Paraplegic Deer Hunt deemed a success


That’s according to Trina Moruzzi, Division of Fisheries & Wildlife State Coordinator. Twenty five hunters participated statewide in the 3 day paraplegic deer hunt which took place from October 29 through October 31.  A total of three deer, 2 bucks and a doe, were harvested. This translates to a 12% success rate for this year’s hunt, verses last year’s 26% success ratio.  In the past five years, these hunters have averaged greater than a 25% success rate. “Many hunters saw deer, contributing to a successful hunt experience,” she said.

Here in the Berkshires, 9 hunters participated – 5 in the southern and 4 in the northern Berkshires sites.

The southern Berkshires folks hunted in the Mount Washington area and was coordinated out of the DCR Headquarters there.  The hunters were:  Sidney Eichstedt of Lee, Greg Baumli of New Lebanon, NY, Steve Gladding of Westfield, Dick Lockwood of Springfield and Vyto Sablevicius of Norwood. Eichstedt shot a 4 point buck and Sablevicius got a doe.

Helpers included:  Shaun Smith, Brian Ingerson, Marc Portieri, Greg Arienti,  Rick Thelig, 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.


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, the lunch menu was:  homemade clam chowder, smoked roast beef, 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 deserts baked by supporters.


The 4 hunters at the Northern Berkshires site were: Shawn Mei of Baldwinville, Michael Noiseux of Berkley, Dale Bailey of Clarksburg, and David Alderman of Petersburgh, NY.   According to Moruzzi, no deer were taken on the Northern hunt, however most hunters saw deer.


Since 1972, this hunt has provided thousands of hours of recreational opportunities for paraplegic sportsmen and women and I am proud to be part of it.” said Moruzzi.  She noted that volunteers are integral to the program and thanked them for their enthusiasm and commitment. Next year’s hunt will be held November 3 – 5, 2016. If you are a paraplegic sportsman or sportswoman interested in participating in the 2016 hunt, contact Trina Moruzzi at or call (508) 389-6318 for more information. *****


Staying with the subject of deer hunting, readers may recall an article I wrote about the new Youth Deer Hunt Day which took place on September 26.  In that article, I mentioned the local youths who successfully harvested deer.  Well, there is one more to add to that list and that is 13-year old Hunter Connelly of Hinsdale.  Hunting with his dad Rick Connelly in Windsor, he dropped an 8 point buck which weighed 182 lbs dressed.  He shot the deer with a 20 gauge shotgun at about 30 yards.  An hour earlier, he let a doe with a fawn go by.  Needless to say, his dad, mom Heather and sister, Hannah are quite proud of his accomplishment.  Hunter is having quite a first year of hunting.  Earlier this year he bagged his first wild turkey during the Youth Turkey Hunt Day.  Good mentoring dad. *****


Recently, the Hoosic River Watershed Association (HooRWA) held its 17th annual State of the River Conference.  Williams College Chemical Professor David Richardson and student Matthew Gross presented their work on PCB accumulation in crayfish and brown trout.  Some 50 crayfish were analyzed and it was determined that the bio accumulation averaged about .245 parts per million (PPM) which is well below the EPA limit of 2 PPM .


Of the brown trout tested this year, the largest one, measuring approximately 17 inches, had PCB levels under 2 PPM.  This preliminary result was good news as a fish that size certainly lived in the river for years, had eaten lots of crayfish and other micro-invertebrates and might have had higher concentrations of PCB’s built up in its systems.  Only 4 trout have been tested, thus far with another 8 trout tests nearing completion.  Those results will be reported at a later date.


Tests of the other trout, a brown trout of about 8 ¼ inches and a brook trout about 9 ½ inches had levels significantly below the 2 PPM threshold, with levels under of .30 PPM.  A hatchery raised rainbow trout was caught out of the Green River tributary and that had extremely low, barely measurable levels of PCBs. They stressed that the results on the fish tests are preliminary; but their methods for measuring PCB’s is similar to that used by the EPA.  Professor Jay Thoman believes that no one has found organisms anywhere in the world that don’t contain some PCBs.


In the future they are requesting more assistance from fishermen in supplying them with more trout so that they can be sampled.  They don’t want a huge backlog of them because, unfortunately, there is no way of sampling the fish without killing them.


Their conclusions were:  (1) There are no significant PCB levels in nearly all crayfish taken at the Cole Field site, (2) They have a high level of confidence in their crayfish measurements, (3) They are close to developing satisfactory trout analysis protocols and (4) They have preliminary values in trout and the tests will be continued in the future.


“Things are getting better, at lease biologically” said HooWRA Director Lauren Stevens.  Fish advisories still remain on the Hoosic downstream from the former Sprague property.  It remains to be seen if the fish advisories will be removed if these results hold up and/or improve.

A visit to the Owl’s Nest Part II



Readers may recall that last month, I mentioned that I had been invited up to the Owl’s Nest in the Green Mountains.  Also scheduled to be there were:  Homer Ouellette of Pittsfield, Paul Ouellette of Lanesboro, Doug Edwards and his son Blake Edwards of Windsor,  Navy Lt. Commander (Ret) Fred Biegner and his son-in-law chef Craig Mitchell of North Kingston, RI, Bob Lamb of Cheshire and Ken Jardin (Homer’s son-in-law) of Hebron, CT.  This will have been my 4th time there, the last time being around 1988.


The meals were listed in the invitation with everyone, except me, were assigned cooking duties.  That is probably because I messed up a breakfast there back in the early 1980’s, when I had flipped the pancakes more than once.  Apparently, that’s a no-no.


Owl’s Nest co-owner Bob Lamb towed a trailer with his 4 wheeler so that provisions could be hauled up to the cabin.  Paul, who is 92 years old and is having leg problems these days, required a ride up in the trailer.  His 89 year old brother Homer kept him company on the ride.  The rest of us hiked.


Also towed up was an outdoor shower system that Bob owns.  This amazing invention is comprised of a small pump which is placed in the nearby brook and powered by a car battery .  A hose goes to an outdoor shower system near the cabin.  This system is heated by propane and provides instant hot water for showering and cooking.


The cabin, which can sleep 9, is loaded with memorabilia, and each piece has its own story.  There is a pulley system that is used to hoist wet clothing up near the rafters above the stove to dry over night


It was off season, with no deer hunting yet and trout fishing was winding down.   It was too early for perch fishing on Lake Champlain which they usually do during ice fishing season.  Incidentally, the organization Perch Unlimited (PU!) originated at this cabin.


So what goes on in a camp during off season?  WORK! Preparations have to be made for the upcoming hunting/ice fishing seasons – wood has to be stacked in or near the cabin, coal has to be wheel barreled to the coal bin near the front deck, the stool shed/shed house has to be cleaned and dirt which had worked its way downhill and settled under the cabin over the years had to be removed to afford good ventilation.


After a hard day’s work, a couple of drinks, a spaghetti dinner and a good cigar, it was decided to build a bon fire and burn the “owl cat”.  In the past, someone used a chain saw to carve a 3+ foot owl out of a large stump near the cabin.  It was not liked (looked too much like a cat) and it was decided to saw it down and burn it up that evening.  It was propped upright, and when it was burning, presented an eerie sight.  As the flames licked all around it, the head and eyes appeared to be looking at us.


The next day, after breakfast, a morning of hard work and a delicious lunch, an accustomed game of show and tell took place.  Each person brought some gadget and asked others to guess what it was.  For example, Bob brought a devise for setting a beaver trap, Paul brought old pictures, Blake brought pictures from Alaska, Homer brought an old camera, etc.  Perhaps the most interesting item was a home made little vehicle that Doug made and which was powered by a mouse trap.


Later on in the afternoon, Blake did some metal detecting while Bob started heating the oil for an oil-cooked turkey which we were having for dinner.  We were expecting guests that evening for dinner.  In addition to the 9 of us, two neighbors Nancy Kolesnik, who is an abutter at the foot of the mountain, and a friend were coming.


What a sight as they hiked up the trail to the cabin, Nancy with a covered basket of freshly baked rolls and her friend with a couple of bottles of his homemade elderberry wine.  Her black lab Shooter accompanied them.  Also arriving later that evening were Maureen Soules from Lee and her friend Gordy Merrill from Hancock, VT. Maureen is the daughter of the late Bill Brighenti, one of the original builders/owners of the Owl’s nest.  She is now a part owner of the Owl’s Nest through inheritance.


That evening, we sat around adjoining tables enjoying a delicious meal of roast ham, oil-fried turkey, stuffing, squash, potatoes, etc.  Picture it – lit by propane lanterns, 13 people and a dog enjoying a delicious meal and wonderful company in a warm, rustic cabin up in the Green Mountains.   It was like celebrating Thanksgiving.  Now that I think about it, the guests did come over the river and thru the woods.


The next morning, after breakfast and work assignments, Doug and son Brady instructed some guys on how to build their own mouse trap powered vehicles.  Afterward, they had racing contests with the winners receiving prizes.


Soon it was time to leave.  After loading everything into the wagon, Paul included, we headed back down the mountain.  I had to chuckle at the sight of Paul being driven down the mountain like General George Patton.  All he needed was an ivory handled pistol.  Lt Commander Biegner must have thought likewise for as they passed him on the trail, he stopped, turned and saluted.


What a unique and enjoyable weekend, one that I shall never forget.

Youth Deer Hunt was a success

According to figures released by The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife ), some 1,339 youths participated in the first ever Youth Deer Hunt which was held on October 3.

MassWildlife created this special season to provide young people an opportunity to hunt deer with their own permit during a special one-day hunt that precedes the Commonwealth’s annual deer hunting seasons.  Youths as young as 12 years old can hunt, provided they were accompanied by a duly licensed adult and they obtained a Youth Deer Permit.  Youths 15-17 years old had to have a Massachusetts Minor Hunting License and a Youth Deer Permit.

Preliminary harvest reports show that 143 deer were harvested by the youths on that day.  The nicest deer that I know of was taken by 12 year old Willem Magnifico from Middleton, MA.  Hunting with his father Mark, he shot the pictured 10 point buck which dressed out at 180 lbs.  The deer, which was shot in Middleton, was immediately dropped at 100 yards with a 12 gauge bolt action shotgun.   It was also a great opportunity for Mark to teach his son Willem how to field dress a deer.


His mom, Karen, and dad are extremely proud of their son’s feat.   They plan to have the deer’s head mounted.


Figures were not yet available as to how many local youths participated in the hunt and how many deer were harvested.   We know that 14 year old Tanner Hill, of Dalton, shot a nice 4 point buck in Dalton, which dressed out at 110 lbs.  Mentored by his dad Michael, he dropped the deer at 75 yards with a 12 gauge shotgun.


Cliff Briggs, of Great Barrington, reported on four father/son teams in southern Berkshire County.  Matt Driscoll of Lee hunted with his dad Richard and got a button buck in Becket. It was also a great opportunity for Richard to show Matt how to track a wounded deer until found.


Other father/son teams included Hunter Briggs of Lee who hunted with his dad Robert, Chip Consolati of Lee hunted with his dad Tony, and Liam Shields of Lee was mentored by Matt Ranzoni.   The group saw 4 deer, but no bucks other than the button bucks.  After the hunt, Mike Scolforo of Lee invited them up to his hunting camp in Sandisfield and cooked them a couple of burgers and stuff.


My apologies to any other hunters/mentors who may have participated during the Youth Deer Hunt Day of which I was unaware *****

There will be a NRA Basic Pistol Course at the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club on Saturday, November 7, from 8 AM to 6 PM. There will be a break for lunch. You are requested to bring a sandwich or snacks, as well as a pen and paper for notes. The course costs$70 and it includes a one year membership at the LSC.

Candidates will learn gun operation and components, ammo functions and the shooting fundamentals.  There is no live ammo in the classroom.  After handling empty guns and dry firing, the candidates will be required to shoot 50 rounds of .22 ammo at the range to complete the course.  They are required to review the MA. State gun laws for possession and storage. Successful completion of this course allows the candidate to apply for a MA LTC Class A. Check the Gun Owners Action League website for disqualifications for the course.

Call Vicki or Cliff White at (413)442-8107 or email them at to sign up. *****

The inaugural Berkshire Natural History Conference, which will feature presentations by local and regional naturalists as well as acclaimed authors, will take place on Sun., Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center at The Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass.


“This annual event will bring natural history home to the Berkshires,” notes Berkshire Community College Professor of Environmental Science Tom Tyning, the lead organizer of the event.  “We are really excited to gather programs and like-minded people together to help understand and appreciate the deep natural heritage that surrounds us all in the Berkshires.”

The Conference will feature authors and international nature guides, Peter Alden and Brian Cassie.


Alden, author of 15 books on North American and African wildlife, is an acclaimed international natural history tour leader traveling to such places as Antarctica, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, South America, the Amazon, Lesser Antilles, Panama Canal, Central America, Pacific Mexico, Alaska, British Columbia and Africa.


Cassie, a dedicated naturalist, conservationist, and teacher, has led nature tours in Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico, Venezuela and Jamaica as well as closer to home in Maine and Massachusetts. He has worked with the Audubon Society and “Butterflies through Binoculars Tours,” and is president of both the Nuttall Ornithological Club at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Butterfly Club.


Other programs on the agenda include:

  • Rene Wendell’s introduction to S. Waldo Bailey, original warden at Bartholomew’s  Cobble.
  • Insect Biodiversity — Tom Murray
  • Our Local Rattlesnakes — Anne Stengle
  • The Richmond Boulder Train — Tim Flanagan
  • Berkshire’s Neatest Butterflies — Bill Benner
  • Native Berkshire Fishes — Andrew MaddenTickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students.  Admission includes brunch, and access to all of the natural history presentations. For more information or to pre-register visit: The Berkshire School is located at 245 N. Undermountain Road in Sheffield.  In the event of inclement weather, a storm date is scheduled for Sunday, November 15.The event is sponsored by: Berkshire Community College, The Berkshire School, Green Berkshires, MCLA, Orion Magazine, Berkshire Environmental Action Team and the Hoffmann Bird Club.

The story of the Owl’s Nest

Recently I had the good fortune of being invited to a rustic camp in the Green Mountains in Hancock, VT. The camp, named the Owl’s Nest, has an interesting history:

It was designed and built board by board in 1967/68 by two brothers (Homer Ouellette of Pittsfield and Paul Ouellette of Lanesborough) and their brother-in-law, the late Bill Brighenti of Lee.

They used to deer hunt the White River valley in the 1950’s and liked it so much that they wanted to build a deer camp there. Fortune would have it that they were able to secure an 11 acre parcel of land surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest.

Tapping Paul’s knowledge learned from the Boy Scouts and several books on the subject, they designed the cabin. Homer spent nights in his cellar working on the drawings, having them approved by Bill and Paul, and then making them into actual blueprints where he worked.

Then came the “scrounge list”, a list of things that they needed and would accept any source that was cheap. Things like concrete blocks, lumber, pots and pans, windows, doors, sinks, etc.  The only restriction was that they wanted to keep the camp free of modern items like chrome plated kitchen cabinets, plastic furniture, steel chairs, etc.

Paul’s previous research proved valuable. For example, the size and placement of windows was determined only after figuring out where the bunk beds, stoves and furniture would be placed.  The windows and doors were not placed in the center of a wall but in areas where they would not be blocked by such items.

Nothing was left to chance, the height of the windows were measured from Homer’s elbow to the floor while he was sitting. The bunk beds were spaced in such a way that you did not bump your head while sitting up in the lower berth.  The railings on the porch were the height of Homer’s “gluteus maximus” to the floor, thus making it easier to sit on the porch railing.

They spent all of their weekends during that time working on the camp. They had a deal with a small saw mill up there and they would arrange to buy only enough lumber that they could use that weekend.  Since they were using green spruce, and knowing how it would warp, they nailed it in position immediately before it dried.  They carried the lumber to the sight board by board, crossing a brook on the way until a neighbor took pity on them and allowed them to cut across his property.

They advertised to take away people’s old coal when they converted to other forms of heat. They obtained a lot of coal that way and carried it up the mountain bag by bag.  It was covered there and available when needed during the cold deer hunting season.

They dug a hole for the required toilet facilities and one day, while Homer and Bill were working on the roof of the cabin, Paul built the outhouse. It was 5 x 7 feet square with two windows, a door and a comfortable seat.  It was big enough to use as a combined tool shed and outhouse.  Usually, they call it the “Stool Shed”, but sometimes they call it the “Shed House”.  In later years, they installed a propane heating system, carpeted it and installed solar lights that went on when the door was closed.

Instead of hopping from rock to rock while crossing the nearby brook to get to the cabin, they built a bridge across it. Their source of water came from that brook and a smaller one nearby.

One can imagine the effort that went into building that camp. There was no electricity so the sawing and carpentry work had to be done by hand.  With the left over pieces of wood, Paul built a table, two long benches, two short benches, and a wood box.  Later on, they added a kitchen and bunkroom to the original cabin.  The heating is still provided by wood and coal in a kitchen stove and an old parlor stove.

The only source of lighting is propane. No portable radios or other modern gadgets are allowed and you will not find a newspaper there.  Each piece of furniture and adornment has a story of its own and many items were donated by friends or relatives, such as rugs, pitcher pump, ice box, stools, kitchen supplies, pillows, etc.

As you can see by the attached photo, the Owl’s Nest has its own logo. Signs on two paths which lead up to the cabin display this logo.  It features an owl sitting on a piece of property (which is the actual shape of the 11 acre land plot).  The owl’s head has two circles for its eyes representing the two Ouelletes and the beak has the letter B, representing the Bill Brighenti.

Unfortunately, we will have to leave the Owl’s Nest for a while. In the next week or so this column will focus on the ongoing hunting seasons, forest accesses, and other time sensitive articles.  But we will revisit it shortly to cover my recent trip and hopefully provide a picture of it. *****

The Berkshire County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited will hold a banquet at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Route 102, Stockbridge, on Saturday, October 24.  Games/raffles and social hour begins at 5:00 PM with a buffet dinner at 6:30 PM.  Tickets cost $45 for single, $35 for spouse and $25 for juniors 15 and under. For ticket information, contact Bill Bailey at 413-244-2304.

Over 80,000 trout to be stocked statewide this fall


Some 74,100 trout, comprised of 66,100 rainbows and 8,000 browns will be stocked in Massachusetts water bodies.  The fish from various hatcheries range in size from about 12 inches to more than 14 inches.  Trout have been allocated equally to each of the five MassWildlife Districts and stocking has already begun.


The following waters have already been stocked or were scheduled to be stocked last week:  Ashfield Pond, Deerfield River in Charlemont and Florida, Littleville Lake, Norwich Lake, East Branch of the Westfield River in Chesterfield, North Pond in Florida, Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Lake Buel, Windsor Lake, Big Benton Pond, Otis Reservoir, Onota Lake, Richmond Pond, Stockbridge Bowl, Goose Pond and Windsor Pond. *****


The Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be having its first meeting of the fall on Thursday, October 15. They will meet at the Bass Water Grill on Route 8 in Cheshire. The Social Hour will be from 5:30 to 6:30 and will be followed by a short membership meeting.


The featured speaker is Mike Cole, known statewide as “the bug guy”.  Arguably one of the most knowledgeable around, he will be able to tell us about the insects we can encounter on local rivers throughout the various seasons.  For two years the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) and volunteers collected macro-invertibrates to determine the health of the Housatonic River.  All of those little “bugs” were forwarded to Mike at UMASS for identification.  He truly knows his stuff. *****


Regarding the HVA, I received a solicitation letter from them recently and they recapped the things that they, with volunteer and membership support, have accomplished in the Berkshires just last year alone.  They have:  Completed 16 new river assessments that show the condition of the Housatonic River and her tributaries and what needs to be done to improve their health; conducted 4 clean-ups to remove litter and trash from the River in Pittsfield, Lenox and Great Barrington; conducted 5 free public paddling trips putting more than 75 people on the river; hired a local engineering firm to design a river access site in Stockbridge on Park Street;  hired a local engineering firm to develop plans for river access sites in Sheffield, Great Barrington and Pittsfield (West Branch); reached more than 500 students in the Berkshires through 33 watershed education programs in nine schools; added pre-school programs at the Becket Library.


Teachers in the region now use HVA’s lesson bins to teach students about storm water runoff, water cycle and rivers.  In the next year or so, they will be launching a new Riverside Trail Coalition to create riverfront trails and a trail guide; fix pollution problems town by town across the region as their river assessments reveal them; teach more children with pre-kindergarten programs for schools; protect more rivers through RiverSmartMA! – a campaign to help residents protect rivers and streams, and they plan to create two more river access sites in the Berkshires.  Berkshire County Director Dennis Regan and Berkshire Outreach Program Manager Alison Dixon are doing a fantastic job as is the entire organization.


You might want to make a donation to this most worthwhile organization.. *****

The Hoosic River Watershed Association’s (HooRWA)’s 17th annual State of the River Conference will be held on Saturday,  October 17, at 10 a.m. at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown.   Kelly Nolan, senior aquatic taxonomist of Watershed Assessment Associates, will report on the encouraging 2014 assessment of the Hoosic River in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, and early indications from the 2015 assessments.


Williams College Chemistry Professor David Richardson and students Linda Shin and Matthew Gross will present their work on PCB accumulation in brown trout. After decades of tracking PCBs in the  Hoosic by studying crayfish, for the past two summers the students  have turned their attention to brown trout, and the question of whether  PCBs, left over from Sprague Electric Company operations in North  Adams, remain a sufficient threat to limit fish consumption. *****


Recently, Civitan of Pittsfield held a Special Olympics Fishing Derby at the Dalton American Legion Pond.  Participating Athletes were from Riverbrook Residence for Women, BCARC, and LETR.  Dawn Giftos, who is on the Board of Directors for Civitan and Co Chair of the event stated that “Civitan, which is a community organization  and who has been serving people with disabilities of Berkshire County for over the past 58 years, is very excited to bring back this great event after a five year absence”.  Giftos thanked all the groups of volunteers who made this possible, Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, MassWildife Angler Education volunteers, USF&W and Western Mass-Bass.  Mark Jester, President of the BCLS stated “We had a great day for the event, unfortunately the fish were not so cooperative.”    Myron Sayers, Co-Chair and Western Mass Bass representative said that there were some fish that cooperated. Ella Bassi and her brother Jake caught a few perch, but none of the 350 stocked brook trout were caught.  There were about 30 folks who participated.   Civitan is already planning for next year’s event in May.


Many thanks go to Jester, Giftos, Sayers and others for the information.  Unfortunately, I missed the event as I was on a self-imposed assignment to the Owl’s Nest in the Green Mountains in Hancock, VT.  Next weekend, I will  write about the Owl’s Nest.


I’m sure the local hunters are aware of the many hunting seasons that are opening in the next week or so and don’t need a reminder from me.  Hunting seasons such as:  Wild turkey,  pheasant, quail,  grouse, archery hunting for deer, cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hares, coyote, ducks,  regular goose and woodcock (already started). Hunters should check the regulations for the particulars of each season.

Francis Sargent Conservation Award earned by BNRC



Last Tuesday, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council received the Francis W. Sargent Conservation Award from the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board for its conservation of the Commonwealth’s natural resources and for its contributions to the sporting community.


Members of the BNRC, including Board Chairman Tim Crane of Windsor and President/CEO Tad Ames of Williamstown, were on hand to receive the award – a hand-carved wooden loon decoy created by Geoff Walker of Hank Walker Decoys of Newbury – at a ceremony held at the Steadman Pond Reserve, Monterey and Tyringham.  In addition to Chairman George Darey and the F&W Board, the ceremony included Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Director Jack Buckley, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George Peterson, other state officials and representatives from the sporting and conservation community.


The BNRC has been working for more than 45 years protecting the open spaces of Berkshire County to ensure the ecological integrity and public enjoyment of the region’s outdoor resources. It owns and manages 8,600 acres and protects an additional 10,011 acres through conservation restrictions.


Various user groups have benefitted substantially from the DFW/BNRC partnership. Thousands of acres in Berkshire County have been opened for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, bird watching, etc. as a result of that cooperation.   The importance of hunter access is becoming ever more apparent as wildlife populations expand and proper management is required to maintain social and ecological tolerance.


Several wonderful speeches praising the great accomplishments of BNRC were delivered by the above mentioned dignitaries.   Let me quote what Tad Ames said when accepting the award:


“I’m just delighted to be able to accept this honor on behalf of the entire BNRC family, its Board of Directors, our staff and our many, many generous and compassionate supporters who really make everything we do possible.   This award is about history and what we and the DFW have done together, which has been defined by friendship and trust and nurtured over the years.  That friendship is one of utter reliance between the staff of the BNRC and the incredible staff at the DFW Western District.”


“It is also about saluting the sister agencies under the Mass Executive Office of Environmental and Energy Affairs, the Dept. of Agricultural Resources that protected many great farms in Berkshire County and the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation and its land acquisition team.”


“This award means that Berkshire County not only is a much better place to live, and visit and work, whether you are an animal or human, but that it will continue to be so.  We have no intention of resting on our laurels.  The DFW’s and BNRC’s core values are access to land for public use and enjoyment.  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”.


“That is how we feel and we know we have great partners who feel that way, too.  Not only at the state agencies but at the statewide conservation organizations and local land trusts.  We at the BNRC have a vision for what this award means and what it will mean going ahead.  We want to see our great state wildlife management areas, state forests, farm blocks and land trust properties not as isolated islands of conservation but part of an uninterrupted and continuous network of conservation land that offers safe and healthy passage for animals or even plants that seek to adapt to a changing climate.  A continuous network that offers pathways from my house to yours, from town into nature and back again so that men, women and children alike can walk with a hiking stick in their hand or a fishing pole.  So that they can walk with a hunting bow, a pair of binoculars, camera or calipers and that they do so with a fine awareness of how much all of us depend on the benefits from nature and how deep our obligation to care for it.”


“We call this vision of a continuous, uninterrupted network threaded by paths, the Berkshire High Roads.    The Francis Sargent Conservation Award is not only about celebrating all that we have done together in laying the cornerstone over the last 50 years, but that we are rededicating ourselves for the next 50 years to finish the job that we have all done so much to advance.”


Wow!  This wonderful acceptance speech was delivered from the top of his head without the use of notes. *****


After 9 years with the Western District Office of the DFW, Aquatic Biologist Dana Ohman will be leaving to take on a new job with The Nature Conservancy in Ohio working with the Stream and Wetland Mitigation Program.  In her announcement, she stated that it was not an easy decision because she genuinely respected and enjoyed working with everyone in the Division.    Her last day in the office will be October 9, following the fall trout stockings.


On behalf of the local anglers, many thanks Dana for your hard work in keeping an ample supply of trout available for our pleasure.  Thanks also for your various presentations to the classrooms and meetings of Taconic Trout Unlimited.


Recently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that due to the work and commitment of many conservation partners in New England and New York, the New England Cottontail (NEC) is on the path to recovery and will not be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.  It had previously been classified as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection. This once-common native species survives in five isolated populations across Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

The NEC is the only rabbit native to New England and the area east of the Hudson River in New York. A closely related species, the Eastern Cottontail, expanded across much of the area following introductions around the turn of the 20th century.  The two rabbits look alike— only skull characteristics and genetic samples can be used for an accurate identification.

Unlike the Eastern Cottontail, NEC rely exclusively on young forests and shrublands (early-successional habitats). These habitats are often associated with abandoned agricultural lands, wetlands, woodland clearcuts, coastal shrublands, scrub oak barrens, utility rights-of-way, or other areas where disturbance has stimulated the growth of young shrubs and other plants in dense thickets. The NEC’s range has drastically shrunk since the 1960s as development altered vast areas of the thick, brushy shrubland required by it and other young forest-dependent wildlife.  The remaining forests matured into older and taller woods with little ground-level shelter or food for the native cottontails.

Recognizing both the urgency and the opportunity to conserve the NEC, state and federal biologists began a coordinated, rangewide, science-based conservation initiative that has supported the rabbits’ ongoing path to recovery. The New England Cottontail Initiative represents an extraordinary effort to combine funding and cooperative efforts to advance the conservation of an animal that could have been federally listed.

“Unfortunately, many people view a species listing as a victory, when in fact the real victories are like today’s when we take collaborative action to avoid a listing,” said Jack Buckley, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife ((DFW)  “Proactively managing the rabbit’s conservation needs and keeping it unlisted allows for flexible management options, less conservation action implementation costs, and fewer land use or hunting restrictions.”

Conservation activities for NEC in Massachusetts are focused in southeastern Massachusetts and southern Berkshire County and are led by DFW and a broad range of committed partners. These activities include the following:

  • Conducting habitat management activities such as prescribed fires, tree clearing or thinning on state, federal, and private lands in the Bay State.  To date, over 1,100 acres of pitch pine and scrub oak habitats were thinned and/or burned and nearly 300 acres of trees were cleared to create young forest and shrublands to support NEC populations.  These land management actions took place on lands owned or managed by DFW, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, Joint Base Cape Cod, Mashpee-Wampanoag Tribal Land, UFWS, land trusts, municipalities, sporting clubs, and other private landowners. Additional habitat management activities are scheduled in the upcoming year are as follows:
  • Providing initial funding for landowners both public and private to create NEC habitat.  Primary funding sources in Massachusetts included the USFWS, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and State Wildlife Grants.
  • Collecting rabbit carcasses and pellets to locate NEC in the state.  Many hunters and other conservation-minded groups and citizens in Massachusetts contributed to this statewide effort, with the University of Rhode Island conducting genetic testing.
  • Live trapping and radio-collaring rabbits to learn more about their life history needs, to monitor movements and habitat use, and to provide stock for a captive breeding program.  DFW, USFWS, Mashpee-Wampanoag Tribe and the MA Air National Guard were all involved in this effort.
  • Analyzing vegetation on lands for habitat suitability and monitoring the resulting vegetation growth following habitat management alterations.
  • Continuing the collaboration with state and conservation organization partners across New England and New York. The New England Cottontail Conservation Initiative, consisting of representatives from all of the above mentioned conservation partners will continue oversight on the recovery effort for NEC across New England and New York, providing an important administrative mechanism that allows for conservation coordination across boundaries.

“Though the NEC is not listed, there is still much to be done,” said Director Buckley. He noted that DFW and its conservation partners are seeking help from landowners willing to create and maintain young forest and shrubland habitats. More information about New England Cottontails can be found at  or contact MassWildlife at *****

This year, woodcock hunting runs from October 7 through October 24 and from October 26 through November 21.   Hunting hours are 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset (except on Wildlife Management Areas stocked with pheasants, where hunting hours begin at sunrise). A Harvest Information Program (HIP) Survey is required.  All migratory gamebird hunters must register with the HIP each calendar year either on line at or anywhere hunting licenses are sold. State and Federal Waterfowl Stamps are required for hunting ducks and geese, but are not required for hunting woodcock. *****


DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden recently reported that as a result of President Mark Jester and the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen efforts, the DFW will be implementing a new program similar to the highly successful National Archery in Schools (NAIS)  Program.  Called the Explorer Bowhunting Program it will be designed for other programs or after school programs (Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, etc.)  It was not designed to replace the DFW Bowhunter Education Program but it is a little more hunter based than the NAIS.  There will be more to come on this in the near future.


MassWildlife reports that the freshwater algae Didymosphenia geminata (a.k.a Didymo or “rock snot”) was recently observed by Dr. Caleb Slater, a fisheries biologist with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW)  in the West Branch of the Westfield River in the town of Chester.  DFW collected samples and made the preliminary identification which was later confirmed by independent experts.

This is the second occurrence of didymo in the state.  The first was in 2013 in the Green River in Alford and Egremont.  The Green River algae bloom began in May of 2013, lasted only a short time and had no detectable impact on the resource.  Didymo was virtually undetectable in samples collected later in the summer of 2013, and no visible blooms have been found in the Green River by the Division since that time. There have been no reported changes to fisheries resulting from the Didymo blooms.

Didymo is a freshwater diatom that occurs in North America. It is unknown how many streams in Massachusetts contain Didymo, as it is visually undetectable unless in bloom. Blooms may appear gray, brown, or white and has a texture of wet wool or cotton balls. Blooms, which happen only when certain conditions (including flow, nutrients, light intensity, and water chemistry) are present, can produce a dense covering on rocky substrate and eventually result in long stalks. Extensive Didymo blooms can temporarily cover river bottoms almost entirely. Didymo generally occurs in cold, clear, nutrient-poor waters with a neutral or slightly basic pH. Conditions typical of the Upper Westfield River drainages should greatly limit the occurrence of Didymo blooms.

Didymo blooms have been observed in several surrounding states:  NH, VT, CT, NY, PA, VA, MD and WV.  Whether it was always present in the Massachusetts waters where blooms have occurred or is a recent introduction is unknown. Click onto the MassWildlife web site to see what this stuff looks like.

There is no known method for eliminating or controlling Didymo blooms. “Basically, the bloom has to run its course,” says Todd Richards, Assistant Director of Fisheries for the DFW. “All recreational users should always thoroughly wash their equipment/clothing/waders/boats in hot, soapy water. Boats/equipment and other non-absorbent materials should be scrubbed. Soft, absorbent materials should soak in hot, soapy water for a minimum of 30 minutes. This is particularly important with felt-sole waders or other slow drying material such as sneakers, towels, and related items.” *****

On Tuesday, September 29, the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board will present its highest award, the Francis W. Sargent Conservation Award, to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC).   The event is scheduled to take place at 1:30 PM. and will be held at the BNRC’s Steadman Pond Reserve (a Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Conservation Easement), which is located  on the Monterey-Tyringham Road in Tyringham.

The award was established in 2000 by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board to recognize someone who has made significant contributions to the conservation of natural resources in the Commonwealth and is presented whenever warranted by the Board.  The Sargent Award is named for former Governor Francis W. Sargent, an avid conservationist and outdoorsman who served as DFW in 1963 and ’64.


The BNRC is a non-profit land conservation organization working throughout the Berkshires to preserve threatened lands.   BNRC, DFW and other partners have put together many projects totaling thousands of acres ensuring free access to the general public.  They are instrumental in helping land owners to conserve their lands in perpetuity.  Tens of thousands of acres of open spaces and scenic vistas have been conserved and most, if not all, of them are open to the public for passive recreation.

You may recall that the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) presented them with the 2012 Silvio O. Conte Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.

If you are not doing anything that Tuesday, you might want to head for Tyringham to observe the awarding. If not, I’ll cover it for you and write about it in a future column.  I’m sure many fine words will be spoken about them, all richly deserved.

Prior to that event, the Fish and Wildlife Board will hold its monthly public meeting at 10:00 A.M., at the Tyringham Town Hall at 116 Main Road. *****

There will be a Gun Owners Action League Seminar at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club on Tuesday September 29, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.  The 3 hour seminar, entitled MA Gun Law for Citizens, will be presented by Jon Green, Director of Education and Training for GOAL.  It will help to separate fact from fiction.  Jon’s presentation will provide a basic understanding of current Massachusetts gun laws and regulations, including an overview of changes resulting from the enactment of MGL Chapter 284 last August.  It is free to residents of Berkshire County, courtesy of the SSC.


RSVP to Robert McDermott, Tel. 413-232-7700 or Robmcdermott so they can plan seating for this event.   *****


The Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club will be having a buffet dinner at the ITAM Lodge on Friday, October 2, which will benefit its Land Development program.  Cocktails served at 6:00 and dinner at 7:00 PM.  There will be a 50/50 and other raffles.   Tickets, which cost $15 for adults and $8 for children under 10, can be obtained from the following people: Travis Delratez – (413)441-7979, Fran Tremblay – (413)443-5133, Dave Pemble – (413)443-0646 and Mike Furey – (413)822-1959. *****


CIVITAN will be putting on a training tournament at the American Legion pond in Dalton on September 26.  It is a concerted effort between CIVITAN, BCLS and Special Olympics.  Some 350 trout will be provided by the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery.  Training will be conducted by DFW’s Angler Education folks.  About 30 people are expected to participate.   The public is invited to watch, and hopefully, help out. *****   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818


MassWildlife issues several safety warnings


The first warning is to help prevent firearm accidents. Responsible hunting is a time-honored tradition that plays an important part in managing Massachusetts’s wild game populations. Responsible hunting means respecting game animals, hunting ethically and, perhaps most importantly, hunting safely.

Because this is a time of year when a lot of firearms are in use and in transport, MassWildlife and Project ChildSafe are urging hunters to take action to prevent firearm accidents in the field, at the range, at home, and everywhere in between. That means remembering that “The Hunt Isn’t Over Until Firearms Are S.A.F.E. and Secure.”

S.A.F.E. stands for Secure your firearms when not in use; Be Aware of those around you who should not have unauthorized access to firearms; Focus on your responsibility as a firearm owner and Educate yourself and others about safe firearm handling and storage.

Safe and secure storage of firearms when they are not in use is the number one way to prevent firearm accidents. For more information on safe firearm storage and to find out how to get a free firearm safety kit, including a gun lock, visit *****

The second warning comes because fall is the breeding season for both moose and white-tailed deer. MassWildlife reminds motorists to be mindful of increased deer and moose activity, especially during early morning and evening hours.  Moose, found in parts of central and western  Massachusetts, breed in September and October.  White-tailed deer breed from late October to early December.

Moose on the road are especially hazardous. The dark color and height of moose make them difficult to see in low light; moose eyes rarely shine like deer eyes because their eyes are above headlight level. In addition, long legs and heavy top bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck.

MassWildlife recommends that we observe road signs for moose and deer crossings and slow down. Do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer because it may lead to more risk and damage than hitting the deer.  Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer, so stay alert and brake when you see a moose in or near the road.

Deer and moose/vehicle collisions should be reported to the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075.  In the event of a deer/vehicle collision, the driver or passengers of the vehicle involved (MA residents only) may salvage the deer by bringing it to a DFW Wildlife District Offices to be officially tagged. *****

The third warning involves paddlers in kayaks and canoes. They must wear life jackets from September 15 to May 15 every year. According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in the Commonwealth result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water or cold weather. Waterfowl hunters using canoes or kayaks are reminded that this law also applies to them.  Obviously, stand up paddleboarders, should wear them also. *****

MassWildlife is in the process of compiling a Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Massachusetts. While they have a substantial selection of photographs of most inland native species on file, they are lacking high quality photos of most of the Sea Turtles. Most of these pelagic animals only visit our waters for brief periods each year, or only occasionally, and spend most of their lives in tropical and sub-tropical waters. MassWildlife is most interested in photos of the Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles, but will also consider quality shots of the Green, Loggerhead, and Leatherback sea turtles. Underwater photographers or anyone with good quality, identification-rich photos are encouraged to submit their work to them for consideration.

They prefer dorsal shots of the entire animal showing carapace (upper shell) and shell scute/head scale patterns. Photos selected must be sharp and of reasonably high resolution. They cannot pay for the use of any photos they select for publication but they will credit the photographer in the publication and will provide a complimentary copy of the book to the photographer when it is published. If you’re interested in submitting photographs for consideration, contact Editor Peter Mirick at  *****

On August 26, 2015 at the Erving State Forest, Jack Buckley, Director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), welcomed home MassWildlife Habitat Biologist Rebecca DiGirolomo from a firefighting deployment in Oregon. DiGirolomo, a resident of Worcester, was part of a returning Massachusetts crew of 20 state and municipal firefighters sent to battle blazes in Oregon for the previous two weeks. Their deployment was in response to a request the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation received from the U.S. Forest Service and the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center in Camden, NH.  During the deployment, the crew was assigned to the Eldorado Fire, located near Unity, Oregon.

“On behalf of both the Fisheries and Wildlife Board and the Division, we salute Rebecca’s courage, commitment, and contribution to the western wildfire fighting effort,” said Director Buckley.  “We are proud to provide the services of our highly trained and skilled personnel in this time of urgent need.”  Buckley noted that should there be a request for additional deployment, additional MassWildlife staff are prepared and willing to answer the call. *****

Since 1972, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has offered paraplegic sportsmen and sportswomen the opportunity to hunt deer in several locations across the state during a special three-day season. This year’s hunt dates are October 29 –31, 2015. Among the locations are two properties in northern and southern Berkshire County.  Licensed paraplegic hunters who have an interest in participating in this hunt should contact Trina Moruzzi at (508) 389-6318 or by email at for more details.  Do it by October 23 to ensure you can get your permit in time.

Some hunting seasons open this Tuesday.



Can you believe that some hunting seasons are here already?  Bear season couldn’t come soon enough for the corn growers and honey producers.  This Tuesday morning the first of three black bear hunting seasons begins.  Hunters are reminded that there have been some changes to the bear hunting seasons and regulations since the 2015 Fish & Wildlife Guide (abstracts) came out. The first season runs from Tuesday September 8 through Saturday, September 26.   The second season runs from Monday, November 2 through Saturday, November 21.


New this year is a third bear hunting season which takes place during shotgun deer hunting season, November 30 through December 12.  The regulations are complicated when it comes to determining which hunting implement is legal in which season, so I have included a grid which was furnished by MassWildlife and may be of some help.





**Except on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season.


Also new this year is the ability to hunt bears statewide in all WMA’s.  MassWildlife felt that these changes were necessary to help manage the rapidly increasing black bear population  statewide.  Hunters are still advised to review page 33 of the 2015 Fish & Wildlife Guide to find out how and when to report the harvest and other important information.  Remember, a permit is required to hunt black bears.


Also on Tuesday, September 8, the Early Canada Goose hunting season opens statewide and runs through Friday, September 25.   The bag limit is 7 and possession limit is 21.  The hunting hours are from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset (except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail seasons when hunting hours begin at sunrise and end at sunset).


Migratory game birds may be hunted with shotguns no larger than 10 gauge.  Shotguns capable of holding more than 3 shells may not be used unless plugged with a one-piece filler which limits the gun’s total capacity to 3 shells and which cannot be removed without disassembling the gun.

Each waterfowl hunter 16 years or older must carry on his person a valid federal waterfowl stamp and each hunter 15 years or older must purchase a Massachusetts waterfowl stamp. The federal stamp must be signed across the face in ink.  Stamps are required for hunting ducks,  geese, or brant, but not required for hunting rails, snipe, woodcock, or American coot. Non-toxic shot is required for all waterfowl and coot hunting; no lead shot can be in your possession.

All migratory game bird hunters are reminded they must complete an online Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey each calendar year.  If you have not completed the HIP survey, visit a local license vendor, MassWildlife office, or go to to be sure you have completed the survey. Your license must have either the notation “HIP Survey Completed” or “Waterfowl Stamp” when printed.

Massachusetts has a Youth Waterfowl Hunt for youths aged 12 to15 on Saturdays September 26 and October 10 for ducks, coots, mergansers, and geese. All youths must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter with a valid Massachusetts waterfowl stamp.  Only one firearm is permitted.  Adults may not hunt and may carry firearms only when unloaded and cased. No license or stamp is needed for youths ages 12-14.  A license and Massachusetts waterfowl stamp is needed for youths aged 15.  No federal stamp is required but all other hunting regulations/bag limits apply. *****


The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) is having a Basic Pistol Course on Mondays, September 14 and September 21 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  The course costs $100.  To sign up, contact Larry Karlquist at (413) 442-7807.

Also, the LSA will be holding an International Defense Pistol Association (IDPA) match next Saturday.   Participants are urged to register.

IDPA is a combat format competitive match that forces you to use different styles and methods to complete each stage.  Your score is your time plus any penalties.  According to spokesman Andrew Swanton, new shooters are welcome but should be well experienced in the use and operation of their firearms.  This is not a match for a novice shooter but rather a club level match, but one should not feel intimidated that it is a high pressure match.  Safety is the biggest concern and classroom orientation for new shooters begins at 10 AM.


Then on Sunday, September 13, there will be an IDPA Classifier.  That is similar to an IDPA match but uses standardized stages to place a shooters in division based on their score.  Watch for the schedule and announcements. *****


The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club is having its Annual Steak and Lobster Dinner on Saturday September 12.  It begins at 6:00 PM.  Music will be provided by DJ Russ Davis.  BYOB.  The cost is $25 pp. Contact Tom Ferguson for tickets at 413-443-3224.


Incidentally, its turkey shoots begin on Sunday September 13.  Tickets go on sale at 12:30 PM and the first shoot is at 1:00 PM.  The cost is $3 per shot. There will be food from the grill. Contact Brady Kerr at 413-212-0894 for more information. *****

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding a free kid’s fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, from 9 to 10:30 AM.

Incidentally, according to the Berkshire Record, the Foundation had a record attendance of 175 at its Lobster Fest at the hatchery last week.  I was there and certainly ate my share of the delicious food (lobsters, raw clams and oysters, chowder, steamed clams and more, prepared and served by The Other Brother Darryl’s Seafood Market in Otis. Approximately $4,000 was raised for Foundation activities which include providing brook trout for local sportsmen’s club fishing derbies, scholarships and more.