2016 Black Bear harvest was a record

 

MassWildlife Furbearer and Black Bear Project Leader Dave Wattles recently reported that a new record of 283 bears were harvested over the three 2016 seasons. The previous record harvest of 240 bears occurred in 2014.

During the first (September) season, 190 bears were taken, 46 were taken in the second (November) season, and 47 were harvested during the shotgun deer hunting season. According to Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden, 205 bears were taken in the Western District with 94 in Berkshire County.  Some of the higher Western District  harvests occurred in the following towns: Blandford accounted for 17 of them, Granville 13 and Cummington 10.

Madden also reported that 93 wild turkeys were harvested statewide during the fall turkey hunting season.  Some 15 of them were harvested in the Western District.  Earlier this year, MassWildlife’s Wild Turkey Project Leader David Scarpitti reported that the statewide spring preliminary harvest figures indicated that 3,054 wild turkeys were taken   So it looks like about 3,147 wild turkeys were harvested this year.

 

No 2016 deer harvest figures have been released yet.

 

Remembering Peter Mirick

It was reported in a recent MassWildlife newsletter that Peter Mirick, retired editor of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, avid sportsman and herpetologist, passed away in December from cancer. He began his career with MassWildlife in 1977 as a staff writer for the magazine and served as an assistant biologist before becoming the magazine editor in 1981.

 

During his time with the Division, he earned a Master’s Degree in Biology from Worcester State College. Pete was an avid herpetologist, conducting research on the endangered Black Rat Snake and assisting with projects related to other reptiles and amphibians. During his career, he was active with professional organizations including The Wildlife Society, New England Outdoor Writers Association, and the Association of Conservation Information. He received a number of awards for his writing and editing and was the lead editor of the “Trapping and Furbearer Management in North American Wildlife Conservation” publication, which is used by state conservation agencies across the country.

 

He also authored the recently published “Massachusetts Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles.  (An excellent book currently on sale at the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton, MA).

 

Pete was a strong believer in educating people, particularly youth, about wildlife conservation and was a passionate advocate for hunters, anglers, and trappers. He will be greatly missed by many, including the folks at MassWildlife, natural resource professionals, naturalists, and sportsmen and women.

 

Water Flowing at McLaughlin Fish Hatchery

In the same MassWildlife newsletter it was announced that last month officials turned on the water pipeline at the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown. Construction began in June 2016 on the nearly mile-long water pipeline and hydropower turbine that will supply six million gallons of water daily to the hatchery, produce renewable energy, and reduce the hatchery’s electric demand.

McLaughlin Hatchery, built in 1969, is located in Belchertown near the Swift River and is the largest of MassWildlife’s five trout hatcheries. This hatchery is responsible for half of the state’s entire annual trout production, approximately 225,000 pounds, with a “retail value” exceeding $2 million dollars. Fish raised at McLaughlin Hatchery are stocked in nearly 500 rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout Massachusetts.

The water pipeline project taps water from the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct and provides the McLaughlin Trout Hatchery with a reliable, gravity-fed source of cold water, eliminating the environmental and biological risks associated with the water withdrawal from the Swift River. The result will be an energy cost savings of $60,000 per year. The project also includes installation of a hydropower turbine on the pipeline. The construction of the building for the hydropower generator is well underway and the hydropower generator has been delivered to the site. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has received a grant to fully cover the cost of the hydropower unit which will generate almost $53,000 in annual revenue for the MWRA. As MassWildlife put it, “This project is a win – win scenario for the MWRA, the hatchery, and the Commonwealth”.

 Fly Fishing Show

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 20 through 222 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day.  While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.  I always pick up one or two autographed books and fly tying stuff while there

 

All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod.  Some of the celebrity authors this year include Gary Borger, Bob Clouser,  Ed Engle, Bob Popovics and many other flyfishing stars and they will be happy to autograph your books. There will be more than $60,000 in door prizes.

 

Show Hours are:  Friday:  10AM – 6PM, Saturday:  9AM – 5:30PM and Sunday:   9AM – 4:30PM.  Ticket costs:  One day $15, Two-day pass $25, Three-day pass $35, Children under 5 free, under 12: $2, Scouts under 16 in uniform: free and Active Military with ID: $10.   Click onto  flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details.

 

Every year I write this,  but it is true – for flyfishers/flytyers this is a must-attend event.

 

Truckload of goodies raffle

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Truckload of Goods raffle winners were:   Truckload – Cara Aherne of Pittsfield, 2nd – Derek Wells of Adams, 3rd – Joe Fuller of Lee 4th – Dave Harmon of Pittsfield, and 5th – C. Barrie of Pittsfield.  Now that’s a good way to start off the new year

2016 shotgun deer hunting season off to a good start

 

 

As of noon last Wednesday, 82 deer were checked in at the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton, MA. Some 52 were checked in on opening day.  That figure is significantly higher than last year’s figure at the same time.  Some of those deer were bruisers with beautiful antlers and good body weights..  For example, Peter Derby shot a 6 point buck in Hinsdale that weighed in at 202 lbs.  Thomas Wiencek shot a 9 point buck in Cheshire that weighed 198 lbs.  These were field dressed weights.  To estimate their actual live weights, multiply the field dressed weight by 1.26.  So the estimated live weight of Derby’s deer was approximately 255 lbs and Wiencik’s deer weighed approximately 249 lbs.  Nice deer, ey?

 

The season was only two and a half days old and preliminary harvest numbers were not available from the outlying check stations.  We do know that the Mill River check station weighed three huge deer; a 10 pointer weighing 181 lbs, an 8 pointer weighed in at 186 lbs and another 10 pointer which weighed 157 lbs.   There was an 8 pointer shot in Richmond that weighed 176 lbs, an 8 pointer that weighed 179 lbs and a 10 pointer weighing 184 lbs shot in Lee.  There was an 11 pointer that weighed in at 164 lbs in Monterey and a 12 pointer taken off of Mt Greylock that weighed 174 lbs.  These large deer were in addition to the “normal” sized deer.
DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden said that his office and the outlying check stations all exceeded last year’s harvest numbers for opening day.  He attributed the high harvest numbers to the almost ideal conditions:  ample snow for tracking and pleasant temperatures.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, when I was at the office, the conditions were less than ideal with pretty good downpours.  Even so, the hunters were not deterred.  Around noon time on Tuesday there was a steady stream of hunters checking in their deer.   That kept Madden and Wildlife Technician Derek McDermott out in the rain most of the day checking them in.

 

Effective last year, a third black bear hunting season was started which runs through the 2 week shotgun deer hunting season.  As of noon on Wednesday, 4 bear were checked in at the Western District Check Stations.  According to Madden, this indicates that all of the bears have not yet denned up for the winter in spite of the large snowfall which occurred the previous week.  He did say; however, that hunters can still tag bears online during this season, so he doesn’t yet know  what the tally is.

 

With the hard rainfall and fog on Tuesday and Wednesday, much of the snow melted and tracking might have been more difficult.  But there was plenty of mud and soft ground so it was still possible to track the deer.

 

The shotgun deer hunting season runs until next Saturday, December 10.  If you haven’t been able to get out yet, don’t worry.  There appears to be a lot more deer out there this year, possibly due to the mild winter we had last year.   This year’s shotgun harvest numbers should be relatively high.  After that season, the primitive firearms (black powder) deer hunting season opens on Monday, December 12 and runs through Saturday, December 31.

 

 

 

Coyote Derby

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 8, 2017.  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.

 

Licenses on sale

The 2017 hunting, sporting, freshwater fishing, and trapping licenses are available for purchase through MassFishHunt, at a license vendor location, or at a DFW office.   Good news!  There are no increases in the license fees this year.    In fact, there has not been a license fee increase since 1996.

 

At that time, Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey of Lenox, and the then DFW Director Wayne MacCallum calculated that with the $10 fee increase they imposed, they wouldn’t have to request another increase until the year 2006.  It has now been twenty years.

 

How is that possible, you ask?  Darey attributes it to several factors:  good grant writing, division downsizing, modernization and priority.  Darey said that during the downsizing, no one lost their jobs.  One examples of modernization is that more and more pheasants are being bought, rather than raising then.  This allows for excellent birds at  lower prices because they are saving money on manpower costs.  The Division is also utilizing more economical ways of raising the fish, too.

 

2016 Guides are available

You can now download your 2017 Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing and Trapping Laws (formerly called the abstracts) or pick one up at a licensed vender or at a DFW office.  This year’s cover has a nice picture of a coyote.

 

Listed in the 2017 Guide are the following changes:  1) Migratory game bird seasons and bag limits are now set in the Spring;  2) Federal Migratory Game Bird Stamps may be purchased online through MassFishHunt (mass.gov/massfishhunt) when purchasing your hunting license and state waterfowl stamp and 3)There are new Learn-to-Hunt and Explore archery and bowhunting programs that provide unique opportunities for new hunters and archers to gain important knowledge and skills.

 

In the 2017 Guide, DFW Director Jack Buckley highlighted some of the Division’s accomplishments during 2016.  I plan to list them in next week’s column.

Black bear/early goose hunting seasons open this Tuesday.

This Tuesday morning the first of three black bear hunting seasons begins.  Hunters are reminded that last year there were some changes to the bear hunting seasons. The first season runs from Tuesday September 6 through Saturday, September 24.   The second season runs from Monday, November 7 through Saturday, November 26.  The third season takes place during shotgun deer hunting season, November 28 through December 10.  The regulations are complicated when it comes to determining which hunting implement is legal in which season, so I have once again included a grid which was furnished by MassWildlife and may be of some help.

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

Hunters are still advised to review page 33 of the 2015 Fish & Wildlife Guide to find out how and when to report the harvest and other important information.  Remember, a permit is required to hunt black bears.

Also on Tuesday, September 6, the Early Canada Goose hunting season opens statewide and runs through Friday, September 23.   The bag limit is 7 and possession limit is 21.  The hunting hours are from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset (except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail seasons when hunting hours begin at sunrise and end at sunset).

They may be hunted with shotguns no larger than 10 gauge.  Shotguns capable of holding more than 3 shells may not be used unless plugged with a one-piece filler.

Each waterfowl hunter 16 years or older must carry on his person a valid federal waterfowl stamp and each hunter 15 years or older must purchase a Massachusetts waterfowl stamp.  Stamps are required for hunting ducks and geese but not for hunting woodcock.  Non-toxic shot is required for all waterfowl hunting; no lead shot can be in your possession.

Migratory game bird hunters must complete an online Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey each calendar year.  If you have not completed the HIP survey, visit a local license vendor, MassWildlife office, or go to www.mass.gov/massfishhunt to be sure you have completed the survey.

This year the Youth Waterfowl Hunt for youths aged 12 to15 takes place on Saturdays September 24 and October 8.  Check the 2016-2017 Migratory Game Bird Regulations for all of the regulations dealing with the youth hunt.

Steak & Lobster dinner dance

The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club will be having a steak and lobster dinner dance on Saturday, September 17 at its clubhouse off of New Lenox Road, Lenox.  Dinner will be at 6:00 p.m., followed by dancing to music provided by DJ Russ Davi.  B.Y.O.B.  The ticket cost is $25.00 pp and can be ordered by e-mailing the club at info@lenoxsportsmensclub.com

Their turkey Shoots are scheduled to start Sunday September 18 and will run every week until Sunday Nov 18.

Kids Fishing Derby

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

Homer Ouellette

Recently, Homer Ouellette of Pittsfield passed beyond the river bend at age 90.  He was an ardent fly fisherman, perch fisherman and deer hunter.  I should mention from the start that the comments about Homer also apply to his older brother Paul Ouellette of Lanesborough, who still fishes with us.   They were inseparable and when you saw one in an outdoor event, you saw the other.

Homer was a charter member of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited who eventually became its president and a director.  He was an early recipient of Taconic TU’s highest award, the Crooked Staff Award. He was a volunteer in the Atlantic Salmon restoration program, stocking salmon fry in the Westfield River.  He helped establish the Friends of the Williams River group by conducting river surveys.   He was an excellent fly tyer and fisherman and helped teach it at BCC in the 1970’s/1980’s.  In fact, that is where I first met him.  He was such a cool and knowledgeable fly tyer/fisherman that I immediately joined TU because of him.   I wanted to be just like him.

I treasure the memories of him flyfishing the Westfield River at Indian Hollow and those times when we flyfishermen sat around the evening campfire after a day of fishing.  We, listened to the soft music which emanated from his harmonica and enjoyed his stories of flyfishing in the past.  It was from him that I first heard the term “fishing beyond the river bend”, when a fly fisherman passed away.

He was also a member of the tongue-in-cheek organization known as Perch Unlimited or PU!  While staying at their cottage in Vermont (the Owl’s Nest), they would often ice fish for perch on Lake Champlain and caught many of them.  Homer did his share of deer hunting out of that camp, also.  (You may recall a couple of articles that I wrote about that camp last fall.)

He was an excellent bowhunter and for many years taught the bowhunting course for the Mass DFW.  He, along with his brother Paul, received the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award.  To quote the citation, “they have devoted countless hours to stream improvement, salmon fry stocking and bowhunting safety instruction courses.  They have been instrumental in instructing thousands of archers in dozens of courses they have hosted as Bowhunting Education Instructors.  Every sportsman can think of one or two people who helped spark their passion for the outdoors.  Homer and Paul Ouellette have touched many sportsmen’s lives.”

A reminder that hunting seasons are coming up and the club is always looking for game for our dinners. If you want to donate your harvest, please contact the club at info@lenoxsportsmensclub.

Infested ash trees are very dangerous

In his January report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported on the status of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Massachusetts.   It has now been discovered in 4 regions of Massachusetts (Berkshire County, Andover, Boston and Worcester).  In the Berkshires, EAB was first discovered in Dalton but has now also been found in Windsor, Hancock and Lee.      

Since its discovery in 2002 in Michigan the EAB has been spreading rapidly throughout the Midwest and Northeast. EAB kills the ash tree within a couple of years of infestation. Madden feels that it is likely that we will approach complete mortality of untreated ash trees over the next 10-20 years. Ash trees make up 4-8% of the hardwood forests in Massachusetts, but compose a larger percentage in Berkshire County.  Pesticide treatments can be effective in treating individual trees and biological controls have been introduced with some evidence of early success.

Hunters, hikers and other users of wooded areas should be aware that infested trees deteriorate rapidly, completely dry out and may come down unpredictably with very little force. Small windstorms shatter them, so don’t trust them.  In the past, one could feel pretty solid standing on a 1 inch ash limb but if infested don’t even go near a 5 inch limb.  They dry out so much that they are completely unpredictable.

Madden advises bow hunters to pay special attention to the ash trees and pick a different kind of tree for their tree stands.   Turkey hunters who often sit at the foot of trees should avoid them also.

 

Many towns have ash trees along their streets and will have to address this issue lest they be falling on telephone and power lines, or even worse, on people.*****

Madden also reported that the DFW has made a new land acquisition. Located in the Town of Egremont, this new parcel contains about 23 acres and has 960 feet of road frontage along Rowe Road and about 2,500 feet along the Green River, an excellent cold water stream. 

The property abuts other lands along the Green River and Rowe Road owned by the DFW (North Egremont Wildlife Management Area), and it also abuts land along the Green River owned by the Egremont Land Trust which is under a Conservation Easement (C/E) held by the DFW (North Egremont WCE).  Funding for a large portion of the acquisition came from the Housatonic Natural Resources Damages program. *****

MassWildlife Furbearer and Black Bear Project Leader Laura Conlee recently reported that statewide, some 228 bears were harvested during the three 2015 open seasons combined. The record harvest of 240 bears occurred in 2014. During the traditional September and November seasons a total of 175 bears were taken, while an additional 53 bears were taken during the new two-week season which ran concurrently with the shotgun deer season.

The bears are gradually spreading eastward in the Commonwealth. Last year, six bears were taken in Wildlife Management Zone 8 and two in WMZ 9.  No bears were taken yet in the newly-opened WMZs to the east of Zone 9, but it’s just a matter of time.  No information is available yet as to the harvest numbers here in the Western District (Zones 1 through 4).

In my December 13, 2015 column, I had mentioned a 450 lbs live weight bear which was harvested by Dick Superneau of Clarksburg.  It weighed 375 lbs field dressed.  Well, it turns out that a much larger bear was taken last December in Athol by Jim Mundell of Athol. It took Mundell four hours to get it out of the woods with the use of a backhoe. When he checked his bear in at the Sunderland Hatchery it weighed 498 lbs field dressed and perhaps is the state “unofficial” record. Massachusetts does not keep official state bear records but they do maintain a database of the largest bears on record.   According to the UMASS Cooperative Extension System, the existing state record (dressed weight) for a male black bear in Massachusetts was 467 lbs.

Regardless of whether it is the new state record, the 498 pounds was the weight after the bear had been dressed, and it was estimated by officials to have weighed 650 pounds while alive. To put that in perspective, according to the MassWildlife website, Massachusetts male black bears average 230 lbs, while females average 140 lbs.  To see a picture of that bear, google “Mass state record black bear.” *****

The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from January 22 through 24 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day.  While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.

 

All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod.  Some of the celebrity authors this year include Ed Engle, Jay “Fishy” Fullum, Bob Popovics, Ben Furminsky, Bob Romano and others, and they will be happy to autograph your books.

 

Show Hours are:  Friday:  10AM – 6PM, Saturday:  9AM – 5:30PM and Sunday:   9AM – 4:30PM.  Ticket costs:  One day $15, Two-day pass $25, Three-day pass $35, Children under 5 free, under 12: $2, Scouts under 16 in uniform: free and Active Military with ID: $10.   Click onto  flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details.

 

For flyfishers/flytyers this is a must-attend event.

Preliminary results of new bear hunting season are in

 

This year is the first year that black bear could be hunted during the two week shotgun deer hunting season which ran from November 30 to December 12.  This is in addition to the two other bear hunting seasons; the first season ran from September 8 to September 26 and the second from November 2 through November 21.  The additional hunting season is the latest tool that the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) has employed to try to manage the rapidly growing bear population statewide.

In his December 10 report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that preliminary harvest numbers of black bear taken during the two week shotgun deer hunting season statewide should be about 45.   They may still have some check stations that haven’t reported in yet, but he doubts that the number is likely to change by more than a few bears.  He predicts that the final number will probably be between 45 and 50.

We probably shouldn’t expect such high numbers every year.  This year’s warm weather was undoubtedly a factor in the harvest totals.  The bears were probably still actively foraging for food and had not yet settled into their dens for their long winter sleeps.

The final numbers for the September and November bear hunting seasons have not yet been released by DFW for either the state or western district.  The total statewide bear harvest for 2014 was 240 with 78 of them coming from Berkshire County. *****

In his report, Madden also stated that a preliminary look at Western District check stations indicated a good first week of shotgun deer season with numbers up slightly from last year and good quality deer being checked.  This is in spite of the lack of snow which usually affords better tracking conditions.

The following are some of the larger deer taken in the Western District.  Included are  the hunters’ last names, dressed out deer weights and towns where the bucks were taken:  Wright – 196 lbs, Cheshire; Salvatore – 187 lbs, West Stockbridge; Majchrowski – 182 lbs, Dalton; Turner – 190 lbs, Hancock; Voudren – 190 lbs, Russell; Thomas – 194 lbs, Blandford and Gaudette – 202 lbs, Sandisfield.  Gaudette’s deer was a 10 pointer.

The live weights of all of the above deer were undoubtedly over 200 lbs.  Although not a true scientific measurement, if you apply the formula of field dressed weight x 1.25 you should come up with an approximate live weight of a deer.  If one applies that formula to Gaudette’s deer, then the live weight was probably about 250 lbs.

While we are on the subject of deer weights, let’s carry it a step further and try to figure out the realistic venison yield.  How many times have we heard of people accuse the deer processor of not giving back all the meat.  Well, consider the following.

One adult bucks weighing over 160 lbs, one must deduct 9% of its weight which represents the hide; 11.7% is bone and some percentage representing the blood. Then one must consider the part of the meat that has been damaged by the bullet or improper field dressing.  A neck shot has very little ideal meat ruined, whereas a deer shot in the loin or hind quarter area has more of the ideal meat ruined.

According to University of Wisconsin research, a mature buck weighing 165 pounds field-dressed would ideally yield 83.08 pounds of boneless meat and realistically yield about 58 pounds of good meat.  Information came from http://www.butcher– packer.com and http://askthemeatman.com websites.. *****

Looking for a new project for your man cave this winter?  Have you thought about taking up fly tying but didn’t know where to start?  Well the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited is once again hosting a fly-tying event this afternoon.  The event is free and open to all TU members and their friends.  It will be an informal gathering with members bringing in their own vises and tying materials. They expect to have a few extra sets available for those just curious about tying. This is a great opportunity to learn about fly tying and to exchange patterns and ideas.  They will gather in the lounge at the Wahconah Country Club on 20 Orchard Road, Dalton from 2:00 to 6:00 PM.  Refreshments can be purchased at the Club.   If interested contact Henry Sweren at hsweren8@aol.com. *****

 

The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will have youth archery sign ups Saturday, January 2, 2016 in the archery range from 8:00 to 10:00 AM.   You can also download applications from their website www.stockbridgesportsmansclub.org. The cost is $40 per child and you do not have to be a member of the club.  They will shoot the following 10 Saturday mornings.  For more information, call Mike Buffoni at 413-323-7703. *****

On Sunday, January 17, Avid Sport on 1201 West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield will be holding a Firearms Safety Course which allows you to apply for your FID card or Pistol Permit.   The class is usually limited to 9 and you are required to prepay to lock in a seat.  The cost is $100.  For more information, call 413-997-3600.

If you live in Northern Berkshires, there is another firearms safety course on the same day in North Adams.  Dan Peck, NRA and Massachusetts State Police Certified Instructor will be teaching that course.  For location, hours and more information, call 413-663-4896. *****

The DFW Western District office has a new biologist.  His name is Nate Buckhout from East Hampton, MA.   An Air Force veteran, Nate received his BA from the United States Air Force Academy and his Masters degree in Wildlife Conservation from UMASS Amherst.  He filled Tony Gola’s position who retired earlier this year.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818

Some hunting seasons open this Tuesday.

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Time running out to apply for antlerless deer permit

To harvest an antlerless deer in Massachusetts, hunters must possess a valid hunting or sporting license as well as an Antlerless Deer Permit (permit) for the Wildlife Management Zone (WMZ) in which they intend to hunt. The permit allows the harvest of one antlerless deer in the specified zone during any deer hunting season. Hunters must have a permit in their possession while hunting.

 

If you have not applied for a permit yet, you must do so by July 16.  There is no fee to apply but a $5 fee is charged if you are awarded a permit during the Instant Award period.   You may apply  by visiting the MassFishHunt web site, a MassWildlife office, or a license vendor.  Then, during the Instant Award Period, from August 1 through December 31, you can try to win a permit.

 

MassWildlife reminds citizens that the female segment of the deer population is used for population management since with each female deer harvested, not only is the individual removed from the population but so too is that deer’s future reproductive potential.  Therefore, in regions of the state where there are high numbers of deer per square mile, a large number of permits are made available.  Conversely, in regions where there are relatively fewer deer (sometimes resulting from poor habitat quality), fewer permits are allocated for hunters.

 

Each year MassWildlife determines the number of permits to issue for each of its fifteen WMZ’s.  Any surplus permits are made available in October. Although no official announcement has been made yet, MassWildlife anticipates that there will be no changes in the permit allocations this year – they will be the same as last year.  The Fish & Wildlife Board endorsed this at its May meeting. *****

 

Incidentally, the Worthington Rod and Gun Club at 458 Dingle Road, Rte. 112 will be having a Basic Hunter Education Course on July 20, 21, 23 and 24 from 5:30 to 9:00 PM.  To enroll, call (508)389.7830.

 

This course is mandatory and designed for first-time hunters.  In order to purchase a hunting license, a hunter must have successfully completed a Basic Hunter Education course from any US state, Canada, or Mexico.   Funding for the program is derived from the sale of hunting and sporting licenses and from federal excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment.  All courses are conducted free of charge. *****

 

Staying with the subject of hunting, there have been some changes made in the regulations governing black bear hunting this year.   Black bear hunting is now permitted in all zones throughout the Commonwealth.  (Previously, bear hunting was only allowed  in Zones 1 through Zone 9).

 

Also, in an effort to get the bear population to a manageable level, bear hunting is now permitted during shotgun deer hunting season.  Hunters already afield during the shotgun deer season can now take a bear anywhere in Massachusetts  provided they have a $5 Bear Permit and use:  1.) shotgun not larger than ten gauge, including shotguns with a rifled bore, slugs only; 2.) muzzle-loading firearm fired from the shoulder, .44 to .775 caliber; or 3.) bow and arrow.

 

During the shotgun deer season, all deer hunting regulations apply.  Hunters must wear 500 square inches of blaze orange on their chest, back, and head.  Only hunting implements that may be used for hunting deer may be used for hunting bear; no rifles or handguns are allowed.

So, to recap the black bear hunting season dates this year, they are as follows:  First Season: September 8 through September 26, Second Season: November 2 through November 21 and Shotgun Season: November 30 through December 12.  Hunting is prohibited on Sundays*****

 

Congratulations to MassWildlife for recently receiving a $720,000 North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant award to support habitat restoration and conservation projects that benefit wetland and upland habitats and over 160 bird species at several locations in the Great Marsh. The Great Marsh consists of more than 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat, and upland islands from Gloucester to Salisbury.  The Great Marsh is the largest contiguous saltmarsh in New England. This was the tenth NAWCA grant focused on wildlife conservation efforts in the Great Marsh in the past twenty years.

This grant will protect more than 1,140 acres, restore 202 acres, and enhance 80 acres of habitat, which include saltmarsh, mudflats, coastal islands, maritime forests, and shrub. The area’s outstanding habitats support healthy populations of wildlife which are in need of special conservation action, including American Black Duck, Woodcock, New England Cottontail, Bobolinks, and Saltmarsh Sparrow—the only endemic breeding bird (doesn’t nest anywhere else) in the northeastern United States.

“This is the largest and most complex wildlife conservation grant award the Division has received,” said Jack Buckley, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. *****

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the free fly fishing demonstration which was sponsored by the Hoosic River Water Association and put on by fly fishing guide Chris Jackson on the Hoosic River at Cole Field in Williamstown.   He is an excellent fly caster and fisherman and I picked up some good pointers from him and learned a new location in which to fish the river.    Jackson can be reached at www.flyfishthedeerfield.com.   Allow yourself some time for the site is packed with useful information and excellent fly tying videos. *****

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is running a Basic Pistol Course on the Monday evenings of July 13 and July 20 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  The course cost is $100.00.  To sign up, contact Larry Karlquist at (413) 442-7807. *****

 

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding another free kid’s trout fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, July 11 from 9 to 10:30 AM.

As expected, 2014 Black Bear harvest shattered old record

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

And now for the youngsters:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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