As expected, 2014 Black Bear harvest shattered old record


MassWildlife recently reported that a record 240 bears were harvested statewide during last year’s split fall season. Some 203 were taken in September and 37 in November.  In total, 132 males and 107 females were taken.  The harvest breakdown by county is as follows: 78 in Berkshire; 56 in Franklin; 51 in Hampden; 43 in Hampshire; 4 in Middlesex; and 8 in Worcester.

Last year’s harvest represents a 62% increase over the previous year total of 148 and nearly a 30% increase over the previous record of 185 which were bagged in 2012. There were some real brutes taken this year with a couple of them estimated to weigh over 500 lbs live weight.

This increased harvest appears directly related to the upsurge in the bear population. It comes as no surprise to bear hunters who predicted as much when Question 1 was passed in the 1990’s.  That law made it illegal to use bear hunting dogs or bait to attract bears, presumably resulting in fewer bears taken.  Now it is estimated that there are over 5,000 of them living in the Commonwealth and the numbers are growing rapidly.  They are expanding eastward and if their numbers are not controlled will become a nuisance in the heavily populated towns there.

The Fish & Wildlife Board is keenly aware of this pending problem and has taken steps to address it.  It knows that hunters play a vital role in controlling the numbers of bears. Board Chairman George (Gige) Darey of Lenox reported that it voted to make changes to the Black Bear hunting regulations.  Pending regulatory approval, the zone restrictions will be removed during the Black Bear hunting season.  Prior to this year, bear hunting was only allowed in Zones 1 through 9 (of the 14 zones).  Also, bear hunting will be allowed in all zones during the shotgun deer hunting season.  All shotgun deer hunting regulations will apply, such as hunting only with shotguns, bows or muzzleloaders (no rifles), the wearing of hunter orange, etc.


These new changes, anticipated to become effective this year, have not been included in the 2015 Hunting and Fishing abstracts.   They still will have to proceed through the regulatory process, but it is expected that regulators will sign off on them.  *****

Beginning this Thursday and running through Sunday, the Big E Sportsmen’s Show will take place at 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield.  The hours are as follows:  Thursday from 3PM to 8PM, Friday from 12 Noon to 8PM, Saturday from 9AM to 7PM and Sunday from 10AM to 5PM.   Admission fees:  Adults – $13, Kids 6 to12 – $5 and under 6 free.  This sportsmen’s show is loaded with hunting, fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation activities.  For more information, visit the Springfield Sportsmen’s Show website. *****

And now for the youngsters:

On March 7 there will be a Growing Up WILD Professional Development Workshop at the MA Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox.  Pre-school educators are invited to this 6-hour workshop that focuses on early childhood education.  The Growing Up WILD Activity Guide builds on a children’s sense of wonder about nature and invites them to explore wildlife and the world around them.  Click onto, or contact Pam Landry at or (508) 389-6310 for registration details. The registration deadline is February 20.  ****

There is a contest which recognizes teachers and students who inspire their communities by exploring challenging environmental and energy issues.  Nominations for Massachusetts public or private school-based programs that promote environmental and energy education will be accepted until March 27. Program topics can include wildlife and natural resource conservation, ocean science, and other related subjects. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will review applications through mid-April and announce the winners later in the spring. Contact Meg Colclough at (617) 626-1110 or for more information. ****


There is still time to enter the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) contest. Any student, from kindergarten through grade 12, regardless of whether they attend public or private school or are home-schooled, can submit original artwork in this fun and educational competition.  The entry deadline is March 15.

The JDS program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students in grades K-12 learn about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese and then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, by creating a drawing or painting and submitting it to the JDS art contest. The art is judged in four age group categories in a statewide competition; the entry judged Best of Show moves on to represent Massachusetts in the national JDS competition. Click onto the MassWildlife web site for an information packet and entry information. ****

The MA Junior Conservation Camp, this year located at the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell, MA, provides a unique experience of conservation, shooting sports, and outdoor recreation education.  The camp’s program introduces young people to the ethical responsibilities of hunting and fishing in order to foster careful stewardship of our natural resources.  Boys and girls aged 13 to 17 who enjoy outdoor activities and want to learn more about the environment are eligible to attend.  The camp dates are August 2 through August 14.  The cost is $750 each.  Click onto for more information.

The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen has bought two memberships, (one for a boy and one for a girl), and will make them available for free, first come first served, to deserving youths.  If you know any interested youths, have them write a letter to BCLS President Mark Jester, 25 Delancy Avenue, Pittsfield MA 01201explaining why they want to attend.


Preliminary 2014 Deer Harvest Summary

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reports that the statewide  preliminary deer harvest for 2014 (excluding Quabbin and any data not yet received) was 11,165.  The harvest figures for the previous four years beginning with year 2010 were as follows:   10,699, 11,081, 10,938 and 11,413.  In the Western District (WD), which includes all areas west of the Connecticut River (Zones 1 – 4), some 1,737 were taken.   For the previous four years beginning with year 2010 the figures were 1,568, 3,417, 1,626 and 1,664. Interestingly, Zones 10 and 11 in eastern Massachusetts yielded over 4,800 deer in 2014.

The statewide preliminary archery season harvest was 4,456.  Harvest figures for the previous 4 years beginning with year 2010 were as follows:  3,778, 3,765, 3903 and 4,474.  In the WD, 505 were taken with the bow in 2014.   The WD archery harvests for the previous four years, beginning with year 2010, were as follows: 466, 522, 453 and 577.    Zones 10 and 11 yielded 2,381 in 2014.

The statewide preliminary shotgun season harvest was 4,742.    For the previous 4 years beginning with year 2010 the harvests were as follows: 4,846, 5,349, 4,950 and 4,625.  The WD shotgunners checked in 888 in 2014, which compares with the previous 4 years:  815, 904, 842 and 739.  Zones 10 and 11 yielded 1,529 in 2014.  Note –  852 more deer were taken with the bow out there than with shotgun.

The statewide preliminary primitive season harvest was 1,967.  The previous 4 years beginning with year 2010 were:  2,068, 1,959, 1,958 and 2314.  In the WD, muzzleloaders checked in 344, which compares with the previous 4 years as follows:  285, 251, 301 and 350.  Zones 10 and 11 muzzleloaders checked in 893 deer in 2014.

The total harvested deer by all methods in the WD were as follows: Zone 1 – 234, Zone 2 – 448, Zone 3 – 444, Zone 4N – 432 and Zone 4S – 179.

According to the DFW, The 2014 preliminary harvest data for zones 1-5 shows low female harvest and a corresponding increase in adult male harvest, indicating that deer densities in these zones are generally increasing toward its goals. Deer densities in zones 6-9 appear to be within its goals. Densities in Zones 10 and 11 are still above goal, but more towns are increasing access to lands for hunting, which is one of the most important parts of managing deer in a suburban setting. Deer densities on Martha’s Vineyard (Zone 13) and Nantucket (Zone 14) remain significantly above DFW’s management goals.

While total harvest by zone can be informative, it doesn’t provide the complete picture for monitoring trends in deer density because total harvest is influenced by antlerless deer permit allocations in each zone. The DFW Deer Project Leader analyzes harvest, biological, and hunter effort data, along with hunter success rates, female versus male harvest, and other factors to manage deer populations in each zone. An analysis of this information is now underway for the annual spring deer management review. A complete harvest summary will be posted on the DFW website shortly after the annual deer review, so check back in May or June.

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

Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board Chairman George (Gige) Darey of Lenox,  reports that  the Board recently voted to create a Youth Deer Hunt Day.  This will be a one day hunt for youths aged 12 to 17. It is scheduled to take place annually on the 4th Saturday after Labor Day.  The youths must obtain a free youth permit which will be available at DFW offices and vendors.  This permit will allow them to take a deer of either sex deer in any zone and is valid only during the Youth Day Hunt.   All regular deer hunting season rules apply, such as the wearing of hunter orange, the use of shotguns,  etc.  Youths must be accompanied by a duly licensed adult mentor provided that a single bag limit is observed and only one firearm can be in their possession for the youths 12 to 14 years of age.  Youths aged 15 to 17 must have taken a hunter education course and obtained a hunting license.


This new change should become effective this year, but has not been included in the 2015 Hunting and Fishing abstracts. It still will have to proceed through the regulatory process, but is anticipated that regulators will sign off on it.   After that, more information will be forthcoming.   *****


On Saturday night (Valentine’s Day) the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club will host its annual Valentine’s Dinner Dance. Tickets which cost $25.00 pp, are available from all Board members. The dinner will be catered by That’s Amore Fine Catering and dancing to DJ Russ Davis.  BYOB.   On Sunday, it will be having its annual ice fishing derby on Stockbridge Bowl.  Then on Monday it will have its 32nd Annual President’s Day Rabbit Hunt.  Pre-Register with Ron Carr @ 413-442-5122 or sign up at the club.  Weigh in at 4:00 p.m. There will be prizes for heaviest hare and heaviest cottontail.    A venison dinner will be served afterwards and is included in the registration fee.*****


More than 425 plants and animals are recognized as rare in MA.   MassWildlife asks that you consider contributing to endangered wildlife conservation on your MA income tax form this tax season.  Look for line 32a. “Endangered Wildlife Conservation” on your state income tax form.  All donations go into the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, a critical source for the annual budget of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

Hunters speak out about DCR’s gated properties

Recently, a public forum was held at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) West Region Headquarters in Pittsfield.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Resource Management Planning process for the DCR Pittsfield-October Mountain State Forest Complex and hear the questions, concerns, and ideas about priority management issues related to recreation, stewardship of resources, and park facilities.  The meeting room was packed with hunters, off-road vehicle enthusiasts, bicyclists and others.


Deer hunters took the opportunity to express their extreme displeasure with the way access to the Pittsfield State Forest is being denied to them.  Access points from West Street, Brickyard Road, Brickhouse Mountain Road and Potter Mountain Road, which used to be open, are now being blocked with locked gates.


This forces deer hunters to park at the gates and hike over a mile to get to their hunting areas.  As one hunter stated, the hunter’s average age is increasing and to force them to hike the extra miles is dangerous and not fair to them. The problem is compounded if they shoot a deer and then have to drag it all that distance back to the gate.   If they should suffer a heart attack, there is no way that rescuers can quickly get to them because of the gate closures.


They have complained frequently and have held meetings with the DCR, State Representative Ben Downing, Pittsfield Councilmen, the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen and others.  As a result of these meetings, the DCR agreed to open the gates during deer hunting season in order to allow access to the hunters.


The gates were left unlocked for a while but this past deer hunting season, they were locked again.  The hunters complained again and were told to park outside the gates.  When they did so, they were ticketed (not warned), in spite of the fact that there were no signs prohibiting parking there.  When they parked along Brickyard Road in New York, they were ticketed there.  One hunter claims that the gate to the Pittsfield State Forest is actually located in New York.  He advocated for moving the gate farther off of the road and making a parking lot near it, away from the houses.


George (Gige) Darey, of Lenox, Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board Chairmen stated that the deer herd cannot be managed in an industrial state such as Massachusetts when large tracts of land cannot be accessed by deer hunters.  “Too many deer result in their eating rare and endangered plants, damaging the forests, causing a rise of deer tick incidents, causing more traffic accidents and neighboring complaints”. He mentioned DCR-controlled lands in the eastern part of the State.  “Look at the problems that you are having there”, he said.  “Things are so bad that even the animal rights people are complaining”.    He also mentioned the problems that they had in the Quabbin area and how it was necessary to open it up for deer hunting.  “You should not close all of these parcels of land”, he said.


He also commented on the situation with October Mountain and the fact that if one wants to access it from Pittsfield, Lenox or Lee, one has to drive to Washington or Becket to get at it due to the roads being closed or poorly maintained.


Bob Mellace, DCR Western Regional Manager commented that in some of the gate situations, Environmental and State Police have requested that the gates be closed due to drinking parties and crime taking place in these forests.   They keep getting calls and they cannot keep going there.   The State Police have a big influence.  He stated that it is not DCR’s intent to keep out hunters, but once you open up the gates, you open them up to everyone.  You have a hunter access verses public safety issue going on.


Off road vehicle (ORV) owners and mountain bikers have access issues, too.  They are also concerned that some of their trails are not being maintained or are being shut down.  They questioned what is being done with the registration fees.  DCR officials responded by saying that some of that money was spent locally on a Route 20 parking area and work being done along the Skyline Trail.    They said that monies are coming but slowly and to be patient.


Some ORV users complained that they frequently see unregistered vehicles from Connecticut and New York riding the State Forest trails and questioned what is being done about it.  DCR responded that they have a staffing problem.  There is only one EPO for Region 1 and only 3 Rangers for the Western Region.  They are cracking down on the bad guys but are spread thin.  They did state that there were very few problems with the ORV people and that they slow down when they see hikers or hunters.


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.


The DCR will host trail planning workshops for Pittsfield SF and October Mountain SF this winter.  The process will include:  mapping and assessing conditions; identifying scenic, recreational and  cultural destinations;  identifying constraints, issues and problem areas; identifying desired experiences of trail user groups and coordinating with stakeholders and partners.


If you have comments regarding priority management issues related to recreation, stewardship or resources and park facilities, E-mail: Put “Pittsfield RMP” in the subject line; or write the DCR, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114 or call: 617-626-4974.  Note: public comments submitted to DCR by email or letter will be posted on its website in their entirety. The public comment period ends on February 20.


Take a kid ice fishing this winter



Well, it’s here, ice fishing season.  If you go ice fishing take a kid along.  The ice is safe now, but be careful and don’t do anything foolish like walk too close to a stream inlet or near open water.


Many of us were exposed to ice fishing when we were kids.  Chances are good that a dad, older brother or uncle brought us ice fishing for the first time, and chances are also good that we have never forgotten that day.


In my case, my oldest brother Joe and our good friend and neighbor Henry (Hank) Sedgwick brought me to Stockbridge Bowl on my first trip.  It was in the early 1950’s when I was about 10 years old.    I remember it like it was yesterday.


We had no sooner stepped onto the ice when it made a scary crack and rumble. I froze where I stood.  They laughed and reassured me that there was nothing to worry about, that there was over a foot of ice and that the lake was just “working”. We set up our tip-ups off of the Shadowbrook Shore.


Standing on frozen water and chiseling a hole into the ice (no augers back then) was a whole new experience for me.   No, the water didn’t gush out of the hole as feared but just stayed there. We scooped the chipped ice out of the holes, set up the tip-ups, spread out the line onto the ice (our tip ups didn’t have reels on them in those days), sounded the holes (determined the water depth), baited the hooks (with shiners) lowered them into the holes, and attached the flags to the tip-ups so that they would pop up when a fish ate the bait and moved.  When the holes were all dug and tip-ups set up, I couldn’t wait for a fish to come along and eat the bait to see what happened next.


We were standing on the shoreline and it was a cold, cloudy day with periodic spits of snow.   It was slow fishing until about 11:00 am when Hank’s flag popped up a couple of hundred feet away. Out onto the ice he hurried to tend to the tip-up. I wanted to go with him to see what happened next, but Joe insisted that I stay with him on the shore line to gather up some dry twigs and branches to start a fire to warm up and cook some hot dogs.  While gathering the firewood, I kept glancing out to Hank to see what was going on, but he knelt next to the hole in a way which blocked my view.


After a few minutes he came back claiming that the fish had hit his bait and sprang the flag but didn’t hook itself, so he reset the flag.  No sooner had he returned when the flag went up again and this time they said “You take this one, Spike” ( nickname that my father, brothers and Hank called me). The three of us ran out to the tip-up.  While running there, we could see the line which had been spread out on the ice being pulled into the hole by a fish.


I didn’t know what to do so they were shouting instructions.  Pull the line to set the hook!  Now pull the line in hand over hand straight out of the hole!  I could feel the fish fighting back.  Wow! What a thrill.  Pretty soon I could see the head of the fish sticking out of the hole and quickly pulled it out.  There, flopping on the ice, was a 19 inch pickerel.  I had never caught a pickerel or any fish that large before.  I received a lot of congratulations and pats on the back (no such thing as a high 5’s in those days).


It turned out to be the only fish caught by anyone that day and I never forgot it.  Even though it occurred over 60 years ago I think about it frequently.


Then one night last year, I had a rude awakening.   It suddenly occurred to me that the whole event was probably staged for my benefit.  Perhaps Hank went out to that tip-up, solidly hooked the fish, let it stay in the water on the hook and reset the flag.  As soon as the fish moved again, it set the flag off and they wanted me to catch it – my first fish.  I have used the same ploy over the years with my nephews and kids and I should have figured it out sooner.


My brother Joe has long since passed beyond the river bend and I can’t ask him, but Hank is still around and I see him every now and then.  I asked him one night last year if that event was staged.  After a period of  silence and the display of an excellent poker face, he said, “ Geeze, Spike, I don’t remember”. Well, if it was staged, that only made the event all the more special.


I encourage dads and granddads to expose the kids (boys and girls) to ice fishing at least once.  They will either love it or hate it, but probably will never forget it. Who knows, perhaps 60 years from now, one of them will also be writing about it in their outdoor sports column.  *****


This evening at 5:30 pm the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding a fund raising venison and polenta dinner to support its pheasant program.  They raise pheasants and release them on public lands for all hunters to enjoy. The cost is $15 for adults and $6 under 12.  Contact Dick Salice at (413) 822-8411 for more information.


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 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 (   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 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 If you have questions about the public forum, contact DCR Updates at (617) 626-4974 or


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

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*****

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 *****

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 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.