2016 spring turkey harvest totals are tabulated

MassWildlife’s Wild Turkey Project Leader David Scarpitti reported that preliminary harvest figures indicate 3,054 wild turkeys were taken by licensed hunters during the 2016 spring hunting season. According to Scarpitti, this represents the second highest spring season wild turkey harvest since turkey hunting began in the Commonwealth in 1980.  The highest spring season harvest occurred in 2009 when 3,085 turkeys were harvested. This year, 83 turkeys were reported during the one-day youth season, and 2,971 turkeys were reported during the regular four-week season. Some 346 were harvested in Berkshire County and 577 in the Western District.

Above average brood production in 2015 was likely the biggest factor influencing the near record harvest. In addition, winter conditions in 2015-2016 were quite moderate compared to the previous two winters, which likely further enhanced juvenile turkey survival and recruitment.

The 2016 fall turkey season is October 24 through November 5 statewide (except Nantucket) and open to all hunters possessing a valid hunting or sporting license and a wild turkey hunting permit, provided they didn’t harvest their season limit of two in the spring. More turkey hunting information and regulations are posted on the Wild Turkey Hunting page.

August is the last month to participate in the Wild Turkey Brood Survey where all turkey sightings are listed, including jakes and toms. After August 31, completed forms should to be mailed to: Brood Survey, MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see many birds in June, but lately they came on like gangbusters and I am seeing large broods everywhere, some with very small poults for this time of year.

Antlerless Deer Hunting Permits

Hunters who applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit by the July 16 deadline must return to the MassFishHunt licensing system to try to win a permit. The Instant Award Period began on August 1 and continues through December 31. This is NOT a first-come first-served system.

Finding out if you won one is a bit complicated:

Log into the MassFishHunt system with your last name and customer ID, click the Enter Sales button, then click Accept in the Customer Electronic Signature dialog box, then choose Hunting Permits and Stamps from the main menu, then choose Add next to Antlerless Deer Permit, the zone for which you previously applied will appear on the next screen, then click Select to check whether you won a permit.

One of two messages will appear, either “Congratulations! You have been awarded an Antlerless Deer Permit and click check out to purchase it”, OR “Unfortunately you did not win”.

If you won, an Antlerless Deer Permit will be placed in the shopping cart, and you may proceed to check out to complete the $5.00 purchase. These permits will remain in your shopping cart until purchased or expired. Winners should print their permits upon completion of the transaction. All permits expire on December 31.

If you don’t have a computer, visit a MassWildlife office, or a license agent location.  Staff at these locations will help you.

Forest Tours

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) foresters will be leading pre-harvest forest tours of prepared timber sale areas, discussing forest management techniques, providing a view of the trees designated for harvest, and explaining how harvest operations will take place.  A detailed silviculture prescription for each harvesting operation will be provided to attendees.  These tours culminate a public process that included public meetings and a written comment period on each project.

 

The tours will be conducted rain or shine as indicated below.  Attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather and to wear sturdy shoes.  For additional information about the tours and DCR forest management on State Forests, Parks, and Reservations, please contact William Hill, Management Forestry Program Supervisor, at 413-545-3891.

 

Two tours are scheduled for the Berkshires as follows:

 

Pittsfield State Forest, August 16 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. DCR Forester Kevin Podkowka will lead a tour of the 97 acre planned timber sale in a northern hardwood forest.  Meet at the parking area in front of the gate, 1 mile south of Rt. 43 on Potter Mountain Road.  Potter Mountain Road is accessed by taking Rt. 20 west past Hancock Shaker Village to Lebanon Springs, NY.  From Rt. 20 in Lebanon Springs turn right and take Rt. 22 north to Stephentown, NY.  From Rt. 22 in Stephentown turn right and take Rt.43 east for approximately 2.8 miles and Potter Mountain Road will be on the right.  Follow Potter Mountain Road for approximately 1 mile south and the parking area will be on the left.

 

Sandisfield State Forest, August 17 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. DCR Forester Jeff Martin will lead a tour of the 75 acre planned timber sale in a northern red oak forest type.  Meet at the York Lake Day Use Area, from where tour attendees will carpool to the site.  The Day Use Area is .3 miles east from the intersection of Route 183, New Marlborough-Sandisfield Road and East Hill Road in New Marlborough.  The tour of the timber sale will require an approximate 20 minute non strenuous walk to reach the project area.

 

Basic Hunting Course

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. A course will be taught at the Becket Town Hall, at 557 Main Street, on September 12 and 14 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm, and on September 17 from 7:00am to 5:00pm.  Attendance is required at all classes.

 

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

MassWildlife wants to hear from young deer hunters

If you’re one of the 1,339 young adults who participated in the 2015 Youth Deer Hunt Day, MassWildlife wants you to enter a contest to tell them about it.   If you win the contest, they would like to publish it in the fall 2016 issue of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine. They feel that by sharing your experience of the Youth Deer Hunt Day, you will help others understand why hunting is important and may inspire your peers to try hunting.

If you are interested in submitting your story for possible publication, you are urged to review the content suggestions and parameters listed on the MassWildlife web page. They will select the best story or stories, and the winner(s) will receive a free two-year subscription or two-year subscription renewal to Massachusetts Wildlife magazine and 10 copies of the issue in which your hunting article, or a portion thereof, appears.  If you are currently under the age of 18, they will need the written permission of your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to print your article and photographs. That permission can be included with your submission.

They offer some article suggestions such as:

  • When did you first become interested in deer hunting and why?
  • Who was your hunting mentor and how did your mentor help you prepare for your hunt?
    • What does it mean to you to be a hunter?
    • Where did your hunt take place?
    • Did you scout the hunting area prior to your hunt?
    • Describe the day of your hunt.
    • If you harvested a deer, write about it, including field dressing it and dragging it out of  the woods        
  • You are encouraged to write about your hunt regardless of your deer harvest success,

 

  • The maximum word count is 1,500 words
  • Submit a photo taken before, during, or after the hunt.
  • The submission deadline is August 31, 2016. Winners will be notified by September 15, 2016.
  • Submit your story and photographs to: troy.gipps@state.ma.us (Include “Hunting Story Contest – Youth Deer Hunt” in the subject of your email). Include your full name, mailing address, email address, and phone number.

If you have any questions, contact Troy Gipps, Editor, Massachusetts Wildlife magazine at troy.gipps@state.ma.us, 508-389-6307.

Who knows to where this contest may lead. Perhaps to a career in outdoor sports writing.  Perhaps someday you may be the editor of the Massachusetts Wildlife magazine or the outdoor sports columnist for the Berkshire Eagle.

While on the subject of the Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, did you know that this year marks its 60th year of publication?  In commemoration of the  anniversary, a variety of historical articles will be published in the next three 2016 issues highlighting its collective conservation history. A reprint of the cover from May/June 1969 will appear on the next issue. Massachusetts Wildlife brings compelling stories about the environment, conservation, fishing, hunting, natural history, and just about everything related to the outdoors in Massachusetts.

 

Massachusetts Wildlife has been one of my favorite magazines for many years.  I read it from cover to cover and have never thrown a copy away.  In fact, I have copies that go back to 1957.  In those days subscriptions were free and all you had to do to get one was to write to the DFW.  They put out 6 issues a year back then.  Over the years, they have been blessed with great writers, photographers and editors such as Ted Williams and Peter Mirick.  Mirick retired last December after 35 years.  His successor is Troy Gripps

 

Upon assuming the position, Gripps recounted how he caught his first large bass at a pond at the Marlborough Fish & Game Club. “Time spent in that boyhood wilderness has led to my life as a hunter and fisherman, outdoor writer and nature photographer, wilderness canoeist, land trust volunteer, and father of two boys — whom I have taken to the shore of a similar Massachusetts pond with fishing poles in hand”, he wrote, “and now, as I begin my editorship of this fine publication, which has entertained and educated its readers for over 60 years, I am both mindful of the tireless efforts of those who came before me and hopeful that through these pages, we can all gain a greater appreciation of the natural world and be moved to preserve, protect and properly steward the environment upon which we all depend for our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.” We wish him the best of luck.

 

Incidentally, a two-year subscription (8 issues) is only $10.00.  Go to mass.gov/dfw/magazine for subscription information and to view a preview of the forthcoming issue.

 

Basic Hunter Education Courses

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course which is designed for first-time hunters. The Pittsfield High School, located at 300 East Street, Pittsfield, will be conducting this course on September 6, 8, 13, 16, 20 and 22, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) located at 565 Fairview St., Lee, is having its course on September 12 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and October 1 from 8:00am to 2:00pm.  To enroll, call 508-389-7830 ASAP as students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email.

 

Gun Safety Course

Firearms safety instructor Rob McDermott will be conducting an all-purpose gun safety course good for License to Carry on Saturday, August 13.  For more information, click onto the SSC website:  www.stockbridgesportsmensclub.org for more information.

 

Steak & Lobster Bake

The LSA is having a Steak & Lobster Bake fundraiser on August 6 at its clubhouse. Doors open at 4pm with dinner served at 5:30pm.  The cost is $50/pp, for ages 17 and under $25/pp.  For tickets call Virginia at 413-446-5404

Challenging year for the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery

 

 

The Berkshire National Fish Hatchery in Hartsville-New Marlborough, MA  is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Click onto its web page http://www.berksfish.com  and click onto the Hatchery Timeline to follow its history from its beginning as a hatchery in 1916.

 

The hatchery actually shut down in 1994.  In 1996, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) initiated discussions with others to re-open it and in 1999, a Memorandum of Agreement between US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Western Massachusetts Center for Sustainable Aquaculture at Hampshire College was signed, paving the way for the facility to be re-opened.   The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation formed and signed a formal agreement with the USFWS in 2006.

 

The Foundation’s mission is “To identify and deliver educational projects, raise funds, and work jointly with the USFWS to maintain, protect and improve fish populations, habitat, watersheds and ecosystems through increased public awareness, appreciation and understanding of the benefits of conservation of these important natural resources”. The Foundation works in cooperation with the USFWS to support research and development of fish species.

 

In March 2007, the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery was recognized in the nation’s capital as the only federal fish hatchery to be run completely by volunteer staff.  George Emmons, LeRoy Thorpe, John Doelman, Phil Gunzinger and others were instrumental in establishing the Foundation.  Emmons recently retired and the others have since passed beyond the river bend.

 

George Emmons served 20 years on the Berkshire Hatchery Foundation Board.  He served as its chairman, treasurer and clerk ….simultaneously!    He was instrumental in getting the Lobster Fest started, youth fishing derbies, scholarships, etc., established and supervised the Foundation’s day to day operations.  He and his wife, Jan, have moved and settled on the South Shore in Mattapoisett to be near their children.

 

David Ziegler, of Monterey, was elected to serve as the new Chairman, replacing Emmons.  He has served on its board for many years and has been heavily involved in set-up arrangements for the Lobster Fests, children’s fishing derbies, etc.   Linda Thorpe, also of Monterey, was elected Treasurer/Clerk.  She also has been a long time board member and strong supporter of the Foundation.

 

The on-site USFWS staff, Jeff Mosher and Tom Reeves, maintained the facilities in good condition and of course, spawned out and raised lake and brook trout. The lake trout which are raised in the Berkshire Hatchery play an important role in reestablishing/sustaining lake trout in the Great Lakes.  The success ratio of spawned to hatched fish is phenomenal, and is a testimony to the superb water quality bubbling up on Hatchery property.  The Hatchery has been raising primarily the Klondike strain of lake trout, but this year it will begin raising the Seneca strain of lake trout.

 

Over 17,000 brook trout were raised this year and Jeff  Mosher has arranged and transported  most of them to the 26 fishing clubs which conducted derbies open to the public.  The Hatchery cannot solicit sale of fish but the Foundation can receive volunteer donations to help cover costs needed to produce the fish.  The receipt of these donations enables it to provide two environmental scholarships to local students, periodically stock nearby rivers with brook trout and conduct outdoor and educational activities.

 

Mosher has taken on a new position in a USFWS hatchery in Wisconsin.  Although the Board was saddened to learn of his departure, it was pleased to hear of his promotion and wish him, his wife Kirsten and their expected baby the very best.  He will be missed. Clubs wishing to obtain brook trout from the hatchery in the future should contact USFWS staff member Tom Reeves.

 

During this past year, the Hatchery supplied the Micmac (North Eastern Native American tribe) with 800 lbs. of lake trout that had to be culled due to space restrictions.  They drove down from Maine with ice boxes and processed the fish onsite.  They then took their 800 lb bounty to the elders of the tribe where they ceremoniously reminded their people of the heritage and diet habits of their ancestors.

 

The Hatchery Foundation will be sponsoring other events during the summer, including monthly fishing derbies, hosting summer camp and Cub Scout camping trips and Monterey Days activities so be sure to periodically check out its web page or Facebook page  for details.  The next kid’s derby will be on Saturday, August 20 at the lower pond.

 

With the departure of George Emmons and Jeff Mosher, this year will be a challenging year for the Board of the Hatchery Foundation.  Added to that, the USFWS staff will be reduced to one person (Tom Reeves).  Although challenged, the Board is committed to continue the above-mentioned successful programs.  It could use a few good people to help out.

 

You might want to celebrate its 100th anniversary and attend its Lobster Fest on August 21 at the hatchery.  Catered by The Other Brother Darryl’s seafood store, it will feature a beverage, raw clams and oysters, steamed clams, clam chowder, a lobster, corn on the cob, baked potato, etc.   Cost is $65 per person.  There will also be one or two guest speakers, to be named later.

 

Incidentally, the Foundation is a 501©(3) organization, so donations are tax deductable and graciously accepted.

 

Canoe introduction

On Wednesday, July 27 from 3 to 6 PM the Housatonic Valley Association will be conducting a free introduction to canoeing on a flat water stretch of the Housatonic River in South Lee. Canoes and equipment provided. Learn how to safely enter and exit a canoe, the basic strokes, appropriate attire and pre-trip preparation.  Enjoy a short paddle upstream to enjoy beautiful views of Beartown State Forest.  Families with children 6yrs+ welcome.  Program support provided by Housatonic Heritage. Preregistration required.  Call HVA at 413-394-9796 or email adixon@hvatoday.org.

Huge Brown Trout caught by local man out of Lake Ontario

 

On the May 21-22 weekend  Eric Kozlowski of Cheshire,  his father, John, and two friends, Kevin Wojtkowski and Kyle Halverson went on a 2 day fishing trip to Lake Ontario.  They had chartered a boat, Trout One Charters, and were sailing out of Mexico Bay, NY.

On the second day of the trip, it was an overcast morning and the lake was “calm, like a pool table”, as John put it.   They were trolling in about 10 feet of water using a stickbait.   At around 6:10 AM, Eric hooked into what everyone thought was a king salmon, because of the fight and all the runs it took. Twenty minutes later, as the fish got closer and could be netted, it turned out to be a monster brown trout. It weighed 22 lbs 4 oz., was 32 inches long with a 25 1/2 inch girth.

It was a trout of a lifetime for Eric. Had he taken that fish during the Spring 2016 LOC Derby, (Lake Ontario Derby) he would have won it hands down, as the largest brown recorded in that prestigious derby weighed 16 lbs 2 oz.   He intends to have the fish mounted.

John charters Trout One every year. On this trip, the group caught 6 brown and 15 lake trout,  with most of them being released.

Up until recently, Trout One Charters was owned and operated by Jim Carpenter, of Adams, MA who chartered on Lake Ontario for many years.

 

Bryan Kopala is an avid outdoorsman who has been fishing on Lake Ontario since he was 12 years old. His love of the lake inspired him to take a position as the first mate on Trout One in 1995 working alongside his mentor and friend Jim Carpenter. In 2000 he became a licensed charter captain through the United States Coast Guard.  He recently bought the business from Carpenter.

Since 1995, Trout One has won several trout/salmon team tournaments including the 2006 and 2011 Oswego County Pro-Am, and the 2007, 2009, and 2013 Little Salmon River Challenge. In addition, Trout One clients have won 1st place in the 2012 Fall LOC Derby salmon division, 3rd place in 2015 Fall LOC Derby salmon division, and 2nd place in the 2007 Fall LOC Derby brown trout division.

 

Congratulations to the Buckshots

The Buckshots, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association youth shooting team, recently brought home medals from the Baystate Games.   Greer Hines placed first and Ben Haddad placed third in their respective Divisions in Double Trap Shooting.  In addition, both also placed third in 16 yard Singles Trap with Hines scoring 83 and Haddad scoring 89. As a result of these wins, they have qualified for the State Games of America to be held in 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Congratulations to them, their teammates Brian DuBois and Alex Kusick and Coach Karl Hines.

 

Paddling the Housatonic River

On Tuesday, July 19, from 3PM to 6PM, the Housatonic Valley Association is leading a 6 mile paddle trip along the Housatonic River through Lee to South Lee. Some paddling experience is preferred as there are sections of quick water and downed trees to negotiate.  Participants can reserve a canoe or register to bring their own canoe/kayak. The cost is $20/ adult (nonmember) or $15/adult (member) or family rate $35 (nonmember families) and $25 (member families.) Preregistration required.  Call HVA at 413-394-9796 or email adixon@hvatoday.org. Program support provided by Housatonic Heritage.

Jack Silvernale

Jack Silvernale, from Millerton, NY is an esteemed member of the Berkshire Beagle Club as well as a highly respected field trial judge known throughout the Northeast.  Jack has judged at least 200 Field trials from Michigan to Maine and as far South as Virginia, and most points in between.  He has acted as Field Trial Chairman at the Berkshire Beagle Club for several years.  His own dogs have won many field championships.

 

Well, recently Jack took a terrible fall at work when scaffolding fell from underneath him at work, 20 feet to the ground.  He was transported to Hartford hospital by LifestarHe was transported to Hartford hospital by LifestarHe was transported to Hartford hospital by LifestarHe was transferred to Hartford Hospital by LifeStar.  In the fall he sustained serious injuries to his ribs, collar bone, neck and back.  He went through surgery on his back and they fused bones in his neck, and put two plates and over 100 pins in his back.  They had Jack up and walking (not very much) but he was happy he was able to just wash his hands.

 

Unfortunately, Jack does not have health insurance and won’t be able to return to work for some time. .  A gofundme (official site for raising funds) has been set up for Jack’s medical bills at https://www.gofundme.com/29kxwxq4.  Any help would be greatly appreciated by Jack and his family.

New water pipeline planned for McLaughlin Fish Hatchery

 

On June 24, Governor Charlie Baker and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton joined anglers and state and local officials at the McLaughlin Trout Hatchery in Belchertown, MA for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the construction of a nearly mile-long water pipeline and hydropower turbine that will supply six million gallons of water daily to the hatchery, produce renewable energy, and reduce the hatchery’s electric demand.

The McLaughlin Hatchery is located near the Swift River and is the largest of five MassWildlife trout hatcheries.  It is responsible for half of the state’s entire annual trout production, (approximately 225,000 pounds) with a “retail value” exceeding $2 million. The hatchery operation includes an egg-hatching and fry-rearing facility producing nearly 750,000 fry (very young fish) which are then distributed to the other state hatcheries to grow large enough to stock. A staff fish pathologist monitors fish health and water quality for this and the other hatcheries to ensure high quality fish production.  Fish raised at the McLaughlin Hatchery are stocked in nearly 500 rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout Massachusetts.

According to MassWildlife, water for the hatchery is currently pumped uphill from the Swift River to the hatchery resulting in annual electricity costs of approximately $60,000.00. Leaves, snow, ice, and other debris from the river can block the intake screens, and impede water flow to the pumps. If the water flow is blocked, the pumps automatically shut down to prevent damage and hatchery staff must respond within minutes to prevent disruption to hatchery operations.

During the summer when the Quabbin Reservoir discharges surface water into the Swift River, water temperatures can exceed 72oF creating potential problems for the hatchery including fish mortality, disease, and parasite outbreaks. Warm water temperatures lead to decreased dissolved oxygen levels and increased stress for the fish resulting in lower fish growth rates. Administratively, decreased dissolved oxygen levels and warm water temperatures trigger water quality discharge permit concerns.

The new pipeline project will tap water from the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct and provide the McLaughlin Hatchery with a reliable, gravity-fed source of cold water, eliminating the environmental/biological risks associated with the water withdrawal from the Swift River. The result is an energy cost savings of $60,000.00 per year. The project also includes installation of a hydropower turbine on the pipeline. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has received a grant to fully cover the cost of the hydropower unit which will generate almost $53,000.00 in annual revenue for the MWRA. According to MassWildlife, this project is a win – win scenario for the MWRA, the hatchery, and the Commonwealth.

The estimated completion cost, including construction, is $4.4 million with an estimated completion date of the end of 2016 or early 2017.

Mountain Trail Upgrades

By now, you probably know about the proposed mountain trail upgrades on Pittsfield State Forest and October Mountain State Forest which were recently proposed by the DCR.  Reporter Dick Lindsay did an excellent article about them in the Wednesday, July 6, 2006 issue of the Berkshire Eagle “DCR reveals plans for trail upgrades” and there is little I can add.

 

I should emphasis that the DCR is serious about closing, blocking or naturalizing certain illegal off road vehicle trails.  They intend to monitor them and immediately close any re-opened trails or new trails.    They intend to install wildlife cameras and engage DCR Rangers and Environmental Police in sting operations.  They are especially concerned with the illegal trails in the Sykes Mountain area of October Mountain State Forest, north of New Lenox Road.  A word to the wise, they can also follow those illegal trails to their origination points.

 

They intend to enhance public information, education and signage to raise awareness of illegal trail issues and impacts    However; they will work cooperatively with willing stakeholders to create new approved connections, maintain legal trails and monitor trail networks.

 

The draft plan and accompanying maps are available for viewing on the DCR websight.  A hard copy is available for review at the DCR West Regional Headquarters on South Street in Pittsfield, MA.  Public comments on the draft plan will be received until August 1 online or by writing to the DCR.

 

Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt

Applications for the 2016 Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt are now available at the DCR deer hunt web page (www.mass.gov/dcr/deerhunt).  Completed applications must be submitted by August 15 to be eligible for the lottery drawing in September. Beginning this year, all applications must be submitted online and there is no longer an application fee.

Applicants can use any computer with internet access, including those at public libraries, to complete the application form. During the application period, staff at the Quabbin Visitor Center (485 Ware Road, Belchertown) will be available to assist hunters with the online application on Saturdays from 9:00 A.M. to noon and Wednesdays from noon to 3:00 P.M.

The 2016 controlled hunt will occur during the state shotgun season in the Pelham, New Salem, Petersham and Prescott sections of the Quabbin Reservation. Applicants may apply in groups with a minimum of two hunters up to a maximum of six hunters on each application. On September 7, approximately 1,100 permits will be drawn based upon hunter’s license numbers and successful applicants will receive written notification from the DCR by early October. For more information, call the Quabbin Visitor Center at (413) 323-7221.

Truckload of goodies raffle winners

Karen Kruszyna, spokesperson for the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club recently announced the winners of its Summer Sizzler Raffle. They are:  First Prize winner of the whole truckload – Angela Swistak of Cheshire, 2nd Prize winner was Missie Baker of Hancock, 3rd Prize – Rick Moffett of Adams, 4th Prize – Carol Daniels of Cheshire and 5th Prize –Ashley Yarmey of Hinsdale.

Veterans helped by Healing Waters

 

 

Last May my wife Jan and I were camping at the Indian Hollow Campground along the East Branch of the Westfield River in Chesterfield, MA.  The Massachusetts/Rhode Island Council of Trout Unlimited (TU) rented the camping area for the weekend and delegates from both state’s TU chapters were there to conduct business and do a little fly fishing.

 

Next to our campsite was a sizeable group of men.   I commented to Jan that we wouldn’t get much sleep that night with that many guys there probably partying all night.  I knew the group leader, Bill Manser, from Royalston MA, a TU member, and inquired about the group. He explained the group was made up of veterans and mentors participating in a therapeutic fishing trip as part Project Healing Waters.

 

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc.™  (not to be confused with Wounded Warriors) is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.

The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center (MVOC) in Gardner, MA joined the program and runs its group at its Stallings campus in Winchendon where they meet bi-weekly.  The idea behind Healing Waters is simple – to provide a therapeutic and fun outlet for physically or mentally disabled vets by teaching them the basics of fly fishing, casting, tying, and rod building, and then going out on fishing trips to ideal spots such as the Indian Hollow campground.

Nationwide, Healing Waters raises its own money with a budget of close to $3 million and administrative costs are kept low, in the 15 % range, reserving as much as possible to fund trips and provide gear for the vets who take part.  The entire program is completely free to the Veterans.   In addition to funding from Healing Waters, the MVOC group is sponsored by the non-profits TU and the New England Fly Tyers.

The group is open to any veteran who has a disability, whether physical or mental.  “ 95% of what we have here is post-traumatic stress,” said Manser. With that in mind, MVOC counselor Michael Young is the therapeutic support for the group, joining Manser and the volunteer mentors who bring a variety of outdoor skills to the group, some of them being vets themselves.

Later that day, I saw them out fly fishing in the river, each with his mentor, and each doing a good job of fly casting.

Jan and I had no problem with the vets that night.  There were no drugs or alcohol at their campsite.   During the middle of the night I saw a small campfire still ablaze, but there was no noise.  Some guys were standing around it talking low with their mentors or with one another.

Although they brought their own food, the TU Council invited them to its own picnic so that they could co-mingle.  It was at that time that I had a chance to talk to a few of them.  There were veterans from Viet Nam, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  One veteran, Mike Bousquet, really got involved with the group and recently received its Participant of the Year award for New England from Deputy Regional Coordinator Richard Diamond.  Nominated for the award by Manser, Bousquet heard about the program while living at Hero Homestead in Leominster, a transitional housing facility for veterans run by the nonprofit Veteran Homestead.  He had been an avid angler throughout his life and recalled that after his first meeting spent tying a fly, he went out with the group that weekend and was successful in catching fish.

“Fishing is a pastime to me, something that I can stay calm with even when I’m not with the group.  I enjoy many, many things about it – the serenity about the environment and where you are.   It’s been a blessing.”

“He started as a participant and has now worked up to be a mentor, so it’s an accomplishment,” said Manser

John Sherwin, an Iraq vet said that Manser has saved his life.  “He helped restore some hope.  Sometimes the right person being there makes all of the difference…….someone who is interested.”    The mentors are dedicated, skilled and passionate in what they do.   According to Manser, some mentors travel great distances to attend the meetings.  Also, there would be no work or volunteers were it not for the generous donations of gear and outfits.

I couldn’t help but feel for the Viet Nam veterans who are still struggling after nearly fifty years.   I believe no one who returns from serving their country in war, comes back the same.  Some come back with physical scars, others with invisible ones.  Some come back in coffins.  Some turn to drugs or alcohol, get into trouble, end up homeless or in prison or take their own lives.  They need help, understanding and compassion to get over the hurdles.

With funding available and the group thriving with the help of volunteer staff, Manser encourages more veterans to join so they can be helped.  Veterans or volunteers interested in participating can reach Manser at (978)895-5261 or bmanser@msn.com.   Its home website is projecthealingwaters.org, and facebook page is project healing waters – Winchendon.  Donations are always happily and gratefully accepted.

So how does fly fishing help?    Perhaps it is as fly fishing author Tom Meade wrote in his 1994 book entitled Essential Fly Fishing, “The rhythm of the rod carries your body, mind and spirit to the water.  Whether you catch a fish or not, the water will always give you a little of its strength, some of its energy and much of its peace.”

 

Mountain trail plans to be discussed

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will be holding a Public Meeting on the Draft Trail Plans for the Pittsfield and October Mountain State Forests on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 from 6:30 to7:30 PM at the DCR West Region Headquarters at 740 South Street, Pittsfield, MA.

 

It will be presenting an overview of the Draft Trail Plan’s contents and recommendations, and inviting public comments. The plan and accompanying maps are available for viewing on the DCR website at http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/public-outreach/public-meetings/. It will also be available for review at the DCR West Region Headquarters on South Street and the DCR Planning Office at 136 Damon Road, Northampton, during business hours, beginning on June 30.

 

Public comments on the plan may be submitted to DCR until August 1, 2016, either online at http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/public-outreach/submit-public-comments/ or by writing to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02114.

 

If you frequent these mountains, I recommend that you allow yourself some time to review this plan.  It is 54 pages long, not including the 4 pages of maps.  Take the time to read and digest it. For me, reading about 10 pages a day and writing notes or comments works.    Quite frankly, I am impressed with the work and thought that went into it and it certainly deserves our serious consideration.

 

Youth Outreach Fishing Derby

The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, with the help from members of the Cheshire Rod  & Gun Club, Adams Outdoor for Youth and others held its Youth Outreach Fishing Derby at Reynolds Pond in Cheshire earlier this month. This year they hosted 25 kids from the “State Street T” group from North Adams.

 

They got to enjoy the fishing experience with local sportsmen helping them bait their hooks, cast lines, catch fish and clean them if they wanted to bring them home to eat. While at the derby, they all had a tasty lunch and later went home with new fishing outfits and great memories.

 

Thanks to Karen Kruszyna of Cheshire for providing the picture of the young lady angler.  It is one of my favorite fishing pictures.

 

Youth Rifle League

The Stockbridge Sportsman’s Club Youth Rifle league will run from July 6 to August 24 on Wednesday nights from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.  Registration will be on July 6 in the banquet hall at the club at 5:00 PM.   This will also be the first night of the league. The cost is $40 per child and they will need their own eye and ear protection. Children do not need to be members of the club in order to join the league. Applications can be found on club website at stockbridgesportmansclub.org.

 

State record lake trout follow-up

I received quite a few comments after last week’s article regarding the record lake trout which was caught out of Quabbin Reservoir recently.  Readers may recall that it weighed 25 lbs 7 oz.  Please allow me to address some of them here:

 

Why no picture of the fish?   Well there appears to have been only one picture taken of the fish with the successful angler William Roy of Palmer, MA.  I forwarded it to the Eagle with the write-up, but unfortunately, the quality was not good (grainy) and the Eagle could not use it.  To see a picture of that fish, click onto the MassWildlife page on Facebook and scroll down to around June 8.    If you are willing to wait to see a better picture of it, I think it will be detailed in MassWildlife’s July newsletter.

 

What was the previous Massachusetts record lake trout?  It weighed 24 lbs 0 oz caught out of Wachusett Reservoir by Michael Sienkiewicz in 2004.

 

Did Roy really catch the fish in 10 feet of water?  No, I worded that wrong.  Roy was trolling the lure at a depth of 10 feet below the surface.  Quabbin Reservoir averages over 50 feet in depth and I’m sure he was trolling in deeper water.  If he was trolling his lure in 10 feet of water, he would have been hooking up on the bottom all day long.

 

How old was that fish?  That’s difficult to say.  It depends on the lake that they live in.  In some lakes like the Great Lakes they grow faster because of the abundance of food fish.  Lake trout on bigger lakes have been reported to reach nearly 70 years of age, although 10-20 is more typical for fish that reach maturity.  Only on larger lakes do lake trout even break the 50-pound barrier and grow bigger than 3.5 feet.  The biggest recorded lake trout weighed 102 pounds and was caught in a gill net on Lake Athabasca, Saskatchewan.

 

Scientists usually gauge the age of fish by the rings on their scales. But since lake trout have small scales, they may have been underestimating their ages for many years. Today experts use the otoliths (inner ear bones) and sections of their fin rays to age lake trout.

 

Thank you for bringing the errors and omissions to my attention.

Bateman derby nets $5,000 for Jimmy Fund

 

According to Steve Bateman, organizer of the 23rd annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby, over 220 anglers registered for the event on Saturday, June 4 at the Onota Lake pavilion.  Thanks to them and the numerous sponsors, the derby realized its $5000 goal.    This derby has county-wide support with many sponsors digging deep into their pockets, possibly because so many people’s lives are touched by cancer these days. The weather that day couldn’t be nicer nor the food tastier. Here are the derby winners:

Children’s Heaviest Game Fish Category: 1st Place:  Jason Sweetser – rainbow trout – 2 lbs 5 oz, 2nd Place: Rebecca Stimpson – rainbow trout – 2 lbs 2 oz, 3rd Place:  Rose Proper – rainbow trout 2 lbs 2 oz.

Children’s Heaviest Non-Game Fish Category:  1st Place: Brody Baumgartner – white perch – 9 oz, 2nd Place: Marissa Wendling – bullhead – 9 oz, 3rd Place: Brandon Barde – pumpkinseed – 7 oz.

 

Adult Heaviest Game Fish Category:  1st Place: Alex Kent – Largemouth bass – 3 lbs 8 oz, 2nd Place: Steven Fones Sr. – Largemouth bass – 3 lbs 7 oz, 3rd Place Martin Farrell – Rainbow trout 2 lbs 7 oz.

 

Special Heaviest Fish:  Bass – Tim Lambert largemouth bass 3 lbs 9 oz, Perch/Crappie – Shaun Hereforth  – crappie 1 lb 3 oz, Carp – Matt Clark 11 lbs 1 oz common carp, Trout (adult) – Dave Christman – rainbow trout 2 lbs 10 oz, Trout (child) – Dylan Lambert – rainbow trout 2 lbs 6 oz.

The Sportsman Award, won by 13 year old Angel Sayers, was well deserved. According to Steve Bateman, she was out there all day fishing sometimes over her waist in water.

Dylan Lambert was the winner of the award dedicated in memory of Chris Porter,   Alex Kent was the winner of the award dedicated in memory of John and Thelma Drury.   All passed away in the last year or so.  Six kids won bicycles that day.

 

Report Wild Turkey Sightings Sportsmen and women, birders, landowners, and other wildlife enthusiasts are encouraged to assist with the annual Wild Turkey Brood Survey. MassWildlife conducts a survey from June through August each year to evaluate turkey brood numbers. “The brood survey serves as a long-term index of reproduction,” explains Dave Scarpitti, Turkey Project Leader. “It helps us determine productivity and allows us to compare long-term reproductive success, while providing some estimation of fall harvest potential.”   Turkey nesting success can vary annually in response to weather conditions, predator populations, and habitat characteristics.

 

New this year, they are asking people to record observations of male turkeys, so be sure to count all jakes and tom turkeys that are seen.  Scarpitti also points out that citizen involvement in this survey is a cost-effective means of gathering useful data, and he encourages all interested people to participate.  A new turkey brood survey form is posted on the agency website. You are encouraged to look carefully when counting turkey broods as the very small poults may be difficult to see in tall grass or brush. Multiple sightings of the same brood can also be noted.

 

The survey period runs from June 1 – August 31. Completed forms should to be mailed to: Brood Survey, DFW Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

 

New Bowhunting/Archery Workshops

Here in the Berkshires, there has been a need for bowhunting instructors for some time.  Well, MassWildlife is introducing two new archery programs: Explore Archery and Explore Bowhunting.   Educators from town recreation centers, school groups, 4-H, scouting groups, and other community groups looking to provide a new learning opportunity might consider implementing one, or both, of these new programs.

Explore Bowhunting is designed to help instructors teach outdoor skills to students age 11 and older. Using 23 versatile lessons and hands-on activities, students gain confidence interacting with the environment and strengthen their appreciation for wildlife and the woods. MassWildlife trains and certifies instructors and offers all Explore Bowhunting equipment for loan free of charge.

Explore Archery is an international style target shooting program that promotes a lifelong interest in the sport of archery to participants of all ages. Again, MassWildlife trains educators and allows them to borrow equipment free of charge. This allows any certified instructor the ability to create an archery program in their area.

Both programs have a mandatory training course and one can attend either training workshop or both. The local workshop will be held at MassWildlife Western District Office, 88 Old Windsor Road, Dalton on July 18.   The Explore Bowhunting workshop will start at 8:00 am and run until 1:00 pm.  The Explore Archery course will run from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.

For more information about these workshops, check out the MassWildlife Explore Bowhunting and Explore Archery pages.

Encroachment

Are you encroaching on DFW’s Wildlife Management Areas?  If you are, better look out.  They have new tools for spotting encroachment and other illegal activity.  Using aerial photography, GIS surveys and official survey plan anchor points they can see exactly where their boundary lines are.  If you have a shed on their property or are mowing parts of it, etc., they will know and may come knocking at your door.

 

Don’t rely on obtaining ownership through adverse possession.   According to the DFW legal department, there is no adverse possession with state property.

MA Fish & Wildlife Board gets status update on deer

 

 

The Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board conducted its May meeting at the Western District Headquarters of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) in Dalton, MA, on May 26.  At that meeting, DFW Deer Biologist David Stainbrook presented his 2015 deer review and made recommendations for the 2016 Deer Permit Allocations.

 

The Statewide 2016 deer harvest was as follows:  Youth hunt – 146, Archery – 4,187, Shotgun – 4,088 and Primitive Firearms – 1,633, totaling 10,054.  The breakdown was as follows:  5,814 adult bucks, 3,439 does and 801 button bucks.  The total number was down from the 2014 harvest by 6% and the 5 year average by 4%.  Stainbrook noted that last year’s deer hunting season was unique in that due to the lack of snow, there was an abundance of food and the deer didn’t have to move as frequently or far to get to the food.  That could explain why fewer deer were seen and taken this last deer season.  Neighboring states also had similar experiences.  (Use that as your excuse for not getting a deer last year.)

 

Because antlerless harvests vary according to the permits issued, DFW monitors the adult bucks for trends as long as changes in hunting hours, success and reporting rate are factored in. In the Western District (zones 1 through 4S) here is the 2015 breakdown of bucks harvested by all methods:  Zone 1 – 218, up 25% from previous year and up 39% from 5 year average, Zone 2 – 417, up 4% from prior year and up 25% from 5 year average; Zone 3 – 338, up 9% from previous year and down 3% from 5 year average; Zone 4N – 343, down 2% from prior year but up 10% from 5 year average; Zone 4S – 174, up 14% from prior year and up 7% from 5 year average.

 

These figures make up part of the formula for determining deer permit allocations.  Another factor is the age structure.  In our district, 50% of the 2015 harvest was made up of deer 2 ½ years and older.  That tells the biologists that there is no unbalanced age structure and consequently no overharvesting taking place.  These figures have been consistent over time.  In Zone 1 – 3, the population is increasing, in Zone 4 -5 it is stable, in Zones 6 and 8 the population is on the lower end of the desired range.

 

Based upon these statistics and other factors, Stainbrook’s recommendation to the Board was to keep the 2016 antlerless allocations unchanged in all zones except for Zone 6 which will be reduced from 450 to 300, Zone 8 from 2,800 to 2,500 and the Quabbin area reduced to 500.  In our area, Zone 1 allocations will be 400, Zone 2 – 175, Zone 3 – 1,100, Zone 4N – 375 and Zone 4S 275.

 

There will be no changes in the youth permits this year but DFW is closely monitoring them.   Last year (the program’s 1st year) some 1,339 youths participated in the one-day special hunt, bagging 146 deer of which 90 were antlerless.  This year, they expect around 2,000 kids participating.  The numbers of antlerless deer harvested by them may very well affect deer densities in some zones.

 

Last year, the Board was concerned about the effects of the historic 2014-2015 snow totals, especially in eastern Massachusetts, and what impact, if any, they had on the deer population.  To help determine that, deer biologists analyzed dead deer from across the state to determine the causes of death.  A good method for determining if death was caused by starvation is the analysis of the fat content in the bone marrow.  The analyses concluded that the fat contents were about normal and there was no evidence of massive starvation.  There were a few instances where it appeared some died of starvation, but that was in areas of high deer densities in eastern Massachusetts, where some towns closed their borders to deer hunting.

 

Another good indicator is an increase in the direct mortality of fawns over the winter.  Biologists did not see any drop in the 1 ½ year old deer harvested in 2015.  There are other indicators of winter mortality, called indirect mortality.  That is where a deer or fawn survived the winter but their antler mass was less than in normal years; ie not enough protein to grow the body and the antlers.  The 2015 harvest did not indicate any unusually low antler mass.   Also, according to Stainbrook, there was no drop in fawn reproduction across the state last spring.

 

As a result of all of the analyses, it was concluded that the historic winter did not seriously impact the Massachusetts deer population.

 

Bow Hunting Course

There will be a MassWildlife Bow Hunter Education Course at the Worthington Rod & Gun Club, 458 Dingle Road Rte. 112, Worthington, MA on Sunday, June 12 from 8 AM to 4:30 PM.  Students must attend the all day class to successfully complete the course.  Call 508-389-7830 to enroll; classes are filled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email.

 

Spring Trout Stocking

DFW Western District Manager, Andrew Madden has announced that the spring trout stocking has been completed for 2016.  I must say they outdid themselves this year with large, beautiful fish.  If you have been paying attention to the sizes of the winning trout in the fishing derbies, you have to agree, for it was not uncommon to see trout caught which weighed in excess of 2 lbs.  Now, all that has to be done is for you and the youngsters to catch some.  Tight lines!