No telling what you may catch while ice fishing


Sometimes you might hook onto weird stuff while ice fishing such an old boot or something from the bottom of the lake. Why, just a week or so ago, a buddy of mine pulled in a beer can. Somehow, his fishing line and hook wrapped around it. Hmmm, wonder how that happened.

Sunday, February 4 was a nice sunny day and Cory Walton of Hinsdale was out with his buddies ice fishing on Plunkett Lake in Hinsdale, MA. They had set up about 25 yards from the shoreline. Around 9:30 AM they saw a critter resembling a weasel along the shoreline near where some ice had buckled up. They didn’t pay too much attention to it, and were just enjoying the day.

Around 1:00 PM, Cory’s tip-up flag went up and he went to attend to it. As he was approaching it, he could see the tip-up shaking in the hole, a good indication that a sizeable fish was on the end of the line. When he got to the hole and checked his tip-up, he saw that all of the line was stripped from the reel, except where the line was tied to it. He set the hook and started hauling in the fish. Whatever was on the end of his line under the ice didn’t fight like a fish, but it was moving. When he started to pull it through the hole, he was shocked to see an angry river otter. Cory got it half way out of the hole, but it braced itself on the ice with its two front legs and refused to be pulled out of the hole.

The guys were all surprised and started hooting and yelling. The otter made a fierce spin, shook the hook and slipped back into the hole. After it got loose, the guys checked all around the hole for blood to see if it had been hurt. Fortunately, there was no signs of blood or other bodily damages.

Cory said that there was no open water anywhere for the otter to get into the lake and under the ice except for that buckled ice near the shoreline. Between that area and his tip-up there was no open water. Somehow it got into the water, swam under the ice to his live bait and took it. Presumably it had swum up from the Housatonic River in the Hinsdale Flats area, up Frissel Brook and into Plunkett Lake.

Well, fishermen have been known to stretch the truth a tad and I was a little skeptical after hearing this fishy story. It certainly was a classic requiring some imagination. Well, the skepticism disappeared when I actually saw a video of the event which was posted on Facebook by Cory’s buddy Justin Russell. Nope, this was definitely not fake news. Hmmm, I wonder if there is a State freshwater fishing award for otters.


The 32nd annual Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing Derby, which was held on Sunday, February 11 at Onota Lake was another success. In spite of the rainy weather, a nice crowd participated. The winners were:

Kids 12+ under
Caesen Kendall, 3.9 lbs Brown Trout
Dominic Curtin, 3 lbs Pickerel*
Miranda Dygun, 1.2 lbs Pickerel

*It’s interesting that Dominic Curtin’s mother, Eden Curtin, won this event when she was a child. According to Steve Bateman, she won it in 1995 or 1996 by catching a large Atlantic salmon. Its nice to see such traditions being passed on from generation to generation.

Young Adult 13-17
Rick Armstrong, 3.2 lbs Pickerel
Ben Mancini, 1.4 lbs Pickerel
Colby Gray 1.0 Lbs Brown Trout

Adults 18+
Eric Moser, 8.8 lbs Pike
Todd Wich, 6.2 lbs Pike
Ralph Wendling 5.0 lbs Pike

Congratulations to all.

The 13th annual Tom Wren Memorial Ice Fishing Derby will be held on Saturday February 24 from 6AM to 3 PM on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield. Sign- ins will be in the marked gray camper shanty just on the ice off the public right away at Narragansett Park in Lanesboro. The gray camper shanty will have a big banner marking it. The cost is: Adults – $10 and children – $5. All cash brought in will be paid out in prizes. Prizes will be awarded for the top three heaviest fish in both adult and children’s categories. Final weigh is at 3 PM at the sign-in station. Participants are asked to please bring a big pail or something to transport the fish to weigh-in and ensure a healthy release.

Firearms safety course

A live fire NRA & Massachusetts State Police Certified Firearms Safety Course will be held on Saturday February 24th at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club in Cheshire, MA. This is to qualify MA residents and non- residents alike for the MA License -To- Carry or FID Card. This will be a hands-on live firing, one day course. A full lunch will be provided and a $10 gift certificate to Pete’s Gun Shop. The cost is $100 which covers all ammo, safety gear, class materials, certificates, a hardcover NRA textbook and food. It runs from 9AM to about 4:30PM. Be there by 8:45 AM to sign in. Interested parties are asked to pre-register by calling or stopping in at Pete’s Gun Shop at 413-743-0780.

The Massachusetts LTC is now recognized for concealed carry in 29 states including:
Arizona, Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

This list is constantly being added to. Check with Pete’s periodically for new additions. Residents of Vermont can get the MA Non-Resident LTC by taking this course, and if National Reciprocity passes they can then take advantage of it.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet
The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is having a banquet on Saturday, February 24 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club. Even if you don’t hunt elk, it is a social evening of fun, great food and camaraderie all for the benefit of elk country. Peter DelGrande’s famous Herb-crusted Boneless Prime Rib and Chicken Marsala Buffet is reason enough to attend.

Prizes include incredible firearms and bows, premium hunts, trips and adventures, limited edition art, handcrafted pottery and home furnishings, custom jewelry, and much more. Tickets are limited, and cost: Single Attendee – Includes 1 Meal & 1 Supporting Membership – $70.00, Couple Attendee – Includes 2 Meals & 1 Supporting Membership – $105.00. Doors open at 5:00pm. Call Gary D. Johnston at (413) 298-3623 for more information.

The 35th Annual Springfield Sportsmen’s Show

The show take place at the Eastern States Exposition (Big E) 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield, MA) on February 23 through 25. The show includes the best of hunting, fishing, boating and adventure recreation. The show hours are Friday from noon to 8 PM, Saturday 9 AM to 7 PM and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission: Adults – $14, kids 6 to 12 $5 and under 6 Free.
The aisles will be filled with everything you need to enhance your sportsmen’s lifestyle. From all new hunting and fishing gear to special items like trip packages to exotic destinations
World renowned big game hunter and TV star, Dick Scorzafava will present his well-known Radical Hunting Success Seminar, sign books for his many fans and give away thousands of dollars worth of hunting gear in Dick’s Big Gear Giveaway.
Kids will see all of Bwana Jim’s favorite critters in person from alligators to snakes. In this entertaining and educational program, Bwana Jim will introduce you to an extensive array of animals and teach you all about how they live in the wild
David Pickering, the “Carp King,” is the go to expert when it comes to carp fishing. In his seminar, “Targeting Large Carp,” Dave will discuss strategies and various topics related to fishing for trophy carp.
Cory de Sousa was chosen by Tom Miranda to join the Elite Pro Staff of Mathew’s Dominant Bucks TV. His hunts have been filmed and they can be seen on Mathew’s Dominant Bucks TV as well as on Whitetail Slam TV. He is being recognized for his many years of experience and impressive success in the woods.
Paul Sannicandro of Moose Woods Guide Service will explain the principles of compass navigation. In addition, Paul will cover the importance of understanding the difference between magnetic north and true north as well as explaining the process of setting the declination for your compass.
Joe Judd, will be presenting a turkey hunting seminar. Joe is an award-winning turkey caller who has over 35 years of hunting experience to his credit. This highly regarded expert is a member of the Quaker Boy Pro Staff and he is also a member of the hunting Pro Staff for Alpen Optics. In 2013, Joe was the recipient of the prestigious Roger Latham Award presented by the National Wild Turkey Federation. A National Honor, this is the highest commendation given to a volunteer member by the NWTF.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will be at the show to meet with military veterans and their family members to assist them with connecting with VA benefits. Eligible Veterans can sign up for VA health care at the show.
The Big Buck Display which is put on by the Northeast Big Buck Club will be there. The Big Buck Club is a non-profit organization dedicated to Northeast hunters and outdoorsmen. Each year, hundreds of volunteers measure trophy bucks from MA, CT, VT, RI, ME, NH, NY and PA.
There is so much more to see at the show.

The preliminary 2017 statewide deer harvest was a new record.

MassWildlife reported that last year’s 13,220 deer harvest set a new state record. Archery and Primitive Firearms seasons also saw record harvests. The preliminary figures by season are as follows:
Youth Deer Hunt Day: 109, Paraplegic Deer Hunt: 4, Archery Season: 5,191, Shotgun Season: 5,162 and Primitive Firearms Season: 2,754. Note – This is the first year that the archery harvest is higher than the shotgun harvest. In the following chart, zones 1 through 4 represent the Western District.

2017 harvest by Wildlife Management Zone (WMZ map)
Zone Adult Male Female Button Buck Total
1          249            59               8            316
2          493            48               6            547
3          439          121             17            577
4N       425            95             19            539
4S       302            37               5             344
5         479          179             28             686
6         118            39               6             163
7          422         245              42            709
8          647         282              37            966
9         730          353              66         1,149
10    1,227       1,075            249          2,551
11    1,662       1,043            267          2,972
12       159            74              16             249
13       319          365            110             794
14       244          309            105             658
State 7,915      4,324            981        13,220

MassWildlife notes that 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 as well as annual changes in hunter effort, weather, etc. The MassWildlife 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. Such an analysis of this information is now underway for the annual spring deer management review. A complete harvest summary will be posted on the MassWildlife website shortly after the annual deer review, so we are encouraged to check back in June. Click onto the MassWildlife web site to learn more about deer management in Massachusetts.
Hunter Education Courses

MassWildlife sponsors other hunter education courses besides those that use shotguns, such as bowhunting and trapping courses. Unfortunately, neither of them is taught here in the Western District and for that reason I have not been listing them in this column. However; some local sportsmen may be interested in taking these courses and are willing to travel. Therefore:

Bowhunting – There will be a one-day bowhunter education course on March 18 from 8 AM to 5 PM at the Swift River Sportsmen’s Club, 350 Cold Spring Road Belchertown. To view this listing and others, and obtain driving directions, visit the web at: As a reminder, all courses are free of charge and all necessary course materials will be provided to the student. Unaccompanied minors will need to bring a signed permission form to class in order to participate. This form can be downloaded and printed at

A bowhunter education certificate does not qualify you to purchase a Massachusetts Hunting license. If you are preparing to buy your first ever hunting license, you need to complete Basic Hunter Education ( even if you plan on hunting only with archery equipment.

If you are planning on hunting outside of the commonwealth, a Massachusetts Bowhunter Education Certificate is accepted in other jurisdictions that do mandate the successful completion a bowhunter course to hunt with archery equipment. If you have any questions, contact MassWildlife at (508) 389-7820, Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4 PM.

Trapping – A Trapper Education Course with Independent Study will be held at the Auburn Sportsmen’s Club, 50 Elm Street, Auburn, MA on March 21 and 31at the following times: 3/21 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM and on 3/31 from 8 AM to 5 PM. You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete this course. This course is being offered in the Independent Study format which means that in addition to the 2 required in-class sessions, students will need to complete homework in between the 2 class sessions.

If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call (508) 389-7830 immediately between 8 AM. and 4 PM, Monday through Friday. Students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and courses fill quickly.


Department of Ecological Restoration news
Many Massachusetts rivers lack enough water at certain times of year to support aquatic ecosystems, fishing, recreation and adequate drinking supplies. DER, which is a division reportable to the Commissioner of Fish & Wildlife, works to restore natural streamflow (the amount of water that flows through streams and rivers) in Massachusetts. They do this by working with partners to collect streamflow data; to inform and support policy and actions that restore and maintain healthy streamflows and by managing restoration projects aimed at restoring natural flow. In 2018, the DER:

• Leveraged over $6.5 million in newly awarded external funds for community-based restoration projects. The grant funds will pay for engineering, design, and construction work taking place in communities across the Commonwealth.
• Provided technical support to municipal staff, watershed groups, landowners, and other organizations in more than 193 communities across 26 major watersheds.
• Supervised volunteer workers in 90 communities, devoting more than $70,000 worth of labor towards protecting and restoring our rivers and wetlands.
• Worked with more than 30 partners, DER removed 7 dams, opening up more than 40 river miles, restoring 30 acres of wetlands, and reconnecting more than 900 acres of spawning habitat.
• Signed Cooperative Agreements with Sponsors of 11 new Priority Projects and began project scoping and planning. The projects include dam removals, culvert replacements, urban river revitalization efforts, floodplain enhancement, and streamflow restoration.
• Published an on-line dam removal decision support tool for use by federal, state, and local partners. The tool evaluates the expected ecological benefits of removing any known dam in the Commonwealth.
• Launched its new Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Program by awarding $905,000 in grants to 13 towns for projects that replace undersized culverts.
• Piloted a community-based social marketing program in the Ipswich River Watershed to encourage voluntary reductions in residential water use

A local project is occurring in the Town of Washington. Aging infrastructure coupled with intense rain events over the last 10 years caused several culverts in town, including the culvert on Frost Road over Savery Brook to begin to fail. In recent storms, this culvert became completely blocked, causing Savery Brook to overtop the road. Savery Brook is part of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers system and supports native brook trout. Replacing this failing culvert with a larger, safer structure will restore access to this important headwater stream while alleviating a flood hazard.

Incidentally, on January 3, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ronald Amidon appointed Beth Lambert to lead the DER. Beth brings twenty years of experience and strong partner relationships to her new leadership role. For the past four years Beth has managed DER’s Aquatic Habitat Restoration Program, overseeing the Division’s river, wetland, and salt marsh restoration projects across the Commonwealth. Previously, Beth managed the River Restoration Program for DER and the former Riverways Program. Prior to that, she worked for the New Hampshire Coastal Program as the Habitat Restoration Coordinator; for Oregon Sea Grant/ Oregon State University Extension as Watershed Management Extension faculty; and as a stream ecologist for a non-profit organization in Homer, Alaska.
Beth is no stranger to the Berkshires having work with the Housatonic Valley Association, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and the Taconic and Hoosic Chapters of Trout Unlimited on stream continuity and other watershed projects.

Opportunities to learn about our furry and hairy critters

On Friday, February 16, at 6:30 PM, Sue Morse, the founder of Keeping Track® , will give a presentation entitled “Bear with US! Living with Bears in the North Country”. The presentation will take place at the Boland Theater at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield. Be prepared for lots of fascinating information on black bear biology and ecology, with emphasis on the field identification of tracks and sign. This show offers the most comprehensive discussion of bear scent-marking behaviors, illustrated with dozens of her original images. As for living in harmony with black bears, it’s entirely up to us, as this program will solidly demonstrate. “Bear safety” is achieved largely because of what we do out there, whether it be in the wild or around our home and farmyard. It is more about what we can do to minimize the hazards we pose to bears.
On Saturday, February 17 from 9 AM to 12 Noon and from 1 to 4 PM Sue Morse will conduct a tracking workshop at the Myrin Preserve in Great Barrington, MA. She has over forty years of experience interpreting wildlife habitat uses. She is highly regarded as an expert in natural history and one of the top wildlife trackers in North America. Since 1977, she has been monitoring wildlife, with an emphasis on documenting the presence and habitat requirements of bobcat, black bear, Canada lynx and cougar.
Learn how to apply scientific knowledge about the habits and habitats of various wildlife and to predict where to look for sign. In the field you will learn “search imaging” as well as Keeping Track’s scientific documentation methods for photographing tracks and sign.
Meet and Carpool from Monument Mountain High School – 600 Stockbridge Rd, Great Barrington MA 01230. The cost is $25/person ($20 if member in BEAT’s tracking club)
RSVP Required, Space Limited. Contact Elia Del Molino at BEAT to sign up! or 413-429-6416.

Then on Saturday evening, February 17, from 6 to 8 PM, Sue will give a presentation entitled The Mysterious Mustelids. (She is going to be a busy gal that weekend!) Learn why fishers aren’t cats and ermine aren’t evil. Mustelids are the largest and most diverse order of carnivores on Planet Earth. The presentation, will take place at Monument Mountain High School Auditorium, 600 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington, MA.
Sue Morse’s evening presentations are free and open to the public. They are sponsored by: Trustees of Reservation, BEAT, MassAudubon, Sheffield Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, NE Forestry Foundation, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Great Barrington Land Conservancy and Green Berkshires.
On Tuesday, February 20, from 5:15 to 7 PM, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) Pittsfield Green Drinks will present a program entitled Getting to Know Our Neighbors: Berkshire Wildlife On Foot and By Camera. It will take place at the J. Allen’s Clubhouse Grille, 41 North Street, Pittsfield and will feature Elia Del Molino, Stewardship Manager for BEAT. Elia will give a presentation on getting to know wildlife of the Berkshire hills through tracking and trail cameras. Elia manages BEAT’s tracking club, a group of locals who bushwhack through forests and fields looking for evidence of wildlife, mostly mammals. Elia will discuss some of their exploits and show a compilation of wildlife videos from BEAT’s remote cameras.

Pittsfield Green Drinks is an informal gathering on the third Tuesday of the month. The gatherings are open to everyone with any environmental interest. Incidentally, the drinks aren’t green but the conversations are. Pittsfield Green Drinks is sponsored by BEAT. For more information about Pittsfield Green Drinks, contact Elizabeth Orenstein or (413) 717-1255.


Rabbit Hunting, the other winter sport

My buddy and I decided to take a day off from ice fishing and do a little cottontail rabbit hunting before the hunting season ends on February 28. Like me, he is a life-long rabbit hunter. We both are members of the Berkshire Beagle Club and go there once a week to run the cottontails and snowshoe hares. It is a preserve and hunting with a gun is not allowed there.
He has the hunting bug worse than I do. Every night before we go hunting, I can hear him pacing the floor and he shakes my bed and pulls the blankets in the wee hours of the morning, trying to get me up and moving. We are similar in some respects – both of us are getting a little older and the hair on our heads is becoming a little whiter. Both of us have hearing problems, vision problems, gimpy legs, and are a tad overweight. We both have had operations in the past, me for torn rotator cuff and he for a torn ACL. But we manage to plug along, enjoying our wonderful outdoors, especially in the winter when we can track bunnies in the snow.
This is an unusual year for us. This year he is older than me, and next year, I will be older than him. Oh yes, I forgot to mention. My buddy is a 10- year old beagle named Jacques. In dog years, that puts him at 70 and I am a few years older than him. Next year, at age 11, (dog age 77), he will be older than me by a couple of years.
On the last day we went hunting, the weather was mild, making for a perfect hunting day, so I donned the hunting clothes and grabbed the shotgun and he donned his collar bell, and off a hunting we went. The day started off as usual. Jacques picked up a rabbit scent fairly quickly and off he went in pursuit, nose to the ground, tail wagging a mile a minute and uttering this god-awful scream type of a bark. If you didn’t know better, you would swear he was in agony, but it’s his scream of pleasure, his “Get ready, I’m on his trail” scream. He is in his glory and lives for this. Gosh, I never get tired of hearing this sound, music to a rabbit hunter’s ears. You know, rabbit hunting is all about the dogs.
In my opinion, a good beagle is one that pursues the rabbit scent at a moderate speed and sticks with it, barking all the while, no matter what tricks the bunny will pull to throw him off the track. Good beagles seem to know that they are not supposed to catch the rabbit, but rather to follow it until it makes a turn and comes back near the hunter where he can take a good kill shot, preferably a head shot so as not to get too many shotgun pellets in the meat. After the kill, a good beagle will pick up the rabbit and drop it at the hunter’s feet.
Many hunters that I know will not shoot the bunny but rather let it go by so that the dog can pursue the scent even longer. Sooner or later, if the hunter does not shoot it, it will probably enter a hole or thick brush pile, indicating that the game is over. After a short period trying to get at the rabbit, a good beagle will return to the hunter, and try to find another new scent. And off we go again.
On this day, I really wanted to shoot a rabbit to have for a meal. I developed a taste for them when I was very young when my father or older brothers would shoot a couple of them for a meal. In fact, in later years, father raised domestic rabbits for the table. Hey, he was a 1st generation Frenchman and they, the Italians and most Europeans loved their rabbit meals. Although my mother refused to eat them, she had an excellent recipe for cooking them and the males of our family relished them. But I digress.
Back to our day of hunting, Jacques pushed the rabbit toward me, but for one reason or another, it snuck by without detection. (I blame it on my poor hearing, eyesight, another distraction, inattention, etc.) As Jacques ran past me, still barking on the scent, it appeared as though he gave me a dirty look over his shoulder with an expression of discontent. I’s at times like this when I sympathize with the cartoon character Elmer Fudd. You may recall that he was always being outfoxed by Buggs Bunny, that “Wascal of a Wabbit”.
This bunny was able to shake the dog somewhere in the distance and after a while Jacques returned. Well, we had gotten a couple of hours of enjoyment, fresh air and exercise and it was time to go home, something that Jacques rarely, if ever, wants to do. We’re so thankful that we both are physically able to still do this.
Incidentally, the Berkshire Beagle Club will be having its annual rabbit hunt on February 10. No hunting on the Beagle Club property. Prizes will be awarded for the largest hare and cottontail rabbit. The meat will not be wasted but the lucky hunters will take them home to eat or donate for a future fundraising game dinner. Weigh-in time is 4 PM followed by a venison chili or spaghetti dinner. The charge of $20 which covers the hunt, the meal and raffle tickets. There will also be a 50/50 raffle. For more information, contact John Demary at (413) 684-2228 or (413) 441-2253.
This may be your only chance to participate in a rabbit hunt this year as the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club, which usually has one on President’s Weekend, is not having one this year. Apparently, there is a lack of hunter interest or volunteers to put the event together.
Rabbit hunting appears to be dying sport. You don’t see the numbers of rabbit hunters out there that there used to be. In fact, based upon responses to the MassWildlife hunter surveys for the 5-year period 2012-2016, only 11% of them hunt rabbits these days. Perhaps it’s because people don’t have the free time anymore.
Even if one does have the time, the places to hunt have been drastically reduced over the last few decades. When I think back, almost all of my early rabbit hunting areas in Lenox were within walking distance of my home. I didn’t realize it then, but I was in heaven, walking down the street to the hunting areas with an empty shotgun in one hand and a leashed beagle in the other. Can’t do that now. Those hunting areas are long gone and replaced by streets such as Galway Ct, Bentrup Ct., Dunmore Ct, Clifton CT, Fairway Drive, St Andrews Ct, Cold Brook Road, Delafield St., Old Barn Road, Pine Knoll Road. Stoneledge Road, Melville Ct., Bracelan Ct and others. Perhaps the same has happened to your old hunting grounds.
Thank goodness MassWildlife and organizations such as the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and others are acquiring chunks of land to preserve the open space or establish wildlife management areas. If it weren’t for them, there would hardly be any land left to rabbit hunt.
The days when folks had hunting dogs and dog houses in their back yards are also gone. Every time I see Snoopy sitting on his dog house in the Peanuts comic strip, I think of those old days. The increased populations of coyotes, fisher cats and bears made it necessary to move our beagles indoors (where they immediately took over our houses) or to sturdy kennels. Unaware of the new predators back then, many people lost their dogs to them.
Thank goodness also for the Berkshire Beagle Club with its 80+ acres of fenced in property. Where else can you get the opportunity to run your dogs without fear of them getting killed crossing a road or getting lost. Shooting of the bunnies on BBC land is prohibited. If you have a pedigree beagle with AKC papers, are willing to attend a short monthly meeting, and willing to help in a work party a few times a year the BBC may be for you. The annual fee is reasonable ($200) and membership is restricted to 55 persons, so that there aren’t too many dogs running around overstressing the bunnies. There are strict limits as to how many dogs can hunt at any particular time and one must sign in. If you are a member and think you have a hot shot beagle, you can even enter it into the AKC sanctioned field trials which are held on the property periodically. Warning, your dog will be competing against some of the best beagles in the Northeast.
Pssst ….. don’t tell anyone but the current waiting list to join the BBC is short! Probably, you could get voted in within a couple of months. In the past, it sometimes took several years to get in. To obtain an application, contact me at the address listed below.
Trail camera workshop
On Sunday, February 11 from 1 to 3 PM the Trustees of Reservation will be holding a workshop dealing with trail cameras at Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield. Learn from local expert, Jim Pelletier, the many ways to use trail cameras, how to best set them up for capturing different wildlife as well as when and where to place them. Participants can expect to leave with the ability to set one up on their own. The cost is $5 for TTOR members and $10 for non-members. For more information call (413)229-8600 or
Basic Hunter Education Course with Independent Study

There will be a basic hunter education course held at Lee Sportsmen’s Club, 565 Fairview Street, Lee, MA on March 14 and 31. The times are: March 14: 6 to 9:30 PM and March 31: 8 AM to 2:30PM. You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.

This Basic Hunter Education course is a 2-session Independent Study course. This format covers the same material as a traditional Basic Hunter Education course but requires less in-class time as students will work independently to complete homework in between the 2 required in-class sessions.

If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call (508) 389-7830 immediately; students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and courses do fill quickly.


Its ice fishing time, but be careful


Many outdoor enthusiasts are taking to the ice now that we are in mid winter. There are several ice fishing derbies taking place this and the next few weekends. Due to the warmth, last year’s season ended early and many ice fishermen felt short-changed. They were stuck with a lot of deer meat that they had intended to cook out on the ice.

This year has been another funny one with hard freeze – rain and thaw – hard freeze – rain, etc. The last forecast that I saw for this weekend was rain. Listed are some of the ice fishing derbies scheduled to take place in February, but as the dates near, perhaps you should check with the derby organizers just to be sure that none of them were cancelled due to ice conditions.

Upcoming Derbies

The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club’s Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby will take place on Saturday, February 10 from 8 AM to 12 PM. New this year, there will be a 3 tip-up/hook limit due to the lake drawdown. Prizes will be awarded for all legally caught fish checked in at headquarters (The Ashfield Lake House). After the derby, a spaghetti dinner will be held at Sanderson Academy. There will be a $5 charge for adults, free for kids. Following the dinner, MassWildlife Western District Biologist Nathan Buckhout will be giving a presentation at the academy. For additional derby information, contact Joe Miraglia at (413) 628-4400.

The 32nd annual Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing Derby will take place on Onota Lake on Sunday, February 11. This derby is in memory of Bill “Geli” Gelinas, John Porter, Chris Porter, Cathy Saldo and John Drury. It will run from 6 AM to 2 PM. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $5 for kids and they are available in advance at the Onota Boat Livery on Pecks Road (413) 443-1366, and Maces Marine on Valentine Road, Pittsfield (413) 447-7512 or on the day of the derby at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Burbank Park on Onota Lake. Three divisions of trophies and prizes and plenty of good food.

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding its Ice Fishing Derby also on February 11 from 6 AM to 2 PM on Goose Pond. Check/weigh in will be at the shanty. Cost is $10 for adults and $6 for kids 12 and under. The adult winner of the heaviest fish will receive $100, and kids will win various prizes. There will be a spaghetti dinner at the LSA clubhouse afterwards. For more information, contact John Polastry at (413)822-8278.

On February 18, the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club will be holding its annual ice fishing derby on the 1st and 2nd Hoosac Lakes (Cheshire Lake) from sunrise to 4 PM. Weigh in will be at Farnams Causeway. An Eskimo Propane Auger ($500 value) will be awarded to the heaviest ticket holder fish. There will be youth fun prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. Prizes and refreshments at 5 PM at the Club House. Kids 14 and under free with adult ticket. For more information, contact Corey McGrath at (413)841-5070.

If ice fishing derbies don’t appeal to you, perhaps you would prefer doing a family ice fishing day such as that held by the Kinneys of Dalton. As my wife Jan and I approached them on Ashmere Lake in Hinsdale last Sunday, we were delighted to see kids were having fun playing out on the ice and catching fish. It was nice seeing kids outdoors and not sitting home playing computer games. Grandpa and the dads set up along an undeveloped shoreline, something becoming more and more rare these days. In the old days, there was no problem finding such places, but now much of our lake shorelines are developed and have “No Trespassing” signs.

As we neared, we could hear the crackling sound and smell of burning wood from a small bonfire that was made with wood that they brought with them in their sled and dead wood and sticks found on the nearby forest floor. No saws were seen there, nor propane tanks nor hibachis on which to cook their food. Just like the old days, the food was simple and easy to prepare……hot dogs on a wooden spit over the open fire. I suspect that gramps Lawrence “Chip” Kinney had something to do with that, for surely, he remembers those old ice fishing days, too.

Boy! Did that bring back memories. After gabbing with them for a while, and admiring pictures of the nice fish that the kids had caught and released, Jan and I (and Jacques our beagle) left them. But that sight and memories still lingered in my mind and after some urging from Jan, I went back to take their picture and get their names.

If you closely observe the picture, you will see the bonfire with pieces of old logs and branches burning away. Now I ask you old timers, does that bring back fond memories?

Fundraiser for pheasants

There will be a turkey shoot at the Lee Sportsmen’s Association today starting at 1:00 PM and following that there will be a venison stew and spaghetti dinner at the Club. The cost is $15 for adults and $7 for kids under 12 years old. The proceeds of these events will be used to raise pheasants to be stocked on lands for the general public to hunt. Contact John Polastri for more information.

Incidentally, the LSA is the only Berkshire County sportsmen’s club that raises and stocks pheasants and only one of two clubs in Western Mass that does so.

Basic Hunter Education Course

There will be a basic hunter education course held at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts on: March 6, 8, 13, 15, 20 and 22 (all Tuesday and Thursday evenings), from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. 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 immediately; students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and courses fill quickly.

Fly Tying

Henry Sweren, president of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited, recently announced that free Winter Fly Tying Sunday Afternoon events will be held at Berkshire Hills Country Club from Noon to 3 PM on February 11, 18 and March 4h and 18. For more information, contact Henry at (413) 822-5216.

Regulations Prohibiting Bump Stocks and Trigger Cranks

If you hold a Massachusetts firearms license or firearms identification card, you should have or will be receiving a notice from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Section 52 of Chapter 110 of the Acts of 2017 directs them to inform you that bump stocks and trigger cranks are illegal in Massachusetts. Section 53 of Chapter 110 provides the changes that will take effect in two stages: Effective immediately upon its signing, the new law prohibited the purchase, sale or offering for sale of trigger cranks or bump stocks. Effective February 1, 2018, the new law will prohibit possession of bump stocks or trigger cranks, including possession in a private home. There are no exceptions to this prohibition for licensed firearm owners; an FID card, a License to Carry or even a license to possess a machine gun will not authorize possession of a bump stock or trigger crank.

Because the law does not allow for transfer or sale of these prohibited items, if you currently possess one of them within Massachusetts, you should contact your local police department or Massachusetts State Police to get details about how to transfer custody of the prohibited item to the police for destruction. Retention of such a prohibited item beyond the 90-day period will expose the owner to criminal prosecution.

I think most gun owners know why this new regulation came about (Las Vegas shooting) and should have been expecting it.

If you did not receive this notice, you may have a problem on your hands. If you have moved, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 140, section 131(l) states: Any licensee shall notify, in writing, the licensing authority who issued such license, the chief of police into whose jurisdiction the licensee moves and the executive director of the criminal history systems board of any change of address. Such notification shall be made by certified mail within 30 days of its occurrence. Failure to so notify shall be cause for revocation or suspension of said license.
Good luck!


Outdoor artistic/writing opportunities available for youngsters

Junior Duck Stamp Contest: “There is still time to enter the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) contest,” advises MassWildlife’s Wildlife Education Specialist Pam Landry. “Any student, from kindergarten through grade 12, regardless of whether they attend public or private school or are home-schooled, can submit original artwork in this fun and educational competition. Even if students do not enter the art competition, the related information can serve as a valuable resource in art or science classrooms.” The entry deadline is February 15, 2018.
The JDS program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students in grades K-12 learn about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese and then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, by creating a drawing or painting which can be submitted to the JDS art contest. The art is judged in four age group categories in a statewide competition; the entry judged Best of Show moves on to represent Massachusetts in the national JDS competition. Art teachers, science teachers, and parents who home-school can visit its website for an information packet and entry information.
For more information, contact Pam Landry at (508) 389-6310, or

New England Outdoor Writers Association outdoor writing contest: NEOWA recently announced its 6th annual Youth Outdoor Writing Contest. The rules for the contest are as follows:

1. The contest is open to students in New England. Submissions from students in grades 6-8 will be entered in the Junior Division; grades 9-12 will be entered in the Senior Division.

2. The topic must be outdoor-oriented (fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, hiking, camping, nature, ecology, etc.). Any prose or poetic form is acceptable.

3. First, second, third and two honorable mentions will be chosen in both the junior and senior divisions. Winners will receive certificates and cash prizes. First place $150, second $100, third $50, honorable mention $25.

4. The written work should not exceed 500 words. Entrants must submit by mail, three legible 8½ x 11 copies of his or her work with a title of the entry and the author’s name. The entrant must also include a cover sheet including name, age, address, telephone, e-mail and grade in school. One copy of the entry must also be sent by email.

5. The deadline for mailing contest entries is Feb. 15, 2018. Mail entries to Youth Writing Contest, c/o Randy Julius, 487 Central St., East Bridgewater, MA 02333.
Email: Phone 508-378-2290, 508-642-2997.

NEOWA will announce the contest winners during spring 2018.
Don’t feed the deer
A message from MassWildlife: Although well-intentioned, people who feed deer in the winter may not understand the negative unintended consequences of this seemingly benign activity.
A host of microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa and fungi) and enzymes in the deer’s digestive system enables the breakdown of plant material into a form that allows for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. The composition of this digestive microflora actually changes during the year to help deer digest the different types of seasonally available foods. As warm weather foods, such as green, soft vegetation, die off in the fall, deer gradually shift to browse, woody plant material such as twigs and buds. Accordingly, the deer’s digestive microflora slowly adjusts to this dietary change over a period of weeks.
During the winter months, if abrupt changes in diet occur with introduced high carbohydrate foods like corn, apples, and deer pellets, it can disrupt the deer’s stomach chemistry, triggering bloat, diarrhea, damage to the rumen (the first of four stomach chambers), and even death. High levels of lactic acid produced as a by-product of the carbo hydrate-digesting bacteria overwhelm other microflora, reduce the rumen’s pH (rumen acidosis), and damage the rumen lining. This lactic acid can also be absorbed into the bloodstream and can rise to potentially fatal levels.
Even if a deer survives the initial issues, damage to the rumen lining can be permanent, potentially leading to future digestive problems. Feeding deer can also cause deer to congregate in larger numbers, increasing disease transmission risks, and causing deer to adjust travel patterns that increase vehicle collision risk.
A healthier, safer way to support deer through particularly rough winters is to improve existing natural habitat. Creating areas of young hardwood and shrub-dominated understory forests (e.g., recently cut), especially near coniferous covers of hemlocks, pines and firs, is very beneficial. In locales where deer numbers are much higher than what the natural habitat can support (evidenced by over-browsing), opening large blocks of land to regulated hunting can reduce deer densities, benefiting the remaining deer and the local ecosystem.
Private landowners, land trusts, and cities and towns can provide winter food and cover for deer and other wildlife by including selective forest cutting in their habitat management plans.
Basic Hunter Education Course

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. The Basic Hunter Education 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 ([ Proof of a previous license or certificate is not required.

A Basic Hunter Education Course will be taught at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire, MA, on February 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and March 2, 2018, from 6 PM to 9 PM for all 6 evenings. 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.
Firearms safety courses
The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club is having a License-to-Carry / UTAH firearms course on Saturday, January 28 from 12:00 to 4:00 PM. It is a Massachusetts State Police Compliant course. The cost is $70 for LTC, $125 for UTAH and $150 for both. Preregistration required. Contact Tom Nadolny at (413)822-6451 or or Dennis Leydet at (413)329-7081 or
Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club News
In its most recent newsletter, the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club announced that it has recently purchased approximately one hundred acres of land adjacent to its existing property, along the northwestern boundary. This purchase brings the total acreage to just over two hundred acres, and helps protect the Club from potential encroachments. It thanked those involved in the extended negotiation and purchase, led by its immediate past president, Wayne Slosek. Special thanks also went to its attorney and Club member Jack E. Houghton, Jr., “whose diligence and persistence” saw it through some difficult issues. Thanks were also given to the Skorput family, who were the previous owners, for their patience and generosity throughout the process, most especially Peter, who acted as point man for the family.
The Club was able to pay the cost from its treasury, but as a result, is requesting the membership to step up when paying this year’s dues by including an additional donation to help replenish it. I’m sure it wouldn’t refuse donations from non-members as well.
Incidentally, after forty years of putting out the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club newsletter, Gary Johnston handed off the responsibility to Max Scherff, a new club member who has graciously volunteered to share his literary expertise with all members. “It has been my great pleasure to contact you over the years through this newsletter” wrote Johnston, “I have always felt that communicating with the membership about the ongoing activities at the club are vital to our continued success. I have great confidence in Max.”
Ice fishing derbies
The 40th Annual Raymond “Skip” Whalen Ice Fishing Derby will be held at Stockbridge Bowl boat ramp on Sunday, January 28 from 7 AM to 1 PM. Entry fees are as follows: Kids under 15 years old – $5 (and they all win something) , Club members and Town residents – $10, Nonmembers aged 15 and up – $15. Tickets may be purchased at Wheeler & Taylor and Berkshire Insurance Group in Stockbridge, at the Club on Saturday mornings 9 AM to noon, or on Derby Day at the Bowl only until 9 AM.

Also on January 28, the Onota Fishing Club is having an ice fishing derby on Onota Lake from 6 AM to 2 PM. There will be cash prizes for adults and kids and donuts, muffins, coffee, hot cocoa. There will be a pasta dinner afterwards. The adult entry fee is $15 and for kids under age of licenses, $5. Tickets for the dinner after the derby cost $12. Register at the Controy Pavilion.

Please note:

Any club or organization that wishes its ice fishing derbies (or any other events) mentioned in this column must get the information to me two weeks before the scheduled event. It has to be in this column the Sunday before the scheduled event and my deadline is the Wednesday before that. Thank you.

Questions/comments: Phone: (413) 637-1818



Berkshire County 2017 bear harvest set a record

According to figures released by MassWildlife, 119 black bears were harvested in the Berkshires last year beating the prior record of 106 which was set in 2016. The harvest numbers have been steadily rising over the years. For example, 57 were harvested in the Berkshires in 2013, 78 in 2014 and 75 in 2015. Berkshire County continues to have the most resident bears and consequently the highest harvest totals. The county with the next highest harvest was Franklin County with 64 bears harvested last year.
The statewide harvest came in at 268 bears in 2017 and that represents the second highest total, just below the 283 bears taken in 2016. A statewide breakdown by hunting season is as follows: September season (Sept. 5 – Sept. 23) was 151, the November season (Nov. 6 – Nov. 25 was 26 and the Shotgun season (Nov. 27 – Dec. 9) was 91.
New regulations proposed for Wildlife Management Areas

MassWildlife is proposing leash and waste disposal regulations for dogs on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). MassWildlife has a long tradition of welcoming dogs on WMAs and dogs are still welcome on them under this new proposal.
MassWildlife proposes to take this action due to repeated complaints from WMA users about negative and unsafe encounters with unleashed dogs and issues with dog waste. MassWildlife protects and manages these areas to sustain wildlife abundance and diversity and provide wildlife-related recreation, including hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching, while at the same time providing a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience for all visitors. Therefore:
1. The proposed regulations require leashing dogs and other domestic animals on WMAs. Dogs may be off-leash only when hunting or hunt-training with licensed hunters under existing regulations, or if they are participating in retriever or bird dog trial events that have been permitted by MassWildlife. Leashing dogs decreases conflicts with both people and other dogs, resulting in a safer and more positive experience for everyone.
2. The proposal also requires dog owners to pick up dog waste and dispose of it offsite. Removing dog waste reduces nuisance and protects the safety and health of dogs and other pets, people, and wildlife.
In a recent report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden noted that here in the Berkshires, the problem is not so severe. But in the WMAs in the eastern part of the state it is a real problem because large numbers of unleashed dogs are roaming in some of those WMAs. In many cases it is the dog sitters who are bringing them.
Hunters, whose license and Wildland Stamp fees helped purchase these lands, cannot fully enjoy the hunting experience because of the numbers or dogs, some of them aggressive, disrupting hunting activities.
A public hearing has been scheduled for February 6, 2018 at 7 PM at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, 01581. Information on the public hearing, public comment process and proposed regulatory language is posted on MassWildlife’s website at Outdoor sportsmen, and any other users of Wildlife Management Areas, are encouraged to attend or weigh in, by mail or email, on this proposed regulation.
MassWildlife Habitat Grants announced
Eighteen municipalities, organizations, and private landowners across the state have been awarded a total of $506,856 in grants for wildlife habitat improvement projects. The MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program was developed to establish partnerships between MassWildlife and private and municipal landowners to enhance habitat and increase recreational opportunities on properties across the state. This year, funds provided through the grant program will benefit 20 wildlife habitat improvement projects, totaling 950 acres in 19 Massachusetts communities. The projects will complement the ongoing habitat management efforts currently underway on state owned lands.
The Habitat Management Grant Program is in its third year, and has now awarded over $1,215,000 in funding to 51 projects. The Program’s mission is to provide financial assistance to municipal and private landowners of conserved properties to improve and manage habitat for wildlife that has been deemed in greatest conservation need and for game species. Projects awarded with funds are also designed to expand outdoor recreational opportunities. The funds are provided through MassWildlife’s Habitat Management Grant Program. This year, the Baker-Polito Administration increased the funding of the program by $200,000 utilizing environmental bond funds.
“The Habitat Management Grant Program is a great example of the strong partnership between the state, municipalities, private landowners and organizations working together to conserve land and wildlife,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These grants are an important tool to help build upon the thousands of acres of important conservation land for wildlife and residents across the Commonwealth.”
“Massachusetts is home to an incredibly diverse array of protected natural resources and habitats that include saltwater marshes, mountain summits, and old growth forests,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Habitat for common and rare plants and wildlife requires active and ongoing maintenance and management in order to thrive, and these grants will assist in those important efforts.”
“Habitat management is key to benefiting birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians which depend on some less common habitats,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “I’m grateful that we have the opportunity to expand our habitat management footprint and improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women, birders, naturalists and other outdoor enthusiasts.”
“About 80 percent of Massachusetts’ lands where wildlife is found is owned privately,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “Therefore, as an environmental agency we should promote and apply science-based habitat management activities with committed municipal and private landowners, thereby protecting their investment in wildlife and habitat.”
Local or nearby awardees of this year’s Habitat Management Grant Program are:
• $36,500 to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Great Barrington, to conduct invasive species control at Housatonic Flats and Thomas and Palmer Preserves.
• $16,675 to the Franklin Land Trust, Heath and Plainfield, to enhance native shrub habitat on Crowningshield Farm (Heath) and Guyette Farm (Plainfield).
• $36,630 to the Town of Lenox, to conduct hardy kiwi invasive species control within Kennedy Park.
• $15,632 to the Sheffield Land Trust, to work to control invasive species at Ashley Falls Woods.
• $20,503 to the Nature Conservancy, Sheffield, to create and improve old field and shrubland habitats at the Schenob Brook Preserve.
• $15,500 to the Cherry Hill Realty Trust, Stockbridge, to remove the invasive hardy kiwi plant.
• $20,905 to the Town of Stockbridge, to treat invasive species at Gould Meadows and Bullard Woods.
• $24,493 to Mass Audubon, Tolland, to create shrubland habitat at the Richardson Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.
Winter Waterfowl Survey
Every 5 years, MassWildlife conducts a winter waterfowl survey of sites where people feed wild ducks and geese. While the feeding of wildlife is discouraged, there is no state law or regulation that prohibits feeding (though some municipalities do restrict or prohibit feeding). MassWildlife is asking the public’s assistance in reporting current waterfowl feeding locations for biologists to identify and count these birds.
The survey will be conducted statewide this month and includes sites in urban, suburban, and rural areas near fresh, brackish, and salt water. Feeding sites range from municipal parks where many visitors come to feed the ducks to ducks in backyards feeding on spilled bird seed or handouts thrown out someone’s back door.
MassWildlife biologists will visit historic feeding sites from January 8 to 26. Because these locations can change over 5 years, public input is needed. If you know of a spot where waterfowl are being fed, let them know by phone at 508-389-6321 or by e-mail at Include the town and specific location where you’ve seen waterfowl being fed this January. If you are able, also include the number of ducks and/or geese (preferably by species) that you see at a feeding site at one time.
Mallards are by far the most common duck at feeding sites but other ducks may be observed as well. American black ducks are common and wood ducks, pintails, gadwalls, American wigeon, and hooded mergansers are seen on occasion. Canada geese are common at many feeding sites.
MassWildlife’s survey started 45 years ago and documented the increase of mallards at feeding sites reaching peak numbers of over 20,000 mallards at 218 sites during the 1993 survey and declining thereafter. This decline can be attributed to more Canada geese utilizing the sites resulting in many areas being posted “No Feeding” because of the mess geese made. The last survey showed that the number of mallards was down to 9,700 at 139 sites along with nearly 1,600 geese (down from over 5,300 geese recorded during the 1998 survey).

Marlborough Flyfishing Show

The 2018 Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 19 through 21 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. There will be more than $40,000 in door prizes.

All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod. Some of the celebrity authors this year include Joe Humphreys, Gary Borger, Bob Clouser, Ed Engle, Sheila Hassan, Jason Randall, Bob Romano and others, and they will be happy to autograph your books.

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

This is a must-attend event for New England flyfishers and flytyers. The next closest show of this magnitude is in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

Ninety-one year old deer hunter scores again

Readers may recall an article I wrote about then 90-year old Lou Carmel of Hinsdale. The article, which ran on December 25, 2016, was entitled You are never too old to go deer hunting. In it I wrote about Lou’s amazing feat of traveling to the Saskatchewan Province in Canada by himself, hunting and bagging a large deer.
Well guess what, he went up there again in 2017. This time he was accompanied by his son-in-law Kevin Farrell of Dalton. They were there the first full week of November. They flew into the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan airport, spent the night in Saskatoon and the next day traveled about 4 hours to the deer camp in Neeb. That is located in the northwest part of Saskatchewan. Lou has hunted in that area for about 13 or 14 years. Some of the deer stands are 10 to 20 miles away from the camp, taking 1 ½ to 2 hours to get to get to them by 4 wheelers.
The first day of their hunt was cold. It had previously snowed but most of it was gone. Lou was posted in one hunting blind and Kevin in another over a mile away. The blinds had zippers and Lou had to crawl in and sit. He saw a couple of smaller deer and watched them for quite a long time, hoping a bigger deer would come along. Eventually, the two deer laid down and went to sleep, right in front of him. All of a sudden, they jumped up and ran. Lou surmised that something scared them. He then saw a buck about 100 yards away, aimed his gun and “Click”. He forgot to load his gun.
He hurridly put in a shell and “bang”, down went the buck. There was a little crevice there and the deer dropped out of sight. Lou thought he had hit it but couldn’t see it. He sat there for quite a while. He was feeling ill and had to take a trip outside the blind where the wind was blowing and snow flying. After taking care of business, he got back into the tent.
He saw a deer limping along near where he had previously shot and wondered if he had wounded that deer. He didn’t think so as he had drawn a bead on its shoulder. After he lost sight of the limping deer, Lou decided to re-load his gun just in case it came back. He tried to re-load it but couldn’t because he was shaking so much. He gave up on it, put the empty gun aside and bundled up the best that he could. Sometime later, he heard the blind zipper behind him and one of the guides asked how he was doing.
Lou told him that he shot at a deer. The guide said that he saw it down below Lou. They got into a 4-wheeler and found the deer. It was a 11 pointer and weighed about 220 lbs dressed. It was shot in the shoulder exactly where he had aimed. (Apparently the limping deer that Lou saw earlier was a different buck). Lou said that he perked up a little bit after that. The guide took a lot of pictures before taking Lou back to the camp where he had a nice hot shower. Not feeling that great, Lou stayed in the camp for the rest of the week.
There were a couple of fellas at the camp doing some filming for a TV show entitled “Born to Hunt”. The program, which is broadcast in English and French, probably featured Lou and his deer.
Lou said that if Kevin didn’t go up with him this year, he probably wouldn’t have gone alone. “Its wild country up there and I don’t know if I will ever go back on another trip”, he said, “but then again, I said that last year”.
Incidentally, Kevin also bagged an 11 pointer, but his was not as large as Lou’s. His weighed around 200 lbs dressed. They ate back straps from the deer for a couple of meals, kept the antlers and donated the rest of the meat to some needy families up there that lived nearby.
I wrote it in last year’s column and repeat it again…… Lou Carmel is an inspiration to us all.
A deer hunting family
Three generations of the McCarthy family of Williamstown, MA have special reason to celebrate a successful muzzleloader deer hunt that they participated in on Saturday, December 16. Their classic New England deer hunt is a perfect example of a family embracing, enjoying, and ultimately celebrating, each other’s company, memories, and love, through the hunt.
The McCarthys have lived in Williamstown for many generations and are active members of the community. What’s notable about this family is that deer hunting and other outdoor activities are not limited to the McCarthy men for many of the McCarthy women are active participants in these long-held family traditions and, they’ve had their share of success!

Robert (Bob) McCarthy Jr. has been the town’s tree warden and owned and operated Robert McCarthy Tree and Landscaping for many years. The entire family is involved in hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities, and many of them are active members and officers in the local East Mountain Sportsman’s Club. Bob is an EMSC delegate to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen and received its Silvio O. Conte Sportsman of the Year Award in 1987. Bob’s late wife, Juliann, enjoyed gardening, hunting and fishing.

On Saturday, the family patriarch, Bob, met his son Travas, on a parcel of land that has been in the family for many generations. Along with Travas was his wife Tammy, and their two children, TJ and Naomi. The purpose of this “family meeting” was to organize a deer drive. Conditions were perfect for the hunt; there was fresh snow on the ground and the wind was blowing out of the north. The plan was finalized with Bob, TJ and Naomi being posted as standers and Tammy and Travas being the drivers.

Bob, TJ and Naomi set up a few hundred yards apart from each other along the crest of a ridge and waited with the hopes that the drivers would move a deer into range.

As Naomi sat tucked up against a fallen tree, she watched the hillside below for any sign of deer moving her way. To her surprise, the sign didn’t come from in front, but from behind her. She heard the slightest noise and slowly turned to see two large bucks standing about 35 yards from her. Now, this wasn’t Naomi’s first successful hunt for she’s taken a few deer in the past, but, to have two rack bucks standing 35-yards away and staring you down, would rattle any hunter!

Naomi did her best to slowly turn and get her muzzleloader up for a shot. But big bucks don’t get big by waiting around, and they both bounded away. The young hunter wasn’t deterred for she let out a doe bleat and one of the bucks stopped at 50 yards. Naomi took aim and dropped the hammer on her muzzleloader. Surrounded by black powder smoke, she couldn’t see if the deer had dropped or run off. When the smoke cleared she slowly walked over to where the deer had been standing. At first, she couldn’t find any sign of a hit but, she started to track the big buck on her own and after walking a short distance, she saw the deer’s rack sticking up out of the snow. She had made a perfect shot!

Soon the whole family was gathered around the deer and celebrating Naomi’s success. High fives and hugs were generously exchanged, and a few tears were shed too. You see, Naomi’s grandmother, Juliann, the first female member of the East Mountain Sportsman’s Club and a great hunter in her own right, had passed away exactly one year ago. As the family stood around the buck, Naomi’s grandfather, Bob, gave her a big hug, wiped his eyes, and said to her, “Grandma would be very proud of you. Very proud indeed”.

Then on Saturday, December 30, with one day left in the Primitive Firearms season, the McCarthy’s assembled again to enjoy one more hunt together in 2017.

This time it was TJ McCarthy who took the honors by shooting a large coyote. To cap of the year, the three generations of the McCarthy family gathered once again to celebrate a successful hunt together.

Many thanks to George Hamilton III, of Pittsfield, who wrote this excellent McCarthy article.

Voluntary Public Access

There will be an information session on Wednesday evening, January 10, about a new program that aims to increase public access on privately-owned land for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and hiking by providing financial incentives to landowners. The information session will be held from 6-7:30 pm at the Visitor’s Center at Notchview on Route 9 in Windsor, MA.

This Voluntary Public Access (VPA) program is led by the Franklin Land Trust, in partnership with the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and the MA Forest Alliance. Through funding provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, landowners may be able to receive compensation for allowing the public to hunt, fish, birdwatch, and hike on their property by participating in this program.

The program is open to landowners in 28 towns in the northwestern region of the state.
Visit the VPA website for information about the participating towns, eligibility, funding rates, how to apply, and upcoming workshops.

A most memorable fishing trip, Part 2

Last week, this column followed the remarkable trip of Rex Channell and his wife Trish Watson across Canada. Readers may recall that they traveled in their 25-foot Coachman Freelander (aka FISHlander) and camped and fished all across Canada. Let’s pick up the trip when they crossed back into the USA from British Columbia, Canada.

Passing into Idaho, they stopped to visit Matt Sawyer former Marketing Director of Butternut Ski Area in Great Barrington who now works at Lookout Pass Ski Area in Idaho. For the next several days they fished such famous rivers as the Coeur D’Alene, Little St Joe and Quartz Creek with Matt, also an avid fisherman, as their guide.
Then onto Montana where on August 8, they visited two different former Berkshire County ski friends in the Whitefish, Montana area – Emily Goodrich and Paul Descouteau. There was a very real wildfire threat in the Flathead area of Montana, especially in Seeley Lake where active firefighting was prominently visible. Instead they fished Livingston, MT – the Little Blackfoot River, Yellowstone River and Boulder River – which offered up cutthroat, rainbow and browns of various sizes. They splurged on a float trip on the Yellowstone River with Montana Trout Anglers and had a very successful trip catching healthy (1-2 lb) rainbows and browns.
They crossed into Wyoming on August 18 through the very crowded Yellowstone and Great Teton National Parks at the height of the tourist season. They stopped in to see former Berkshire-ites, Jonathan Gray in Jackson, WY and Celeste Young in Victor ID and visited the Jackson National Fish Hatchery (Snake River cutthroat). On recommendation of several local guides, they trekked the 15-mile dirt road up the Grey’s River out of Alpine, WY. There, they experienced the spectacular solar eclipse on the Grey’s River with only a herd of ranch cattle as company. Unfortunately, the fishing was pretty slow with only a couple of Snake River cutties netted in the three days.
So back in Alpine, they took another guided float trip, this time on the Salt River with Pioneer Anglers Fly Shop. It was an evening float that started at 3:00 pm and lasting until dark with continuous surface action using big hopper patterns and producing a lot of Snake River cutthroat several in the 2+ lb range. On their way through central and southeastern Wyoming, they visited the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale and the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery (primarily lake trout). They saw several enticing rivers (e.g. North Platte) and alpine lakes (e.g. Lake Marie in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow National Forest) but left them to fish another trip as they were making their way to Colorado to meet up with relatives in a few days. At an over-night in Laramie, Wyoming, they camped in the Prairies Lake region and tried fishing from shore on the Gelatt and Twin Butte Lakes with no luck.
On August 25 and 26, they traveled to Boulder and Castle Pines, Colorado to visit friends and family sightseeing in the Garden of the Gods and the Red Rocks parks. In Salida, one of their favorite places in Colorado, they stayed near Chalk Creek for three days and fished Wright’s and Chalk Lakes catching lots of rainbow trout in the 10”-14” range on size 2 to 10 terrestrials. And they visited three Colorado State Fish Hatcheries – Mt Shavano (kokanee salmon, Snake River cutthroat, rainbow and cutbow), Chalk Creek (rainbow) and Roaring Judy (kokanee salmon, cutthroat, rainbow).
Rex and Trish spent the next 12 days in southern Colorado, visiting transplanted friends, taking in the sights and fishing some great areas. In the Gunnison area, they fished Cement Creek, Spring Creek and Taylor Reservoir for small browns and brookies. They toured the Ross Reel factory in Montrose. They fished the San Miguel River outside of Ridgeway catching rainbows on dries against straight red-rock cliffs. From Ouray, “the Switzerland of America”, they took the Million Dollar Highway which traverses three passes over 10,000 feet high in 57 miles ending up in Durango where they fished the Lemon Reservoir and Florida River.
They spent the next week in Utah visiting the national parks and monuments – Arches, Canyon Lands, Capital Reef, National Bridges, Glen Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. In Moab, they went off-roading to fish the small alpine Oowah Lake. While marveling at the landscape, they took plenty of time to fish the southern Utah area around Loa hiring guide/owner Mike James of the Quiet Fly Fisher who gave them a diverse sampling of river, lake and reservoir. Both Rex and Trish were successful catching tiger trout in the 3 lb category with a size 16 imitation boatman fly. Some of the waters they sampled both with Mike and on their own include the Fremont River, Ferris Lake, Forsyth Reservoir, Bicknell Bottoms, Boulder Mountain Reservoir, Garcane Power Plant Reservoir, Boulder Creek, and Upper East Boulder Reservoir catching tiger, rainbow and brook trout. In Bicknell, they visited the J Perry Egan State Fish Hatchery (brook, rainbow and lake trout).
They spent 4 days in Arizona (9/18 – 9/21) to see the north rim of the Grand Canyon – so awe-inspiring – and to visit an aunt and uncle in Phoenix. However, it was still very warm (highs above 100°) so they decided to go back into the mountains of Colorado as soon as possible. Passing back into Colorado, they stopped at Mesa Verde National Park. On 9/23-9/24, they stayed at the Elk Trace B&B, a working ranch in Pagosa Springs, CO, to celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary fishing (naturally) this time in the nearby Williams Creek and Reservoir.
They spent several days in Mogote, CO, to fish the Conejos River, a river they had fished a few years ago. They stayed at the dispersed wilderness site at Elk Creek since Colorado state campgrounds had been closed since mid-September. They took a day trip with Conejos River Anglers and landed a lot of 16”-20” browns using size 20 and smaller nymph patterns with a double dropper rig. On the way east, they fished the Arkansas River at several pull-offs along US 50 through Canyon City and into West Pueblo but had no luck. The last stop they made in Colorado was to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, incredible collection of aircraft from the last 120 years.
Now in the plains states, Rex and Trish were interested in laying down some miles. They quickly passed through Kansas and Missouri. They visited Boot Hill Museum and Front Street, Dodge City, KS as a fun diversion from driving. And they took a detour to Branson, MO, to visit Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede – good, clean entertainment. They visited relatives outside of St. Louis, MO and friends in Indianapolis, taking in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Zoo.
On October 5 they finally made it into Michigan. Their first stop was to the Richard Clay Bodine State Fish Hatchery (brood stock for steelhead). In Spring Lake, they visited
Nick Petrinec who took them out on the Muskegon River in his Jet boat. They spent several days fishing, first the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin, catching big king salmon using egg patterns and grey mop flies, then the Manistee River at the Hodenpyl Dam in Mesick, Michigan netting several 10”-12” rainbows using Adams nymphs and stimulator dries and finally, the North and South Forks of the AuSable River in Grayling, where they were skunked. They made one more stop in Michigan to visit ski friends – Cheyanne Sawyer (the daughter of Matt from Idaho) – at Boyne Mountain Ski Area. They traversed the Upper Peninsula before crossing back into Canada at Sault Ste Marie, taking in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.
They arrived home on October 20 after discovering that all campgrounds and RV parks were closed in the northeast leaving only Walmart Parking lots as places to camp.
They were gone some 164 days, of which 96 of them were spent fishing. They traveled through 8 Canadian provinces, 17 states, traveling 16,708 miles. They visited 7 fish hatcheries, and if you are wondering why, they have a special place in their heart for them. They were married in one.
What an amazing trip! They hope to have a video program of the trip early in 2018, with the locations and times to be determined at a later date.
But wait! You might think they would be tired of camping and fishing by then, but guess what. On October 23, they did some wilderness camping on the Deerfield River in Charlemont, MA and Trish caught the pictured 20- inch plus brown trout!
Ice Fishing
With this serious cold snap, some hard water anglers will be heading out onto the ice to do some ice fishing. There may be enough ice, especially in the higher elevations, but be careful in the lower elevations. You might want to stay away from any stream inlets or areas where there are currents which will have thinner ice. MassWildlife has some ice thickness guidelines, be sure to check them. Simply search “Stay Safe on Ice”, on its web page.
The last weather forecast that I saw mentioned temperatures in the 5 below zero area. Keep a sharp eye on the youngsters so that they don’t get frostbitten hands and feet. If you go, don’t forget to bring your 2018 fishing license.
Personally, I love to ice fish, but I’m going to wait another week, just to be on the safe side.

A most memorable fishing trip – Part 1


Readers may recall from last fall’s Canadian fishing articles of local fishermen, there were still two more anglers flyfishing up in Canada. Rex Channell and his wife Trish Watson. Rex is a local flyfishing guide who operates under the name of Allure Outfitters. I had promised to write about the trip when they returned. I had no idea at the time that they wouldn’t return until mid-October, after a 5 1/2 month trip. So, let’s take a break from this fall’s hunting articles and think fish for a while.

Rex and Trish packed up their 25-foot 2015 Coachman Freelander and began a fishing journey the likes of which most of us can only dream.

On May 9, 2017 they set out for West Falmouth to flyfish the Cape Cod Canal for schoolies (small striped bass). After 3 days, they headed for New Hampshire and Maine to visit friends, do some hiking, check out the beaches and lighthouses, etc. They stayed at the Desert Dunes of Maine Campground in Freeport, ME. (Yes, there are desert dunes up there), and they fished the Saco River near Fryeburg. While there was surface activity, they did not land anything.

They fished several stretches of the Crooked River in Bethel, ME while visiting friends but the river was high and non-productive. They went on to visit and fish with Brenda Sears (former Coordinator/Leader of Casting for Recovery in Massachusetts and licensed Maine guide) and her son Justin in Rangeley, ME, angling in such famed rivers as the Magallaway and Rangeley happily netting many nice brook trout and landlocked salmon in the latter on size 10 – 12 mayfly and stimulator patterns as well as larger streamers for the next 6 days.

Moving on to Greenville, ME in the Moosehead Lake region they fished the Roach River (no luck) and the Kennebec River with Rex catching a nice 3 lb brookie on a size 2 cone-head streamer. They spent several days camping and fishing on Perch Pond in the Deboullie Wilderness Area – only accessible by 25 miles of dirt roads deep in the North Maine Woods. While the fishing was not spectacular – some small brook trout – the wilderness itself was! The final Maine waters they fished were the Fish River and the Wallagrass Stream near Fort Kent again landing brookies and landlocked salmon on streamers. They said in general the rivers in Maine were difficult to fish this time of year (May) as the waters were high with late spring run-off but they were still able to land enough fish to make them happy and eager for more.

They drove from Ft. Kent and arrived at the Sugarloaf Provincial Parc in Atholville, New Brunswick on June 8. There they fished the St Lawrence River at Tide Head catching small salmon, climbed Sugarloaf Mountain and rode mountain bikes throughout the park. They traveled the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec Province and looked into fishing the Cascapedia River for Atlantic Salmon, but while the season was open, the salmon had not started up the rivers yet. They were told that the returning Atlantic Salmon count was down by two thirds in recent years in Quebec and New Brunswick. So, instead, they visited the Cascapedia River Museum and went on a hike in the Chic-Chocs (a mountain range in the central region of the Gaspé Peninsula).

While in Quebec Province, they fished the Pesciculture – Peche de la troute – a trout farm in St Felicite. For the next several days (June 14 through June 19) they camped, visited lighthouses, and museums and ferried across the St Lawrence River on their way to Labrador. On June 21 they arrived in Labrador City, Labrador. (population around 10,000). The people there were so incredibly friendly and helpful that they decided to stay 3 three days where they fished for brookies in Tanya Lake and Dumbell Lake both within the town boundaries.

There is only one road of 530 km (317 miles) between Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay and one population center – Churchill Falls. It is so remote that they signed out a satellite phone in Lab City to carry in case of emergency turning it in (without incident) when arriving in Happy Valley.

When they found a boat ramp/camp on the Ossokmanuan (Ossok) Reservoir along the way to Church Falls, they stopped to camp and fish resulting in catching the pictured large landlock salmon (called Ouaniniche) using 4x, sized 12 mayfly imitations (parachute gray flies). They hiked to Churchill Falls in Labrador (The falls are 245 feet high, located on the Churchill River) and toured the hydro-power plant of the same name, the third largest in the world and 1000+ feet underground. They took another opportunity to camp and fish at a pull-off on the Cache River where they caught more brook trout on dries before arriving at Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador was one of their primary destination points as they had scheduled a fly-in float plane fishing trip to Igloo Lake Lodge for the first week of July. (If that place sounds familiar, that is where local Attorney Michael Shepard and fellow anglers fished last summer. Remember that big brook trout that Mike was holding in a picture featured in this column on October 8, 2017?) Rex and Trish spent a week there catching huge brook trout and northern pike. Fifteen minutes into the trip, they were into 8 ½ lb brookies. Rex caught the pictured one just shy of 10 lbs later in the week. In the lake, they were using large sculpin patterns while trolling, while in the rivers they were catching the brookies on stimulators and smallish gray ghost flies.

They drove across Quebec taking a more northerly route along the Saguenay Fjord and avoiding the large eastern Canadian cities. They fished Lac Bujold, Lac du Milieu and the Chigoubiche River in Quebec along the way to Ontario. Only Lac Bujold offered up any fish – brook trout.

On July 16, they arrived at the Lost Lake Wilderness Campground in Gowganda, Ontario which provides fishing for large northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and brookies on 8 lakes including Lost Lake, Hill’s Lake and Aurora Lake. They stayed there 3 days and caught plenty of fish on both dry and wet flies. One of the larger pike was caught using home-made cork popper on a 3 wt rod. Although they rarely take the fish, they had a wonderful shore lunch of walleye and pike that they caught the day before.

While in Gowganda, they visited Hill’s Lake Fish Hatchery. Budd Lake near Wawa, Ontario was the last opportunity they took to fish heading into the vast plains. They camped at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, taking in the impressive waterfalls and before entering Winnipeg, they stayed at the Falcon Lake Provincial Park.

Westward they traveled and on July 22, they reached Morris, Manitoba where they attended the Manitoba Stampede and Rodeo. In Saskatchewan they camped at the Moose Jaw River Park on July 23 where they rode bikes instead of fishing as the water was low, slow and murky.

While they had planned on going to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, the wildfire threat in that region made them change their route. On July 24 they arrived in Crowsnest, Alberta and stayed at the Lundbreck Falls Provincial Park camping right on the river. There they fished the Crowsnest River for rainbows having great luck especially in the evenings where mayfly hatches were happening. (If that
name sounds familiar, that is where Paul Knauth, Allen Gray and I had tremendous rainbow trout fishing this past August, and was highlighted in this column on October 1).

On July 27, they arrived in Fernie, British Columbia and stayed at Snowy Peaks RV Park and for 5 days there. Again, fishing mostly in the evening, they caught a lot of healthy (2+ lb) west-slope cutthroat trout on the Elk River. This was all dry fly fishing with the go-to fly being a size 14 yellow sally. Fishing in this area of BC was more expensive since there is a fee of $20 per rod per day added to the cost of a fishing license for most of the big rivers, including the Elk, but the results were well worth it.

Their last stop in Canada was the Goat River outside of Kitchner, BC. They wilderness camped on the river 3 miles up a multi-use dirt road (logging and recreation) and fished the Goat River, catching 12” cutthroat and rainbow trout on yellow sallies and small stimulators.

On August 2, they crossed the US/Canadian border at Porthill, ID stopped in Spokane, Washington. Did they head for home? Heck no, the fishing trip was only half over. We’ll pick up the rest of the journey, hopefully in next week’s column.

Annual Berkshire Knapsacker New Year’s Day Hike and Gathering
The event will take place at the First Congregational Church Hall, 25 Park Place, Lee, MA. Two hikes are scheduled (or snowshoe as conditions warrant). The longer hike will be on the Appalachian Trail starting at the Route 20 parking area, led by Harold Moon. They will hike to the Goose Pond cabin and back, about four miles. They will leave the Church at 10:00 AM and return around 12:30 PM.
The shorter hike will be around Basin Pond in Lee, starting at the Becket Rd. parking lot, hiking through hemlock groves and over a stream to the site of the 1960 dam ruins and back, about 3 miles. They will leave the Church Hall at 10:15 AM and return around 12:30 PM.
A pot-luck lunch begins around 1:00 PM, (bring your own place setting, serving utensils, and an appetizer, dessert, salad, or entree to share) followed by a short business meeting.
At 2:00 PM, Dr. Richard Greene, an experienced and accomplished wildlife tracker, will present a program entitled “An Up-Close Look at Wildlife” He will discuss the value of wildlife cameras in conservation and science and will share his photos and videos capturing our local wildlife in their natural habitats. Dr. Greene’s presentation is free and open to the public.

Four generations of hunting tradition for the Curtins.

In 1967 Neil Curtin, of Tyringham, and his brothers bought 60 acres of land in Monterey at the top of the mountain on the Tyringham-Monterey line. They built a deer camp that September. The first day of shotgun season he shot a nice 8-point buck at the old birch tree up on the side hill where he had decided would be a good spot. That was the very first day of the then new Massachusetts bucks only law, unless you had an antlerless deer permit. That birch tree was where Neil’s son John Curtin got his first deer a few years later. Neil and John’s uncle Peter Curtin are gone now, as well as the old birch.

But this year John’s 16-year old grandson, Colby Curtin, went to the old birch and shot a 175 lb black bear. He was very excited and a little rattled by the experience. “My father would never have thought a black bear would be shot at that spot when he shot that deer 50 years ago”, John said. (There were few if any bears around there then, in spite of the fact that the mountain is called Beartown Mountain.)

Also, later in the same day Colby’s dad and John’s son, Michael Curtin, shot another bear. Then to top the day off John’s son Mark Curtin, shot a 6-point buck.

John said that he got to walk about 3 miles that day and (got) nothing. “What I did get was a great deal of satisfaction and a lot of good memories!” said John.

Black Bears

Black bears typically enter their winter dens at this time of year and exit between March and April. Bears commonly den in brush piles, in mountain laurel thickets, or under fallen trees or rocks. If food is available, bears that are not pregnant may remain active throughout the winter.

Incidentally, black bears mate in summer and don’t give birth until January, after being pregnant only for 2 months. This isn’t a riddle, it’s delayed implantation! After breeding, the fertilized egg develops into a tiny ball of cells that remains free-floating in the uterus. If the female is well-nourished, the cells will implant in the uterine wall in November, and she’ll give birth to 1–4 cubs after 2 months.

In his December report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden noted that over 60 bears were harvested statewide during this year’s shotgun deer hunting season. He suspects there will be even more when the final figures come in. Some 120 or so were harvested during the September bear hunting season and 23 were harvested in the November season.

The harvest figures for the archery hunting season have not been released yet, but it appears to have been a very good year, perhaps a potential record year. That’s according to Madden. It’s also too early for the preliminary figures of the shotgun deer hunting season, but the Western District deer checking stations reported a “solid” first week.
In the above referenced County League report, Madden presented graphics illustrating the age structure and antler beam diameters for Massachusetts deer. In the Western District (Wildlife Management Zones 1 – 4), statistics show that 46% of the harvested deer were 1 ½ years old or younger; 27% were aged 2 1/2 years and 27% were aged 3 to 5+ years. Those are the exact ages at which MassWildlife wants our herd to be.
Illustrations were also presented giving the Western District average yearling male antler beam diameter. Measured in millimeters, they hope the diameters would fall between 15 and 17 millimeters. Below 15 millimeters would indicate that the food supply is not sufficient to grow the body and antlers which would mean the herd is in trouble. Here in the Western District, the average figure was 18.2 inches which exceeded their highest hopes. That is an indication of an ample food supply and a really healthy deer herd.
That’s why MassWildlife requires hunters to bring deer to a biological check station during the first week of the shotgun season, so they can collect this important information.
Incidentally, did you hear about the massive, 31-point buck taken by bow hunter Patrick Craig of Ancramdale, NY? He took the deer on state land in Columbia County and would only reveal that it was in the Taconic Mountains near the New York/ Massachusetts border. It weighed 265 pounds after being field dressed, which would equate to about 330 lbs on the hoof. It had an atypical rack. He estimated the deer was about 8 years old. “I don’t know how it was eating.” He said, “It’s back teeth were ground down to the bottom.” “This was an old buck – a monster,” he concluded. “One backstrap weighed almost 12 pounds.”
To see pictures and read more about that deer, google Upstate NY Outdoors. The article is written by David Figura, outdoors writer for The Post-Standard newspaper.
Becoming an Outdoors Woman Deer Hunt
Congratulations to the nineteen women statewide who participated in the recent BOW Deer Hunt. MassWildlife thanks all of its “fantastic” volunteer mentors. Two of the women had success and dropped nice bucks. One of those bucks had a beautiful 8-point rack, definitely suitable for mounting. You can see pictures of the lucky women and their bucks by logging onto the MassWildlife Facebook page and scroll back a week or so.
The deer hunting seminar and guided hunt is designed for women (18 and older) who are new to deer hunting. In the seminar, participants learn about deer behavior, what to wear, what gear to bring on a deer hunt, deer management, sighting in a firearm and other useful tips. Then comes the guided deer hunt. No previous hunting experience is required for the seminar and registration priority is given to new hunters.
Reminder to gamebird and archery deer hunters

If you completed a MassWildlife log while hunting game birds or during archery deer season, it’s time to send them in. Hunters who submit completed logs before December 20, 2017 will be entered in a drawing to win a blaze orange MassWildlife cap or a Massachusetts Wildlife 1-year magazine subscription. You can email scanned logs to or mail completed forms to MassWildlife, Attn: Game bird hunting log / Archery deer hunting log, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Fishing and Boating Access Maps
Anglers, check out the new Fishing & Boating Access Maps and give the Office of Fishing and Boating Access your feedback. Go to the MassWildlife web page and search boating maps and access. One of the new features gives directions to access sites via Google Maps. The OFBA provides boat and canoe access sites, shore fishing areas, and sport fishing piers at more than 275 locations on coastal waters, great ponds and rivers throughout Massachusetts.
Habitat Work
If you have been noticing some sawing and other activity lately on the Peru Wildlife Management Area off of Mongue Road, fear not. DFW Western District Staff is continuing habitat work in there this month. The area of work is a hilltop that was clear-cut in 2003. Their goal is to clear the area to reset the clock for establishing young forest conditions. Such work is very important in encouraging early successional growth which is good for wildlife and song birds.