Thank you Gige

 

There were a lot of strangers in the Town of Stockbridge on Saturday, May 13.  Governor Charlie Baker was here as well as Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito.  EOEEA Secretary Matt Beaton, former EOEEA Secretary and State Senator Bob Durand, former State Senator Stephen Brewer, several former Fish & Wildlife Commissioners including Walter Bickford, Dave Peters, Mary Griffin and current Commissioner and former State Representative George Peterson, former Director of the MA DFW Wayne MacCallum and current Director Jack Buckley, MA Senator Anne Gobi,  and Representative Kulik from Worthington.  There were several former and current Fish & Wildlife Board members, officers of the Mass Sportsmen Council and the Worcester County League of Sportsmen.

 

They all linked up at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club with local State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, Senator Adam Hinds, former Berkshire Natural Resources Chairman George Wislocki, current BNRC Chairman Tad Ames, current F&W Board member and President of the Mass Outdoor Heritage Foundation Steve Sears, and a whole host of sportsmen, DFW personnel and environmental dignitaries.  There was even a man there that claimed to be an official from the Town of Ripton, MA.  Those who couldn’t attend such as current F&W Board Chairman Joe Larson and former Governor William Weld sent letters and gifts.

 

They were there to celebrate 88-year old George “Gige” Darey’s retirement from the MA Fish & Wildlife Board.  Gige didn’t want a retirement party and only agreed to it when he learned that it was also a fund raiser for the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation which he and MacCallum co-founded.  There was not an empty chair in the place and everyone who attended personally knew and/or worked with Gige over the years.  Co-Chairmen for the event were Durand, Peters, MacCallum and Sears, and what a great event they put together.

 

Space does not allow me to mention all of the people and wonderful words said about Gige.  Don’t get me wrong, they also took advantage of the opportunity to roast him and to mention some “spoof’s” that they participated in with him over the years.  Appeals Court Judge Joseph Trainor did an excellent roasting job.

 

Rep. Smitty Pignatelli said that he couldn’t think of anybody who has taught him more about the importance of conservation of open space and protection and the rights of sportsmen than Gige.  .  He repeated a phrase once told to him by the late Bill Wilde (of Highlawn Farm), “Our natural beauty is more valuable than an oil well in Saudi Arabia.”

 

Senator Hines noted that his work and had an impact.  “ It made a difference”.   After making wonderful comments, State Senator Gobi presented him the Red Poppy Award, (for Korean War veterans). After Peters and Durand related some comical past events and listed many of Gige’s accomplishments he was presented an award from the Mass Outdoor Heritage Foundation.

 

Rep. Kulik read a resolution from the MA House and Senate, congratulating him on the occasion of his retirement.  It recognized his 38 years on the Board of which 35 as its chairman and the fact that he was first appointed by Governor Michael Dukakis, served under the 7 subsequent governors, preserved thousands of acres of vital wildlife habitat while providing public access and making the MA F&W Board one of the most respected wildlife agencies in the country.  It noted his establishment of the Non-Game Advisory Board, passage and implementation of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Act, institution of the Wild Wings Conservation Stamp, the development of the core habitat protection and the development and expansion of many youth programs.

 

BNRC’s George Wislocki and Tad Ames noted that Gige was one of the founders of Sportsmen for Land Preservation and helped raise over $300,000 over the period of 6 years, which was crucial for the survival of the BNRC.  “He cemented a relationship of the BNRC with the sportsmen of Berkshire County”.

 

Mike Roche, member of the MA F&W Board announced that the Board created an award in Gige’s name. “ From this time forward there will be a Gige Darey Award to be presented to a MassWildlife staff member who exemplifies the values, work ethics and standards that George created.”

 

Former DFW Director Wayne MacCallum described the F&W Board.  It sets policy, regulatory authority and has to approve the hiring of every person appointed to the DFW.  “George was absolutely incredible in terms of requiring that all appointments were made with the most qualified people.  He was a strong advocate in support of professional natural resource management. Not only in Massachusetts, he is legendary throughout the country for the programs the MA DFW has instituted He is a fierce fighter for the environment.  Much of what you see here (open space) has to do with George Darey.  Under George’s leadership, the DFW went from a hooks and bullets agency to an integrated agency incorporating the protection of many different species”.   They haven’t had a license increase since 1996.

 

On behalf of his and his son’s generation, EOEEA Secretary Matt Beaton thanked him for his inspiration.  Lt Governor Polito commented on Gige’s long service and mentioned that his services were all for free. (Other than travel expense reimbursement, F&W Board members are not paid).  She thanked Gige for sharing so much of his time, energy and love for this Commonwealth.  He is a great friend to all sportsmen.   “Having Gige on this Board for 38 years chairing it for 35 years absolutely mattered here in the Commonwealth”, she said.

 

Gige took a little razzing from Beaton and Governor Baker for missing 5 of those Board meetings out of 400 over the course of 38 years.  Twice as a pall bearer, once an ice storm prevented him from getting through, a health issue and one day to go bird hunting.

 

Governor Baker said that “George is a hero, not just because of the time he spent on the Board but the good work that was done.     We all benefit tremendously from the coalitions that he built.  We live in a difficult age where people draw very bright lines and have trouble viewing any other point of view but their own and are really not that experienced in coalition and finding common ground.  One of the truly great things is that he found common ground all of the time, and he had a core set of principles.  He understood that he was one player among many and he never forgot that. “

 

“He worked extremely hard to figure out where the common ground was and where the opportunity was to support the stuff that he cared so much about.  Along the way he created a bunch of public and private institutions that stood the test of time and will be here for a very long time.  The legacy is not just the history but its also what is going to happen going forward because those institutions are in place and will continue to perform long after the rest of us have gone on to do other things.  “You are such a son of Massachusetts”, Governor Baker said, “and you have meant so much to the Commonwealth and so much to the people of the Commonwealth”.

 

In accepting his citations, awards and standing ovation, Gige commented on how much his partner Ginny Acabane meant to him and how lucky he is.  Referring to his service on the Board, he said, “The ride that I have been on, I would not change one bit”.  As to the sportsmen, he said that he has enjoyed working with them and was very proud to represent them.

 

All attendees were given a memento coffee mug.  On one side is a picture of Gige with his faithful Brittany Spaniel, Éclair.  (In a joint effort of the F&W Board and local sportsmen, that dog was purchased and imported from Brittany, France  and was presented to Gige by Mike Roche on March 9, 2013, following the early, unexpected death of his previous dog).

 

On the other side of the mug were words that really struck me:  “A hundred years from now, if fish still swim in our rivers and deer still prance through our fields, if we can recognize the view from atop our favorite Berkshire heights, we will in large measure have George L. “Gige” Darey of Lenox to thank. For nearly a quarter-century now as Chairman of the State Fish & Wildlife Board and at the center of a network of conservative groups, Mr. Darey has devoted his time, energy and powers of persuasion to making sure we and our children will have woods to walk in and game to shoot.”   October 12, 2002, Berkshire Eagle editorial.

Pictured seated are George “Gige” Darey and his partner Ginny Acabane.  Standing are Lt. Governor Karen Polito and Governor Charlie Baker.  Picture provided by S. A. Sears Photagraphy

2016 Berkshire County League of Sportsmen Award winners are announced

 

In the BCLS’s March meeting, Doug Frank of Lee was selected to receive its Sportsman of the Year Award.  He has been a long time member and Board member of the Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) and has always been there to help out.  He ran the Club’s pheasant program and was co-chairman of the skeet field.  He has always believed in promoting the shooting sports and became a NRA Certified Instructor in Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun and as a Range Safety Officer.

 

Recently, he became a NRA Certified Skeet Shooting Coach.  He has been a coach for the LSA Buckshots, which is part of the Scholastic Skeet & Trap Program, which he now runs. He is a Massachusetts Hunter Education instructor and teaches at the LSA and other places. Every year he helps out with the Youth Pheasant Hunt with his dogs.  He also helps out with the LSA Annual Ice Fishing Derby and Pheasant Fund Raising Dinner.  He always helps with the fundraising, whether at the Gala Dinner, Turkey Shoots, Raffle Tickets, and more.

 

Karen Karlberg of Becket was selected to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.  She was a long time member of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited and at one time served on its Board.  In 2005, Karen was the recipient of the Taconic Chapter’s highest honor, the Crooked Staff Award.  This award is presented to the person who best represents the ideals of TU, that being the conserving, protecting and restoring of North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds

 

Karen was heavily involved with the ASERP (Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Program) in the Becket schools.  She helped the Becket grammar school system establish the program some 14 years ago.  In this program 3rd and 4th grade students raised young salmon fry from egg to fry and released them into Yokum Brook in Becket.  She obtained the eggs from the Belchertown Hatchery drove them to the school, and took care of them during school vacations.  After the salmon program was ended, she continued her assistance with its Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program.

 

She was involved with the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) Housatonic River clean-ups,  taught flycasting to children during HVA events and educated youths about maco-invertibrates.  She was a stream guide for the Casting for the Recovery Program, a support and educational program for breast cancer survivors. She assisted with the MassWildlife’s Becoming an Outdoorsman (BOW) Program

 

She is involved with the Westfield River Watershed clean-ups and eradication of invasives.  She serves on its Wild & Scenic Committee and helps with trail clean-ups. She worked with the Nature Conservancy doing wildlife tracking and assessments.

 

Tom Macy of Sheffield has been selected to receive the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.  He has been a member of the Sheffield Sporting Club for 49 years, serving as President for 10 years, Treasurer for 32 years and on the Board of Directors for 46 years. He played a major part in moving the club to its current location and building the club house, 2 skeet fields and a trap field.

 

For years he led a 22 rifle club for the Boy Scouts and an instructional course for 5th and 6th grade students that taught gun safety and also gave them the opportunity to shoot a rifle, pistol and shotgun. Tom has maintained and repaired the clubs 4 skeet, 5 five-stand traps and set the trap field to be run by vocal release.  Tom has always donated both time and money to the Sheffield Sporting Club. The money he made driving students to high school sporting events was donated to construct the observation/porch addition to the club. He also donated enough money to enable the club to buy one of the 2 new traps last year.  This year, as in all past years, he has cleared all the fields of snow so members could shoot all winter.

 

Robert J. McDermott of West Stockbridge was selected to receive the prestigious John Zuber Outstanding Achievement Award.  Bob is a NRA Benefactor Life Member, Instructor, Training Counselor, MA and Utah Certified Instructor and a MA Hunter Education Instructor.  He is a member of the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Lee Sportsmen’s Association and Agawam Revolver Club. He is the author of the Massachusetts Pistol License Course (LTC-020) that is taught to approximately 35% of new licensees in MA each year.   He teaches the Basic Hunter Ed course with the team at the Lee Sportsmen’s Association.  He has taught over 6,000 students.   In addition to teaching at local clubs, he has taught at Smith & Wesson, Savage Arms, Cabela’s and others.  He also teaches courses to raise funds for the Stockbridge and Lee sportsmen’s clubs. He was taught about firearm safety and hunting by his father, and feels that it is important to “pay it forward”  to preserve our heritage and rights.

 

The late John Zuber was recognized twice by the BCLS ( Lifetime Achievement Award and the Sportsman of the Year Award) for his work and dedication to the sportsmen of Massachusetts.  He was also recognized by the Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council and is listed in its Hall of Fame.

 

These richly deserved awards will be presented at the Silvio O. Conte Memorial Banquet at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club on the evening of April 15.   This year the event will also be in honor of George “Gige” Darey, recently retired Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman.  Tickets which cost $30 can be obtained from any BCLS delegate.

 

Trout Stocking

Leanda Fontaine Gagnon, DFW Western District Aquatic Biologist, informed us that they stocked Onota Lake in Pittsfield last Friday.  The weather and conditions have kept them from making any concrete stocking plans, leaving them to monitor local waters on a day-by-day basis.

 

New England Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame inductees are announced

On January 28, Bass Pro Shops in Hooksett, New Hampshire, hosted the first New England Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame inductions, recognizing those who played pivotal roles in bringing wild turkeys back from extinction in New England.  Wild turkeys were extinct for about a century. Their return is an improbable story of long-dedicated, cooperative biologists helping each other spread the right wild stock back here. Once they figured out how to do that, wild turkeys naturally did the rest.

The New England Hall of Fame was the brainchild of two Massachusetts National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter presidents: Keith Fritz of central Mass. and Kevin Antonovitch of Cape Cod.

These first Hall of Fame inductees came from all six New England states, and included the 10 giants of our region’s turkey conservation: Massachusetts’ James Cardoza and Jim Bolduc, New Hampshire’s Chip Page and Ted Walski, Vermont’s Doug Blodgett and Ron Lafreniere, Maine’s Jim Wescott and Gene Howard, Connecticut’s Steve Jackson and Rhode Island’s Jim Chadwick. All 10 received a decorative plaque along with a handsome, custom, curly-maple box call with their names, states and Hall of Fame credentials inscribed on the striker top.  If you hunt turkeys anywhere in New England, you owe thanks to one or more of these dedicated men.

I will highlight our Massachusetts inductees.  Beginning in 1969, Jim Cardoza supervised the recovery of Massachusetts’ extinct wild turkey. They originally were common everywhere in the state, except on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, but as a result of deforestation and overhunting, they were extirpated by the 1850’s.

In 1972-73, Cardoza’s team live-trapped 37 wild turkeys from southwestern New York and released them in Beartown State Forest in Monterey where they flourished.  In 1978, there were enough surplus birds for Cardoza to trap and release them to other areas within the state. Between 1979 and 1996, they released 561 birds in 10 counties.

As a result of Cardoza’s efforts, Massachusetts now has a population of about 25,000 wild turkeys.  Thanks to their success, we have both a spring and fall hunt, which produce a perennially sustainable harvest of about 3,000.  Cardoza wrote a book entitled, “The Wild Turkey in Massachusetts”, which is considered the definitive book on our wild turkeys.  It explains why they originally failed in their restoration attempts and how they finally succeeded.

Jim Bolduc was honored for being the first NWTF Massachusetts state chapter president.  Established in 1983, his was the first chapter established in year three of Massachusetts turkey hunting.  He contacted the NWTF about starting a chapter in Massachusetts and became the first Massachusetts Chapter president.  With help from his officers and board, he helped set the foundations for inspiring and educating our state’s sportsmen to support wild turkey restoration here.

Back then, less than a 100 hunters were chosen annually by lottery and restricted to hunting towns across a northwest strip of the state. The hunting territory included the northern Franklin and Berkshire County border towns where turkeys started spilling in from southern Vermont and Upstate New York.  Today, his chapter is one of six in the state; the others are Eastern Mass. (1986), Central Mass. (1996), Western Mass Longbeards (1996), Pioneer Valley Longbeards (1996), and Cranberry Country Longbeards (2000). It is anticipated that a seventh chapter, the Greylock Gobblers (Northern Berkshires), will come to fruition later this year.

Back at the time of their reintroduction, wild turkeys were found in pockets of western Massachusetts but they began to spread into the central part of the state with the assistance of aggressive MassWildlife stocking initiatives. Today there are turkeys statewide.

Without pioneers like Bolduc and Cardoza, who were leaders of the successful restoration program, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike would not have such easy access to what has since become our state game bird.

 

Much of the information for this article was gleaned from MassWildlife and articles written by Mark Blazis of the Worcester Telegram (“Getting to know wild turkey hunting’s hall of famers”, February 6, 2017) and from Gary Sanderson’s article in the Greenfield Recorder (“Colrain turkey hunter inaugural New England Hall of Famer”, February 14, 2017).

 

Staying with the subject of wild turkeys, the Massachusetts Young Adult Turkey Hunting Program is a partnership program between MassWildlife, the Massachusetts State Chapter of the NWTF, and participating sportsmen’s clubs. The program is designed to provide hunters ages 12-17 an opportunity to: (a) Participate in a field workshop that provides specialized training in turkey hunting and safety, including firearms instruction and practice; and (b) Hunt wild turkey under the supervision and guidance of a safe, experienced adult hunter serving as a mentor on a special day set aside just for young adults.

Information on this program can be obtained from the MassWildlife web page under the caption Education & Events.  The listing of local participating sportsmen’s clubs and schedules are listed there.

 

Incidentally, this year the Youth Turkey Hunt day is Saturday, April 22.

 

Events

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is beginning its spring turkey shoots next Sunday, March 12 from noon to 3pm and they will run until the Sunday before Easter.  Shoots cost $2 per shot and $3 for the money shoots.  If you prefer, you could win strip steaks, pork loins or spiral hams.

 

The Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club is having a venison buffet next Saturday, March 11 at the ITAM Lodge, 22 Waubeek Rd, Pittsfield.  The proceeds will benefit its Land Development Fund.  Cocktails start at 5pm, dinner at 6pm.  There will be a 50/50 and assorted raffles.  Donation are $17 for adults and children under 10 years of age $8.50.  For tickets contact:  Stan Bushey (413) 841-8345, Travis Delratez (413) 441-7979, Dave Pemble (413) 443-0646, Rich Powers (413) 822-6581, Fran Tremblay (413)443-5133 and  Mike Furey (413) 822-1959.

Four honored at BCLS Conte Banquet

 

About 160 people packed the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club banquet hall last Saturday evening for the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen’s (BCLS) Silvio O. Conte Memorial Awards Banquet. Award recipients were the late Christopher Porter of Pittsfield, Al Buck of Adams, Steve Bateman of Pittsfield and DCR Deputy Director Matthew Sisk, of Braintree, MA.  The banquet was dedicated in memory of the late Chuck Jones of Dalton.  All were selected by the various sportsmen’s clubs which make up the BCLS.   Their individual feats were highlighted in a prior column.

 

In acknowledging Chuck Jones, emcee and former League president Mark Jester said that Jones was instrumental in getting the Friends of NRA here in the Berkshires and every club, including the BCLS, benefitted from the work he and his staff did over the years.   Chuck’s widow, Evelyn, thanked the League for the banquet dedication in Chuck’s honor.  She read a touching poem of remembrance.

 

Steve Bateman has raised over $25,000 through his fishing derbies for Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  He was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award which acknowledged “his achievements all while enhancing the image of sportsmen in our community”.  On receiving the award, he thanked all those who helped along the way.

 

Al Buck was recognized for his work with the sportsmen and Adams Outdoor for Youth by receiving the John Zuber Award “for his unwavering dedication to introduce and perpetuate the ideals of sportsmen in Berkshire County.”  He thanked the League and the many people who helped him over the years.

 

Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey presented the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award to Matt Sisk.  Darey noted that there were thousands of acres of local state forests that were not accessible to hunters.   That was until Matt became Deputy Director of DCR.  Upon hearing of the problem, he immediately came to the Berkshires, checked out the situation and got the access issues resolved.  The award was “ in recognition of his sport dedication and oversight to the preservation of open space and wildlife.”  In accepting the award, Sisk said that he was really honored and proud and that the award means a lot to him.  “If it wasn’t for Fish & Game Commissioner George Peterson, Darey and DFW Director Jack Buckley”, he said, “ this wouldn’t have happened.”

 

In presenting the Sportsman of the Year Award, Jester noted that the late Chris Porter should have gotten this award years ago. He was very involved in the sports level and was very helpful, usually behind the scenes.  “We want his memory to live on.” he said.   The award was, “in recognition of his lifelong dedication and leadership of sportsmen and youth of Massachusetts.” Chris’ son Ryan accepted the award on behalf of his family.  He thanked the League and related some shooting experiences that he had with his dad.

 

During the banquet, Mark Jester recounted how he became a BCLS delegate when he was 23 years old.   He mentioned how the late US Congressman Silvio O. Conte always made it a point to attend the raccoon dinners that the Lakewood Sportsmen’s Club put on.  At one dinner, he suggested that Mark become involved with the BCLS. The rest is history, with Mark serving as a delegate for 34 years and 18 years as its president.   Having recently stepped down, he took the opportunity to thank all of the delegates and sportsmen and women who have helped him over the years.  He said that he has developed many close friends that he never would have met were it not for the League. *****

 

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Deerfield River  in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Walker Brook in Becket and Chester, Goose Pond Brook in Lee and Tyringham, Greenwater Brook, Beartown Brook and West Brook in Lee; Little River, Bronson Brook and West Branch Brook in Worthington; Yokum Brook in Becket, West Branch Brook in Chesterfield, Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton, West Brook in Great Barrington, Little River in Huntington, Factory Brook in Middlefield, Mill Brook in Plainfield, Larrywaug Brook in Stockbridge, Depot Brook in Washington and Westfield Brook in Windsor. *****

Vernal pools are unique wildlife habitats best known for the amphibians and invertebrate critters that use them to breed.   They usually dry during summer which prevents fish from establishing   populations.  That is critical to the reproductive success of many amphibians and invertebrates that rely on breeding habitats free of fish predators.

If you want to learn more about vernal pools, join the Wild & Scenic Westfield River exploration at noon April 30, at the Becket Town Hall in Becket.  After an hour presentation by Berkshire Environmental Action Team specialist Jane Winn, there will be on-site training to learn how to identify and certify a vernal pool. The presentation is free and open to the public and the site visit requires registration.  For more information, call Meredyth Babcock @ 413 623-2070.

2015 Berkshire County League of Sportsmen Award winners are announced

 

The late Chris Porter of Pittsfield was selected to posthumously receive the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) 2015 Sportsman of the Year Award.   Chris was a long time officer and esteemed member of the Onota Fishing Club and Pittsfield Sportsmen’s.  He was instrumental in arranging and cooking for the youth fishing derbies at Wild Acres, for the Club’s annual Crappie Derbies on Onota Lake and for the Club’s game dinners.  Proceeds from those game dinners benefitted Soldier On, Eagle Santa Toy Fund and other worthwhile causes.

Without doubt, Chris indirectly touched and positively influenced hundreds of kids and sportsmen here in the Berkshires.

 

Steve Bateman of Pittsfield was selected to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.   With the help of friends and family he founded the Harry Bateman Fishing Derby Committee to raise money for the Jimmy Fund (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for Children) in the fall of 1992 and joined the Berkshire County Jimmy fund Council in 2002.  He also volunteers at the annual Jimmy Fund Ice Fishing derby.  Its goal is to raise funds for the Jimmy Fund and most importantly to get children and families involved in fishing and to have a great time.

 

Since 1993 the 1st Annual Harry A Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby,  fishing poles and entry tickets are donated to children of local schools, and other civic organizations  (including Elizabeth Freeman Center, Moments House) to help encourage more children into fishing.  In just the past 5 years over $25,000 has been donated to the Jimmy Fund in memory of Harry A Bateman.

 

He was a recipient of a Jimmy Fund Lifetime Commitment Award in 2007 at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. The award is for someone who donates 10 or more years of volunteer work for the Jimmy Fund.

 

He was a lifetime member and competitive shooter for the former Central Berkshire Bowmen from 1977 until it closed in 1987.

 

Matthew Sisk, Deputy Director to the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) was selected to receive the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.   Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts may remember how difficult it was gaining access to our local State forests. Gates were being closed, there was a lack of parking spaces and roads were in disrepair.  After relentless prodding by BCLS president Mark Jester and Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey, Deputy Commissioner Sisk became involved.  He visited the Berkshires to see first- hand what the problems were and took immediate steps to rectify the problems.  Those steps endeared him to the local sportsmen, resulting in this award.

 

Al Buck of Adams was selected to receive the prestigious John Zuber Lifetime Achievement Award.   Nominated by the Adams Outdoorsmen for Youth (AOFY), Al has been a member of that organization for more than 20 years, and is a key member.  As a cook for its Annual Game Supper each March, he has served meals to as many as 200 guests at a time.  Often, he worked outdoors for hours under cold weather conditions. That Game Supper is AOFY’s main fund raising event, and Al’s efforts have contributed greatly to its mission of service.

 

Al is also an active member of the MassWildlife Angler Education Program.  He’s always helps at the AOFY’s annual Winter Fishing Derby at Cheshire Lake, as well as its summer fishing events at Reynold’s Pond.  An avid hunter and fisherman, Al is always ready to lend a hand, teach a child how to fish, and help other members with setup and cleanup activities.

 

The richly deserved awards will be presented at the Silvio O. Conte Memorial Banquet at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club on the evening of April 16.   This year the event will also be in memoriam to the late Chuck Jones of Dalton.  Tickets which cost $30 pp can be obtained from any BCLS delegate.   *****

 

The annual Springfield Sportsmen’s Show opens next Friday and runs through Sunday at the Big E in West Springfield.  The hours are Friday from 12 to 8 PM, Saturday from 9 AM to 7 PM and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Tickets are $13 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12 and 5 yrs and under free.  It is billed as the undisputedly largest “pure” sportsmen’s show in the Northeast.  The show includes the best of hunting, fishing, boating and adventure recreation that the outdoor world has to offer all bundled together in one great event.  It is filled with hundreds of booths, exhibits, seminars and action areas.    Click onto www.osegshows.com for more information. *****

 

There will be a firearms safety course on February 21 at the Greylock Community Club in North Adams.  This class is required in order to obtain a LTC/FID Card.  The Class will be taught by Dan Peck, an NRA and Mass State Police Certified Instructor who can be reached at 413-663-4896.*****

 

The folks at the local chapter of the International Defense Pistol Association (IDPA) are gearing up for its 2016 season.  Shawn Sullivan will be taking the lead this year.  There will be a meeting with interested folks who wish to be involved in IDPA at the Lee Sportsmen’s Association house next Saturday at 11AM.  For more information, contact Shawn at ssullee@icloud.com. *****

 

The Bay State Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is having a banquet on Saturday, February 27 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club.    It is a social evening of fun, great food and camaraderie all for the benefit of elk country.  Tickets are limited, so purchase yours today for a chance to win top notch firearms, premium hunts and exclusive home furnishings.  Doors open, at 5:00 PM. Click onto the RMEF Baystate Chapter for more information or call Gary D. Johnston at  (413) 298-3623.

 

Berkshire waters accounted for 6 gold pin awards last year

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For over 50 years MassWildlife has sponsored the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program, which recognizes anglers who catch exceptional freshwater fish from water bodies of the Commonwealth that are open to the public. Over the years, the program has evolved.  Beginning in 2005, a youth category was added to recognize anglers 17 years and younger for their accomplishments.  In 2015, the Bowfin category was added to the program (The Bowfin pin replaced the Broodstock Salmon pin).  Also added last year was a Catch and Release component.

Anglers who catch the largest fish in the state in each category receive a gold pin and plaque which commemorates their accomplishments. If they keep the fish, they must have their catch weighed at a certified weigh station and submit an affidavit and photo to the Sportfishing Awards Coordinator.   If they wish to release their fish alive, there are certain procedures which must be followed.  (Check the MassWildlife web page for those instructions).

Last year, 6 gold pin fish were caught in our waters.  They are as follows:  Adult Catch & Keep Category 13 lbs 10 oz Tiger Muskie caught out of Pontoosuc Lake by Mark Mohan, Jr. from Pembrook, MA. Youth Catch & Keep Category – 3 lbs 10 oz brown trout caught out of Onota Lake by Casen Kendal from Pittsfield; 2 lbs 5 oz crappie caught out of Onota Lake by Jaxon Wallace of Pittsfield; 22 lbs 15 oz Northern Pike caught out of Lake Buel by Mason Colli of Glendale and a 17 lbs 3 oz Tiger Muskie caught out of Pontoosuc Lake by Andrew Mucci of Pittsfield. Catch & Release Category – A 43 inch Northern Pike caught out of Onota Lake by Jeffrey Klammer of Adams.

Anglers also receive bronze pins for catching fish of certain minimum weight requirements for 22 species.  If one is lucky enough to catch a lot of pin fish, the angler qualifies for the title of Massachusetts Freshwater Angler of the Year.  There are three categories   Adult Catch & Keep, Youth Catch & Keep and Catch & Release (adult or youth).

The 2015 Adult Catch & Keep Angler of the Year was Mark Mohan, Jr. of Pembrook. This is his 3rd consecutive year that he has received that award. He received pins for the following categories: Brook Trout, 2 Brown Trout, 3 Carp, 3 Chain Pickerel, Channel Catfish, 2 Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, 3 Shad, including the gold pin, Smallmouth Bass, (out of Onota Lake), Sunfish, gold pin Tiger Muskie (out of  Pontoosuc Lake), Tiger Trout, a gold pin Walleye, White Perch and 4 Yellow Perch.

The 2015 Youth Catch & Keep Angler of the Year was Tauri Adamczyk of Taunton, MA. He received pins for the following: A gold pin Bowfin, Brook Trout, 2 Brown Trout, Bullhead, 2 Carp (one out of the Housatonic River in Lee), Chain Pickerel, Crappie, Landlocked Salmon, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, 2 Sunfish of which one was a gold pin, Tiger Trout, White Perch and a Yellow Perch.

The 2015 Catch & Release Angler of the Year was Michael Nee of Northborough. He received pins for the following:  2 Brook Trout of which one was a gold pin, Brown Trout, 2 Bullhead, Chain Pickerel, Crappie, Landlocked Salmon, 3 Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout, 2 Smallmouth Bass of which one was a gold pin, 2 Sunfish of which one was a gold pin, 2 Tiger Trout, White Catfish, White Perch and 2 Yellow Perch.

Wow! These are tremendous fishermen.  I was fortunate enough to get a picture of Andrew Mucci’s 17 lbs 3 oz Tiger Muskie, pictured above.

The Angler of the Year recipients and gold pin winners are honored each year at a ceremony (date and location to be announced in the spring). To see a list of all of the gold pin fish and where they were caught, click onto the MassWildlife website.  *****

Twenty one hunters participated in the Berkshire Beagle Club’s annual bunny hunt on January 16.  Two snowshoe hares and three cottontails were checked in.  The largest hare weighing 3.48 lbs was taken by Pat McGrath of Adams in front of his dog Buck.  The largest cottontail weighing 3.25 lbs was taken by Dave Morris of Lee in front of Tom King’s (of Cheshire) dog Bomber.   Following check-in, a meal of venison stew, venison chili and venison pasta was enjoyed by all. *****

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is having a Turkey Shoot today from 12:30 to 3:00 PM and a dinner from 4:00 to 6:30 PM.  The menu is venison stew and polenta and spaghetti and meatballs.  The cost is $15.00 for adults and $7.00 children 12 and under.  The dinner is to benefit its pheasant program.

 

Francis Sargent Conservation Award earned by BNRC

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“This award means that Berkshire County not only is a much better place to live, and visit and work, whether you are an animal or human, but that it will continue to be so.  We have no intention of resting on our laurels.  The DFW’s and BNRC’s core values are access to land for public use and enjoyment.  We do not conserve land so that we can put it in a glass case and observe how wonderful it is and pat ourselves on our backs for having set it aside.  We work together to conserve land so that people can feel the touch of bark under their hands, so that they can be startled when a grouse explodes from the brush, so that they can taste the sweet corn or the venison stew, so that they can see the wind in the canopy.   If we can’t get people out on the land and enjoying it and becoming richer for the experience, then we have not accomplished our whole job”.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Wayne Rodd, taxidermist extraordinaire

 

When I first began writing this column some 11 years ago, Wayne Rodd of Southampton, MA contacted me to let me know that he was an official measurer for the Boone and Crockett Club, the Pope and Young Club (bow hunters), the Longhunters (Muzzleloader record book), Buckmasters, and occasionally the Northeast Big Buck Club (they are the folks that have the deer head and antler display at the Big E Sportsmen’s show in West Springfield).

He casually mentioned that he was a taxidermist and showed me some of his work.  I immediately wanted to feature him in a column but he asked me not to.  He wanted no notoriety for his work or no new business.  In fact, he could barely keep up with the customer work load that he had.  He just wanted me to know and hopefully pass on to the readers that he was an official measurer should they bag a trophy.

I kind of lost touch with Wayne over the years but every now and then his name would show up in one of the columns.  Well, recently Wayne contacted me to tell me of his recent outstanding achievement.  Let me relay what he wrote:  “Just wanted to share with some of my friends who aren’t on Facebook the results of my last taxidermy competition.   I brought two commercial pieces, (a grey fox and a boar mount) plus two framed red fox photos to enter into the wild-life art category at the New England Association of Taxidermists (NEAT) because I didn’t put anything together for the show at the time.  Then after putting a white-tail deer together for the showroom I decided to enter it into the Master’s Category for deer.

 

The five pieces ended up getting five blue ribbons for 1st Place. Then the deer took Best of Category for Deer in the Masters Division, and the boar Best of Show – Commercial Mount, one fox photo took Best Wildlife Art, and for the fun of it I entered for the Old Timers Award, which is voted on by other taxidermists, and the deer took that award also.  So, in the end, five blue ribbons and 4 awards.”

 

I pleaded with him to let me write about him and include one of his pictures of his work into this column.  He relented and provided the above photo.

 

Wayne is owner and operator of Manhan Taxidermy since 1981 and has a Manhan Taxidermy page on Facebook that has several albums with more photos. The deer that took Best of Category in the Masters Division at the recent NEAT show has not yet been posted on his web site.  He is planning on first taking it up to Maine for a show there in August.

 

Currently he specializes in deer heads, game heads and life size mounts of North American game. He no longer does any fish or migratory birds.

 

Wayne was just elected to be on the Board of Directors of NEAT. Anyone interested in joining that organization can find out how on the NEAT website.

 

As far as taxidermy goes he says that he has a good steady number of regular customers who keep him busy enough and is currently not looking for more work.  In that way he can keep things moving along and put the necessary time in the mounts, so  they come out the way he wants them. He’s been involved in taxidermy for over 30 years, and a lot of regular customers know he will only take in so much work.  Consequently they keep his name to themselves in case they are lucky enough to get something worth mounting.

 

Hopefully, Wayne will not be mad at me for this write-up.  As previously mentioned, he is not looking for any notoriety and would like to keep a low profile.  Sorry Wayne, but outstanding accomplishments deserve recognition.  People want to know about you and your great work.  It goes with the territory.

As far as measuring for the record books, he is still an official measurer for the above mentioned organizations and can be contacted through their web-sites or through his own Facebook page.  It helps to keep him off the phone so he can stay on top of any work load, or not walk away from something while he’s working on it.  I am honoring his request not to disclose his phone number for that reason. *****

Do you fish in New York State?   Well, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the license renewal reminder you recently received was incorrect.  It noted that the cost of an annual fishing license was reduced to $25.  That is indeed the case for resident anglers, but not non-residents.  Non-resident annual fishing licenses were reduced almost 30% from $70 to $50.  The DEC apologizes for the confusion and hopes you will take the opportunity to renew your NY fishing license.   To sweeten the deal, if you purchase your license on-line by September 1, 2015 you will be entered into a drawing for one of five $100 Dicks Sporting Goods Gift Cards.

Four honored at BCLS Conte Banquet

Four honored at BCLS Conte Banquet

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club banquet hall was packed for the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen’s  Silvio O. Conte Memorial Awards Banquet which was held last Saturday evening.  Award winners were: Shaun Smith of Lee – Sportsman of the Year, Mark Jester of Pittsfield – John Zuber Award, retired Mass DFW Director Wayne MacCallum of Grafton- Lifetime Achievement Award and the Adams Outdoor for Youth organization – Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award. They were selected by the various sportsmen’s clubs which make up the BCLS.   Their individual feats were highlighted in prior columns.

Smith’s award was in recognition of his dedication, leadership and commitment to the sportsmen of MA.   BCLS President Mark Jester presented a plaque and citations from State Senator Benjamin Downing representing the Senate and State Rep William “Smitty” Pignatelli representing the House of Representatives. Jester congratulated and thanked him for all of the work that he did for the paraplegic hunting program in MA.  For over 40 years he dedicated himself to those who can no longer walk around the woods. “Because of his efforts, they are still getting out into the woods and enjoying the outdoors”, said Jester,   “Their memories of being out into the outdoors are good ones instead of just sitting in the chairs to which they are bound.”

 

“It’s not a one man show”, Smith said in accepting the award.  He thanked the past and current members of the DFW for their help over the years as well as Al Vincent who has been involved in the program for as long as he has.  He also thanked his understanding wife Mary for her support of his involvement in this program.

 

Mass F & W Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey of Lenox presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to MacCallum for his efforts to preserve and protect the rich natural resources which will forever benefit the citizens, habitat and wildlife of this great Commonwealth.  Noting that he is highly regarded nationwide, he credited MacCallum for pushing for the “presumption of openness” for passive recreation on State lands, for initiating the Land Stamp, a supplement to the Open Space Bond Bill, which resulted in the preservation of thousands of acres in Massachusetts, and more.

 

In accepting the award MacCallum said that it was a real honor and pleasure to be the director and to work with all of the sportsmen across the state. He loved his job.  He commended Acting Director Jack Buckley for all his help along the way.

 

Wayne Tinney of Adams accepted the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award for the Adams Outdoor for Youth Organization.  He is its President.  The award is in appreciation of the Club’s unwavering commitment to the community and to the community’s greatest assets, it youth.  “This award is all about helping the kids in our community” said Tinney.

 

Tinney then presented the John Zuber Award to Mark Jester of Pittsfield for recognition of his unwavering dedication to the sportsmen of Berkshire County.  He called him one of the hardest working guys in all of the sportsmen’s groups.

 

“This is one of the greatest honors ever bestowed upon me”, said Jester.  “John Zuber was a great friend and this award means a lot to me.  If it wasn’t for John (Previous BCLS President) the County League wouldn’t be what it is today”. Jester talked about hunting with his dad and how he got him involved and sparked his love for the outdoors.   He thanked the sportsmen for making it possible for him to represent them in Westborough, Boston and with local legislators. *****

 

Next Sunday, the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will be holding its annual Spring Fishing Derby on Stockbridge Bowl from dawn until 3:00 PM.  There will be $100 prizes for the heaviest trout, pickerel, bass and bullhead.  Free lures for all kids 12 and under.  Pre-registration fee is $10, after that it is $15.  Official rules and weigh-in will be at the boat ramp.  For more information call (413)644-3590 or (413)298-4630.  *****

 

The spring turkey hunting season opens tomorrow.   Good luck and have a safe and enjoyable hunt.  Watch out for the ticks.

 

2014 County League of Sportsmen Award winners are announced

 

Shaun Smith of Lee was selected to receive the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) 2014 Sportsman of the Year Award.   The Lee Sportsmen’s Association’s nomination states that “Shaun has been a long time sportsman over the years, and last year celebrated his 40th year being a volunteer for the Massachusetts Paraplegic Hunt program.  For many years he has taken the lead organizing the South County paraplegic hunt to make sure all hunters have a great time.  Shaun is also involved in Hunter Education Courses as a basic instructor and in firearm training as a NRA certified pistol and rifle instructor and a range safety officer.  Shaun runs the indoor archery league and has been working very hard to move the club into the 21st century.”

 

Former Massachusetts DFW Director Wayne MacCallum of Grafton was selected to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.   His many achievements were the main focus of last week’s column.

 

The Adams Outdoor for Youth organization was selected to receive the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.  The 31-year-old non-profit organization was founded by town resident James “Jimmy” Carpenter, who also served as its first president. Meetings occur on a monthly basis, and there are more than 130 “family members.” Among the youth-focused activities and events offered by the group are ice-fishing derbies, a well-attended spring fishing derby held in conjunction with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the BCLS, and another very popular annual youth fishing derby. Annually, it holds a well attended game dinner and 100% of the proceeds are used for financial scholarships for youths interested in attending sports camps and a state-sponsored conservation camp.  Education-focused scholarships are also offered to Berkshire area high school seniors.

 

BCLS President Mark Jester of Pittsfield was selected to receive the prestigious John Zuber Lifetime Achievement Award.   Just look at his accomplishments:  BCLS delegate since 1982 and its president for 17 years, former Lakewood Sportsmen’s Club Secretary; Lenox Sportsmen’s Club Secretary, Board Member and VP since 1984. He was Instrumental in the Adopt-a-Forest Program, involved in getting the ACEC designation for the Housatonic River,  serves on several different environmental and non-profit charitable organizations, former founding member on the Governing Board of the Housatonic River Restorations, Sportsmen for Land Preservation, Western Mass Sportsmen’s Alliance, Berkshire Environmental Coalition, Board of Directors for GOAL, BCLS Representative on the Mass Sportsmen’s Council, appointed to the Massachusetts Zebra Mussel Task Force, leader of the local effort to get the National Archery-in-Schools Program established in the Berkshires.  In the last 4 years he has signed up 10 schools into the program with thousands of students participating.  He has taught youth archery classes at Lenox Sportsmen’s Club since 1996 and coordinates and hosts the Conte Banquet every year. He is constantly meeting with City, State and Federal Legislators, DCR, GOAL, DFW, USF&W and Massachusetts F&W Board on sportsmen’s issues.  He has even testified before the EPA in Washington DC.

 

He has worked on behalf of sportsmen’s issues with and for National Wildlife Federation (NWF) surrounding federal legislation with EPA on the Mercury Rule/ Clean Air and Clean Water Act.

 

He hosts a local TV outdoor sports programs “GOAL Show” with Executive Director James Wallace and “The Outdoor Report” with the NWF. He was named the 2000 BCLS Sportsman of the Year, 2001 Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council Sportsman of the Year and the 2014 recipient of the MSC’s highest award, the Ray Gribbons Award.

 

The richly deserved awards will be presented at the Silvio O. Conte Memorial Banquet at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club on the evening of April 18.   Tickets can be obtained from any BCLS delegate.   *****

 

The East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club will be conducting a Basic Hunter Education Course at its club location at 312 Henderson Road, Williamstown. The dates are April 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 and May 1 from 6 to 9 PM. All first-time hunters who wish to purchase Massachusetts hunting or sporting licenses must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  For more information, call 508-389-7820. *****

 

The next Lee Sportsmen’s Association Pistol Course will be held on Monday March 23rd and Monday March 30th. The cost is $100.  Participants will be given a student packet and learn the attitude, skills and knowledge necessary to become a responsible gun owner.  Course includes handling, dry firing, parts and operation of revolvers and semi auto pistols, cleaning, storage, opportunities to shoot in different venues, and the current MA gun laws.  Upon successful completion, participants will receive a MA State Police Certificate for application for their LTC.  Contact Larry K. at 442-780 for more information. *****

DFW is sending out electronic hunter surveys to approximately 32,000 licensed hunters through Novi Survey, an online survey company. The survey is designed to understand hunter effort and preferences and to collect important local “on-the-ground” information that will help manage game in the Commonwealth. The survey takes approximately 5-15 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous, identifying information such as email and IP address will not be recorded.  If you haven’t received the survey by the end of this month, check your junk or spam folder for an email from MassWildlife/Novi Survey.  A reminder will be emailed to license holders who have not responded within a week. ****

The Locker Room in Lee recently held its 23rd annual ice fishing derby at Laurel Lake.  Tournament Director Butsy Crawford, who recently turned 90 years old, ordered up some great weather and about 100 fishermen participated.   The Adult Heaviest Fish, a 5lb 1 oz pickerel, was taken by Bill Ahern.  The Kid’s Heaviest Fish, a 2 lb 1 oz pickerel was taken by Jack Clarke.  A pasta dinner with raffle prizes was held at the Locker Room afterwards.  All of the proceeds went to Lee Youth Football.