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.

 

Take a kid ice fishing this winter

 

 

Well, it’s here, ice fishing season.  If you go ice fishing take a kid along.  The ice is safe now, but be careful and don’t do anything foolish like walk too close to a stream inlet or near open water.

 

Many of us were exposed to ice fishing when we were kids.  Chances are good that a dad, older brother or uncle brought us ice fishing for the first time, and chances are also good that we have never forgotten that day.

 

In my case, my oldest brother Joe and our good friend and neighbor Henry (Hank) Sedgwick brought me to Stockbridge Bowl on my first trip.  It was in the early 1950’s when I was about 10 years old.    I remember it like it was yesterday.

 

We had no sooner stepped onto the ice when it made a scary crack and rumble. I froze where I stood.  They laughed and reassured me that there was nothing to worry about, that there was over a foot of ice and that the lake was just “working”. We set up our tip-ups off of the Shadowbrook Shore.

 

Standing on frozen water and chiseling a hole into the ice (no augers back then) was a whole new experience for me.   No, the water didn’t gush out of the hole as feared but just stayed there. We scooped the chipped ice out of the holes, set up the tip-ups, spread out the line onto the ice (our tip ups didn’t have reels on them in those days), sounded the holes (determined the water depth), baited the hooks (with shiners) lowered them into the holes, and attached the flags to the tip-ups so that they would pop up when a fish ate the bait and moved.  When the holes were all dug and tip-ups set up, I couldn’t wait for a fish to come along and eat the bait to see what happened next.

 

We were standing on the shoreline and it was a cold, cloudy day with periodic spits of snow.   It was slow fishing until about 11:00 am when Hank’s flag popped up a couple of hundred feet away. Out onto the ice he hurried to tend to the tip-up. I wanted to go with him to see what happened next, but Joe insisted that I stay with him on the shore line to gather up some dry twigs and branches to start a fire to warm up and cook some hot dogs.  While gathering the firewood, I kept glancing out to Hank to see what was going on, but he knelt next to the hole in a way which blocked my view.

 

After a few minutes he came back claiming that the fish had hit his bait and sprang the flag but didn’t hook itself, so he reset the flag.  No sooner had he returned when the flag went up again and this time they said “You take this one, Spike” ( nickname that my father, brothers and Hank called me). The three of us ran out to the tip-up.  While running there, we could see the line which had been spread out on the ice being pulled into the hole by a fish.

 

I didn’t know what to do so they were shouting instructions.  Pull the line to set the hook!  Now pull the line in hand over hand straight out of the hole!  I could feel the fish fighting back.  Wow! What a thrill.  Pretty soon I could see the head of the fish sticking out of the hole and quickly pulled it out.  There, flopping on the ice, was a 19 inch pickerel.  I had never caught a pickerel or any fish that large before.  I received a lot of congratulations and pats on the back (no such thing as a high 5’s in those days).

 

It turned out to be the only fish caught by anyone that day and I never forgot it.  Even though it occurred over 60 years ago I think about it frequently.

 

Then one night last year, I had a rude awakening.   It suddenly occurred to me that the whole event was probably staged for my benefit.  Perhaps Hank went out to that tip-up, solidly hooked the fish, let it stay in the water on the hook and reset the flag.  As soon as the fish moved again, it set the flag off and they wanted me to catch it – my first fish.  I have used the same ploy over the years with my nephews and kids and I should have figured it out sooner.

 

My brother Joe has long since passed beyond the river bend and I can’t ask him, but Hank is still around and I see him every now and then.  I asked him one night last year if that event was staged.  After a period of  silence and the display of an excellent poker face, he said, “ Geeze, Spike, I don’t remember”. Well, if it was staged, that only made the event all the more special.

 

I encourage dads and granddads to expose the kids (boys and girls) to ice fishing at least once.  They will either love it or hate it, but probably will never forget it. Who knows, perhaps 60 years from now, one of them will also be writing about it in their outdoor sports column.  *****

 

This evening at 5:30 pm the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding a fund raising venison and polenta dinner to support its pheasant program.  They raise pheasants and release them on public lands for all hunters to enjoy. The cost is $15 for adults and $6 under 12.  Contact Dick Salice at (413) 822-8411 for more information.

 

Schedule of 2015 ice fishing derbies is now available

 

The above is the schedule of upcoming ice fishing derbies this winter.  Our thanks go out again to Paula Dailey at the Onota Boat Livery in Pittsfield for compiling the 2015 schedule of ice fishing derbies and posting them on its web site   Simply log onto Onotaboat.com to access that list.

Although space does not allow listing all of the derbies raffle prizes, I am making an exception with the Lanesboro Volunteer Fire Dept derby.   For a $10 ticket, you can enter into its raffle which has the following prizes:  1st Prize – Eskimo ice auger valued at $560, 2nd Prize – Ice fishing jet sled filled with everything needed to go ice fishing(except an auger) valued at $650.  All of the proceeds benefit the Lanesboro Volunteer Fire Dept.  Tickets can be obtained at the Onota Boat Livery which, incidentally, donated or provided the above items at cost.   *****

According to Berkshire Beagle Club (BBC) Director John Demary, the rabbit hunt last Saturday was a success considering the cold and raw day.   Some 24 hunters participated, bagging 3 snowshoe hares and 7 cottontail rabbits.

The largest hare was taken by Rylan Kalisz of Adams with one weighing 3.59 lbs.  It was taken in front of his grandfather Dick Kalisz’s (also of Adams) dog Hudson.  The largest cottontail was taken by Dave Morris of Lee with one weighing 3.01 lbs.  It was taken in front of Tom King’s (of Cheshire) dog Boomer.   I am listing the dogs’ names along with the owners because, after all, they did all of the work.

Some of the bunnies were donated to member Russell Moody, Minister of The Pittsfield Church of Christ who cleaned them and gave them to families in need.  It is unfortunate that we have such needy families here in the Berkshires but if there is one consolation it is this:  wild rabbits are delicious.   I grew up eating them and still have a couple of meals of them every year.

Following the contest check–in, the participants enjoyed a delicious meal of venison pasta, venison chili and bear stew.   A raffle followed the meal.

Incidentally, the BBC recently held its officer elections and the following individuals were elected:  President – Rodney Hicks of Hancock, VP – John Demary of Dalton, and Treasurer – Tim Cahoon of Pittsfield.  The Secretary position is open. *****

A Basic Hunter Education Course will be held at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, on March 3, 5, 10, 12, 17 and 19 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  The course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.  All government-issued Basic Hunter Education certificates, from any North American jurisdiction, are accepted as proof of successfully completing the course in order to purchase a hunting or sporting license.

Anyone who has held a hunting license prior to 2007 in this or any other state, or is a graduate of a Basic Hunter Education course in this or any other state, does not need any additional training and may immediately create a customer account and purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license (www.mass.gov/massfishhunt).   Proof of a previous license or certificate is not required.  For more information, call 508-389-7820. *****

 

On Saturday, February 7 the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be having an All Women’s Basic Pistol Course from 8:00am to 6:00pm.  For more information call Vicki White (413) 442-8107.

 

Brady Kerr, Secretary of the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club reports that the following leagues have started but there is always time to join in:  Pistol League runs Mondays 7:00pm and Thursdays at noon, Rifle League on Sundays from 10:00am to noon, 2-D Archery shoots on Thursdays and Fridays from 6:00pm to 8:30pm or Saturdays from 12:30pm to3:00pm and 3-D Archery League on Mondays from 6:00pm to 8:30pm.

 

Local deer hunter has a 2 bagger

Around 8 AM on Saturday, December 21, Jim Cornwell of Lenox Dale was black powder deer hunting in the woods off of Washington Mountain Road in Becket.   The 44 year old hunter hadn’t deer hunted in 12 or 13 years, (claims he “came out of retirement”) and that was the first time that he ever hunted with a muzzleloader.  He wasn’t bored, for some 13 does had passed by his deer stand already.

The 14th deer that came by was a nice buck and Jim dropped it.  He reloaded his gun just in case it needed a second “kill” shot and approached it.   He looked up and saw another buck walking toward him and he dropped that one, too.  (It is legal in Massachusetts to take two bucks on the same day as long as they are reported within 48 hours.)

The first buck was an 8 pointer weighing 150 lbs. The second one was also an 8 pointer weighing 170 lbs, and that one had a 24 inch antler spread.   He shot them 5 minutes apart.

What are the odds of that happening? Rare!  For those not familiar with a muzzleloader gun, please allow me to explain.  To load the gun, one must drop the gunpowder down the barrel, then push the bullet down the barrel with a ramrod and then place a primer in the breech.  The hammer must be pulled back and the gun is ready to fire.   How Jim was able to do all of this after the first shot without the second deer hearing him or picking up his scent is unbelievable.  Some people have all the luck!

Jim’s brother Tony of Peru helped him drag the deer out of the woods. Jim claims that without his help, he would still be dragging.

Due to the unusual circumstances, Jim is going to have both heads mounted by a taxidermist. What memories and stories he will have to tell.

Incidentally, the results of the recent bear and deer hunting seasons have not yet been released by MassWildlife. I will pass them on as soon as they are made available. *****

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 16 through 18 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.

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 include Gary Borger, Jay “Fishy” Fullum, Bob Popovics, Dave Klausmeyer, Ben Furminsky and others, and they will be happy to autograph your books.  Click onto  flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details. *****

On Tuesday evening, January 20 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will be holding a public forum on the preparation of a resource management plan (RMP) for the Pittsfield – October Mountain Complex.  It will be held at the DCR West Region HQ, 740 South Street, Pittsfield.

 

The subject area includes Pittsfield State Forest, October Mountain State Forest, Balance Rock & Bates Memorial State Parks, Wahconah Falls State Park, Ashmere Lake State Park, Peru & Middlefield State Forests, Gilbert A. Bliss State Forest and satellite properties.

 

At this meeting, DCR staff will share information about the RMP planning process and hear our questions, concerns, and ideas about priority management issues related to recreation, stewardship of resources, and park facilities.  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.  This presentation will be available after the meeting on DCR’s website at http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/public-outreach/public-meetings/. If you have questions about the public forum, contact DCR Updates at (617) 626-4974 or DCR.Updates@state.ma.us.

 

In case of inclement weather on January 20, call 617-626-4973 or visit

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/ to confirm the date the public meeting will be held. *****

 

 The Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club will be holding its 5th Annual Hunt Raffle and Buffet Dinner at the ITAM in Pittsfield on Saturday evening, February 7.  Doors open at 5PM and dinner at 6PM. Cost is $15 for adults and $8 for children under 10.  The proceeds from the event benefit PSC Land Development.  Tickets are limited. This is a serious raffle with a whitetail deer hunt in Illinois, a fishing charter on Lake Ontario, a mystery prize, a Chinese auction and more.   Raffle tickets will be sold at Pete’s Gun Shop in Adams, Smitty’s Sporting Goods in Dalton, Dave’s Sporting Goods and Avid Sports in Pittsfield.  For more information, contact Travis Delratez (413)441-7979 or Fran Tremblay at (413)443-5133. *****