Most hunting seasons are closed

 

The rabbit and hare hunting seasons closed on February 28 and last Wednesday, the coyote and bobcat seasons also closed. And not a bit too soon for this attractive putty cat.. 

For some reason, we have been seeing an increase in bobcats lately, at least on the East side of Lenox. Jim Lahey of Lee was surprised last winter to see one stroll across his patio.  A few years back, there was one that made its home in our neighborhood on East Street.  That cat hung around for about three years.  We were pretty sure it was the same one as it had a very distinctive limp.   Neighbors Al and Martha Joyner got a kick out of watching it sunning itself on the top of their split rail fence. 

The handsome bobcat pictured was photographed on the lawn of neighbor Tim and Kathy Face also of East Street a couple of months ago.  According to Tim, she had two young kittens with her.  I wish they would visit our place and put a dent into the vole population that has been creating havoc in our vegetable garden.

For many years there was a bounty on them, presumably put on by the DFW in response to farmers’ complaints. Like foxes, bobcats like to frequent the hen houses, too.  The bounty system was ended in 1968.

If you see one of these beautiful animals, consider yourself lucky. There was a time when one would be lucky to see one or two in a lifetime.

Staying on the subject of wild cats (not wildcats) the bobcat’s larger cousin, the Canada lynx, has been sighted recently in Southern VT. One was photographed in Londonderry, VT, and biologists with the VT F&W confirmed the identification and visited the site to confirm its location.

Also, biologists suspect that a lynx was photographed by a game camera in nearby Searsburg, VT. It was photographed by a University of Vermont student who had set a trail camera out near a Rte 9 underpass.  Chris Bernier, a wildlife biologist for the VT F&W was thrilled to see the animal using a wildlife underpass that was created for the express purpose of allowing animals to pass safely under the road.

These were the first confirmed evidences of lynx outside of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom in decades. Lynx are listed as “threatened” under the Federal Endangered Species Act and “Endangered” in the state of Vermont.  Are they headed our way?

Spring Trout Stocking  About 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked this spring from MassWildlife’s five hatcheries. These fish, coupled with the more than 80,000 fish stocked last fall, will provide some excellent fishing in the coming months. Stocking took place in the southeastern area of the state last week with other regions of the state expected to follow soon after. Anglers can get daily stocking updates at Mass.gov/Trout, or contact individual district offices for the latest stocking information.

The following are the 2017 spring trout stocking stats: Most of the trout will be over 12 inches, nearly half of them will be over 14 inches, more than 1,400 brown trout will be over 18 inches, more than 600 brook trout will be over 15 inches and more than 2,000 tiger trout will be over 14 inches.

Beware, ticks are bad this year

I had some free time and decided to take my beagle, Jacques, out rabbit hunting on February 27 before the season closed.  I was hoping to bag a bunny and have it for a meal later in the week.  It was so warm that day that I hurriedly switched out my regular hunting jacket for a lighter one and off we went.

 

After some time, Jacques kicked up a rabbit and he was hot on its scent.  I picked an open spot where I could get a good shot, and while waiting for the bunny to circle back, I could practically taste that fried rabbit already.   Feeling something crawling on my neck, I rubbed the area, but there was nothing there.  A little while later I felt something crawling in my hair under my hat. This time I removed the hat, got out my comb and there was a tick.  I looked down and there were five others crawling up my pants leg.

 

After killing them, I reached into my hunting jacket pouch to get the can of Permethren clothing repellent and plastic bag in which to carry the rabbit home.  Oh oh, they were in my other hunting jacket.  Well, I wasn’t going to carry that rabbit with ticks in my coat pouch without being sealed in a bag.  No problem, I thought, I’ll simply field dress the rabbit and leave the fur and ticks in the woods.  Guess what, my hunting knife was in the other jacket, too.  It’s a wonder I remembered to bring my gun.

 

Jacques was barking excitedly and the rabbit was getting close.  Now what?  Do I shoot it and hand-carry it back home?  No way, I could picture all of the ticks jumping off of it onto my hand and crawling up my arm.

 

The shotgun bead was right on the rabbit’s head, a chance for a nice clean shot, with no pellets in the meat.  Nope, I didn’t shoot it and let the bunny hop away.

 

You have undoubtedly heard of lucky rabbit’s feet, well this was one lucky whole live rabbit.

 

Before leaving the woods, I pulled 3 more ticks off of my clothes. When we got home, we immediately washed up.  Interestingly, he never had a tick on him.

 

Parting message:  Use a good clothing repellent and check yourself often.

New England Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame inductees are announced

On January 28, Bass Pro Shops in Hooksett, New Hampshire, hosted the first New England Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame inductions, recognizing those who played pivotal roles in bringing wild turkeys back from extinction in New England.  Wild turkeys were extinct for about a century. Their return is an improbable story of long-dedicated, cooperative biologists helping each other spread the right wild stock back here. Once they figured out how to do that, wild turkeys naturally did the rest.

The New England Hall of Fame was the brainchild of two Massachusetts National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter presidents: Keith Fritz of central Mass. and Kevin Antonovitch of Cape Cod.

These first Hall of Fame inductees came from all six New England states, and included the 10 giants of our region’s turkey conservation: Massachusetts’ James Cardoza and Jim Bolduc, New Hampshire’s Chip Page and Ted Walski, Vermont’s Doug Blodgett and Ron Lafreniere, Maine’s Jim Wescott and Gene Howard, Connecticut’s Steve Jackson and Rhode Island’s Jim Chadwick. All 10 received a decorative plaque along with a handsome, custom, curly-maple box call with their names, states and Hall of Fame credentials inscribed on the striker top.  If you hunt turkeys anywhere in New England, you owe thanks to one or more of these dedicated men.

I will highlight our Massachusetts inductees.  Beginning in 1969, Jim Cardoza supervised the recovery of Massachusetts’ extinct wild turkey. They originally were common everywhere in the state, except on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, but as a result of deforestation and overhunting, they were extirpated by the 1850’s.

In 1972-73, Cardoza’s team live-trapped 37 wild turkeys from southwestern New York and released them in Beartown State Forest in Monterey where they flourished.  In 1978, there were enough surplus birds for Cardoza to trap and release them to other areas within the state. Between 1979 and 1996, they released 561 birds in 10 counties.

As a result of Cardoza’s efforts, Massachusetts now has a population of about 25,000 wild turkeys.  Thanks to their success, we have both a spring and fall hunt, which produce a perennially sustainable harvest of about 3,000.  Cardoza wrote a book entitled, “The Wild Turkey in Massachusetts”, which is considered the definitive book on our wild turkeys.  It explains why they originally failed in their restoration attempts and how they finally succeeded.

Jim Bolduc was honored for being the first NWTF Massachusetts state chapter president.  Established in 1983, his was the first chapter established in year three of Massachusetts turkey hunting.  He contacted the NWTF about starting a chapter in Massachusetts and became the first Massachusetts Chapter president.  With help from his officers and board, he helped set the foundations for inspiring and educating our state’s sportsmen to support wild turkey restoration here.

Back then, less than a 100 hunters were chosen annually by lottery and restricted to hunting towns across a northwest strip of the state. The hunting territory included the northern Franklin and Berkshire County border towns where turkeys started spilling in from southern Vermont and Upstate New York.  Today, his chapter is one of six in the state; the others are Eastern Mass. (1986), Central Mass. (1996), Western Mass Longbeards (1996), Pioneer Valley Longbeards (1996), and Cranberry Country Longbeards (2000). It is anticipated that a seventh chapter, the Greylock Gobblers (Northern Berkshires), will come to fruition later this year.

Back at the time of their reintroduction, wild turkeys were found in pockets of western Massachusetts but they began to spread into the central part of the state with the assistance of aggressive MassWildlife stocking initiatives. Today there are turkeys statewide.

Without pioneers like Bolduc and Cardoza, who were leaders of the successful restoration program, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike would not have such easy access to what has since become our state game bird.

 

Much of the information for this article was gleaned from MassWildlife and articles written by Mark Blazis of the Worcester Telegram (“Getting to know wild turkey hunting’s hall of famers”, February 6, 2017) and from Gary Sanderson’s article in the Greenfield Recorder (“Colrain turkey hunter inaugural New England Hall of Famer”, February 14, 2017).

 

Staying with the subject of wild turkeys, the Massachusetts Young Adult Turkey Hunting Program is a partnership program between MassWildlife, the Massachusetts State Chapter of the NWTF, and participating sportsmen’s clubs. The program is designed to provide hunters ages 12-17 an opportunity to: (a) Participate in a field workshop that provides specialized training in turkey hunting and safety, including firearms instruction and practice; and (b) Hunt wild turkey under the supervision and guidance of a safe, experienced adult hunter serving as a mentor on a special day set aside just for young adults.

Information on this program can be obtained from the MassWildlife web page under the caption Education & Events.  The listing of local participating sportsmen’s clubs and schedules are listed there.

 

Incidentally, this year the Youth Turkey Hunt day is Saturday, April 22.

 

Events

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is beginning its spring turkey shoots next Sunday, March 12 from noon to 3pm and they will run until the Sunday before Easter.  Shoots cost $2 per shot and $3 for the money shoots.  If you prefer, you could win strip steaks, pork loins or spiral hams.

 

The Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club is having a venison buffet next Saturday, March 11 at the ITAM Lodge, 22 Waubeek Rd, Pittsfield.  The proceeds will benefit its Land Development Fund.  Cocktails start at 5pm, dinner at 6pm.  There will be a 50/50 and assorted raffles.  Donation are $17 for adults and children under 10 years of age $8.50.  For tickets contact:  Stan Bushey (413) 841-8345, Travis Delratez (413) 441-7979, Dave Pemble (413) 443-0646, Rich Powers (413) 822-6581, Fran Tremblay (413)443-5133 and  Mike Furey (413) 822-1959.

Remembering Margaret Beckwith

Local outdoor sportsmen and women were saddened to learn of the loss of Margaret Beckwith of Great Barrington recently at the age of 81. Although Margaret was well known in politics (formerly a Great Barrington selectwoman for 12 years and heavily involved in state political issues), I wish to focus on her outdoor sports achievements. Along with her husband, the late Ernest Beckwith, Margaret ran the Beckwith’s Sport Shop in Gt. Barrington.

 

For 42 years, she served the sportsmen of Berkshire County by voluntarily running a deer and turkey checking station for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW).   One can only imagine how many thousands of deer she checked in over those years.  She even checked in a deer that Governor William Weld shot while hunting with MA Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey.

 

She was the recipient of the 1994 Berkshire County League of Sportsmen Silvio O. Conte Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.

 

She served many years as the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) Secretary and helped various organizations raise thousands of dollars through her outstanding sales of raffle tickets.  She was an honorary member of the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, a member of the Great Barrington Fish & Game Club and the Izaak Walton League of America.  She was again selected to receive another Conte award, this time the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award.   In presenting the award, then BCLS President Mark Jester stated: “She has been a valuable advocate of hunting and fishing and someone who sportsmen and women can be proud of to represent their causes”.

 

She stepped down as League Secretary on October 6, 2005.  (It was my great honor to replace her).

Ellie Horwitz, retired Massachusetts DFW Chief of Information and Education, and Executive Editor of, Massachusetts Wildlife quarterly magazine knew Margaret through her dealings with the deer and turkey check stations. “She was one of a kind… a unique and dynamic woman!  We are fortunate to have gotten to know and work with her. She was an amazing character!”

BCLS President Mike Kruszyna had this to say about her:  “Margaret was a force of her own and when she believed in something she would put her entire being into that cause.  She forever supported the outdoor/hunting sports.  She will be sorely missed by so many”.

On a personal note, I really liked Margaret.  In her later years, when she became a resident of Fairview Nursing Home in Great Barrington, I always made it a point to stop and see her when I was in South County.  She kept up with the activities of the BCLS, local sportsmen, latest deer harvest statistics, etc.  We had great chats.  I can tell you that her support of the outdoor sports and sportsmen never faltered.

Basic hunter education courses

 

First-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  This course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.

 

The following local Basic Hunter Education courses are scheduled as follows:  East Mountain Sportsman Club, 312 Henderson Road, Williamstown, MA.  The dates are April 10, 14, 17, 21, 24 & 28.  They run from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.   You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.

If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call 508-389-7830.  Students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email.

 

Trapper Education Course

Lets face it, there are times when we need an animal trapperWell, Trapper Education is mandatory in Massachusetts for Problem Animal Control (PAC) agents and first-time trappers in order to apply for a Massachusetts trap registration number.

The MassWildlife Hunter Education Program offers three to five trapper education courses each year in different locations across the state, usually in the spring, summer and fall.  Participants may need to travel a longer distance in order to attend this course. Upon successful completion, graduates will be mailed a Certificate of Completion recognized in all U.S. states.

For those who need to complete the mandatory homework assignment for a class or wish to simply review course content, there is a free online option. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) offers a free tutorial known as the North American Trapper Education Program which covers all the information in a typical Trapper Education course. Additional trapping information is available on AFWA’s Furbearer management page  including documents on Best Management Practices for trapping in the U.S.

These are the 2017 Trapper Education Courses being offered this spring:

The Auburn Sportsmen’s Club, 50 Elm Street, Auburn, MA, will be having classes on March 23 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and April 8 from 8:00am to 5:00pm. (two class sessions).  The Spencer Fish & Game Club, 155 Mechanic Street, Spencer, MA, will have classes on April 26 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and on May 6 from 8:00am to 5:00pm. To enroll in either class, call

(508) 389-7830.

 

Fly Fishing Film Fare

 

On March 2, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be hosting the Fly Fishing Film Fare at the Barrington Brewery & Restaurant in Great Barrington, MA.  Doors open at 6:00pm and the films start at 7:00pm. There will be an intermission and refreshments and food are available. There will be a raffle for a handmade fly rod and other door prizes.  Tickets can be obtained from any Taconic TU Board Member for $13 or on-line at:

https://events.ticketprinting.com/event/22537.  Tickets will cost $15 at the door.  For more information contact: Bill Travis at traviswdt547@gmail.com or John Burns at burnsievt@gmail.com.

 

New policies on MassWildlife lands

In his February report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden announced that in response to increased and unauthorized trail development activities as well as requests for new trails on its lands, the Fisheries & Wildlife Board approved a Wildlife Lands Policy and a Walking Trails Policy in August 2016. Together these policies support MassWildlife’s statutory mission of conserving wildlife habitat and providing wildlife-related recreation. 

These new policies can be seen by clicking onto the following:  http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/wildlife-habitat-conservation/walkingtrailspolicy.pdf.

 

MassWildlife lands generally include simple, gravel or dirt parking lots with unmarked footpaths and wood roads. This minimal-development management approach keeps “wild places wild,” while allowing access to nature with an “off-the-beaten path” experience. 

 

Here’s what the policies DO:

  • Support MassWildlife’s mission to protect wildlife and its habitat
  • Formalize a trails license agreement process for six regional trails
  • Limit trail creation, marking, and maintenance
  • Allow areas damaged by trails to recover
  • Continue free public access to MassWildlife lands

The policies DO NOT:

  • Restrict public access to MassWildlife lands
  • Prevent walking on or require closure of any existing path, woods road, or cart path on MassWildlife lands
  • Limit hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife-related recreation, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or off-trail exploring.

 

Unfortunately, MassWildlife sees people developing new trails, cutting new trails or taking some ownership of trails on its lands.  These new policies address that problem.

 

Also Madden reported that MassWildlife recently acquired 125 acres abutting the Peru Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Peru, MA.  The newly acquired land is off of East Windsor Road.

According to Madden, this acquisition not only protects and expands on huntable land but improves access to the WMA, which is one of the District’s largest at almost 5,000 acres. The property was cut recently for timber and has a variety of habitats including some wetland features. In the future they plan to develop a small informal parking area from East Windsor Road.  The property boundaries are completely marked. 

 

Keeping with WMA’s, Madden reported that the Western District is continuing its boundary marking efforts this winter. Through contract funds and internal staff time they will be marking more than 40 miles of boundaries by June.  MassWildlife’s land holdings in the Western District exceed 60,000 acres and 500 miles of boundary.

 

More information on the 2016 Deer harvest

In last week’s column, I mentioned that the preliminary statewide deer harvest for 2016 was 12,233, and that compared with last year’s harvest of 10,042.  Also mentioned was that the Western District (WD) accounted for 2,197 of them which compared to 1,887 last year.   Here are more WD data: 

Zone 1 produced a harvest of 349 (last year it was 293), Zone 2 – 479 (462), Zone 3 – 539 (486), Zone 4N – 531 (436) and Zone 4S – 299 (210). In the WD, 720 were taken during Archery Season compared to 511 last year; 969 during Shotgun Season compared to 898, and 418 were harvested during the Primitive Firearms Season compared to 320.

The biology structure of the deer harvest has not been broken down yet, but the average age structure for the last 5 years was:  About 40% were 1 ½ years old, 30% were 2 ½ years old and 30% were 3 ½ years old and older.  DFW feels that these are desirable age structures.

Incidentally, according to statistics from State Farm Insurance that were provided to MassWildlife, about 7000-9000 deer are killed statewide by vehicles each year.

Big E Sportsmen’s Show

The 34th annual Springfield Sportsmen’s Show opens on Friday, February 24 and runs through Sunday the 26th at the Big E in West Springfield.  The hours are Friday from noon to 8pm, Saturday from 9am to 7pm and Sunday from 10am to 5pm.  Tickets are $13 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12 and 5 yrs and under free.  It is billed as the undisputedly largest “pure” sportsmen’s show in the Northeast.  The show includes the best of hunting, fishing, boating and adventure recreation that the outdoor world has to offer all bundled together in one great event.  It is filled with hundreds of booths, exhibits, seminars and action areas.    For a listing of big named hunting and fishing presenters and more information, click onto www.osegshows.com.

 

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is having a banquet on Saturday, February 25 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club.    It is a social evening of fun, great food and camaraderie all for the benefit of elk country.  Tickets are limited, so purchase yours ASAP for a chance to win top notch firearms, premium hunts and exclusive home furnishings.  Doors open at 5:00pm. Call Gary D. Johnston at (413) 298-3623 for more information.

 

Hoosic River

The Hoosic River Revival’s (HRR) vision is to revitalize the Hoosic River, maintain current levels of flood protection and bring the river back as an asset to the residents of North Adams. The North Adams Public Library is currently featuring two displays to learn about the history of the Hoosic River and the HRR’s vision for the south branch of the river.

 

The first floor display includes information about the history of the flood chutes in North Adams and an artist rendering that invites residents to “imagine a revitalized Hoosic River.”

 

A second display in the Children’s Library on the second floor features fun activities for children along with interesting facts about animals that live along the River.   Sara Russell-Scholl, the Youth Services Librarian, has included a collection of children’s books about animals that live in and around rivers.

 

The display, which will continue through February, can be seen Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9am–5pm, Thursday from 12–8pm and Saturday from 10am–1pm.

 

 

 

Steve Sears appointed to the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board.

 

Governor Charlie Baker recently appointed Stephen A. Sears, of Dalton, to the seven-person Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board representing the Western District.  This Board is assigned the responsibility of supervision and control of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW).  Sears replaces George (Gige) Darey of Lenox who recently retired from that Board.

 

Steve was introduced to the delegates of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen by Darey at its February meeting.  (The League had previously petitioned Massachusetts EOEA Secretary Matthew A. Beaton and Governor Baker to appoint him).

 

He said that he is truly humbled to be able to take Darey’s place.  Steve is a lifelong sportsman, having caught his first trout when he was 3 years old.  He recounted how he had an opportunity while he was working at Crane & Co to protect all of the land where he caught his first trout.  “If we hadn’t done that 15 years ago, it may have been sold for condos last year.”  He’s an avid hunter, shotgun or bow hunting almost every day of deer season until he gets his limit.

 

He acknowledged that he has a big job to do and huge shoes to try to fill.  He said he will do the best he can to support the sportsmen to preserve the (outdoor sports) for the kids and their kids.  It’s a big job and he will do his best to make the meetings, bring information back to the Berkshires, listen to the concerns of sportsmen and address them the best that he can.

 

Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from UMASS, Amherst.  He was with Crane & Co., Inc., for over 25 years, most recently as Vice President in charge of manufacturing, engineering, and environmental services. In his tenure at Crane, he oversaw all the energy procurement and environmental policies, and was instrumental in applying many leading edge process developments in U.S. currency production as well as spearheading many environmental efforts.

 

He is the president of the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation where money is raised to do projects in support of the DFW.    The Foundation has done some great things so far and he is looking forward to continuing that work as well.  He is the Vice-Chair of the Berkshire Brownfields Commission and serves or served on the boards of the Center for EcoTechnology, Mount Greylock Ski Club, Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area and The Trustees’ Notchview Advisory Committee.  He served as a long-term member of the Dalton Development and Industrial Commission, where he led the development and implementation of multiple new bylaws for the Town of Dalton.

 

He is currently developing a former Crane & Co., Inc., factory building in Dalton, creating a quality –oriented marketplace for local artisan products and sustainable businesses.

 

Steve grew up and still lives in Dalton with his wife Maria. They have three grown children.  Behind his house is a mountain of which he knows just about every inch.   It has about 25 square miles of good hunting land.  “ It’s a big place, it’s a great place” he said.  He lives only 2 miles from the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton.  He worked for Crane & Company when they sold the building to the Boy Scouts.   That was before the Boy Scouts sold it to the DFW.

 

Steve said that he is thrilled to work with all of (the sportsmen and women).  He thanked the League for its support.  In turn, the League wished him the best of luck with a round of applause.

 

Prior to Steve’s introduction, former Chairman Darey had a few words.  He recounted how Steve was one of his students at Wahconah Regional High School.  Later on they both coached cross country skiing.  They worked together a lot helping other schools that did not have cross-country ski teams, running workshops and other projects.  Gige feels very comfortable leaving the Board knowing that Steve is going to be there. “He will do a great job”’ he said.

 

Darey also mentioned how he was on the Board for 38 years, its chairman for 35.   He remembered the great people he met over the years and the wonderful accomplishments.    “Its been a wonderful time serving the sportsmen”, he said, “and wouldn’t trade the life he had for anything”.  He thanked everyone.   He received a rousing, extended round of applause from the delegates.

 

Ice Fishing Derbies

The Locker Room Ice Fishing Derby will be held on Sunday, February 26, dawn till 2pm, Laurel Lake, $10 Adults, $5 Students..  There will be a Raffle and Pasta Dinner at the Locker Room on Main Street in Lee at 2pm.  All proceeds will to benefit the Lee Youth Football

 

The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club will be having a kid’s ice fishing derby on Ashfield Lake on Saturday, February 18.  The free derby will run from 8am to noon.  A free luncheon and awards presentation follows.  Call Joe Miraglia (413) 628-4400 for more info.

 

2016 Deer harvest

MassWildlife recently reported that the preliminary statewide deer harvest for 2016 was 12,233.   This compares with last year’s harvest of 10,042.  Both archery and primitive firearms seasons saw record harvests in 2016.  The total harvest was near record levels as well.  This good harvest was likely due to the low harvest in 2015 due to unseasonably warm weather, lack of snow, and an abundance of food. The increased harvest during the 2016 season was likely making up for the low harvest of last season and the weather was much more favorable for hunters.

The Western District accounted for 2,197 of them which compares to 1,887 last year.   I hope to have more detailed harvest information in a future column.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement Grants announced

 

In a recent news release, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that $317,243 in grants were awarded for wildlife habitat improvement projects totaling 534 acres in 13 Massachusetts communities.  These municipal and private conservation efforts will work to improve habitats for native wildlife and increase opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

Western Massachusetts will be receiving approximately 59% of those funds. The following landowners will receive these grants:

  • Berkshire Natural Resources Council (Dalton and Hinsdale) – $18,000 – The BNRC will work to control invasive plants and improve floodplain forest along the Old Mill Trail.
  • Massachusetts Forest Alliance (Ashfield and Hawley) – $47,950 – The Massachusetts Forest Alliance will create young forest habitat.
  • Town of Lenox – 33,500 – The Town will work to combat the hardy kiwi invasive plant infestation.
  • Nature Conservancy (Sheffield) – $23,640 – TNC will improve wetland and grassland habitats through the removal of woody plants on the Schenob Brook Preserve.
  • The Trustees of Reservations (Sheffield) – $35,701 – The TTOR will restore grassland habitat through woody species removal and invasive species control on the West Grumpelt Parcel of Bartholemew’s Cobble Preserve.
  • MassAudubon (Otis) – $29,213 – Mass Audubon will create new, and expand existing, shrubland habitat on the Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.

“We are proud to provide municipalities, conservation organizations and private landowners the resources necessary to improve habitats for wildlife in need of conservation assistance, while enhancing recreational opportunities for people who enjoy hunting, bird watching and other outdoor activities” said Governor Baker.

In its second year, the MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife deemed in greatest conservation need and for game species. The projects will also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation, and complement the ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands.

“Wildlife in special need of conservation as well as game species will benefit directly from these habitat management activities,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr.  “In addition, the sporting community, birders, naturalists, and other wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy improved recreational opportunities.”

“The reality is that 80 percent of Massachusetts’ lands where wildlife is found are owned privately,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “It makes sense as an agency to promote and apply science-based habitat management activities with committed municipal and private landowners, thereby protecting their investment in wildlife and habitat.”

“Protecting and preserving our natural resources is a vital part of Massachusetts’ environmental programming and services,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield).  “I appreciate the Administration’s support of these habitat improvement projects in Sheffield, Hinsdale, Ashfield, Otis and Lenox.”

“Improving and protecting wildlife management habitats is an important investment in maintaining the Commonwealth’s quality of life, and preserving a more sustainable environment which supports a diverse range of species and landscapes,” said State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington).

Report Winter Fish Kills

MassWildlife reminds us that the majority of the fish kills reported to them turn out to be natural events not caused by pollution. During the winter, ice and snow cover can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in ponds. Ice and snow can limit the amount of light that reaches the water column and interfere with photosynthesis and decomposition of organic matter, which in turn can decrease the amount of oxygen available to fish. That may result in winter fish kills. Weedy ponds that are less than 15 feet deep are particularly vulnerable.

Ice anglers may encounter signs of a low oxygen environment when they drill through the ice and notice the smell of rotten eggs or observe sluggish or dying shiners. The odor is hydrogen sulfide gas which is a natural byproduct of low dissolved oxygen environments, and is not likely the result of pollution. Oxygen levels should return to normal shortly after the ice melts in the spring.

If you observe dead fish, contact the Environmental Law Enforcement’s 24-hour radio room at (800) 632-8075. A MassWildlife biologist will review each situation to determine whether the kill is natural or requires a site investigation.

Corrections

In last week’s column about the gold pin freshwater fishermen, I erred twice.   The first error showed Angler of the Year Joshua Christman holding a large carp, whereas the picture caption said that it was a bowfin.  The second was where I listed Shaun Klammer of Adams as receiving two gold pins.  One for having caught a 24 lb 14 oz Northern Pike out of Onota Lake in the Youth Catch and Keep category and another for catching a 43 inch Northern Pike also out of Onota Lake in the Catch & Release category.   Shaun did catch the  24lb 14 oz pike but Jeff Klammer, Shaun’s father, caught the a 43″ pike.  My apologies for both errors.

 

Regarding fishing families, I recommend you read this month’ s Massachusetts Wildlife magazine article entitled, A line that Binds; Fishing, Family and the Lure of the Rez, by editor Troy Gipps.  The article was written about Val Percuoco’s fishing family.  Val, you may recall, caught the 3 lb 8 oz state’s record white perch recently while fishing with her dad Vinny on Wachusett Reservoir.  Val has fished with her dad and Uncle Paul and two sisters, Lynn and Nicole, since childhood.  They have earned countless Sportfishing Award Program pins.  Heck, Val’s younger sister Lynn has 20 pins of her own for 7 different species!

 

Ice Fishing Derby

The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club will be having a kid’s ice fishing derby on Ashfield Lake on Sunday, February 18.  The free derby will run from 8:00 am to noon.  All kids will receive a prize.  Call Joe Miraglia (413) 628-4400 for more info.

 

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