Hoosic plans to be revealed

Tomorrow from 1:30 to 2:30 PM a special announcement will be made about the revival of the Hoosic River. The event will take place at Noel Field on State Street in North Adams.   Guests will include State Senator Benjamin Downing, State Representative Gailanne Cariddi, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin and Mayor Richard Alcombright.

In an October 28 news release, it was announced that the Board of Directors of the Hoosic River Revival (HRR) has chosen the location for the first phase of its restoration of the Hoosic River.  A mile-long focus of their revitalization work will be the South Branch, from Foundry Road to the bridge connecting the former Sons of Italy to Heritage Park, one of seven potential restoration locations recommended by their consultants.

The release went on and reported that “Although the project is still in the ‘conceptual drawing’ phase, it is likely that the primary restoration work will be on the northern half mile.  Once completed, this revitalized section will:  maintain existing flood protection; feature a much wider river with recreational opportunities; ensure a continuation of the Ashuwillticook Bike Path; provide access to downtown (North Adams);  the Greylock Market (renovated Heritage Park), and the future Scenic Rail; and include a large plaza with amphitheatre steps to the river and space for the North Adams History and Science Museum and the Hoosac Tunnel Museum.  Mayor Alcombright expressed his enthusiasm for the pilot project choice of the River Revival, “City residents and visitors will love the close proximity of all these exciting projects, and enjoy looking at our beautiful Hoosic River“.

Since its start in 2008, the HRR has participated in more than 40 public meetings, sharing information about the condition of the 60 year-old chutes, the benefits of restoring a river, various systems for maintaining flood protection, and options for the North Adams section of the Hoosic.  At these meetings, residents have consistently highlighted five qualities for the Board of Directors to include in any project: flood protection; a healthy, accessible river; economic development opportunities; neighborhood, historical, and cultural linkages; and overall improved quality of life in the city. The Board felt it had additional factors to consider:  cost, feasibility, Corps of Engineers requirements, available property, environmental damage, relevant City projects, the new 2030 Vision Plan, and the plans of the North Adams Partnership.

Board President Judy Grinnell praised the extensive cross-section of area residents who participated in this long-term process of deciding how and where to begin the restoration: “Our Board of Directors and Advisory Council members, the Mayor and his staff, and of course the people of North Adams deserve so much credit for giving this 2.5 mile, complex, challenging project such serious consideration for the past 6 years. There were many issues to consider in choosing just one section of the river to restore.  However, we believe the Board’s choice of the South Branch incorporates all of the primary goals highlighted by the community”.

“Funding the pilot project is the next big challenge for the River Revival.  Thanks to the persuasive efforts of our State representatives, Senator Ben Downing and Representative Gailanne Cariddi, there is $8,775,000 allocated in the 2015-19 Massachusetts Environmental Bond Bill for this first phase of the project.  However, funding is not assured.  To receive that State support, the project needs to be considered a priority by (Governor Baker); not all items in the Bond Bill will get that designation.”

(If I may interject, let’s hope that Governor Baker will remember the strong endorsement received from former North Adams Mayor Barrett in his pursuit of the governorship.)

According to Ms Grinnell, if these State funds are not offered to the River Revival, the non-profit Hoosic River Revival will continue its fundraising efforts with individuals, businesses, grants, foundations, as well as appropriate State and Federal entities.  She emphasized that the HRR has asked for no financial support from the City of North Adams and it does not plan to request any City funds in the future.

This scribe cannot overemphasize the important role that Judy Grinnell has played in the HRR’s efforts to revive the Hoosic River.  She even drove from North Adams to my home in Lenox to provide valuable information for a HRR article previously written in this column.  On more than one occasion she urged me to attend its workshops and presentations in order to gather information to inform the public through this column.  How fortunate for the North County folks to have such a strong advocate for the revival of the Hoosic River.  The same applies to the dedicated board of the HRR.

At the end of every memo or news release from the HRR is the following quote from Margaret Meade:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

I think we are seeing the thoughtful and concerned citizens of the Northern Berkshires bringing this to fruition albeit on a smaller scale. *****

Staying on the subject of revived waters, I received pictures and an e-mail from David Bell of Pittsfield who caught a “pretty decent” largemouth bass from Silver Lake in Pittsfield last month.   It measured 14 inches.  He went on and said that he has caught yellow perch, crappie and sunfish as well as largemouth bass on prior outings, but this is the first legal bass. “For myself I’ve had to really work to catch them, if one can call it that, but given time it can only get better.”   He said.  “Years ago when looking out over Silver Lake from GE Building Thirty Three I never dreamed I’d be kayak fishing on that body of water.”     

Thank you, David, for the great news.   

Late bear season opens tomorrow: record will grow

 

 

The November bear hunting season opens tomorrow in Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 1-9 only and runs through November 22.  According to MassWildlife, the majority of the harvest comes from the area west of the Connecticut River.  The season is split into 2 segments, including 17 days in September and 18 days in November.  The September segment is timed to coincide with agricultural damage (particularly corn) whereas the November season is a traditional time for hunters who choose to hunt hardwoods and remote ridge tops.

 

Most bears are taken in the September segment; however, according to MassWildlife, some good-sized males have been taken in November. MassWildlife estimates that, hunting takes about 5 to 7% of the estimated population and bear numbers continue to grow at a moderate rate.

 

This past September season proved to be a very successful one for bear hunters.  Some 202 bears were taken and that number has already set a new state record.  The previous record for both September and November seasons combined was 185 set in 2012.  Last year’s total harvest was 148.  Who knows where the new State record will end up.

 

If you wish to join the estimated 2,500 to 3,500 Massachusetts bear hunters, it’s not too late to obtain the required bear permit.  Assuming you have a hunting/sporting license, you can obtain it at any time prior to the end of the November bear hunting season through any license vendor or online computer.  The fee is $5.00.

 

Hunting is allowed only with rifle .23 caliber or larger, muzzleloader .44–.775 caliber, bows with a draw weight of 40 lbs. or greater, or revolvers .357 Magnum or .40 caliber or larger. Revolvers are only permitted during September season. Use of shotguns is prohibited (State law restricts slugs and buckshot to the deer season). Most bears are taken with rifles, typically a .30-06. It is illegal to “bait” bear or hunt them with dogs.

 

Incidentally, some bear, deer, coyotes and other animals may have ear tags or radio collars.  It is legal to harvest them.  If you find or take one of these animals, contact DFW’s Field Headquarters (508) 389-6300 immediately.  You will be asked for information that will help biologists determine the source and status of these animals and you will be asked to return the equipment to the DFW.

 

Hopefully, you won’t take up bear hunting unless you know that the bear meat will be consumed.   Properly prepared, it is delicious. *****

 

Did you know that eighty years ago the first duck stamp was sold? Since then, thanks mostly to hunters, the stamps have generated more than $800 million and helped secure over 6 million acres of wetland habitat in the U.S.  The Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) marks that day as a major milestone in the North American conservation movement, and says the 80th anniversary is worth remembering. “Duck stamps were one of the key funding mechanisms that brought many waterfowl species from vanishing to flourishing. Other bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species benefitted, too,” said the Club’s Keith Balfourd. “This should be a point of pride for all hunters.  It certainly is for Boone and Crockett, whose members played an important part in the history of North American waterfowl, including the duck stamp.” Here are some historical facts provided by the B&C: •    Waterfowl are abundant today.  But in 1901, few remained from an era of unregulated market hunting, diversions of water and draining of wetlands for agricultural purposes. Known mostly for its advocacy of big-game conservation, the B&C and its members went to work. •    Club member and Pennsylvania Congressman George Shiras in 1904 began a long crusade to place migratory birds under federal jurisdiction. •    In 1918, President Taft signed the McLean-Weeks Migratory Bird Act urged by B&C club members and others. •    The Dust Bowl years of the 1920s were a major setback for waterfowl.  The B&C campaigned for refuges to help populations recover. •    In 1927, B&C members launched American Wild Fowlers, an organization that would later become Ducks Unlimited. •    With partnership from this new organization committed to waterfowl, the B&C engineered passage of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929, establishing the federal refuge system. •    Major funding for waterfowl came in 1934 with the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act.  B&C club member and Connecticut Senator Frederic C. Walcott had established a Senate committee on wildlife conservation and successfully pushed the “Duck Stamp Bill” through Congress. •    That same year, the first duck stamp, illustrated by B&C Club member and Nobel Prize winning political cartoonist Jay N. “Ding” Darling was sold on Aug. 22, 1934.  The first stamps sold for $1 and 635,000 stamps were sold that year. •    Within five years, annual sales surpassed the $1 million level (equivalent to about $17 million in today’s dollars) and the conservation benefits have grown ever since. *****

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) will be having an NRA Basic Pistol Course on November 17 and 20 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.   The cost is $100, which includes an annual individual membership to LSA.   Upon successful completion, you will receive a MA State Police Certificate for application for your LTC.  Call Larry K at 442-7807 or e mail him at gramps@nycap.rr.com.

 

Incidentally the LSA recently held its elections and re-elected the following officers:  President – Shaun Smith, Vice President – George Brooks, Secretary- John Polastri and Treasurer – Frank Romeo.

 

The Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited held elections last week and re-elected the following officers:  President -Alan Gray, Vice President – Ron Wojcik, Treasurer – G. Richard Bordeau and Secretary- Mark Hoechstetter.

 

Congratulations and thanks to all.

Massachusetts’ “Green Bonds” are very popular

 

Treasurer Steven Grossman recently announced that the Commonwealth’s latest sale of

$350 million worth of Green Bonds has generated tremendous interest from both retail and institutional investors, with orders exceeding $1 billion coming in for $350 million worth of bonds. This is the second time that Massachusetts has sold bonds with proceeds that are dedicated to fund environmentally beneficial projects across the state, and it follows in the footsteps of the Commonwealth’s first-of-its-kind Green Bond sale last year.

 

The Commonwealth has identified four categories of projects that are expected to be

funded from the sale:

 Clean water and drinking water projects;

 Energy efficiency and conservation projects in state buildings;

 Land acquisition, open space protection and environmental remediation projects;

 River revitalization and preservation and habitat restoration projects.

 

In addition to those four categories, one large project has been identified that will be

funded with proceeds of the Green Bond sale, the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal

project.  This terminal will be the first facility in the nation designed to support the construction, assembly, and deployment of offshore wind projects. As part of construction, the project is expected to include the dredging and removal of approximately 250,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment caused by industrial waste generated during the 1930’s and 1940’s as well as the creation of environmental and habitat restoration areas.

 

For more information on the Commonwealth’s borrowing programs, click onto www.massbondholder.com.

 

In his October 1 report to the Mass Fish & Wildlife Board, DFW Director Wayne MacCallum commented on the Commonwealth’s activity in the land acquisition area.  He said that a recently passed bond bill will leave the state “well positioned” for the future.  “Since the Patrick Administration came in (2008), the state added 25% to its land base.    Over 40,000 acres have come in during that time.  There has been a tremendous prioritization.” said MacCallum. *****

The Massachusetts DFW has announced the launch of its new Facebook page. By liking the page at www.facebook.com/masswildlife, you will receive updates about MassWildlife activities, events, research projects, hunting and fishing regulations, tips on living with wildlife, and more. As a follower of the page, you will be able to communicate with them and ask them all of your wildlife questions. They look forward to building a vibrant and engaged community of outdoor enthusiasts who wish to share their experiences and ideas with others.

MassWildlife’s website, www.mass.gov/masswildlife, remains our primary source for news and information about the agency, but the new Facebook page will provide yet another avenue for those who wish to stay connected to wildlife events, activities, and initiatives taking place across the Commonwealth. *****

MassWildlife wants your recipes for wild game or fish to use on a new part of its website currently being developed.   If you have a great recipe to share, send it (along with a photo if possible) to Astrid Huseby at astrid.huseby@state.ma.us, or mail the recipe and picture to MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Attn: Astrid Huseby, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581. Let her know whether or not you would like your name with the recipe. *****

If you shoot a hybrid duck this season consider donating it to science. Researchers from the University of Washington are studying these hybrid birds and are asking for donations from waterfowl hunters across the country.  Ideally, researchers would like to receive the entire bird for genetic analysis and for the creation of study skins for future use, including the development of an illustrated guide to hybrid ducks.  However, in some cases a good photograph along with a tissue sample are also helpful.  For more on how you can help, and to view the hybrid gallery, visit hybridduck.blogspot.com. *****

The DFW Western District Headquarters has hired a new Western District Clerk to replace Elna Castonguay who recently retired.  Her name is Debra Lipa from North Adams.  She hit the ground running having extracted her first bear tooth shortly after starting.  *****

 

Congratulations to the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club (SSC) skeet shooters for winning the annual Tri-Club Skeet Championship for the 8th time in 9 tournaments.  Sheffield SC placed second and the Lee Sportsmen’s Assoc came in 3rd. SSC top shooters who shot at all three clubs were led by Tom Gansowski.  He hit 146 out of 150 clay targets, followed by Joe Ary & Gary Johnston with 143.  Perfect scores of 50 straight broken targets were scarce this year with only 3 being recorded:  Joe Ary and Gary Johnston (SSC), and Lee Donsbough (Sheffield).

 

Incidentally, I don’t believe I listed the Stockbridge Sportsmens’ Club 2014 officers yet.  They are as follows: President – Wayne Slosek, 1st Vice President – John Mange, 2nd Vice President – Jason St. Peter, Secretary – Keith Whalen and Treasurer – Bonnie Bonn-Buffoni. Belated congratulations and thanks for your dedication and hard work.

Heck, as long as I am at it, the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen also had its elections and the following individuals were re-elected:  President – Mark Jester, Vice President – Mike Kruszyna, Treasurer –  Dan Kruszyna  and Secretary is me. *****

 

Dave’s Sporting Goods in Pittsfield is having its Coyote Derby again this year.  It will run until the end of coyote hunting season which is March 7, 2015.  Entrance fee is $10 and prizes will be awarded to the person who bags the most coyotes, the largest coyote and there will also be a random draw.  During the shotgun deer season it is legal to hunt coyotes, but be sure to check the special regulations. *****

 

According to Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Manager, all trout have been stocked out for this fall.  Most of our major lakes were stocked as well as the Deerfield and Westfield Rivers.  Great fishing can be had at this time of year.

Black bear are becoming a real nuisance

 

 

The owner of a Southern Berkshire camp (wishes to remain anonymous) was being bothered by a large bear this past summer.  It had broken into a camper but couldn’t get into the refrigerator because it was locked with a padlock.  On July 30, around 10 PM it tried to break into a tent and the owner shot it four times with a .357 Magnum pistol. (powerful, large caliber pistol) with no effect and the bear walked off. He called the Environmental Police Officers (EPO).

 

The next morning the EPOs tracked the wounded animal into the woods and put it down.  DFW personnel estimated the bear’s live weight at 515 lbs with the head alone weighing 35 lbs.  The skull has been prepared and is on display at the DFW Headquarters in Dalton.  It dwarfs the other bear’s skull which is exhibited with it.

 

This and other incidents have caught the attention of the Mass Fish & Wildlife Board.   In its October 1 Meeting in Dalton, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that there were nuisance bear calls in the Western District “virtually every day in July.” Likewise, EPO Major Wilton Gray reported to the Board that nuisance bear calls continue to be a problem and a strain on EPO resources.  They are working with the DFW to come up with a program to educate citizens, local community leaders and public safety personnel on how to respond and co-exist with the expanding bear population.  “They are here to stay”, he said “and we have to figure out the best way to handle them”.

 

The Board is pondering what tools are available to address the problem.  The best tools are bear hunters.  (This past September, a record 202 bears were harvested and more are expected to be taken during the November bear season.)    The Board is considering options such as allowing bear hunting during the shotgun deer season.  Some feel that most bear are denned up by then and there may be little effect on the populations.  Another option the Board may consider is allowing hunters to harvest more than one bear a season.

 

Madden pointed out that the vast majority of nuisance bear calls are coming from towns with camps and restaurants with dumpsters or from people who leave their bird feeders out when they are not necessary.  Usually they do not allow hunting on their properties. Although he has received many nuisance calls from Stockbridge; only two bears were harvested there during the recent bear hunting season.  This contrasts with the town of Ashfield, which had little or no nuisance calls but yielded 10 bears during the hunt.  He feels that huntable land makes a difference.

 

“There is a cost of doing business in the Berkshires”, Madden said, “and one cost is to obtain bear-proof trash containers or find other solutions for managing trash”. “We must remove their “attractants”.

 

Relocating this many bears is not viable for a couple of reasons.  First, it causes a strain on resources to find, drug and relocate the bears.  DFW and EPO staffs have others things to do during the summer months such as maintaining and patrolling the wildlife management areas, stocking fish, etc.  Secondly, bears can have a range of more than 50 miles and may find their way back to where they were assured of tasty birdfeed and garbage meals.   Madden thought that perhaps young bears can be “reconditioned.” It is easier for young bears to be retrained to stay away from houses and developed areas than older bears.  This is done through removal of the reward accompanied by aversive conditioning.

 

So why are they becoming such a nuisance now?  F&W Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey (and many sportsmen) believe that the problem stems back to Question 1 in the 1990’s, when voters banned bear hunting with dogs as well as using bait.  This uptick in nuisance bears comes as no surprise to them, and their numbers are likely to spread eastward.

 

Is this a minor nuisance we can live with?  Tell that to some New Jersey Rutgers University hikers. Recently, five hikers encountered a black bear in the woods that began to follow them.   They became frightened and attempted to flee the area.  During the confusion, the group became separated and as they ran in different directions, one hiker was attacked and killed by the bear.  The bear was subsequently euthanized at the scene. Perhaps this could have been avoided if the group had stuck together and made noises. *****

 

Instead of traveling to the Arctic to fish, maybe I should have stayed home and followed 9-year old Jayder Raifstanger to the Green River in Alford where he landed the above 22 inch, 3.8 lbs brown trout in September.  Son of Jay and Rebecca Raifstanger of Alford, he caught it on a 4 lb test ultra light fishing outfit. *****

 

The wild turkey fall hunting season opens tomorrow and runs through November 1 (note the increased number of hunting days this year).    Archery hunting season for deer also opens tomorrow and runs through November 29.  Check the 2014 DFW Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Trapping for governing regulations.

One hundred eleven acres conserved by the Toole Family

 

Well, after 4 articles dealing with our fishing trip up north to Quebec, it’s time to get back home to our local woods and waters.  So anything interesting happen?  You bet!

Last weekend, there was a dedication and  ribbon cutting ceremony of the LFX ”Brian” Toole Wildlife Preserve at the Hampton Inns on Mollie Way in Lenox. Joseph Toole granted a conservation restriction (C/R) of the nearby 111 acres which provides for public access and preservation in perpetuity.  It is one of the few remaining vestiges in Lenox where rare and endangered species exist.  It is bordered by Mass Audubon lands.

The C/R was granted in honor of Joe’s brother, Brian who passed away in 1996.   Born in Lee, Brian was the fourth of nine children.  He dedicated his life to land conservation and beautification.   He worked for the National Park Service in South Dakota and Florida and was an accomplished arborist.

There is everything on this land – ponds, swamps, hills and mountains.  It is an important water recharge area as well as a recharge area for ones spirit and soul.  While there, one is at peace with Mother Nature who nurtures all kinds of plants and wildlife,  from the delicate damsel flies to the largest mammals in North America, such as moose, bears and deer.

This land will be protected in perpetuity with oversight from the Lenox Land Trust (LLT) as grantee of the C/R.  It is a wonderful gift for the residents of Lenox and its visitors.  This was one of the last projects that the late LLT Board Member Attorney, Sarah “Sally” Bell worked on.  Joe Toole was kind enough to lead a hike there for Sally and several Lenox Land Trust and Conservation Commission members several years ago.

Although preserved for passive recreation, Joe left no doubt in the C/R as to what activities are/aren’t allowed on the property.   For example, legal hunting is allowed, motorized vehicles are not.

Brian’s and Joe’s 98 year old mother, Mrs. Marie K. Toole, did the ribbon cutting.

What a wonderful feeling for the Toole family to know that this land will be kept in its natural state in perpetuity.  What a wonderful way to remember and honor Brian.  *****

Preliminary reports reveal a record 202 black bears were harvested by licensed hunters in Massachusetts during the September bear season.  The tally includes 186 bears that were reported online, 6 bears checked in at check stations in the Western district, and 10 checked in at Connecticut Valley district check stations. The previous bear harvest record was set in 2012 with 185 bears reported for both the September and November seasons.  So far this year, about 145 of the 202 bears were harvested in the Western District.

The largest bruin was taken in Becket by Stephen Bonneville of Becket.  It weighed 414 lbs field dressed.  DFW personnel estimate that the bear’s live weight to have been around 500 lbs.

Rifles, muzzleloaders, archery equipment, and revolvers were permitted during the September season. Bear hunters are reminded that revolvers are prohibited during the November season which runs from November 3 through November 22. Successful hunters can report their harvest online using the MassFishHunt system or take their bear to a check station.  There will be more to come on bears in next week’s column. *****

A lot of different hunting seasons are opening his week:  Duck and goose hunting seasons open in the Berkshires tomorrow and run through November 29.  Duck season reopens on December 8 and runs through December 27.  Goose hunting season reopens on December 8 and runs through December 16.

 

Pheasant, quail, and ruffed grouse hunting opens next Saturday and runs through November 29.  Cottontail and snowshoe hare season open next Saturday and run through February 28 in our district.  Coyote hunting also opens next Saturday and runs through March 7.

 

Some hunting seasons already in process such as raccoon and opossum hunting which opened on October 1 and run through January 31.  The squirrel hunting season opened on September 8 and runs through January 2.  Woodcock hunting season opened on October 8 and runs through October 25.  It reopens again on October 27 and runs through November 22.

 

None of the above species can be hunted on Sundays or during the shotgun deer hunting season.

Please refer to the 2014 DFW Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Trapping.

 

In the last Berkshire Natural Resources News and Events Report, they mention that BNRC allows hunting on all of its properties.  They suggest that everyone wear blaze orange when hiking the trails or wandering the woods.  The DFW requires hunters to wear blaze orange while hunting its wildlife management areas.  Although not required of hikers and birdwatchers, they too would be wise to wear some amount of blaze orange.   *****

 

Fall is a wonderful time to paddle a canoe or kayak around our beautiful lakes.  MassWildlife reminds us that we are required to wear life jackets (not sit on them) from September 15 to May 15.  They recommend that all water enthusiasts, including anglers who wade in larger rivers, also  wear floatation devices especially now that water and air temperatures are cool.

Fishing trip turns into un-bear-able event

 

 

Following up on my recent articles about our fishing trip north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay,  Attorney Mike Shepard and I flew out on Tuesday, September 2 and the other guys: Mike and son Darren Miller, Carl Racie and Gary Hebert stayed to fish through Sunday, September 7.

 

Gary and Mike tell what happened next:

 

Gary said the remainder of the trip continued to be the “trip from Hell”. “Bad weather made for some nasty white knuckle boat rides.  Not afraid to say this old Navy vet was a bit nervous in some of those three foot swells wearing a half ton of fishing clothes.  My life jackets (plural) never left my hand.  We did manage some decent sized brookies up at the North Rapids one day.

 

We had a fly-out on Friday to a remote lake but it came with a huge price.   The day started off beautiful and we flew two at a time to remote lake where we took two canoes to some rapids.   In the afternoon we ventured to the other end of the lake and fished those rapids.  Mike landed an 8+ pound brookie, but that’s where the fun ended.

 

Weather was starting to look iffy, and we headed back to the boat.  That’s when Mike fell down and got soaked.   We make it back to the plane and the weather started to really turn bad.  Carl and I were first on the return trip but we had to abort it because of a wind change and an overweight alarm. We took the boat motor off the plane to get the weight down.

 

After a tree-top second take-off and subsequent landing on very rough water on Lake Ternay, we made it back to the lodge.  That’s when Joe (outfitter) said we would have to leave Mike and Darren in the Bush.  The weather turned absolutely nasty.  Heavy rain and forty mph wind kept the plane grounded.  Did I mention Mike and Darren had zero emergency gear?   And Mike was soaked with the potential for hypothermia.

 

None of us slept a wink that night and we never fished again.   To add insult to injury when I asked Joe about any contingency plan if something happened in the Bush, he had none.  Nobody would have had a clue where to even start looking for us.  Very interesting trip and we even paid for it.”

 

Mike Miller said:  “When we realize that the plane wasn’t coming back we started to make shelter.  We had fly rods, flies, wading sticks and Darren’s pocket knife.  We found a “porta-boat”, assembled it and stuck it upside down between 2 trees.  We broke off spruce branches and piled them between us and the wind to give us a little relief.  The night was extremely long but we got through it okay.   Our biggest concern was for bears coming into the shelter.  I changed into 2 lightweight shirts I carry in a dry bag for situations like this and we ran around the beach every hour to keep warm.  The waders and rain jackets really helped to keep us warm.

 

A bear showed up around 6 AM working the shore eating blueberries.  When he was about 75 yards away we yelled to get his attention and he just laid down on a rock for about 5 minutes then got up and started coming in our direction.  He did this 2 or 3 times until he was around 20 yards from us at the edge of the beach.  We puffed ourselves up to look big and charged him but he didn’t move.   Again he started in our direction and we charged and threw rocks at him.  He finally stopped, turned around and walked off.   He had no idea what we were.

 

The weather was pretty good when light broke (4:30AM) so we were confident that the plane would be coming shortly.  Around 9AM the plane hadn’t shown up even though our weather was still clear and we became concerned that something had happened.   At 11AM we decided there was a good chance the plane went down or was damaged so we put together a 5-day survival plan (we knew there was a 3 day front coming through with cold weather and snow from the forecast received the day before).  We fortified our shelter with logs and branches and caught some trout for lunch which we ate raw.  We positioned a canoe half way in the water to allow us escape if a bear showed up.  The smell of fish would probably draw one into our area.

 

We made the best shelter we could and decided we needed to get some sleep.  Our outlook at this point was bleak.  There were no other options except for being picked up by the float plane.  We left messages on our cell phones for our wives and kids in case we didn’t make it.

 

About 2PM we heard a plane and then it went away.  It later came back and flew over us and we saw that it was Joe’s plane.

 

Interestingly, the weather at Ternay was blowing and raining all morning but the weather 15 miles away was clear.  We even had the sun out at one point.  Prime example of what can happen with the fickle weather up there.

 

Joe did the right thing by leaving us.  There wasn’t any way he could have made another flight that day because he would have crashed the plane trying.  Afterwards he told us this is the first time in 38 years he had ever left anybody in the bush.”

 

What a story Mike and Darren Miller have to tell their children and grandchildren.  I’ll bet it will be part of their family lore for generations to come.

 

Unwelcomed guest arrives at fishing camp

 

 

Following up on my recent articles about 5 of us fishermen heading north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay:  Attorney Mike Shepard (Mike S) and me from the Berkshires, Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH (guys from the east).

 

One evening, shortly after dinner, our guide Steve came storming into the lodge shouting “There’s a bear out there!”  He grabbed outfitter Joe Stefanski’s 30:06 scoped rifle and ran back outside.  Some of us didn’t take him too seriously for, as mentioned in a previous column, he had a drinking problem and could have been hallucinating.  Things livened up at the table shortly thereafter when we heard a gunshot from outside.  Several rushed outside to see if there really was a bear and if Steve shot it.  Apparently, he missed.

 

We had just returned to the dinner table when there was another shot and once again fellows scurried out to see what was what.  He missed again.  This scene repeated itself one more time.   There was no way I was going out with a guy running around in the dark shooting a gun.  The bear got away again.

 

We were beginning to suspect that there was no bear at all when Claude, the handyman, came back in saying he shined a flashlight on the bear but no one was with him to shoot it.  Later on, Steve came in holding a hip boot that was all chewed up.  (Bears apparently like to chew on boots and waders.)

 

Mike S and I headed back to our cabin because he had left his waders on a clothes line to dry and he wanted to get them inside.  As long as we were there, we called it a night and went to bed. I slept with one eye open that night.  Our cabin was not that secure, with parts of the door rotted out and a very poor latch.  The wind actually blew it open a couple of times earlier during the week.

 

Around 5 AM, I heard a scratching sound on the outside wall near my feet and thought the guys in the next cabin were clowning around, trying to scare us.  It wasn’t until I heard a piece of plywood being torn off the outside wall that I bounded up to look out the window.   I saw nothing there, listened next to our door and heard nothing and looked out another window.  There I saw a black bear walking down the boardwalk heading away from our cabin and toward the lodge.   I woke Mike S up and told him about it and we both peered out the window but we couldn’t see it any more.  Mike went back to bed and as I was getting dressed we heard 3 gunshots come from the area near the lodge.

 

Gary Hebert and I walked toward the big house and saw Joe standing there in his underwear holding his rifle.  The first words out of his mouth were “What’s a guy have to do around here to get a night’s sleep?”   The animal had awakened him while rummaging nearby and he shot it.

 

Shortly thereafter, Claude joined us from the guide’s cottage and showed us the damages the bear did there.  During the night, it scratched at their door trying to get it.  It destroyed Steve’s backpack, scattered his fishing lures, chewed up a beer can, chewed up his sun glasses and punctured an aerosol can of OFF insect repellant (that’s possibly when it chewed up the camp water hose, probably to gargle). Sometime during the night, it also chewed up a couple of jerry cans near the boats.  It tore off a chunk of plywood from our cottage and left it lying on the ground.

 

After bears had previously broken into one of Joe’s camps and totally destroyed his lodge kitchen, stove, refrigerator, etc, costing him thousands of dollars in damages, he doesn’t fool around with them anymore.  From that day on, no fishing cleaning is allowed on the island or anything that will attract bears.  He flies out the garbage when he goes for provisions.

 

Unlike the bears around here with frequent contact with humans, bears up there are hundreds of miles away from civilization.  They never see humans and probably consider us another animal to kill and eat.  I hated to see the bear being killed, but if not that day, then sometime in the future it would have caused someone serious trouble.

 

Joe had to get the dead bear off the island lest the carcass attract other bears.   It was rolled down the hill to the water’s edge, attached by rope to a boat and towed out to a nearby small island which he calls Bear Island.    He left it there where it will eventually be eaten by other bears or scavengers.

 

Later on, we kiddingly asked Joe what the proper attire was for bear hunting up there.  “Fruit of the Loom”, he replied.

 

In some ways, Mike S and I were glad to leave because of the slow fishing, drunken guide, dangerous, slippery rivers, white knuckled boat rides through white caps, and marauding bears.  On the other hand, the sights of the Northern Lights were remarkable as were the sights and sounds of the loons and, of course the occasional catching of big beautiful brookies.

 

As our plane approached, Mike Miller confided in us that he wished he was leaving, too.   But he had to stay because his son Darren was flying in on that plane to fish with him and the other guys for the next several days.  Did he have a premonition?  Find out next week.

Trip to the North turns south

 

 

Readers may recall last week’s article about 5 of us fishermen heading north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay:  Attorney Mike Shepard (Mike S) and me from the Berkshires, Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH (guys from the east).

 

When our plane landed on Lake Ternay and we got to the island, there were other people leaving who had spent the prior week fishing.  They said they caught some fish but the fishing was slow at times.   The weather had been very hot, the water warm and the fish were not moving into the rivers.

 

After unpacking our gear and grabbing a quick lunch, we got into a couple of 16 foot boats and crossed the lake a mile or so to fish the South Rapids (inlet to the lake) where we caught a few small brookies.  It was then that we noticed that we had only one guide for the five of us and he was a last minute fill in.  The scheduled guide hurt his hand and could not be there.

 

The guide was a Frenchman from New Brunswick who we shall call Steve, and he was accompanied by another Frenchman also from New Brunswick named Claud.  Claud was a likable person whose job was to keep the equipment running and do other camp maintenance.

 

That night, the outfitter Joe Stefanski asked us not to give any alcohol to Steve because he had a drinking problem.    He also mentioned that Steve had spent two years in prison in Kuujjuaq village in Nunavik, Quebec.   We noticed he always carried a sheathed knife on his belt.  He was an excellent fly tyer though and was familiar with the waters.

 

The next day, we returned to the South Rapids, hiked over a peninsula where a boat was stashed, crossed that lake to another inlet and hiked overland to the river.  Mike S. caught a nice brookie of nearly 4 lbs where the river entered the lake.   I moved upriver and had just stepped into the water with the intent of fishing downstream toward Mike when Steve entered just below me and started catching fish after fish.  Being the guide, I fully expected him to invite me down there to fish it, but he didn’t.  It was like he was competing with me.

 

When he finally moved upstream, I went there and began catching nice trout myself.  We never saw Steve or Claud the rest of the day.  In the meantime, Stefanski brought the guys from the east to the other side of the river and they caught a few nice fish.

 

At the end of the day, the Frenchmen returned to the boat and on the way back we heard all about the big fish that they caught up above.  This did not set well with us who were supposed to be guided that day.

 

A day or so later, we noticed Steve helping himself to the guy’s beer and before long, an 8 pack of beer was missing.  His problem with alcohol was becoming evident.  Mike S and I took our stuff to our cabin.  After all, we weren’t in a place where we could go to the corner package store and buy more.

 

The next day, we fished the North Rapids (lake outlet) some 12 miles away (2 hour boat ride in very choppy waters). Care had to be taken at certain spots lest the motor propeller struck large submerged rocks.  Depending on what side of the river you fished or if you wanted to brave the strong current and slippery rocks in the middle, some large brookies could be caught.  We never saw a landlocked salmon that day nor had the shore lunch that we were promised.

 

On our next trips to the North Rapids fishing got a little better.  Steve typically took the guys from the east in his boat and Mike S. drove ours.  One day Steve spent an hour or so helping me and Mike S.  get out into the middle of the river and catch some beautiful fish.  He took the guys from the east to the opposite side of the river and they caught some nice fish, too. On the way back, we did some trolling in a shallow inlet and caught 7 nice pike of 36” or more for our dinner that night.

 

But for the next several days, Steve only drove the boat and dropped us off to fish while he disappeared on shoreline or sat in the boat drinking.  There was virtually no guiding being done, or shore lunches, and it appeared as though he was drinking more and more.

 

When the beer ran out, he started hitting the hard stuff that other customers from previous trips had left when they went home.  He used so much of our orange juice for mixer that we had none left for breakfast the last day.

 

A trip like this is not just about catching fish.  Part of the enjoyment is when the dinner is over and the fishermen sit around the fireplace, have a drink and discuss the big fish that they didn’t catch.  We couldn’t do this because of Steve and we were uncomfortable and had to watch every word we said to him.  Usually, we retired to our cold cabins earlier that we wanted.  We were disappointed.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  We caught some big brook trout.  Mike S. and I caught a couple in the 4 lb range and the guys from the east landed some even bigger in the 5-6 lb range.  However, we should have caught more.  If we had a sober guide who took his work seriously, the outcome of our trip may have been different.  To be continued next week.

 

Off again on another fly fishing trip

 

For over 6 months Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I have been planning a fly fishing trip to Lake Ternay in Northern Quebec.  We had arranged the trip through outfitter Joe Stefanski of High Arctic Adventures. Several years ago, we used the outfitter to fish Diana Lake in the Nunavik region in Canada.  We had a wonderful trip then catching lots of large brook trout and we hoped the same would happen at Ternay.

The day finally arrived and we drove up to Montreal, stayed at the Sheraton Hotel that night and linked up with three other fishermen :  Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH.   The next morning we flew to Sept-Iles in Quebec and then on to Wabash, Labrador.  From there we took a 5 minute ride to Labrador City where we purchased our provisions and spent the second night.  The following morning, bush pilots flew us in two  seaplanes, from Little Wabash Lake to Lake Ternay where our camp, Lake Ternay Lodge was located on an island.  Our plane was a four seat de Havilland Beaver which was built in 1956 and it appeared that the only modern equipment on it was a GPS system, similar to what you have in your car.

Mike Shepard sat in a front seat next to the 22 year old pilot and I sat in the back next to a strapped in 55 gallon drum of aviation fuel.  After an hour flight, we made a smooth landing on the lake.  (I get such a rush taking off or landing on water).  The lake is located approximately 100 miles northwest of Wabash in Quebec Province with nothing, I mean nothing but tundra and water bodies in between.   There were no other people or towns for nearly 100 miles.

The lake is in the headwaters of the Caniapiscau River in the sub arctic region and a river flows in from the south (South Rapids) and the outlet flows north (North Rapids).  All rivers there above the 52nd parallel flow north ultimately into Ungava Bay, some 350 miles north.

According to Stefanski, the brook trout, lake trout, landlock salmon, pike, etc. stay in the deep lake during the winter and as soon as “ice out” the baitfish swim upstream to spawn and the game fish follow and feed on them.   During the warm summer months, they drop back into the lake and stay there until it is time for them to spawn, in late August or early September, depending on weather and water conditions.  That is what brought us to this remote spot at that time.  We wanted to fish the rivers for big brookies, landlocks, and perhaps lakers. Aah!  The things we do and places we go to outfox a critter with a brain the size of a pea.

After two days of traveling, we finally made it there and were ready for a wonderful week of catching some big fish.  To be continued in next week’s column.  *****

At the September Berkshire County League of Sportsmen meeting, Andrew Madden, Manager of DFW Western District reported the following:

Hunting on Sundays is still prohibited in Massachusetts.  A bill allowing bowhunting on Sundays had been passed by the House in June, but it did not get passed by the full legislature.

The DFW Field Headquarters staff is back in operation in Westborough. The new state-of-the-art, energy-neutral Headquarters building, is located on the footprint of the old building on the Westborough Wildlife Management Area.  Phone numbers, email addresses for Field Headquarters staff, and location remain the same (1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581).

The sale of Surplus Antlerless Deer Permits by Wildlife Management Zone will be staggered over the following days in October:

  • Zone 11 permits will go on sale Tuesday, October 7th at 8 A.M.
  • Zone 10 permits will go on sale Wednesday, October 8th at 8 A.M.
  • Zone 13 and 14 permits will go on sale Thursday, October 9th at 8 A.M.

 

Three Western District sportsmen’s clubs are participating in the Youth Pheasant Hunt this fall (East Mountain, Lee, and Worthington).  For more information contact the DFW Western District office in Dalton (413) 684-1646.

Total new acreage (Ownership and Conservation Easements) in the Western District totaled 958 acres this past year:  Blandford – 150 acres, Chester  – 76 acres, Chesterfield – 91 acres, Cummington – 2 acres, Great Barrington – 325 acres, Lanesboro – 139 acres, Windsor – 75 acres and Worthington – 100 acres

Fall trout stocking should begin the last week of September and run through the Columbus Day weekend.  The Western District waters usually stocked in the fall include: Ashfield Pond, Deerfield River, Littleville Lake, Westfield River (E. Branch), North Pond, Upper Highland Lake, Littleville Lake, Norwich Lake, Goose Pond, Laurel Lake, Lake  Buel, Windsor Lake, Lake Buel, Otis Reservoir, Big Benton Pond, Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Richmond Pond, Stockbridge Bowl and Windsor Pond.

The September meeting of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board will be held this Tuesday at noon at the DFW Western Wildlife District office, 88 Old Windsor Road, Dalton. *****

The Berkshire County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited will be having a banquet on Saturday evening, September 20 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Route 102, Stockbridge.  There will be games, raffles and a social hour at 5 PM and a buffet dinner at 6:30 PM.  Tickets cost $45 for a single, $35 for spouse, $25 for junior.  There are sponsor deals also.  The ticket order deadline is tomorrow. We attended the first event last year and had a wonderful time.

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Turkey Shoots start next Sunday and run every Sunday through November 23.  Shoots start at 1 p.m. and costs $3 a shot.

MassWildlife: Brake for moose!

 

Because fall is the breeding season for both moose and white-tailed deer, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reminds motorists to be mindful of increased deer and moose activity, especially during early morning and evening hours. September and October is the breeding season for Massachusetts’ moose population found primarily in the central and western areas.  The breeding season (also known as “the rut”) for white-tailed deer closely follows the moose breeding season from late October through early December.

 

Male deer and moose experience “tunnel-vision” during the mating season created by the urge to reproduce. They will often chase females across roads, unaware of motor vehicles. Additionally, because moose have no natural predators in Massachusetts and are protected by law from hunting, these large (500-1,000 lbs) members of the deer family are unconcerned as they move through populated areas. The dark color and height of moose make them difficult to see at night (moose eyes rarely shine like deer eyes because they are above headlight levels).  Long legs and top heavy bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck.

Be aware and heed “Moose and Deer Crossing” signs erected by highway departments and slow down.   Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer; so braking and driving defensively for moose is our best policy.  Police and other departments responding to moose or deer/car collisions are reminded that while drivers or passengers are allowed by law to keep white-tailed deer they have hit with their vehicle (salvaged deer must be officially reported), only the DFW or the Environmental Police can make decisions regarding the disposition of moose. All moose or deer/vehicle collisions should be reported to the Environmental Police (800) 632-8075 and to DFW Wildlife District offices.

The bulls stay with the cows only long enough to breed then leave in pursuit of other cows. Both bulls and cows travel more during this time in pursuit of a mate.  Females can breed as early as 1 ½ years of age.

Moose, like deer, lack a set of upper incisors; they strip off browse and bark rather than snipping it neatly.  During summer, moose prefer to feed in or near clearings and other open areas where they browse on tender leaves, twigs and tree bark as well as aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation. Grasses, lichens, mosses, mushrooms and other herbaceous plants are also a part of their diet. Winter food mostly consists of needle bearing trees and hardwood bark, buds and twigs.

Only bulls grow antlers. These antlers begin growing in March to early April, completing by August when the velvet is shed. Antlers start dropping in December, though some young bulls retain their antlers until late winter. The bell, the flap of skin and long hair that hangs from the throat, is more pronounced in adult bulls than in cows or immature bulls.

According to DFW, moose have been absent from our state from the early 1700’s.   As recently as the 1970’s a moose sighting was considered a rare sight. So why are they here now?  As early settlers cleared the extensive forests in the state for pastures and farming, moose habitat disappeared along with the moose. This happened through much of New England.  Habitat for moose recovered due in part to farmers moving out to the more fertile Midwest or to factory towns during the Industrial Revolution.

Moose are now reclaiming their former range and moving into areas where they haven’t been seen for hundreds of years.

Moose populations got a boost in northern New England states from a combination of forest cutting practices and lack of moose harvest which created ideal moose habitat and allowed for high reproduction and survival rates. Gradually, as the population increased, moose moved southward into their historic range and by the early 1980’s they moved into northern Worcester and Middlesex Counties and began to breed and disperse through central Massachusetts.

In 2007, MassWildlife biologists estimated 850-950 moose lived in Massachusetts, with the majority of them found in northern Worcester County.  During the year, moose home ranges vary from 5-50 square miles depending on the season.  MassWildlife has been monitoring moose populations through sighting reports, road kills and urban/suburban situations.  A recent study has begun to catch and collar moose to follow them and understand their movements, reproduction and survival rates.

During the breeding season in fall, or the calving season in spring, we are advised to stay a respectful distance away because bulls can be unpredictable and cows can be very protective of their calves.  Keep dogs under control.

Some other interesting facts about moose:  There has been a steep decline in some parts of the US in places such as Minnesota, Montana and New Hampshire.  Some scientists speculate that the underlying cause is climate change (global warming).  Winters have grown substantially shorter across much of the moose’s range.  In NH, a longer fall with less snow has greatly increased the number of winter ticks, a devastating parasite.  “You could get 100,000 ticks on a moose” said Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state’s Fish & Game Dept.

Up in British Columbia, a recent study blamed the decline on the widespread loss of forests caused by the epidemic of pine bark beetles which thrive in warmer weather.  The loss of trees leave the moose exposed to human and animal predators. *****

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is having its final kid’s fishing derby of the year on September 13. *****

 

I just returned from a 12 day fishing trip to upper Quebec, Canada which will be written about in future columns.  If you tried to reach me during that period with announcements that you wished to be mentioned in the column, please don’t think I ignored you.  Your input is important and always welcomed.

Questions/com