According to Trina L. Moruzzi, Wildlife Biologist for the Mass. Div. of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), this year was another successful year for the deer hunt for paraplegic sportsmen. There were 23 participants statewide for the three-day hunt and a total of 6 deer were harvested statewide for a 26% success rate. Many hunters saw deer which added to the success of the hunt. In the past five years, these hunters have averaged greater than a 25% success rate.
The hunts are held at 5 sites: Northern Berkshires, Southern Berkshires, Quabbin Reservation, Devens Reserve Forces Training Area in Lancaster, and Otis/Edwards Military Reservation in Falmouth.
“I once again want to thank all of the volunteers, landowners, DCR staff, Environmental Police, DFW staff, and military personnel that coordinate to make this hunt a continued success. This is a great opportunity that I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many good people throughout the years that I have coordinated the hunt. “said Trina Moruzzi, State Coordinator. “For a number of these people, it’s the only opportunity they have to hunt, an activity that is an important part of their lives”.
There were 5 hunters who participated in the hunt in the Northern Berkshires and one doe was taken by David Alderman of Petersburg, NY. The other participants were: Michael Noiseux of Berkley, MA, Fred Klausky of Raynham, MA, Dale Bailey of Clarksburg, MA and Shawn Mei of Baldwinville, MA. They all saw or shot at deer.
Volunteers who assisted in the Northern Berkshires hunt were: Rick French of Phillipston, MA, Alex Daigle of Stamford, VT, Doug Mclain, of North Adams, Tony and Bob Mei, of Ashburnham, MA, Stacy Sylvester, of Williamstown, J. Sylvester, of Lovell, ME, Paul Noiseux, of Berkley, MA and Jack O’Brien of Raynham, MA. DFW’s Jacob Moris-Siegel also helped out.
There were 5 paraplegic hunters signed up but 4 took part in the hunt in Southern Berkshires: Sidney Eichstedt of Lee, Erin Ferry of Deighton, MA, Gref Baumati of New Lebanon, NY, and Steve Gladding from Westfield. One hunter who had participated for many years could not attend. The company where he worked had been bought out during the year by another company and that company would not give him time off to join the hunt. Boo to that company!
Helpers there included: Shaun Smith and Al Vincent, Brian Ingerson, Gerry Strock, Marc Portieri, Greg Arienti, Chris Puntin, Rick Thelig, Fred Lampro, Tom Dean, Matt Roach,, Paul Antonozzi, Jimmy Thomas and Chuck Pickard, all from the Berkshires or Northern Connecticut. DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden helped out, too.
No deer were taken this year in the Southern Berkshires, but the food was great. Chuck Pickard brought his trailer-mounted smoker/grill and a lot of friends, who own restaurants and businesses, donated food and condiments. Other individuals also prepared food needed for the three day event.
On the day that I was there, this was the lunch menu: Clam chowder, smoked pork roast injected with apple cider, smoked vidalia onion gravy, smoked baked beans, and potato salad. Chuck did the smoking and roasting while Patricia Vollmer made the chowder and potato salad. There were also several home-made desserts baked by supporters. Six years ago Chuck started out just cooking one meal for the hunters, but he got “hooked” on the program and happily cooks breakfasts and lunches for all 3 days.
Space doesn’t allow a list all of the donors and supporters, but there were lots of them, many from Northern Connecticut. I’m sure they don’t mind for they are not in this for the recognition. “It’s about the hunters in the wheelchairs”, they say.
MassWildlife has offered paraplegic hunters the opportunity to hunt deer during a special three-day season since 1972. It works like this: MassWildlife staff work with volunteers to help place hunters in areas at several hunt locations. They pick them for lunch and then bring them back for the afternoon hunt. They are picked up at the end of the day. When a hunter shoots a deer, volunteers assist by retrieving the deer, field dressing it and getting it checked in with MassWildlife staff on site.
In 1972, the deer hunt started in Phillipston, MA and the following year in the town of Rowe. In subsequent years the hunt location moved to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
According to Shaun Smith of Lee, (a 40 year volunteer along with Al Vincent) the late Ray McGill from Stockbridge couldn’t afford to go to the Cape so he petitioned and got the hunt moved to the Berkshires. The late Gordon Leeman of Lee was a local game warden when they moved the hunt to the Berkshires and urged Shaun and Al to volunteer their services. Dick Burrell and Tom Early who were with DFW would stay at Shaun’s house and do the hunt. Ray LaGrant donated his camp on Beartown Mountain in South Lee and donated all of the food while Mrs. McGill cooked it.
Locations in Williamstown and around Mt Washington State Forest were utilized for much of the 1980’s and 1990’s with an occasional location in Middlesex County. Since 2000, the DCR has hosted a site at Quabbin Park in Belchertown. The Devens Reserve Forces Training Area in Lancaster, and Otis/Edwards Military Reservation in Falmouth have also been added.
According to Smith, the hunt started out with amputees, war veterans and handicapped persons. Then it went to the strict translation of paraplegic which is a spinal cord injury resulting in the loss of two legs. That cut the hunter’s numbers down greatly. He and the volunteers are hoping that the State Legislators will redefine handicap to allow our returning wounded vets to also participate in this hunt.