Schedule of 2015 ice fishing derbies is now available

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Local deer hunter has a 2 bagger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 16 through 18 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day.  While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.

All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod. Some of the celebrity authors include Gary Borger, Jay “Fishy” Fullum, Bob Popovics, Dave Klausmeyer, Ben Furminsky and others, and they will be happy to autograph your books.  Click onto  flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details. *****

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

State parks and forests have a new “Friend”

According to Ryan Aylesworth, the founder & CEO the Western Massachusetts Public Lands Alliance (WMPLA), it was founded in July 2014.  WMPLA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in the Pittsfield area whose mission is to use philanthropy, volunteerism, education, and advocacy to sustain and enhance the quality of outdoor recreation, public access, infrastructure, environmental education, historical preservation, and natural resource conservation within the state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas of western Massachusetts.

 

Its primary purpose is to serve as a regional-scale “friends group” for public lands managed by the Commonwealth in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties.   According to Ryan, our state lands are chronically under-funded, resulting in crumbling infrastructure, reduced public access, inferior recreational and educational opportunities, and inadequate resource management.  WMPLA was founded to reverse this deeply troubling trend.

 

Before founding WMPLA, Ryan was the President & CEO of Audubon International (AI), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that has been administering a wide range of rigorous environmental education and certification programs for over nearly 30 years.  Prior to that, he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – first as a biologist in the Northeast, and later heading up the agency’s governmental affairs program in the Midwest Region.  These professional experiences, combined with a deep passion for the outdoors that began as a youth growing up in the mountains of northwestern Maine, have fostered Ryan’s belief that effectively conserving and enhancing public lands requires regional-scale collaboration involving diverse programs, organizations and stakeholder groups.

 

In addition to the professional skills that Ryan bring to the table, WMPLA benefits from the leadership of a Board of Directors comprised of individuals with extensive professional experience in areas such as education, natural resource management, business, communications, and government.  Members of WMPLA’s leadership also have close ties to the people and communities of the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley. This is especially true of Jonathan Butler, President of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and former Town Administrator in Adams, who recently joined WMPLA’s Board of Directors because he understands how substantially improving how public lands are managed will benefit the region’s tourism-based economy.

 

Of interesting note, one of WMPLA’s Board members recently learned that the Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) had roughly 100 pheasants die as a result of a predator (speculated to be a fisher cat) tunneling into its pen. (These pheasants had been acquired from the Austerlitz Club).   The LSA leadership told the WMPLA Board member that they were distressed because this meant that the club was not going to have the number of birds needed to continue stocking various public lands open to hunting for the duration of the upland bird season.

 

In response to this news, WMPLA generously offered to make a $1,500 donation to purchase an additional 100 birds from the Austerlitz Club in NY and provide the LSA what it needed to save the hunting season. As a result of this generosity, WMPLA is now well on its way to forming a valuable and lasting relationship with the LSA, which they plan to replicate with other clubs and outdoor recreational groups including hikers, anglers, campers, birders, Nordic skiers, snowshoers, bikers, etc., that use our state parks, forests and wildlife management areas.

 

They have an interesting web site (www.wmpla.org) where you can learn all about the organization, what it does, who serves on its Board, what’s on its priority list, etc.   Incidentally, the October Mountain State Forest is on its priority list.  Check them out. *****

 

The Onota Boat Livery is once again having its seasonal ice fishing contest.  Entrants must sign up by February 1 and the contest ends on March 15.  Participants must be at least 18 years old and purchase at least $25 worth of store merchandise.  They may fish anywhere in the Berkshires and all fish caught must be through the ice and brought to the Livery for measuring.  Contestants must have previously entered the contest.  In the event of a tie, the prize will be divided equally amongst winners.

The prizes are $50 Onota Boat Livery gift certificates for the largest pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, trout, pickerel, perch and crappie.   Atlantic salmon and tiger muskies have been discontinued from contest.   Check out the web site at Onotaboat.com for a listing of the derby rules.

To prevent needless killing of nice fish, may I suggest that before going out you check the Onota Boat Livery leader’s board, or call them (413-442-1724) to see what the leading fish are. Also bring a copy of the minimum weights which qualify for a State Sportfishing Award (page 22 of the Fish & Wildlife Guide).   Bring along a scale, too.  That way you know whether or not you caught a money/pin fish and if not, you can release it unharmed if you wish.

Incidentally, the Onota Boat Livery will be preparing a list of upcoming ice fishing derbies when the information is received from the derby organizers. I will list it as soon as completed.   *****

The Berkshire Beagle Club, on Sleepy Hollow Road in Richmond, will be holding its Annual Rabbit Hunt next Saturday.  Entrance fee is $10 per person and that includes a dinner.  Weigh-in by 4:00 PM.  Contact John Demary if you wish to enter and/or donate some raffle prizes.  Prizes go for the largest cottontail and snowshoe rabbit.  No hunting is allowed on the Beagle Club grounds. *****

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) adult archery league starts on Thursday, January 15 at 6:00 PM and runs for 8 weeks.  For additional information call Mary Smith (413) 243-2710.  The LSA’s next pistol course will be held on Monday, January 12 and Monday, January 19 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  For additional information call Larry Karlquist (413) 442-7807.

Take Care of Yourself Out There

 

Even the most wilderness-savvy people can find themselves in dire straits when something unexpected happens out in the woods.  A slip or stumble, a sudden change in the weather, a wrong turn on a trail – it takes little to turn an outing into a life-threatening experience, particularly when the days are short and the weather cold.

Sue Morse, a naturalist, educator, forester, hunter and photographer who has spent decades on the trail of wildlife far off the beaten path, will lead a course entitled “Wilderness Wisdom: Take Care of Yourself Out There” from Friday evening, January 9 to noon on Sunday, January 11 at the Rowe Camp and Conference Center in Rowe, Massachusetts.  There will be on-site accommodations and meals available to participants.

She’ll demonstrate life-saving techniques such as building an emergency shelter, self-administering first aid, starting a fire, attracting rescuers, and warding off thirst and hunger until help arrives.

It’s a hands-on course, designed for everyone from casual hikers to hunters, back-country skiers, rock climbers – even surveyors and timber cruisers,” says Morse.  For more than 40 years her work and curiosity have taken her into wildernesses from the Arctic to the desert Southwest.  She is an expert wildlife tracker, mule and horse packer, and founder and science director of Keeping Track, a non-profit organization that trains wildlife professionals and citizen scientists to find and monitor important local habitats so they can be better conserved.

Morse’s adventures and accomplishments have made her the subject of articles in publications ranging from Audubon and Adirondack Life to Smithsonian and Vermont Life. She is a frequent public speaker on natural history topics, and a columnist for Northern Woodlands magazine.

Space at the workshop is limited, and it is recommended that interested people should reserve a place by calling (413) 339-4954.   More information can be found at http://rowecenter.org/events.php?event=353. *****

According to a recent New Hampshire Fish & Game newsletter, a deer from a captive facility in Ohio recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), that state’s first confirmed case.  Therefore, Ohio is now considered a CWD-positive jurisdiction and whole deer harvested in Ohio can no longer be transported into New Hampshire and presumably into Massachusetts. CWD is a neurological disorder that is always fatal to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose, but the World Health Organization has concluded that there is no evidence that people can become infected with CWD.  Currently there is no vaccine or treatment for it.  To date, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer or elk in 25 states and provinces. These include Alberta, Canada; Colorado, Iowa,  Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico,  New York,  North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Saskatchewan, Canada, South Dakota,  Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Currently, no live deer of any species, may be brought into Massachusetts for any purpose. This ban includes animals used in deer farming practices and those used seasonally for petting zoos or holiday displays.  Also, it is illegal for anyone to import, process or possess whole carcasses or parts of deer, elk, and moose (from wild or captive herds) from states and Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected.  The only exceptions to the regulations are meat that is deboned, cleaned skull caps, hides without the head, or a fixed taxidermy mount.

A nationwide effort is underway to prevent further spread of the disease. This effort includes collecting annual samples of deer tissue as part of ongoing monitoring and surveillance efforts and restricting the transport of potentially infected animals, carcasses or tissues.   We should be hearing any day now if sampling has determined if any CWD exists in the Massachusetts herd. As of this writing, MassWildlife has not released any preliminary late season or total bear hunting harvest results.  Some MassWildlife officials expect the final harvest to be around 230.   No deer harvest figures from the archery or shotgun seasons have been released yet either. Some information that I was able to get was from the shotgun season and only those that were checked in at the Western District Headquarters in Dalton.  Some of the larger bucks checked in were:  187 lb taken in Egremont by Kenneth Keefner,   185 lb taken in Becket by Peter Amuso, 180 lb taken in Windsor by Paul Keyper, 174 lb taken in Lanesborough by Patrick Malloy and 173 lb taken in Middlefield by Dave  Shorey. *****

 

This year’s Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Truckload of Goodies Raffle winners were:  First Prize – Truckload Winner – Greg B. of Pittsfield, 2nd Prize – 10 lbs Roast Beef & 1 Liter Captn Morgan – Bill Barry of Pittsfield, 3rd Prize – 10 lbs Fresh Ham and 1 ltr Jack Daniels – Fran Gwozdz of Cheshire, 4th Prize – 20 lbs Turkey and 1 Ltr of Wild Turkey – Frank Hiser of Lee, 5th Prize – 1 ltr of Kahula.- Dave Wandrei of Savoy.

 

Incidentally, the CR&G indoor archery adult league starts on Tuesday, January 6 at 7 PM. for 12 weeks, and the youths start on Saturday, January 10 at 9 AM.  They need volunteers to assist with the youth league.  Any questions or if you wish to volunteer, call Dick S. at 413-663-8932.  *****

 

The Berkshire Beagle Club in Richmond will be having its 2015 Rabbit Hunt on Saturday, January 10. $10 per person and that includes a dinner.  Weigh-in by 4:00 PM.    Prizes go for the largest cottontail and snowshoe rabbit.  No hunting is allowed on the Beagle Club grounds.   To register or donate some raffle prizes contact  John Demary 413-441-2253 or 413-684-2228. ****

Happy New Year! Incidentally, if you plan to fish or hunt on New Year’s day, don’t forget to buy your hunting, fishing or sporting licenses.

Travis receives coveted Crooked Staff Award

 

In its December 11 meeting, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited presented William Travis of Pittsfield with its most prestigious award, the Crooked Staff Award.  This award is presented to the person who best exemplifies the ideals of TU, those being the conserving, protecting and restoring of North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.

Bill is a valuable member of the Board of Directors of the chapter who has taken on the task of arranging programs and speakers for its meetings and for coming up with different ways to attract new members.  For example, he is heading up the Chapter’s efforts to host an International Fly Fishing Festival on March 27 at the Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield.  (More to come on that in a future column).  He is constantly coming up with innovative ways to promote the Taconic Chapter of TU.

He has participated in programs to teach youths how to fly fish.   He has been involved in the chapter’s river clean-ups and culvert programs (river continuity program).

He is an avid steelhead and king salmon fly fisherman who is frequently seen battling them on the Salmon River, a tributary to Lake Ontario.

Incidentally, if he looks familiar, Bill was the Superintendent of public schools in Pittsfield for ten years and for Mount Greylock for five years.*****

Congratulations to Chris Porter and the members of the Onota Fishing Club for recently putting on another successful game dinner at the ITAM Club in Pittsfield.  They served 255 meals including 8 meals for the folks from Soldier On.  The food was excellently prepared. At that event, a check for $750 was presented to Soldier On.  When we left that place we had full bellies and good feelings about that donation.   Chris thanks everyone who attended, and contributed in any way.

MassWildife is looking for additional information on does harvested in Management Zones 2, 4N and 4S.  They are interested in looking at the jaws, or photos of the teeth, from does taken anytime during the 2014 season from the three Zones.  If you harvested a female deer from one of these Zones please contact the Western District office (413 684-1646) or email a photo of the teeth to david.stainbrook@state.ma.us.*****

The folks at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries remind us that Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permits for 2015 are now available for purchase. You can obtain them online   or at a local tackle shop. The online permit system is mobile friendly and will allow you to download your permit onto your smartphone or tablet after you have purchased it – no need to print.  Carry your digital permit on your mobile device, wherever you go.

If you plan to fish in December 2014, you must have a 2014 recreational angling permit.  The 2015 permits go into effect on January 1, 2015 and are available now.  For more information, or to purchase your 2015 recreational angling permit, visit their website at http://www.mass.gov/marinefisheries. *****

Getting back to TU and the crooked staff, local sportsmen were saddened to learn of the passing of David Oclair of Richmond at the age of 73.  He was a long time director of the Taconic TU Chapter.  In 2005 he received its Crooked Staff award for his involvement over the years in stream restoration programs, stream continuity programs, annual stockings of salmon fry into our local streams, in ASERP (Atlantic Salmon School Education Program), acid rain monitoring, assisting in the Casting for Recovery program, a Berkshire County League of Sportsmen youth outreach fishing volunteer, and he was involved in local dam removal projects.  He was a board member of the Friends of the Williams River, a member of the Alford Brook Club and TU’s long time delegate to the County League.

On a personal note, Dave and I went back some 30 years.  We both retired from our jobs at about the same time and did a lot of fishing together in such places as Wyoming (where he once helped me out of some quicksand).  With other friends, we fished in five of the Canadian Provinces and many rivers in the Northeast.   For nearly 25 years, we fished for bass every Friday evening during the summer on Ashmere Lake in Hinsdale.   We also shared many frigid days ice fishing.  He was an esteemed member of the ROMEO’S (Retired Old Men Eating Out) and for the last dozen or so years, we drove together to those weekly luncheons.

I received the phone call with the sad news last Saturday morning at my quiet, snowy deer hunting stand up in the mountains – not the worst place to receive such news.   Dave has passed beyond the river bend, but will be greatly missed here.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Primitive firearms deer hunting season opens tomorrow

 

This deer hunting season, commonly referred to as the Black Powder or Muzzleloader season, opens tomorrow and runs through December 31.  A Primitive Firearms Stamp is required and there are specific regulations regarding the type of firearm and ammo allowed, the use of hunter orange, etc.  Inline ignition systems are permitted providing the gun loads from the muzzle.  Make sure you check the abstracts located in the Fish & Wildlife Guide.

 

For many hunters this is the most enjoyable deer hunting season of them all.  It is a chance to test one’s ability to maneuver in sometimes deep snow using snowshoes, track your deer and drop it with a primitive firearm, just like the early settlers did.  There is peace and solitude in our forests at this time of year as they take on a special beauty.   Archers can also hunt during this season but they must purchase the Primitive Firearms stamp.

 

Unlike the shotgun deer hunting season, deer may be brought to a game check station or can be reported on line at MassFishHunt. Happy hunting and keep your powder dry. *****

As of this writing, the DFW has not released any deer harvest figures from the archery season.  Also, the shotgun deer hunting season just ended yesterday and it is too soon for those figures. *****

The 2015 hunting, sporting, fishing, and trapping licenses are now available for purchase starting  at all license vendor locations, MassWildlife District offices, the Westborough Field Headquarters, and on the internet through the MassFishHunt system.  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 2014 or a 2015 license; so be careful 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 ages 15-17 are free and can be obtained online.  *****

Tomorrow, DFW Biologists will be conducting a Public Habitat Site Walk at the Farmington River Wildlife Management Area in Otis and Becket. It will cover portions of a 59-acre New England cottontail habitat management project area that is scheduled for work this winter.  Learn about work that DFW and other agencies and organizations are doing to create young forest habitat with high stem densities to conserve the New England cottontail, which has been in steep population decline for decades and is currently a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.  This project will benefit cottontail, as well as declining songbirds and gamebirds like American woodcock and ruffed grouse.  Meet at the intersection of Becket Road and Lee-Westfield Road, and be sure to wear sturdy boots and dress for cold weather.*****

Next Friday at 11:30 AM, the public is invited to join wildlife and other environmental officials for a rededication ceremony of the new Richard Cronin Building, housing the DFW Field Headquarters and the Office of Fishing and Boating Access.

Located at 1 Rabbit Road, Westborough, MA, the building is the first Commonwealth of Massachusetts office building designed to meet a zero net energy standard, producing as much energy on site as it uses.  It includes 45,000 square feet of office, laboratory, and meeting space and will serve as a destination for visitors attending public meetings, education programs, and workshops.  The facility features a geothermal heating and cooling system, photovoltaic panels to produce electricity, and a sustainable site plan with native plant species that will serve as an outdoor education center and gateway to the 900-acre Westborough Wildlife Management Area.*****

On November 12, the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board presented Senator Stephen Brewer with the Governor Francis W. Sargent Conservation Award honoring his contributions to protection of the Commonwealth’s natural resources. Brewer, of Barre, MA, is the 11th recipient of the award established in 2000 by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board to honor the former governor and noted conservationist who was director of the DFW from 1963 to 1964.

Previous award winners include: Paul Kress (2000), Ted Giddings (2003), Nancy Begin (2004), Dr. Stephen Meyer (2005), Russell Cookingham (2006), Kathleen Anderson (2007), Mike Yacino (2008), Dr. Gwilym S. Jones (2009), Robert Durand (2011) and Mike Moss (2013). Click onto http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/about-masswildlife/sargent-award.html to learn more about them.

Mike Roche, Fisheries and Wildlife Board Secretary, spoke of Brewer, saying “Senator Brewer’s career has had a profound impact on the ability of the DFW to manage fish and wildlife for the benefit of the public.” Roche noted the Senator’s substantial work guarding the rights of anglers in the Quabbin Reservoir.

Brewer received the award, a hand-carved wooden loon decoy created by Geoff Walker of Hank Walker Decoys, at a ceremony held at the Otter River Sportsmen’s Club in Templeton. “I don’t think that Massachusetts sportsmen will ever really know all that the Senator has done for them,” said Fisheries and Wildlife Board Chairman George Darey of Lenox, as he presented Brewer with the prestigious award.

“Growing up in Barre, Senator Brewer developed an understanding and feeling for the environment that is embedded in his soul,” said Wayne MacCallum, DFW Director. “When he speaks about the out-of-doors the depth of his love of the land is evident. The environmental protections that he has been instrumental in establishing are truly a legacy to future generations”.

Senator Brewer spent much of his 35 years in the Massachusetts Legislature advocating for conservation and the environment. His many initiatives included the preservation of agricultural lands, support of dairy farmers, and the maintenance and enhancement of the Inland Fish and Game Fund.

Big bear taken in Lanesboro

 

On Saturday, November 15, Joseph Trybus of Lanesboro was in his tree stand bow hunting for deer when all of a sudden he spotted a large black bear approaching him.  Although he was after deer this day, he also had a permit to hunt bear.  When the bear was about 12 yards away, he let the arrow fly and made a good hit.  He was hunting not far from home and went there to get his 8 year old son Johnny to help track the bear.  According to Joe, Johnny is really good at tracking and he found the dead bear some 40 yards away from where it was hit.  Joe was delighted to spend this quality time with his son.

Joe relates that it took three men, a four-wheeler and a sled to get the bear out of the woods and check it in at Dave’s Sporting Goods.  The only place he could think of to weigh it was Sayers Auto Wrecking of Pittsfield where he weighed his truck with the bear and then without it.  It weighed 420 lbs and that was field dressed.  He said Fisheries and Wildlife people estimated the live weight of the bear to be approximately 510 lbs.  They extracted a tooth so that they could determine its age, but they “guesstimated” it to be around 15 years old.  It measured 6 ½ feet tall and its neck measured 31 inches.

Joe and his helpers then brought it to LaBlue’s Taxidermy in Adams where they had to work together just to roll the bear for the work to be done.  He will have a half mount done of the bear and when completed, it will look like the bear is walking out of a wall.  Richard LaBlue is an official scorer for Pope & Young and will enter it.  Wayne Rodd of Southampton, MA will record it with Boone & Crockett.  Before entry, the skull has to be cleaned and dried for 60 days before measuring.  The Pope & Young Club records for posterity scientific data on North American big game taken with bow and arrow. The Boone & Crockett Club is the authoritative source for data on native North American big-game trophies.

Incidentally, if the Trybus name sounds familiar, Joe was mentioned in my March 23, 2014 column as bagging the most coyotes (12) in the Dave’s Sporting Goods Coyote Derby.  His 12-year old daughter Samantha’s picture was in that column, too, kneeling next to 3 coyotes that she had bagged.  She took up hunting them because coyotes had attacked her dog in their front yard.  *****

Keeping with the subject of bears, Ralph Taylor, MassWildlife Connecticut Valley District Supervisor recently gave a very informative talk at the Berkshire Museum about black bears of Massachusetts.   He discussed the natural history, status, behavioral changes of bears, as well as human/bear conflicts, current research, and tips on co-existing with them.  Space does not allow me to cover the entire presentation, but here are some interesting facts about them which you may not know:

  • There are about 5,000 bears living in Massachusetts and at the rate that the population is currently growing, it will be at 10,000 in the not too distant future.
  •  Hunters currently take about 3% of them per year and that is not enough to control their population
  • Bears can live up to 30 years or longer but the average is 7 years
  • Massachusetts has on average one bear per square mile
  • When there is a good mast product (food), nearly 100% of the cubs survive.  In years where the mast fails, there is only a 20% survival.
  • In Massachusetts, the average litter size is 2 ½ cubs but litters of 3 or 4 are fairly common.  In fact, there have been two occasions where mother bears in Northampton had five cubs.
  • There are 6 bears living in the city limits of Northampton.  One of the reasons is that there is plenty of food there, thanks to the bird feeders and carelessly handled garbage. That city has recently passed an ordinance whereby if there are constant complaints from neighbors about those who are carelessly attracting bears, someone from the Board of Health visits them and offers advice to cut down on bear visits.  If the advice is ignored and a second visit is required, there is a $100 fine.  A third visit results in a $200 fine and all subsequent visits result in $300 fines.
  • Bears are frequently seen rubbing their backs on trees not because they have an itch but because it is a way to spread their scent which will attract suitors or scare away unwanted competition.

Gregg Massini, the 2nd Grand Slam sheep hunter from the Berkshires

Gregg Massini from Sheffield has become the second Berkshire hunter to have accomplished the coveted “Grand Slam” of North American sheep hunting.  The Grand Slam includes the Rocky Mountain Bighorn, the Desert Bighorn, Dall Sheep and Stone Sheep.  Massini joins Paul C. Carter from Dalton to have accomplished this extremely difficult feat.  Carter has two Grand Slams to his credit one of which was accomplished using a muzzleloader gun with open sights. It is believed that there are only 4 Massachusetts hunters who have ever accomplished the Grand Slam and Gregg is the 1,842nd person worldwide to have done so.   Bagging all four kinds of North American wild sheep has been recognized as a superior achievement in the sport of hunting

 

It took Gregg 22 years to get his first sheep hunting permit for Colorado and he got a Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep in 2006.  It took 8 years to get his next permit to hunt in Nevada where he bagged his Desert Sheep.  In 2012 he took a Stone Sheep in the Yukon.  Ironically, while there he learned that Carter had hunted there just the week before.  Massini completed the “Slam” in 2014 when he took his Dall sheep in the Yukon.

 

Massini emphasizes that you have to be in excellent shape to pursue this sport.  He gets into shape by climbing the local mountains carrying 60 lbs in his backpack, quite a feat for a fellow who will be 59 next month.  Like Carter, he is an excellent shot.   Gregg says his scoped 7 MM Magnum rifle is sighted to place bullets in a ¼ inch group at 200 yards.

 

Congratulations to Gregg Massini for his amazing accomplishment.

 

Incidentally, Paul C. Carter wrote an excellent book on the subject a few years back entitled Sheep Hunts: One Man’s Journeys to the High Country. ****

 

Paul just wrote another excellent book about deer hunting entitled Deer Hunts Through a Tracker’s Eyes.  It is a collection of his recounted hunting stories, all of which were chosen primarily for their entertainment value.  Having been a deer hunter for over 40 years, you can well imagine that he has accumulated a vast array of hunting experiences good and bad.

 

What I liked about the book is that he just doesn’t write about his successful trips, but also some with unsuccessful endings.   I also liked the fact that he wrote about some comical episodes, some blown opportunities on his part and some that were not his fault.  It is easy to relate to Paul’s experiences.  C’mon, admit it.  Who among us deer hunters hasn’t had a few comical incidents or blown opportunities of our own.  This book is written about the real hunting world as experienced by a seasoned hunter, and I liked it.

 

Carter’s preferred tactic for deer hunting is tracking in snow and he is mighty good at it.  In fact, a few years ago he wrote another excellent book about tracking entitled Tracking Whitetails: Answers to Your Questions.  Tracking is an art that I have never perfected and envy those who are good at it.  (I just don’t have the patience to take a step, stop, look all around, take another step, etc., to ultimately walk up on a deer.  With such a slow pace, I am apt to lose my balance and fall down.)

Another thing that I like about the book is the fact that most of his hunting is done in our own Berkshire Hills, predominately Windsor and he hunts with people that we may know personally.

 

One can learn a lot about deer hunting from this book.   It would make a great Christmas gift for that hunter in your family.  You can order this 272 page soft covered book through Paul’s web site www.paulccarter.com for $16.99.

 

While on his web site, check out his other books.  In addition to the three mentioned above, he also wrote Great Shot! A Guide to Acquiring Shooting Skills for Big Game Hunters. *****

 

Common Loons, listed as a Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts, returned to nest here in 1975 after being absent as a breeding bird for almost a century.  Since then, MassWildlife has monitored them. Observations during this past summer documented 39 loon pairs on 16 lakes and ponds.  Out of the 23 chicks that hatched, 18 survived to fledgling.  According to MassWildlife, these fledglings will migrate to the coast to live in the ocean for the next few years, then will return to their natal areas and try to establish territories of their own.

As noted in my May 18, 2014 column, in addition to monitoring loon activity, MassWildlife has partnered with other agencies and organizations to improve their nesting sites.  To reduce nest losses on reservoirs, rafts were constructed using cedar logs and foam with vegetation placed on top to resemble a small island. The rafts were floated and anchored in loon territory. Because the raft floats, it protects the nest and eggs from being flooded or stranded.  This past summer, loon rafts were deployed at several reservoirs including one of Pittsfield’s.

Recently, I asked DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden if any loons had taken up residence on the raft.  “Not yet, but they have been checking it out.” he said.   Apparently loons like to check out the neighborhood a year or so before making such an important move.

Shotgun deer hunters take to the woods tomorrow

Shotgun Deer Hunting Season opens tomorrow and runs through December 13.  The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reminds us that all deer harvested during shotgun season MUST be checked at a traditional check station.  Online checking will NOT be available during this time (December 1 – 13, 2014).  Reporting deer at check stations during these two weeks allows biologists to collect valuable data needed for deer management.

Hunters should know check stations and locations as part of their pre-hunting preparation. Many check stations have different hours for the first week of shotgun deer season. Some have additional hours, whereas others are asked to not check deer so that deer can be funneled to nearby check stations to increase biological data collection.  The Western District Check Stations and phone numbers’ where available, are listed below:

 

First week: DFW Western District HQ, Dalton (413)684-1646, B&D Variety, Huntington, (MassWildlife staff in parking lot); Lee Sportsmen’s Club, Lee; Mill River General Store, New Marlborough (413) 229-2663; and Ernie’s Auto Sale, North Adams.

 

The following additional stations will be added for the second week of the shotgun season:  Avid Sports, Pittsfield (413) 997-3600; Becket Country Store, Becket, (413)623-5500; Bonne Chance Check Station, Cummington (413)329-4001; D.A.R. State Forest, Goshen, (Call Ahead Only (413)268-7098)); Dave’s Sporting Goods, Pittsfield, (413)442-2960; Goshen General Store (413)268-7268 and Smitty’s Sporting Goods, Dalton, (413)684-2244.  Additional information on check stations such as addresses and hours of operation are available at www.masswildife.org or by calling the District Office (413)684-1646.

 

Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Manager urges hunters to make a plan in advance so that they know where and when to check in their deer.   Nothing worse than driving all over the County trying to find an open check station when you are dead tired and hungry.

 

For the non deer hunters who may be upset at seeing a part of a deer body displayed on a vehicle, please know that the regulations require it and that the hunter is not just showing off the deer.  The regulation abstracts stipulate, in bold print, the following:  “Until checked/reported, deer must not be concealed.  Deer or part of deer must remain open to view during transport and must remain intact or whole (may be field-dressed, but not butchered, skinned, or taken to a taxidermist for mounting).”

 

A couple of years ago while checking in a deer, an Environmental Police Officer approached me at the check station and verbally reprimanded me for not having the deer properly exposed, in spite of the fact that it was lying in the open bed of my truck.  The tail gate was closed so that it wouldn’t fall out.   He said that a leg or some portion of the deer should have been attached in such a way as to stick up and be more easily seen.  He was good about it and only gave me a warning.

 

Hopefully, you “more experienced” deer hunters have had a chance to get in shape before now.  Climbing up a mountain with heavy boots, winter clothes, gun, backpack, thermos bottle, bullets, etc., is tough.  That plus the adrenalin caused by the thrill of the hunt can be taxing on the old ticker.  If you are not in the shape you would like and can no longer leap over tall buildings, just take it easy.  Take frequent rests and drink plenty of water.  Let the younger hunters rush past you and get all sweaty.   Even if you don’t get a deer, be thankful that you are once again able to enjoy the experience.

 

If you do get lucky and shoot a deer, don’t kill yourself while dragging it out of the woods.  Once again, take frequent stops.  Bring your cell phone so that you can contact people to help you.  A phone can be a real lifesaver in the event that you get lost, too.  It goes without saying that you should let people know where you will be hunting.

 

Here’s hoping that all the deer hunters have safe and enjoyable hunts. *****

 

The Onota Fishing Club will be having its annual game dinner next Sunday, December 7, at the ITAM Lodge on 93 Waubeek Road in Pittsfield.  Doors open at noon, appetizers will be served at 1:00 pm and dinner at 2:00pm.   This year’s menu will consist of roast venison, bear, wild boar, turkey, moose, rabbit, a variety of sausages, chowders, chili’s, fresh and salt water fish.  Tickets cost $25 pp and are available at Portsmitt’s Lakeway Restaurant or by contacting Ray Westerman at 413-464-1853.  Proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to The Soldier On program in Pittsfield.  Limited tickets will be available at the door on a first come, first served basis.  They are really in need of venison and bear meat, so if you can spare some, contact Chris Porter at 413-496-0105 ASAP.    Any and all donations will be greatly appreciated for this most worthy cause.  *****

 

Nick Goldsmith, a Lenox native and avid hunter and fisherman, was severely injured on October 3 when he fell about 25 feet from his tree stand in the New Lebanon, NY area. He was airlifted to Albany Medical where he underwent surgery for fractured vertebrae.   He also broke his pelvis and fractured his heel and ribs.  After leaving Albany Med he spent two and a half weeks at Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston.

 

His friends and family have planned a benefit for him which will be held at the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club on Saturday December 6 from 1:00 to 6:00 pm. There will be a pig roast, lots of food, raffles and music. For more information and tickets call his aunt Wendy Lampro at (347) 891-4315 or Roy Goldsmith at (413) 637-1971.

2014 Paraplegic deer hunt results in a 26% success rate

 

According to Trina L. Moruzzi, Wildlife Biologist for the Mass. Div. of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), this year was another successful year for the deer hunt for paraplegic sportsmen. There were 23 participants statewide for the three-day hunt and a total of 6 deer were harvested statewide for a 26% success rate.  Many hunters saw deer which added to the success of the hunt.   In the past five years, these hunters have averaged greater than a 25% success rate.

The hunts are held at 5 sites: Northern Berkshires, Southern Berkshires, Quabbin Reservation, Devens Reserve Forces Training Area in Lancaster, and Otis/Edwards Military Reservation in Falmouth.

“I once again want to thank all of the volunteers, landowners, DCR staff, Environmental Police, DFW staff, and military personnel that coordinate to make this hunt a continued success.  This is a great opportunity that I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many good people throughout the years that I have coordinated the hunt. “said Trina Moruzzi, State Coordinator.  “For a number of these people, it’s the only opportunity they have to hunt, an activity that is an important part of their lives”.

There were 5 hunters who participated in the hunt in the Northern Berkshires and one doe was taken by David Alderman of Petersburg, NY.  The other participants were:  Michael Noiseux of Berkley, MA, Fred Klausky of Raynham, MA, Dale Bailey of Clarksburg, MA and Shawn Mei of Baldwinville, MA. They all saw or shot at deer.

Volunteers who assisted in the Northern Berkshires hunt were:  Rick French of Phillipston, MA, Alex Daigle of Stamford, VT, Doug Mclain, of North Adams,  Tony and Bob Mei, of Ashburnham, MA, Stacy Sylvester, of Williamstown,  J. Sylvester, of Lovell, ME, Paul Noiseux, of Berkley, MA and Jack O’Brien of Raynham, MA. DFW’s Jacob Moris-Siegel also helped out.

There were 5 paraplegic hunters signed up but 4 took part in the hunt in Southern Berkshires:  Sidney Eichstedt of Lee, Erin Ferry of Deighton, MA, Gref Baumati of New Lebanon, NY, and  Steve Gladding from Westfield.  One hunter who had participated for many years could not attend.   The company where he worked had been bought out during the year by another company and that company would not give him time off to join the hunt.  Boo to that company!

 

Helpers there included:  Shaun Smith and Al Vincent, Brian Ingerson, Gerry Strock, Marc Portieri, Greg Arienti, Chris Puntin, Rick Thelig, Fred Lampro, Tom Dean, Matt Roach,, Paul Antonozzi, Jimmy Thomas and Chuck Pickard, all from the Berkshires or Northern Connecticut.   DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden helped out, too.

 

No deer were taken this year in the Southern Berkshires, but the food was great.  Chuck Pickard brought his trailer-mounted smoker/grill and a lot of friends, who own restaurants and businesses, donated food and condiments.  Other individuals also prepared food needed for the three day event.

On the day that I was there, this was the lunch menu:  Clam chowder, smoked pork roast injected with apple cider, smoked vidalia onion gravy, smoked baked beans, and potato salad.  Chuck did the smoking and roasting while Patricia Vollmer made the chowder and potato salad.  There were also several home-made desserts baked by supporters.  Six years ago Chuck started out just cooking one meal for the hunters, but he got “hooked” on the program and happily cooks breakfasts and lunches for all 3 days.

 

Space doesn’t allow a list all of the donors and supporters, but there were lots of them, many from Northern Connecticut.  I’m sure they don’t mind for they are not in this for the recognition.  “It’s about the hunters in the wheelchairs”, they say.

 

MassWildlife has offered paraplegic hunters the opportunity to hunt deer during a special three-day season since 1972.  It works like this:  MassWildlife staff work with volunteers to help place hunters in areas at several hunt locations.  They pick them for lunch and  then bring them back for the afternoon hunt.  They are picked up at the end of the day.  When a hunter shoots a deer, volunteers assist by retrieving the deer, field dressing it and getting it checked in with MassWildlife staff on site.

In 1972, the deer hunt started in Phillipston, MA and the following year in the town of Rowe.  In subsequent years the hunt location moved to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

According to Shaun Smith of Lee, (a 40 year volunteer along with Al Vincent) the late Ray McGill from Stockbridge couldn’t afford to go to the Cape so he petitioned and got the hunt moved to the Berkshires.  The late Gordon Leeman of Lee was a local game warden when they moved the hunt to the Berkshires and urged Shaun and Al to volunteer their services.   Dick Burrell and Tom Early who were with DFW would stay at Shaun’s house and do the hunt.   Ray LaGrant donated his camp on Beartown Mountain in South Lee and donated all of the food while Mrs. McGill cooked it.

Locations in Williamstown and around Mt Washington State Forest were utilized for much of the 1980’s and 1990’s with an occasional location in Middlesex County.  Since 2000, the DCR has hosted a site at Quabbin Park in Belchertown.  The Devens Reserve Forces Training Area in Lancaster, and Otis/Edwards Military Reservation in Falmouth have also been added.

According to Smith, the hunt started out with amputees, war veterans and handicapped persons.  Then it went to the strict translation of paraplegic which is a spinal cord injury resulting in the loss of two legs.  That cut the hunter’s numbers down greatly. He and the volunteers are hoping that the State Legislators will redefine handicap to allow our returning wounded vets to also participate in this hunt.