabbit/coyote hunters, and other cold weather enthusiasts.  But this year the weather conditions have been so miserable that many of these sports have been curtailed. Many of us have been practically house bound.  So what do we do during those long cold winter days and nights?

Head for the man-cave, of course.   The inviting atmosphere, especially on a cold, winter evening, provides a good place to take on various projects. Hunters can be found there cleaning and oiling their hunting guns, reloading shells or sharpening their knives.  Hikers may be there waterproofing their boots, the skiers waxing their skis, etc.  Fishermen will be there lubricating their fishing reels and putting new lines on them.  Fly fishermen are there tying up a batch of trout flies or building a new fishing rod for next spring’s season.

I love it in my man-cave.   The fly tying vise is all set up on the desk ready to begin tying on a whim.   I am surrounded by bags and boxes of all kinds of fly tying materials, hooks, etc.   I love to spend a comfortable, undisturbed evening there.  Only I do the vacuuming there, lest a valuable wood duck or jungle cock feather be sucked up.  Our beagle, Jacques, loves it in there, too, what with the smells of all kinds of furs, feathers, gun oil, etc.  With tail excitedly wagging, he is probably hoping to kick up a rabbit out of there.  Now that my wife Jan bought me a little TV to watch while I tie flies, I see no reason whatsoever to come out for days on end.  (Just kidding!!)

What’s your man-cave like? Is it a heated garage, wood-working shop, studio, computer room or is it just a comfortable place to sit and listen to music or read a good book.  It seems that we all need such solace and enjoyable diversions.

Outdoors sportsmen are always creating something in them.  Some make their own fishing rods, tie flies, make wooden bass plugs, reload shells, carve duck decoys, make wooden bows and arrows, etc.   Perhaps its a throw-back to the days when the early hunters/fishermen had to make their own gear, in order to survive.  There is something very gratifying when you make stuff with your own hands.   Ask any sculptor, wood worker, knitter or seamstress.

 

Incidentally, there is nothing that prevents a woman from having a woman-cave.

 

I never knew anyone who made their own snowshoes. But I suspect that is about to change, for Brian J. and Edmond Theriault, master traditional snowshoe makers from Fort Kent Mills, Maine, have written a book on how to make them.  Entitled “Leaving Tracks, “A Maine Tradition”, this book shows and explains everything you need to know on how to make wooden snowshoes. Edmond Theriault, taught his son Brian how to both make and repair them when Brian was a young man.  Now, Brian has been making them for over 50 years himself.

 

Admittedly, this was the first book on snowshoe making I have ever read and it is so complete, there is little need to read another.   I liked the fact that it not only shows readers how to make snowshoes, but also how to select the right tree/wood, process cow hides, shape the woods into frames and build snowshoe molds.  It describes the necessary tools and shows diagrams with measurements on how to weave traditional snowshoes.  All of this was done in an easy to understand format.   I also liked the fact that information was given on how to care for the snowshoes and bindings, how to repair them and what to look for when buying a pair.

 

Obviously, the Theriaults take pride in the snowshoes they make and they clearly convey their knowledge onto the reader.  They call their snowshoes “usable art”.  It is no wonder that the Maine Arts Commission named traditional snowshoe maker, Brian Theriault one of its 2015 Individual Artist Fellowship award winners.

The book is available in Kindle ($9.99), hard cover ($44.52) and soft cover ($21.28).  My soft cover copy has 206 pages   The Publisher is Theriault Snowshoes. *****

The sporting community was recently saddened by the loss of two well known local sportsmen, Ernest “Ernie” LeClaire, formerly of Williamstown, and Lambert “Mickey” McGinty, of Dalton. LeClaire was a founding member of the Hoosac River Watershed Association and an officer and director of the Hoosac Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  He was the recipient of one of TU’s highest national awards, the Silver Trout Award.  McGinty was a director and past president of the Berkshire Beagle Club and the recipient of the 2003 Berkshire County League of Sportsmen Sportsman’s Achievement Award.    Both will be missed. *****

 

Congratulations to Miss P for winning the Westminister Kennel Club Dog Show recently.  She is a 4 year old, Canadian born, 15-inch beagle and the grandniece of Uno, the first beagle to ever win the big show in 2008.   There was no “aawroooo” from her when she was announced the winner, unlike Uno.  Instead, she just pushed her way through a bunch of dangling ribbons, perhaps biting a couple of them on the way to receive ribbon.   What a handsome dog she is. *****

 

For fly fishermen who fish the Deerfield River, the Deerfield Fly Shop is opening at 8A Elm Street, South Deerfield, just a few minutes from the lower stretches of the river.  An all day grand opening celebration is scheduled for March 7. Check out deerfieldflyshop.com for a listing of events, raffles, speakers, guides, river reports, operating hours, etc.  *****

 

The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club is having its wild game dinner next Saturday at 6PM.  Call 413-298-3277 for more information.

 

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818

 

As expected, 2014 Black Bear harvest shattered old record

 

MassWildlife recently reported that a record 240 bears were harvested statewide during last year’s split fall season. Some 203 were taken in September and 37 in November.  In total, 132 males and 107 females were taken.  The harvest breakdown by county is as follows: 78 in Berkshire; 56 in Franklin; 51 in Hampden; 43 in Hampshire; 4 in Middlesex; and 8 in Worcester.

Last year’s harvest represents a 62% increase over the previous year total of 148 and nearly a 30% increase over the previous record of 185 which were bagged in 2012. There were some real brutes taken this year with a couple of them estimated to weigh over 500 lbs live weight.

This increased harvest appears directly related to the upsurge in the bear population. It comes as no surprise to bear hunters who predicted as much when Question 1 was passed in the 1990’s.  That law made it illegal to use bear hunting dogs or bait to attract bears, presumably resulting in fewer bears taken.  Now it is estimated that there are over 5,000 of them living in the Commonwealth and the numbers are growing rapidly.  They are expanding eastward and if their numbers are not controlled will become a nuisance in the heavily populated towns there.

The Fish & Wildlife Board is keenly aware of this pending problem and has taken steps to address it.  It knows that hunters play a vital role in controlling the numbers of bears. Board Chairman George (Gige) Darey of Lenox reported that it voted to make changes to the Black Bear hunting regulations.  Pending regulatory approval, the zone restrictions will be removed during the Black Bear hunting season.  Prior to this year, bear hunting was only allowed in Zones 1 through 9 (of the 14 zones).  Also, bear hunting will be allowed in all zones during the shotgun deer hunting season.  All shotgun deer hunting regulations will apply, such as hunting only with shotguns, bows or muzzleloaders (no rifles), the wearing of hunter orange, etc.

 

These new changes, anticipated to become effective this year, have not been included in the 2015 Hunting and Fishing abstracts.   They still will have to proceed through the regulatory process, but it is expected that regulators will sign off on them.  *****

Beginning this Thursday and running through Sunday, the Big E Sportsmen’s Show will take place at 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield.  The hours are as follows:  Thursday from 3PM to 8PM, Friday from 12 Noon to 8PM, Saturday from 9AM to 7PM and Sunday from 10AM to 5PM.   Admission fees:  Adults – $13, Kids 6 to12 – $5 and under 6 free.  This sportsmen’s show is loaded with hunting, fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation activities.  For more information, visit the Springfield Sportsmen’s Show website. *****

And now for the youngsters:

On March 7 there will be a Growing Up WILD Professional Development Workshop at the MA Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox.  Pre-school educators are invited to this 6-hour workshop that focuses on early childhood education.  The Growing Up WILD Activity Guide builds on a children’s sense of wonder about nature and invites them to explore wildlife and the world around them.  Click onto mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/education-events, or contact Pam Landry at pam.landry@state.ma.us or (508) 389-6310 for registration details. The registration deadline is February 20.  ****

There is a contest which recognizes teachers and students who inspire their communities by exploring challenging environmental and energy issues.  Nominations for Massachusetts public or private school-based programs that promote environmental and energy education will be accepted until March 27. Program topics can include wildlife and natural resource conservation, ocean science, and other related subjects. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will review applications through mid-April and announce the winners later in the spring. Contact Meg Colclough at (617) 626-1110 or meg.colclough@state.ma.us for more information. ****

 

There is still time to enter the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) contest. 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.  The entry deadline is March 15.

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 and submitting it 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. Click onto the MassWildlife web site for an information packet and entry information. ****

The MA Junior Conservation Camp, this year located at the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell, MA, provides a unique experience of conservation, shooting sports, and outdoor recreation education.  The camp’s program introduces young people to the ethical responsibilities of hunting and fishing in order to foster careful stewardship of our natural resources.  Boys and girls aged 13 to 17 who enjoy outdoor activities and want to learn more about the environment are eligible to attend.  The camp dates are August 2 through August 14.  The cost is $750 each.  Click onto http://www.juniorconservationcamp.org/ for more information.

The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen has bought two memberships, (one for a boy and one for a girl), and will make them available for free, first come first served, to deserving youths.  If you know any interested youths, have them write a letter to BCLS President Mark Jester, 25 Delancy Avenue, Pittsfield MA 01201explaining why they want to attend.

 

Preliminary 2014 Deer Harvest Summary

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reports that the statewide  preliminary deer harvest for 2014 (excluding Quabbin and any data not yet received) was 11,165.  The harvest figures for the previous four years beginning with year 2010 were as follows:   10,699, 11,081, 10,938 and 11,413.  In the Western District (WD), which includes all areas west of the Connecticut River (Zones 1 – 4), some 1,737 were taken.   For the previous four years beginning with year 2010 the figures were 1,568, 3,417, 1,626 and 1,664. Interestingly, Zones 10 and 11 in eastern Massachusetts yielded over 4,800 deer in 2014.

The statewide preliminary archery season harvest was 4,456.  Harvest figures for the previous 4 years beginning with year 2010 were as follows:  3,778, 3,765, 3903 and 4,474.  In the WD, 505 were taken with the bow in 2014.   The WD archery harvests for the previous four years, beginning with year 2010, were as follows: 466, 522, 453 and 577.    Zones 10 and 11 yielded 2,381 in 2014.

The statewide preliminary shotgun season harvest was 4,742.    For the previous 4 years beginning with year 2010 the harvests were as follows: 4,846, 5,349, 4,950 and 4,625.  The WD shotgunners checked in 888 in 2014, which compares with the previous 4 years:  815, 904, 842 and 739.  Zones 10 and 11 yielded 1,529 in 2014.  Note –  852 more deer were taken with the bow out there than with shotgun.

The statewide preliminary primitive season harvest was 1,967.  The previous 4 years beginning with year 2010 were:  2,068, 1,959, 1,958 and 2314.  In the WD, muzzleloaders checked in 344, which compares with the previous 4 years as follows:  285, 251, 301 and 350.  Zones 10 and 11 muzzleloaders checked in 893 deer in 2014.

The total harvested deer by all methods in the WD were as follows: Zone 1 – 234, Zone 2 – 448, Zone 3 – 444, Zone 4N – 432 and Zone 4S – 179.

According to the DFW, The 2014 preliminary harvest data for zones 1-5 shows low female harvest and a corresponding increase in adult male harvest, indicating that deer densities in these zones are generally increasing toward its goals. Deer densities in zones 6-9 appear to be within its goals. Densities in Zones 10 and 11 are still above goal, but more towns are increasing access to lands for hunting, which is one of the most important parts of managing deer in a suburban setting. Deer densities on Martha’s Vineyard (Zone 13) and Nantucket (Zone 14) remain significantly above DFW’s management goals.

While total harvest by zone can be informative, it doesn’t provide the complete picture for monitoring trends in deer density because total harvest is influenced by antlerless deer permit allocations in each zone. The DFW Deer Project Leader analyzes harvest, biological, and hunter effort data, along with hunter success rates, female versus male harvest, and other factors to manage deer populations in each zone. An analysis of this information is now underway for the annual spring deer management review. A complete harvest summary will be posted on the DFW website shortly after the annual deer review, so check back in May or June.

Hunters should keep an eye on their email inbox for the annual hunter survey. All hunters who included a valid email address in their MassFishHunt profile will receive a hunter survey by email in February or March. *****

Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board Chairman George (Gige) Darey of Lenox,  reports that  the Board recently voted to create a Youth Deer Hunt Day.  This will be a one day hunt for youths aged 12 to 17. It is scheduled to take place annually on the 4th Saturday after Labor Day.  The youths must obtain a free youth permit which will be available at DFW offices and vendors.  This permit will allow them to take a deer of either sex deer in any zone and is valid only during the Youth Day Hunt.   All regular deer hunting season rules apply, such as the wearing of hunter orange, the use of shotguns,  etc.  Youths must be accompanied by a duly licensed adult mentor provided that a single bag limit is observed and only one firearm can be in their possession for the youths 12 to 14 years of age.  Youths aged 15 to 17 must have taken a hunter education course and obtained a hunting license.

 

This new change should become effective this year, but has not been included in the 2015 Hunting and Fishing abstracts. It still will have to proceed through the regulatory process, but is anticipated that regulators will sign off on it.   After that, more information will be forthcoming.   *****

 

On Saturday night (Valentine’s Day) the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club will host its annual Valentine’s Dinner Dance. Tickets which cost $25.00 pp, are available from all Board members. The dinner will be catered by That’s Amore Fine Catering and dancing to DJ Russ Davis.  BYOB.   On Sunday, it will be having its annual ice fishing derby on Stockbridge Bowl.  Then on Monday it will have its 32nd Annual President’s Day Rabbit Hunt.  Pre-Register with Ron Carr @ 413-442-5122 or sign up at the club.  Weigh in at 4:00 p.m. There will be prizes for heaviest hare and heaviest cottontail.    A venison dinner will be served afterwards and is included in the registration fee.*****

 

More than 425 plants and animals are recognized as rare in MA.   MassWildlife asks that you consider contributing to endangered wildlife conservation on your MA income tax form this tax season.  Look for line 32a. “Endangered Wildlife Conservation” on your state income tax form.  All donations go into the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, a critical source for the annual budget of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

Hunters speak out about DCR’s gated properties

Recently, a public forum was held at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) West Region Headquarters in Pittsfield.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Resource Management Planning process for the DCR Pittsfield-October Mountain State Forest Complex and hear the questions, concerns, and ideas about priority management issues related to recreation, stewardship of resources, and park facilities.  The meeting room was packed with hunters, off-road vehicle enthusiasts, bicyclists and others.

 

Deer hunters took the opportunity to express their extreme displeasure with the way access to the Pittsfield State Forest is being denied to them.  Access points from West Street, Brickyard Road, Brickhouse Mountain Road and Potter Mountain Road, which used to be open, are now being blocked with locked gates.

 

This forces deer hunters to park at the gates and hike over a mile to get to their hunting areas.  As one hunter stated, the hunter’s average age is increasing and to force them to hike the extra miles is dangerous and not fair to them. The problem is compounded if they shoot a deer and then have to drag it all that distance back to the gate.   If they should suffer a heart attack, there is no way that rescuers can quickly get to them because of the gate closures.

 

They have complained frequently and have held meetings with the DCR, State Representative Ben Downing, Pittsfield Councilmen, the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen and others.  As a result of these meetings, the DCR agreed to open the gates during deer hunting season in order to allow access to the hunters.

 

The gates were left unlocked for a while but this past deer hunting season, they were locked again.  The hunters complained again and were told to park outside the gates.  When they did so, they were ticketed (not warned), in spite of the fact that there were no signs prohibiting parking there.  When they parked along Brickyard Road in New York, they were ticketed there.  One hunter claims that the gate to the Pittsfield State Forest is actually located in New York.  He advocated for moving the gate farther off of the road and making a parking lot near it, away from the houses.

 

George (Gige) Darey, of Lenox, Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board Chairmen stated that the deer herd cannot be managed in an industrial state such as Massachusetts when large tracts of land cannot be accessed by deer hunters.  “Too many deer result in their eating rare and endangered plants, damaging the forests, causing a rise of deer tick incidents, causing more traffic accidents and neighboring complaints”. He mentioned DCR-controlled lands in the eastern part of the State.  “Look at the problems that you are having there”, he said.  “Things are so bad that even the animal rights people are complaining”.    He also mentioned the problems that they had in the Quabbin area and how it was necessary to open it up for deer hunting.  “You should not close all of these parcels of land”, he said.

 

He also commented on the situation with October Mountain and the fact that if one wants to access it from Pittsfield, Lenox or Lee, one has to drive to Washington or Becket to get at it due to the roads being closed or poorly maintained.

 

Bob Mellace, DCR Western Regional Manager commented that in some of the gate situations, Environmental and State Police have requested that the gates be closed due to drinking parties and crime taking place in these forests.   They keep getting calls and they cannot keep going there.   The State Police have a big influence.  He stated that it is not DCR’s intent to keep out hunters, but once you open up the gates, you open them up to everyone.  You have a hunter access verses public safety issue going on.

 

Off road vehicle (ORV) owners and mountain bikers have access issues, too.  They are also concerned that some of their trails are not being maintained or are being shut down.  They questioned what is being done with the registration fees.  DCR officials responded by saying that some of that money was spent locally on a Route 20 parking area and work being done along the Skyline Trail.    They said that monies are coming but slowly and to be patient.

 

Some ORV users complained that they frequently see unregistered vehicles from Connecticut and New York riding the State Forest trails and questioned what is being done about it.  DCR responded that they have a staffing problem.  There is only one EPO for Region 1 and only 3 Rangers for the Western Region.  They are cracking down on the bad guys but are spread thin.  They did state that there were very few problems with the ORV people and that they slow down when they see hikers or hunters.

 

A draft RMP for the DCR properties in the Pittsfield-October Mountain Complex will be the subject of a subsequent public meeting to be held later in the RMP planning process.

 

The DCR will host trail planning workshops for Pittsfield SF and October Mountain SF this winter.  The process will include:  mapping and assessing conditions; identifying scenic, recreational and  cultural destinations;  identifying constraints, issues and problem areas; identifying desired experiences of trail user groups and coordinating with stakeholders and partners.

 

If you have comments regarding priority management issues related to recreation, stewardship or resources and park facilities, E-mail: dcr.updates@state.ma.us. Put “Pittsfield RMP” in the subject line; or write the DCR, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114 or call: 617-626-4974.  Note: public comments submitted to DCR by email or letter will be posted on its website in their entirety. The public comment period ends on February 20.