DFW announces 2015 deer harvest numbers

 

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reported that the statewide preliminary deer harvest for 2015 (excluding special hunts and any data not yet received) was 10,042.  The harvest figures for the previous four years beginning with year 2011 were as follows:    11,081, 10,938, 11,413 and 11,165.  In the Western District (WD), which includes all areas west of the Connecticut River (Zones 1 – 4), some 1,887 were taken.   For the previous four years beginning with year 2011 the figures were 3,417, 1,626, 1,664 and 1,737.    Zones 10 and 11 in eastern Massachusetts yielded 4,061 deer in 2015.

 

The statewide preliminary archery season harvest was 4,188.  Harvest figures for the previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 were as follows:  3,765, 3903, 4,474 and 4,456.  In the WD, 511 were taken with the bow in 2015.   The WD archery harvests for the previous four years, beginning with year 2011, were as follows: 522, 453, 577 and 505.    Zones 10 and 11 yielded 2,108 in 2015.

The statewide preliminary shotgun season harvest was 4,123.    For the previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 the harvests were as follows: 5,349, 4,950, 4,625 and 4,742.  The WD shotgunners checked in 898 in 2015, which compares with the previous 4 years:  904, 842, 739 and 888.  Zones 10 and 11 yielded 1,324 in 2015.  Note – 784 more deer were taken with the bow out there than with shotgun.

The statewide preliminary primitive season harvest was 1,599.  The previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 were: 1,959, 1,958, 2,314 and 1967.  In the WD, muzzleloaders checked in 320 in 2015, which compares with the previous 4 years as follows:   251, 301, 350 and 344.  Zones 10 and 11 muzzleloaders checked in 629 deer in 2015.

The first statewide preliminary youth hunt harvest was 132.  In the WD youths checked in 58 of them.

The total harvested deer by all methods in the WD were as follows: Zone 1 – 293, Zone 2 – 462, Zone 3 – 486, Zone 4N – 436 and Zone 4S – 210.

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 data, 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. An analysis of this information is now underway for the annual spring deer management review.  A complete harvest summary will be posted on the DFW website shortly after the annual deer review, so check back in May or June.

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

As you are well aware, this winter has been an unusually warm one.  Maybe we will get some winter weather yet, but so far winter sports such as skiing, snow shoeing and skating have been dismal.  The same holds true with ice fishing.  But, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal and some sportsmen’s clubs and organizations are still planning ice fishing derbies.  As of this writing I have information on only one derby.

 

On February 14, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will have its ice fishing derby at Goose Pond from 6AM to 2PM.  The awards and spaghetti and meatball dinner will take place at the LSA Clubhouse after the derby.  The cost for derby and dinner is $15 for adults and $6 for kids.

 

There will be no Locker Room Ice Fishing Derby on Sunday, February 21 due to ice conditions   but they will still have a pasta dinner and raffle prizes at the Locker Room from 1 to 4 PM.   The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students.  Proceeds will benefit: the Lee Youth Football program.

 

The Lenox and Cheshire sportsmen’s clubs as well as the Jimmy Fund derbies have been cancelled due to ice conditions.  May I suggest that if any derby is still scheduled, be sure to check with the derby organizers in advance.  Also, satisfy yourself that there is sufficient ice! *****

 

Next Sunday at 1:00 PM the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will be holding a multi-state firearms course.  It includes firearm laws covering licensing, storage, transportation, operation and safe handling of firearms, shooting fundamentals, etc.  Participants will receive a course certificate which will allow them to apply for licenses in Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire and Maine.  A Utah firearm permit is honored in 30 states.   The fee for the entire 5 hour course is $140 or one can take just the Massachusetts or Utah segments for $100.   Preregistration is required.   Call or e-mail Robert J. McDermott at (413)232-7700 or robmcdermott@verizon. *****

 

On Monday, February 15, the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club will hold its 33rd annual Presidents Day Rabbit Hunt.  Registration fee is $10 with weigh in at 4:00 PM.  Prizes awarded for heaviest hare and cottontail.  A venison dinner will follow which is included in the registration fee.    Pre-register with Ron Carr @ 413-442-5122 or sign up at the club.  *****

 

Berkshire waters accounted for 6 gold pin awards last year

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For over 50 years MassWildlife has sponsored the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program, which recognizes anglers who catch exceptional freshwater fish from water bodies of the Commonwealth that are open to the public. Over the years, the program has evolved.  Beginning in 2005, a youth category was added to recognize anglers 17 years and younger for their accomplishments.  In 2015, the Bowfin category was added to the program (The Bowfin pin replaced the Broodstock Salmon pin).  Also added last year was a Catch and Release component.

Anglers who catch the largest fish in the state in each category receive a gold pin and plaque which commemorates their accomplishments. If they keep the fish, they must have their catch weighed at a certified weigh station and submit an affidavit and photo to the Sportfishing Awards Coordinator.   If they wish to release their fish alive, there are certain procedures which must be followed.  (Check the MassWildlife web page for those instructions).

Last year, 6 gold pin fish were caught in our waters.  They are as follows:  Adult Catch & Keep Category 13 lbs 10 oz Tiger Muskie caught out of Pontoosuc Lake by Mark Mohan, Jr. from Pembrook, MA. Youth Catch & Keep Category – 3 lbs 10 oz brown trout caught out of Onota Lake by Casen Kendal from Pittsfield; 2 lbs 5 oz crappie caught out of Onota Lake by Jaxon Wallace of Pittsfield; 22 lbs 15 oz Northern Pike caught out of Lake Buel by Mason Colli of Glendale and a 17 lbs 3 oz Tiger Muskie caught out of Pontoosuc Lake by Andrew Mucci of Pittsfield. Catch & Release Category – A 43 inch Northern Pike caught out of Onota Lake by Jeffrey Klammer of Adams.

Anglers also receive bronze pins for catching fish of certain minimum weight requirements for 22 species.  If one is lucky enough to catch a lot of pin fish, the angler qualifies for the title of Massachusetts Freshwater Angler of the Year.  There are three categories   Adult Catch & Keep, Youth Catch & Keep and Catch & Release (adult or youth).

The 2015 Adult Catch & Keep Angler of the Year was Mark Mohan, Jr. of Pembrook. This is his 3rd consecutive year that he has received that award. He received pins for the following categories: Brook Trout, 2 Brown Trout, 3 Carp, 3 Chain Pickerel, Channel Catfish, 2 Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, 3 Shad, including the gold pin, Smallmouth Bass, (out of Onota Lake), Sunfish, gold pin Tiger Muskie (out of  Pontoosuc Lake), Tiger Trout, a gold pin Walleye, White Perch and 4 Yellow Perch.

The 2015 Youth Catch & Keep Angler of the Year was Tauri Adamczyk of Taunton, MA. He received pins for the following: A gold pin Bowfin, Brook Trout, 2 Brown Trout, Bullhead, 2 Carp (one out of the Housatonic River in Lee), Chain Pickerel, Crappie, Landlocked Salmon, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, 2 Sunfish of which one was a gold pin, Tiger Trout, White Perch and a Yellow Perch.

The 2015 Catch & Release Angler of the Year was Michael Nee of Northborough. He received pins for the following:  2 Brook Trout of which one was a gold pin, Brown Trout, 2 Bullhead, Chain Pickerel, Crappie, Landlocked Salmon, 3 Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout, 2 Smallmouth Bass of which one was a gold pin, 2 Sunfish of which one was a gold pin, 2 Tiger Trout, White Catfish, White Perch and 2 Yellow Perch.

Wow! These are tremendous fishermen.  I was fortunate enough to get a picture of Andrew Mucci’s 17 lbs 3 oz Tiger Muskie, pictured above.

The Angler of the Year recipients and gold pin winners are honored each year at a ceremony (date and location to be announced in the spring). To see a list of all of the gold pin fish and where they were caught, click onto the MassWildlife website.  *****

Twenty one hunters participated in the Berkshire Beagle Club’s annual bunny hunt on January 16.  Two snowshoe hares and three cottontails were checked in.  The largest hare weighing 3.48 lbs was taken by Pat McGrath of Adams in front of his dog Buck.  The largest cottontail weighing 3.25 lbs was taken by Dave Morris of Lee in front of Tom King’s (of Cheshire) dog Bomber.   Following check-in, a meal of venison stew, venison chili and venison pasta was enjoyed by all. *****

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is having a Turkey Shoot today from 12:30 to 3:00 PM and a dinner from 4:00 to 6:30 PM.  The menu is venison stew and polenta and spaghetti and meatballs.  The cost is $15.00 for adults and $7.00 children 12 and under.  The dinner is to benefit its pheasant program.

 

Ice fishing season is upon us, let’s be careful

Well, after a delayed start due to the warm weather, it looks like there may be enough ice to get out onto the lakes and ponds and do some “hardwater” fishing. Make sure there is enough ice before venturing out onto it.  The bulk of the information for this week’s column comes from MassWildlife which has ice strength and safety tips which are listed below.  They stress that the figures in the table below are for clear, blue ice on lakes and ponds and caution us to reduce strength values 15% for clear blue, river ice. “Honeycombed” ice, which occurs in the spring or during major winter thaws as the ice is melting, is the most dangerous ice.  It is best avoided unless the angler is certain there is a safe layer of solid ice beneath the honeycombed surface.”

They caution us to “be aware that many lakes and ponds contain spring holes and other areas of current that may create deceptively dangerous thin spots in areas that are otherwise safe. Always use caution, and don’t venture out onto unfamiliar waters without checking ice thickness frequently.”

Ice Thickness and Strength
Ice Thickness (inches) Permissible Load (on new* clear/blue** ice on lakes or ponds)
2″ or less STAY OFF!
4″ Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5″ Snowmobile or ATV
8″-12″ Car or small pickup truck
12″ – 15″ Medium truck
*New ice is stronger than older ice. **White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

“There are no guarantees. Always consider ice potentially dangerous. Assess ice safety by using an ice chisel to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition. Make sure you continue to do this as you go further out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the pond or lake. Be aware that ice tends to be thinner on lakes and ponds where there are spring holes, inlets or outlets. Don’t venture onto ice-bound rivers or streams as the currents make ice thickness unpredictable.”

MassWildlife cautions that if you, a companion, or pet fall through the ice, don’t panic!  Call for help if there are people nearby. While it doesn’t take long for the cold water to start slowing your physical and mental functions, you have more time than you might think; typically 2-5 minutes and perhaps longer if you are in good, physical condition.  Air will remain trapped in your clothes for a short time aiding your buoyancy.  Kick your legs while grasping for firm ice.  Try to pull your body up using “ice pins” that should be hanging around your neck.  Once your torso is on firm ice, roll towards thicker ice. This will better distribute your weight. Remember that ice you previously walked on should be the safest.

After you reach safe ice, don’t waste precious time, you need to warm up and dry out. If you are in a remote area, this means getting to or starting a campfire. If you are in a more urban setting get to a car or house. Once there, get out of wet clothes, change into dry clothes to get warmed up and seek advice from your physician on medical attention. You need to warm up quickly to prevent hypothermia.

If a companion falls through the ice remember the phrase “Reach-Throw-Go”. If you are unable to reach your friend from shore, throw him or her a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or other object. If this does not work, go for help before you also become a victim. Get medical assistance for the victim immediately.

When walking on or near ice, keep your pets on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice do not attempt to rescue the pet, go for help. Well meaning pet owners can too easily become rescue victims when trying to assist their pets.

Incidentally, the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club Echo Lake derby, which was scheduled for next weekend, has been cancelled due to ice conditions. *****

It is unclear whether the Onota Boat Livery will be preparing a list of local ice fishing derbies this year.  If not, I would be happy to list them in this column.  Please get the information to me at least 2 week in advance of the event.  Information needed:  Date, Name of Event, Location, times, entry fee, and contact phone number. *****

 

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

 

The following local Basic Hunter Education courses are scheduled as follows:  Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, March 1, 3, 8, 10, 15 and 17.  Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire, March 7, 11, 14, 18, 21 and 25.   Both are 6 class sessions which run from 6 to 9 PM.  You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.

 

I am mentioning this months in advance because the courses fill up quickly.  If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, please call 508-389-7830 immediately; students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email. *****

 

The sportsmen of Berkshire County have lost yet another well known sportsman, Kenneth R. Larabee, Sr from Cheshire.   He was an avid bass fisherman who founded the Northern Berkshire Bass Club and was the past president of the Tunnel City Bass Club.  Our condolences go out to his wife Sandra and family.  The tournament bass fishermen of Northern Berkshires will truly miss him.

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

Infested ash trees are very dangerous

In his January report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported on the status of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Massachusetts.   It has now been discovered in 4 regions of Massachusetts (Berkshire County, Andover, Boston and Worcester).  In the Berkshires, EAB was first discovered in Dalton but has now also been found in Windsor, Hancock and Lee.      

Since its discovery in 2002 in Michigan the EAB has been spreading rapidly throughout the Midwest and Northeast. EAB kills the ash tree within a couple of years of infestation. Madden feels that it is likely that we will approach complete mortality of untreated ash trees over the next 10-20 years. Ash trees make up 4-8% of the hardwood forests in Massachusetts, but compose a larger percentage in Berkshire County.  Pesticide treatments can be effective in treating individual trees and biological controls have been introduced with some evidence of early success.

Hunters, hikers and other users of wooded areas should be aware that infested trees deteriorate rapidly, completely dry out and may come down unpredictably with very little force. Small windstorms shatter them, so don’t trust them.  In the past, one could feel pretty solid standing on a 1 inch ash limb but if infested don’t even go near a 5 inch limb.  They dry out so much that they are completely unpredictable.

Madden advises bow hunters to pay special attention to the ash trees and pick a different kind of tree for their tree stands.   Turkey hunters who often sit at the foot of trees should avoid them also.

 

Many towns have ash trees along their streets and will have to address this issue lest they be falling on telephone and power lines, or even worse, on people.*****

Madden also reported that the DFW has made a new land acquisition. Located in the Town of Egremont, this new parcel contains about 23 acres and has 960 feet of road frontage along Rowe Road and about 2,500 feet along the Green River, an excellent cold water stream. 

The property abuts other lands along the Green River and Rowe Road owned by the DFW (North Egremont Wildlife Management Area), and it also abuts land along the Green River owned by the Egremont Land Trust which is under a Conservation Easement (C/E) held by the DFW (North Egremont WCE).  Funding for a large portion of the acquisition came from the Housatonic Natural Resources Damages program. *****

MassWildlife Furbearer and Black Bear Project Leader Laura Conlee recently reported that statewide, some 228 bears were harvested during the three 2015 open seasons combined. The record harvest of 240 bears occurred in 2014. During the traditional September and November seasons a total of 175 bears were taken, while an additional 53 bears were taken during the new two-week season which ran concurrently with the shotgun deer season.

The bears are gradually spreading eastward in the Commonwealth. Last year, six bears were taken in Wildlife Management Zone 8 and two in WMZ 9.  No bears were taken yet in the newly-opened WMZs to the east of Zone 9, but it’s just a matter of time.  No information is available yet as to the harvest numbers here in the Western District (Zones 1 through 4).

In my December 13, 2015 column, I had mentioned a 450 lbs live weight bear which was harvested by Dick Superneau of Clarksburg.  It weighed 375 lbs field dressed.  Well, it turns out that a much larger bear was taken last December in Athol by Jim Mundell of Athol. It took Mundell four hours to get it out of the woods with the use of a backhoe. When he checked his bear in at the Sunderland Hatchery it weighed 498 lbs field dressed and perhaps is the state “unofficial” record. Massachusetts does not keep official state bear records but they do maintain a database of the largest bears on record.   According to the UMASS Cooperative Extension System, the existing state record (dressed weight) for a male black bear in Massachusetts was 467 lbs.

Regardless of whether it is the new state record, the 498 pounds was the weight after the bear had been dressed, and it was estimated by officials to have weighed 650 pounds while alive. To put that in perspective, according to the MassWildlife website, Massachusetts male black bears average 230 lbs, while females average 140 lbs.  To see a picture of that bear, google “Mass state record black bear.” *****

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 22 through 24 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day.  While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.

 

All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod.  Some of the celebrity authors this year include Ed Engle, Jay “Fishy” Fullum, Bob Popovics, Ben Furminsky, 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  flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details.

 

For flyfishers/flytyers this is a must-attend event.

Steps taken to control burgeoning deer population near Boston

If you have been following the news releases by MassWildlife about the troublesome deer densities in the eastern part of the Commonwealth, you know they are having a devil of a time getting the numbers to a more manageable and safe level.  For years, they have been issuing tens of thousands of doe or antlerless permits annually.  The female segment of the deer population is used for population management since with each female deer harvested, not only is the individual removed from the population but so too is that deer’s future reproductive potential.

The hunters are doing their part.  Just in the years 2013 and 2014, they have harvested nearly 10,000 deer out of Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 10 and 11 alone.  But the densities continued to increase.  Part of the problem is that the towns are thickly settled where it would be dangerous to shoot guns.  Some of the towns have banned hunting within their confines.  The result being an ever increasing herd which is causing many automobile accidents, high incidences of deer tick borne illnesses, destruction of residential ornamental shrubbery and a serious threat to the state forests and woodlands there.  The deer are eating everything that is green and actually curtailing new growth and regeneration of the forests.

Well, this year the first ever deer hunt at the State’s Blue Hills Reservation in Milton and Quincy (just outside of Boston) took place. According to a recent MassWildlife news release the special hunt resulted in a total of 64 deer being taken, an encouraging start to a plan for addressing deer overpopulation at the Reservation. As part of a long term deer population management program designed to contend with negative impacts on the Reservation’s forest by high deer populations, the hunt was conducted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) with assistance from MassWildlife, the Environmental Police, and State Police. Hunting took place on 4.5 square miles of the 10-square mile property over 4 days in early December.

Due to the densely populated area surrounding the Reservation, public safety was a major concern and the controlled hunt was conservative and carefully designed with staffing at trail heads, signage, low hunter densities, and just four days of firearms hunting. According to MassWildlife, there were no injuries or other public safety issues during the hunt, demonstrating that a controlled hunt could be safely conducted in a suburban/urban setting.

“Overall, given the conservative framework design for this first year of the hunt, the preliminary 2015 harvest results are very positive,” said David Stainbrook, MassWildlife Deer Project Leader. “The 64 deer taken represents a reduction of approximately 14 deer per square mile from the hunted areas of the reservation. A more significant figure is that 47 deer taken were females, which equates to at least 120 fewer deer in next spring’s population.” A 2013 deer abundance survey conducted by MassWildlife and DCR revealed an estimated average of 85 deer per square mile of forest in and around the Reservation, a figure significantly above the MassWildlife’s desired management range of 6-18 deer per square mile of forest. In accordance with the Blue Hills Deer Management Plan, DCR and MassWildlife will be reviewing this first hunt to assess any needs for potential changes or modifications to the deer reduction phase of the plan. *****

The Berkshire Beagle Club, on Sleepy Hollow Road in Richmond, will be holding its Annual Rabbit Hunt next Saturday, January 16.  Entrance fee is $10 per person and that includes a dinner.  Weigh-in by 3:00 PM.  Contact John Demary at 413-441-2253 if you wish to enter and/or donate some raffle prizes. Prizes go for the largest cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare.  No hunting is allowed on the Beagle Club grounds. *****

For the second week in a row, local sportsmen received bad news of the loss of one of their own.  Last week it was the late Chris Porter.  This week it was the loss of Charles “Chuck” Jones of Dalton.  A very active member of the NRA and Board of Directors of the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club, Chuck was instrumental in starting a Youth Rifle League.  He coached the first competitive women’s pistol team in Berkshire County known as the “Hot Shots” since its inception.  In 2004, he was awarded the very prestigious Berkshire County League of Sportsmen Silvio O. Conte Sportsman of the Year Award.  Our condolences go out to his wife Evelyn (“Hot Shot” member) and his family.  He also will be sorely missed by local sportsmen and shooters.

Well, we didn’t get it for Christmas, but we got it for New Years.  The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) recently announced that its December fund drive realized the final $115,000 needed to buy a conservation restriction (C/R) on the 83 acre Undermountain Farm in Lenox.  (Some $335,000 was previously raised by the BNRC).  The Berkshire Eagle’s Clarence Fanto did a dandy job of spreading the good news (“Deal would preserve 83 acres”, January 5, 2016). Many thanks to the Sprague family for selling the C/R for half of its appraised value, to the 225 donors who really dug deep into their pockets to preserve this land and to the Lenox Land Trust which for years doggedly pursued its conservation.

Although there is no general public right of access to the property, there will be public access to two designated trails to be constructed by the BNRC which will allow the right to walk, cross-country ski or snowshoe on them.

Next up is the 63 acre abutting southern parcel which is part of Parson’s Marsh.  The BNRC will be asking us to come up with another $180,000 to purchase and conserve that land.  Hey!  We’re on a roll.  Let’s do it!

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

 

Winter feeding of wildlife can be counterproductive

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Canale Deer

The 2015 deer harvest figures have not yet been released by MassWildlife, so today I am switching gears and writing about deer survival during winter.

So far it has been a warm, snowless winter here in the Berkshires and hopefully, our deer and turkey populations are enjoying it.  They should be able to have easy access to nuts, apples, browse, etc without having to scrape through feet of frozen hard snow like they had to do last year. Without deep snow, they should be able to flee from predators, too.  Perhaps we will have one of those rare open winters or perhaps Mother Nature will make us pay for our current moderate weather later this winter.

When we have a rough winter like we had last year, it is natural for us to pity the poor deer that somehow have to scrounge up food in order to survive.  We have a natural inclination to help them out by putting corn, hay or other food out for them.  Well, MassWildlife strongly discourages feeding of deer and other wildlife.  Supplemental feed sites congregate wildlife into unnaturally high densities, which can:

  • Attract predators and increase risk of death by wild predators or domestic pets
  • Spread diseases among wildlife or cause other health issues (e.g. Rumen acidosis in deer, Aflatoxicosis in turkeys)
  • Cause aggression and competition over food, wasting vital energy reserves and potentially leading to injury or death
  • Reduce fat reserves, as wild animals use energy traveling to and from the feeding site
  • Cause wildlife to cross roads more frequently, therefore increasing vehicle collisions
  • Negatively impact vegetation and habitat in areas where feeding congregates animals.

The most critical time for winter deer survival is March.  Deer have a limited supply of fat reserves to carry them through winter.  Research has shown that a healthy doe begins winter with a 90-day fat supply. This ticking clock begins winding down in March and is the reason why weather patterns in that month often play the biggest role in deer mortality.

If January and February are brutal but relief comes on time with warming temperatures in March, most deer will sail through with no trouble. If January and February are mild but winter lingers until the end of March, or brutal cold and snow hit late, deer mortality rises.

If you are one of those who simply cannot allow that to happen, the best option is to give them more of the winter foods they are already adapted to eating: winter browse. This includes buds and twigs of woody plants.  Introducing new foods in the middle of winter, especially in high quantities all of a sudden, can actually be more harmful to deer than not feeding them at all.

As an example of how deadly it can be, please consider the following:  On March 20, 2015,  the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reported that twelve deer were discovered dead in South Hampton, N.H, most likely the victims of well-intentioned, but tragically fatal, supplemental feeding by local residents.

 

Studies show that a deer has to eat a new food for one to two weeks before it can start pulling in nutrients from that food. This is because it takes time for the micro-flora – the bacteria that live in the deer’s gut and help with digestion – to adjust and become capable of dealing with the new food source.  If you haven’t already been providing supplemental feed, don’t introduce it suddenly in large amounts in late winter.

If you can’t supply woody browse, and you feel you have no other option but to provide a new food source, introduce it slowly, in tiny amounts, at multiple sites scattered across the landscape. Give deer time to adjust over a period of two or more weeks before providing unlimited amounts of feed for deer to consume.  It comes down to how poor their condition is when they are exposed to the new food and how much of that food they get. The worse shape they are in when they receive the food, the more likely they are to die from it.

If you do provide supplemental feed, provide it at as many locations as possible rather than at one or two sites to avoid creating concentration points where predators, like coyotes, will use to their advantage.  Deer are in their poorest condition in March, and they are easier prey for coyotes.  In nearby New Hampshire, they often found increased coyote predation around feeding sites.  These sites were funneling a lot of deer into a small area and making them easier for coyotes to kill.

If you’re concerned about deer survival in tough winter conditions, the best thing you can do to help them get through the critical last days of March is break out the chainsaw and provide some woody browse.  (The bunnies will love you for that, too.)  If you grow fruit trees or maybe ornamentals in your yard that require pruning, leave the pruned limbs where deer can reach them

Much of the information used in this article came from MassWildlife, New Hampshire Fish & Game, University of New Hampshire and the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), a non-profit conservation organization working to ensure the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. *****

The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen held officer elections recently and the following individuals were returned to office:  Mark Jester of Pittsfield – President, Mike Kruszyna, Cheshire  – VP, Dan Kruszyna, Cheshire – Treasurer and me as Secretary.

The Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited elected the following people:  Allen Gray of Pittsfield – President, John Burns, Plainfield – VP, Richard Bordeau, Pittsfield – Treasurer and Paul Knauth, Hinsdale – Secretary.

Happy New Year!

Preliminary results of new bear hunting season are in

 

This year is the first year that black bear could be hunted during the two week shotgun deer hunting season which ran from November 30 to December 12.  This is in addition to the two other bear hunting seasons; the first season ran from September 8 to September 26 and the second from November 2 through November 21.  The additional hunting season is the latest tool that the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) has employed to try to manage the rapidly growing bear population statewide.

In his December 10 report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that preliminary harvest numbers of black bear taken during the two week shotgun deer hunting season statewide should be about 45.   They may still have some check stations that haven’t reported in yet, but he doubts that the number is likely to change by more than a few bears.  He predicts that the final number will probably be between 45 and 50.

We probably shouldn’t expect such high numbers every year.  This year’s warm weather was undoubtedly a factor in the harvest totals.  The bears were probably still actively foraging for food and had not yet settled into their dens for their long winter sleeps.

The final numbers for the September and November bear hunting seasons have not yet been released by DFW for either the state or western district.  The total statewide bear harvest for 2014 was 240 with 78 of them coming from Berkshire County. *****

In his report, Madden also stated that a preliminary look at Western District check stations indicated a good first week of shotgun deer season with numbers up slightly from last year and good quality deer being checked.  This is in spite of the lack of snow which usually affords better tracking conditions.

The following are some of the larger deer taken in the Western District.  Included are  the hunters’ last names, dressed out deer weights and towns where the bucks were taken:  Wright – 196 lbs, Cheshire; Salvatore – 187 lbs, West Stockbridge; Majchrowski – 182 lbs, Dalton; Turner – 190 lbs, Hancock; Voudren – 190 lbs, Russell; Thomas – 194 lbs, Blandford and Gaudette – 202 lbs, Sandisfield.  Gaudette’s deer was a 10 pointer.

The live weights of all of the above deer were undoubtedly over 200 lbs.  Although not a true scientific measurement, if you apply the formula of field dressed weight x 1.25 you should come up with an approximate live weight of a deer.  If one applies that formula to Gaudette’s deer, then the live weight was probably about 250 lbs.

While we are on the subject of deer weights, let’s carry it a step further and try to figure out the realistic venison yield.  How many times have we heard of people accuse the deer processor of not giving back all the meat.  Well, consider the following.

One adult bucks weighing over 160 lbs, one must deduct 9% of its weight which represents the hide; 11.7% is bone and some percentage representing the blood. Then one must consider the part of the meat that has been damaged by the bullet or improper field dressing.  A neck shot has very little ideal meat ruined, whereas a deer shot in the loin or hind quarter area has more of the ideal meat ruined.

According to University of Wisconsin research, a mature buck weighing 165 pounds field-dressed would ideally yield 83.08 pounds of boneless meat and realistically yield about 58 pounds of good meat.  Information came from http://www.butcher– packer.com and http://askthemeatman.com websites.. *****

Looking for a new project for your man cave this winter?  Have you thought about taking up fly tying but didn’t know where to start?  Well the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited is once again hosting a fly-tying event this afternoon.  The event is free and open to all TU members and their friends.  It will be an informal gathering with members bringing in their own vises and tying materials. They expect to have a few extra sets available for those just curious about tying. This is a great opportunity to learn about fly tying and to exchange patterns and ideas.  They will gather in the lounge at the Wahconah Country Club on 20 Orchard Road, Dalton from 2:00 to 6:00 PM.  Refreshments can be purchased at the Club.   If interested contact Henry Sweren at hsweren8@aol.com. *****

 

The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will have youth archery sign ups Saturday, January 2, 2016 in the archery range from 8:00 to 10:00 AM.   You can also download applications from their website www.stockbridgesportsmansclub.org. The cost is $40 per child and you do not have to be a member of the club.  They will shoot the following 10 Saturday mornings.  For more information, call Mike Buffoni at 413-323-7703. *****

On Sunday, January 17, Avid Sport on 1201 West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield will be holding a Firearms Safety Course which allows you to apply for your FID card or Pistol Permit.   The class is usually limited to 9 and you are required to prepay to lock in a seat.  The cost is $100.  For more information, call 413-997-3600.

If you live in Northern Berkshires, there is another firearms safety course on the same day in North Adams.  Dan Peck, NRA and Massachusetts State Police Certified Instructor will be teaching that course.  For location, hours and more information, call 413-663-4896. *****

The DFW Western District office has a new biologist.  His name is Nate Buckhout from East Hampton, MA.   An Air Force veteran, Nate received his BA from the United States Air Force Academy and his Masters degree in Wildlife Conservation from UMASS Amherst.  He filled Tony Gola’s position who retired earlier this year.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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

Big black bear shot by Richard (Dick) Superneau

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Dick Superneau’s Bear

Dick Superneau of Clarksburg will be munching on bear meat for the foreseeable future. Using a .308 Remington bolt action rifle, he shot a male bear (boar) in Pownal, Vermont which weighed 450 lbs live weight and 375 lbs field dressed.  It was approximately 4 feet tall when walking on all fours and measured 6 feet from nose to tail.  Even with the help of 5 Vermont hunters, they couldn’t drag it more than 3 feet at a time.  It took 7 or 8 hunters 3 hours to drag it 150 yards to the truck.    It was so large that Dick said he couldn’t shut the tail gate on his truck without scrunching it up.

 

A very large bear had been recently spotted in the Massachusetts Avenue section of North Adams, Massachusetts, and he wonders if that isn’t the same bear that perhaps wandered over the state line into Pownal.

 

Dick is having a shoulder mount made of the bear at LaBlue’s Taxidermy in Adams. He intends to have the skull scored by Boone & Crockett but has to wait several months for it to dry out.  *****

 

I had the good fortune of attending the Onota Fishing Club’s 21st annual game dinner last Sunday at the ITAM in Pittsfield.  It was filled to capacity and what a spread they put out. There were fish cakes, fish chowder, marinated and grilled venison and bear and bear chili and those were only the appetizers.  For the main buffet dinner, they had Brunswick stew, sweet and hot bear sausages, garlick and cheese bear sausage, sweet and hot venison sausages, rabbit, polenta, roast venison, roast bear, wild turkey, freshwater perch and crappie, saltwater cod, haddock and pollock, dessert, and more.  I tested all of the excellent food and boy was I stuffed.  There were several women who tried the bear meat and venison for the first time and they were pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. After everyone had their fill, the excess food was donated to Soldier On.

 

Some $750 of the raffle proceeds were donated to the Eagle Santa Toy Fund.   The late John Drury was remembered and honored for his many years of service to the club.

 

Many folks donated the meat including:  Liam McCluskey, Bob Stevens, Joe Trybus, Dan Gaylord, Tom Dwayne, Ed Blake, Chuck Lennon, John Kelly, Shane Rogers, Ed and Bob Dufur, Chris Porter and  Jim Keyes. (Jim’s donation was made possible thanks to his dented truck bumper).  My apologies for any omissions or name misspellings.  Several local businesses also made contributions, including PortSmitts, Maces Marina and Johnny’s Variety.

 

Special compliments go to chef, Chris Porter, and to the many Onota Fishing Club members who worked so hard preparing the food, serving it, selling tickets, soliciting prizes, etc., to make the dinner such a huge success.  ****

 

Readers may recall last week’s column wherein I mentioned the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) and its conservation of a 685 acre tract of undeveloped land located in parts of Dalton, Lanesborough and Pittsfield which was one of the largest parcels ever received by the BNRC.   Well, what I failed to mention was that the BNRC also recently conserved 218 acres in Great Barrington on beautiful Three Mile Hill.  Two great places to snowshoe, ski or hunt.

 

Well, the good news keeps coming.  Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game Commissioner George Peterson recently announced that three Berkshire County towns will share $1,147,000 to protect key watershed habitat.  The funds are part of a settlement with General Electric (Housatonic River Natural Resources Damages Fund) to protect or restore natural resources damaged by PCB which were released into the Housatonic River.

 

Great Barrington won a total of $869,500 which allows the BNRC to acquire a conservation restriction on 218 acres along Thomas and Palmer Brooks, tributaries to the Housatonic River in that town.  In Egremont, a $187,000 grant will preserve 23 acres of river, woodland and flood plain along the Green River.  It includes about 2,500 feet of riverfront habitat.  Lastly, Hinsdale was awarded $90,000 to preserve 90 acres in the Hinsdale Flats Watershed Area of Critical Environmental Concern.   All of these properties are preserved at no cost to the taxpayers. *****

 

For those who have not yet harvested a deer, there is one more chance this year and that is during the primitive firearms season.  It starts tomorrow morning and runs through December 31, excluding Sundays.  A primitive Firearms Stamp is required.  Archers may hunt during this season but they also must purchase a Primitive Firearms Stamp.  During this season, successful hunters must fill out and detach the permit/license and may check it either online or at an official check station.

 

Hunters are advised to check the regulations governing this season on pages 37 -38 of the Fish and Wildlife Guide.

 

If you plan to hunt the primitive firearms season and don’t have an antlerless permit, may I suggest that you get out hunting in the earlier part of the season.  It is not uncommon for bucks to shed their antlers before year-end, and then an antlerless permit is required to harvest them.

 

Good luck and keep your powder dry.

Tiger Muskies were stocked again in Pontoosuc Lake

Record Tiger\Muskie 

This fall, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) was able to receive 1,800 tiger muskies (Tiger Muskellunge) to stock in Massachusetts waters from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery, as part of a cooperative exchange program. That program allows MassWildlife to exchange landlocked salmon from its Palmer Hatchery for Northern Pike and Tiger Muskellunge from NJ.

This year the first 900 tiger muskies, averaging 13 inches long and weighing about a half-pound apiece were stocked in waters in the eastern part of Massachusetts.   The second 900 were stocked in western Massachusetts waters with Hampton Ponds in Westfield/Southwick receiving 300 and Pontoosuc Lake receiving 600. It will take 3 to 5 years for these fish to reach the 28-inch minimum size limit.  All tiger muskies caught shorter than that must be released unharmed.

Tiger Muskellunge are sterile hybrids created by crossing muskellunge, Esox masquinongy, largest of all the esocids, with Northern Pike, Esox lucius. The first stocking of Tiger Muskellunge took place in 1980 when MassWildlife personnel stocked 5,000 tiger muskies from the Pleasant Mount Hatchery in Pennsylvania. The Massachusetts record for Tiger Muskellunge was set in 2001 by the late James Lambert of Pittsfield (pictured above) with a 27 lb. 0 oz. tiger muskie caught out of Pontoosuc Lake. *****

The 2016 hunting, sporting, fishing, and trapping licenses are available for purchase through MassFishHunt, at a license vendor location, or at a DFW office. Anyone 15 or older needs a license in order to fish in freshwater or to hunt. During December, it is possible to purchase either a 2015 or a 2016 license; therefore, license buyers should use care when selecting the year when making a purchase. Minors 15-17 years of age may not purchase hunting or sporting licenses online and must have certain documentation in their possession when making a license purchase at a MassWildlife District office or other license vendor locations.  Freshwater fishing licenses for minors 15-17 are free and can be obtained online. *****

Dave’s Sporting Goods in Pittsfield is having its Coyote Derby again this year.  It will run until the end of coyote hunting season which is March 8, 2016.  Entrance fee is $10 and prizes will be awarded to the person who bags the most coyotes, the largest coyote and there will also be a random draw.

 

Incidentally, last year some 430 coyotes were harvested statewide and of that total, about 75 to 80 were harvested in Berkshire County.  *****

 

The folks at Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) have been quite busy these days.  You surely have heard about the recent Crane donation of the Boulders to them.  It is a 685 acre tract of undeveloped land located in parts of Dalton, Lanesborough and Pittsfield which is one of the largest parcels ever received by the BNRC.   It also transfers part of the conservation restriction (C/R) Crane had with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to the BNRC.  What a wonderful thing for Crane to do.  The BNRC must have been kept busy facilitating that deal.

 

No wonder they received the coveted Francis Sargent Conservation Award from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts earlier this year.

 

But the BNRC is not done yet.  They are not giving up on permanently protecting the 146 acre Undermountain Farm in Lenox.  A C/R deal was imminent earlier this year with the help of Lenox Community Preservation Act funding, but it fell apart.  Now in a renewed effort, the BNRC is hoping to purchase a C/R on 83 acres of that farm without using taxpayer funds in early 2016.  Considerable funds have been raised so far for the project but to close the deal they still need another $115,000 in donations by New Year’s Eve.

 

Ever wanted to just go out and buy a nice Christmas present for yourself?  Here’s your chance.  By helping the BNRC raise the $115,000, you will assure that the farm will remain productive and provide you with sweeping views over the open fields.  Your gift will also secure a permanent walking trail across the farm.

 

Still unresolved is the 63 acres at the south end of the farm which includes parts of Parson’s Marsh and an open water pond.  BNRC hopes to raise another 180,000 to protect that in 2016.

 

But first things first.  Let’s see if we can help them protect the 83 acres now.  Please remember BNRC Executive Director Tad Ames’ words first uttered when the Council received the prestigious Francis Sargent Conservation Award from the Massachusetts DFW earlier this year:

“We do not conserve land so that we can put it in a glass case and observe how wonderful it is and pat ourselves on our backs for having set it aside.  We work together to conserve land so that people can feel the touch of bark under their hands, so that they can be startled when a grouse explodes from the brush, so that they can taste the sweet corn or the venison stew, so that they can see the wind in the canopy.   If we can’t get people out on the land and enjoying it and becoming richer for the experience, then we have not accomplished our whole job”.

 

A protected Undermountain Farm, now wouldn’t that be a wonderful Christmas present.

Shotgun deer hunting starts tomorrow, hope its not foggy

 

 

Here we go again.  Another sleepless night caused by the anticipation of opening day of shotgun deer hunting tomorrow morning.  I don’t know why I even go to bed, with memories of bygone opening days haunting me and preventing sleep.

 

How well I remember one opening day in the late 1970’s or 1980’s.  Back then I hunted Beartown Mountain a lot with Bob Stanard and his brother Rick from Lee.  These guys grew up on Beartown Mountain and knew it like the back of their hands.    We had good luck hunting there.

 

On this day, we were going to hunt the mountain in back of Rick’s house.  The three of us along with a fellow named Jack headed into the woods while it was still dark and very foggy.  Flashlights did no good because the rays reflected back off of the fog, actually making things worse.  After following a logging road through a valley, I cut off to the left and followed a ravine to a ridge where I had good luck in the past.  Bob, Rick and Jack continued straight heading for stands further in.   We were scheduled to meet around noon for lunch.

 

The fog was so thick that the only guide was the sound of an intermittent brook nearby.  After climbing a distance which should put me near my fallen tree stand, I couldn’t find it.   The arrival of daybreak was no help, for one couldn’t see more than 20 feet.  Orientation was impossible because the land contours, trees and other landmarks were invisible.    I started roaming around looking for the stand.  The fog showed no signs of burning off and by 7 AM, I knew I was in trouble – not lost, just “turned around”. The thought of staying put until the fog cleared occurred, but what if it didn’t.  I didn’t want to be fumbling around in the afternoon as darkness was approaching.

 

I decided to go back the way I came along that brook, but it was impossible to find  due to  the lack of snow (no tracks) and thick fog.   Then and there I decided to get off that mountain by heading east toward Beartown Mountain Road.  I should come across one of the logging roads, follow it out to the paved road, go back to Rick’s house and try it again.  After blindly traipsing around, I finally found one and followed it.  But according to my compass, it was heading north, not east.  Must be something wrong with the compass, I thought.  After following it for a long time, the road finally turned east.  The only trouble was that it still didn’t look familiar.  All of a sudden, I was startled when out of the fog came a truck which crossed only a few feet ahead of me.  After taking a few more steps I stumbled onto Beartown Mountain Road near a water troth a half mile or so downhill from Rick’s place.  Without knowing it I had been walking the Burgoyne Trail, which was some distance from where we were hunting.  Somehow I had crossed the saddle between the two major ridges without knowing it.

 

I trudged back up the road to Rick’s place, re-entered the woods, hiked along the logging road into the previously mentioned valley to where I had earlier branched off and took a stand there for the rest of the day.   There was no chance of a repeat performance.  It was around 11:00 AM and the thick fog still showed no sign of burning off.

 

Around 3:30 PM, Bob and Rick’s voices could be heard as they were coming off the mountain.  The fog was still so thick that in spite of our florescent red clothes, we couldn’t see one another until close range.   They were wondering where I was for lunchtime.  Being so familiar with it, they had no trouble walking around that mountain and probably could navigate it blindfolded.

 

“Where’s Jack?”  they asked, thinking that he was with me.   We started calling for him but there was no response.  It was getting dark so we decided to fire three shots (distress signal).  We heard him fire three shots way up in the mountain.  After some time, we fired again and so did he.   We then called and he answered much closer.  Then, out of the fog and darkness, he showed up.  The only trouble, he wasn’t Jack.  He was another panic stricken hunter who also got turned around and was separated from his hunting party.  He was mighty grateful for our help.

 

Now we had a real problem.  Jack was nowhere to be found and darkness had settled in.  Bob and I kept calling for him while Rick hiked back to his house to call Bob’s wife Pat to see if Jack had returned for his car which was left there.   He had, and then went home.  We later found out  that he also got turned around and walked out of the woods on the other side of the mountain, near Ice Glen in Stockbridge, and bummed a ride to his car.

 

None of us had any luck that day or so I thought.  Recently, I bumped into Bob’s nephew Bill Stanard from Sheffield and he remembered that day well.   While hunting a nearby ridge he just barely made out a doe in the fog and shot it.  Upon nearing it, he was surprised to see that it was a nice 8 point buck.  He never saw the antlers in that dense fog.

 

Well, all’s well that ends well.  One thing for certain, when fog begins rolling in, I’m out of there.  It was a lesson never to be forgotten.