Rabbit Hunting, the other winter sport

My buddy and I decided to take a day off from ice fishing and do a little cottontail rabbit hunting before the hunting season ends on February 28. Like me, he is a life-long rabbit hunter. We both are members of the Berkshire Beagle Club and go there once a week to run the cottontails and snowshoe hares. It is a preserve and hunting with a gun is not allowed there.
He has the hunting bug worse than I do. Every night before we go hunting, I can hear him pacing the floor and he shakes my bed and pulls the blankets in the wee hours of the morning, trying to get me up and moving. We are similar in some respects – both of us are getting a little older and the hair on our heads is becoming a little whiter. Both of us have hearing problems, vision problems, gimpy legs, and are a tad overweight. We both have had operations in the past, me for torn rotator cuff and he for a torn ACL. But we manage to plug along, enjoying our wonderful outdoors, especially in the winter when we can track bunnies in the snow.
This is an unusual year for us. This year he is older than me, and next year, I will be older than him. Oh yes, I forgot to mention. My buddy is a 10- year old beagle named Jacques. In dog years, that puts him at 70 and I am a few years older than him. Next year, at age 11, (dog age 77), he will be older than me by a couple of years.
On the last day we went hunting, the weather was mild, making for a perfect hunting day, so I donned the hunting clothes and grabbed the shotgun and he donned his collar bell, and off a hunting we went. The day started off as usual. Jacques picked up a rabbit scent fairly quickly and off he went in pursuit, nose to the ground, tail wagging a mile a minute and uttering this god-awful scream type of a bark. If you didn’t know better, you would swear he was in agony, but it’s his scream of pleasure, his “Get ready, I’m on his trail” scream. He is in his glory and lives for this. Gosh, I never get tired of hearing this sound, music to a rabbit hunter’s ears. You know, rabbit hunting is all about the dogs.
In my opinion, a good beagle is one that pursues the rabbit scent at a moderate speed and sticks with it, barking all the while, no matter what tricks the bunny will pull to throw him off the track. Good beagles seem to know that they are not supposed to catch the rabbit, but rather to follow it until it makes a turn and comes back near the hunter where he can take a good kill shot, preferably a head shot so as not to get too many shotgun pellets in the meat. After the kill, a good beagle will pick up the rabbit and drop it at the hunter’s feet.
Many hunters that I know will not shoot the bunny but rather let it go by so that the dog can pursue the scent even longer. Sooner or later, if the hunter does not shoot it, it will probably enter a hole or thick brush pile, indicating that the game is over. After a short period trying to get at the rabbit, a good beagle will return to the hunter, and try to find another new scent. And off we go again.
On this day, I really wanted to shoot a rabbit to have for a meal. I developed a taste for them when I was very young when my father or older brothers would shoot a couple of them for a meal. In fact, in later years, father raised domestic rabbits for the table. Hey, he was a 1st generation Frenchman and they, the Italians and most Europeans loved their rabbit meals. Although my mother refused to eat them, she had an excellent recipe for cooking them and the males of our family relished them. But I digress.
Back to our day of hunting, Jacques pushed the rabbit toward me, but for one reason or another, it snuck by without detection. (I blame it on my poor hearing, eyesight, another distraction, inattention, etc.) As Jacques ran past me, still barking on the scent, it appeared as though he gave me a dirty look over his shoulder with an expression of discontent. I’s at times like this when I sympathize with the cartoon character Elmer Fudd. You may recall that he was always being outfoxed by Buggs Bunny, that “Wascal of a Wabbit”.
This bunny was able to shake the dog somewhere in the distance and after a while Jacques returned. Well, we had gotten a couple of hours of enjoyment, fresh air and exercise and it was time to go home, something that Jacques rarely, if ever, wants to do. We’re so thankful that we both are physically able to still do this.
Incidentally, the Berkshire Beagle Club will be having its annual rabbit hunt on February 10. No hunting on the Beagle Club property. Prizes will be awarded for the largest hare and cottontail rabbit. The meat will not be wasted but the lucky hunters will take them home to eat or donate for a future fundraising game dinner. Weigh-in time is 4 PM followed by a venison chili or spaghetti dinner. The charge of $20 which covers the hunt, the meal and raffle tickets. There will also be a 50/50 raffle. For more information, contact John Demary at (413) 684-2228 or (413) 441-2253.
This may be your only chance to participate in a rabbit hunt this year as the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club, which usually has one on President’s Weekend, is not having one this year. Apparently, there is a lack of hunter interest or volunteers to put the event together.
Rabbit hunting appears to be dying sport. You don’t see the numbers of rabbit hunters out there that there used to be. In fact, based upon responses to the MassWildlife hunter surveys for the 5-year period 2012-2016, only 11% of them hunt rabbits these days. Perhaps it’s because people don’t have the free time anymore.
Even if one does have the time, the places to hunt have been drastically reduced over the last few decades. When I think back, almost all of my early rabbit hunting areas in Lenox were within walking distance of my home. I didn’t realize it then, but I was in heaven, walking down the street to the hunting areas with an empty shotgun in one hand and a leashed beagle in the other. Can’t do that now. Those hunting areas are long gone and replaced by streets such as Galway Ct, Bentrup Ct., Dunmore Ct, Clifton CT, Fairway Drive, St Andrews Ct, Cold Brook Road, Delafield St., Old Barn Road, Pine Knoll Road. Stoneledge Road, Melville Ct., Bracelan Ct and others. Perhaps the same has happened to your old hunting grounds.
Thank goodness MassWildlife and organizations such as the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and others are acquiring chunks of land to preserve the open space or establish wildlife management areas. If it weren’t for them, there would hardly be any land left to rabbit hunt.
The days when folks had hunting dogs and dog houses in their back yards are also gone. Every time I see Snoopy sitting on his dog house in the Peanuts comic strip, I think of those old days. The increased populations of coyotes, fisher cats and bears made it necessary to move our beagles indoors (where they immediately took over our houses) or to sturdy kennels. Unaware of the new predators back then, many people lost their dogs to them.
Thank goodness also for the Berkshire Beagle Club with its 80+ acres of fenced in property. Where else can you get the opportunity to run your dogs without fear of them getting killed crossing a road or getting lost. Shooting of the bunnies on BBC land is prohibited. If you have a pedigree beagle with AKC papers, are willing to attend a short monthly meeting, and willing to help in a work party a few times a year the BBC may be for you. The annual fee is reasonable ($200) and membership is restricted to 55 persons, so that there aren’t too many dogs running around overstressing the bunnies. There are strict limits as to how many dogs can hunt at any particular time and one must sign in. If you are a member and think you have a hot shot beagle, you can even enter it into the AKC sanctioned field trials which are held on the property periodically. Warning, your dog will be competing against some of the best beagles in the Northeast.
Pssst ….. don’t tell anyone but the current waiting list to join the BBC is short! Probably, you could get voted in within a couple of months. In the past, it sometimes took several years to get in. To obtain an application, contact me at the address listed below.
Trail camera workshop
On Sunday, February 11 from 1 to 3 PM the Trustees of Reservation will be holding a workshop dealing with trail cameras at Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield. Learn from local expert, Jim Pelletier, the many ways to use trail cameras, how to best set them up for capturing different wildlife as well as when and where to place them. Participants can expect to leave with the ability to set one up on their own. The cost is $5 for TTOR members and $10 for non-members. For more information call (413)229-8600 or cpetrikhuff@thetrustees.org.
Basic Hunter Education Course with Independent Study

There will be a basic hunter education course held at Lee Sportsmen’s Club, 565 Fairview Street, Lee, MA on March 14 and 31. The times are: March 14: 6 to 9:30 PM and March 31: 8 AM to 2:30PM. You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.

This Basic Hunter Education course is a 2-session Independent Study course. This format covers the same material as a traditional Basic Hunter Education course but requires less in-class time as students will work independently to complete homework in between the 2 required in-class sessions.

If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call (508) 389-7830 immediately; students are enrolled first-come, first-served, and courses do fill quickly.


Most hunting seasons are closed


The rabbit and hare hunting seasons closed on February 28 and last Wednesday, the coyote and bobcat seasons also closed. And not a bit too soon for this attractive putty cat.. 

For some reason, we have been seeing an increase in bobcats lately, at least on the East side of Lenox. Jim Lahey of Lee was surprised last winter to see one stroll across his patio.  A few years back, there was one that made its home in our neighborhood on East Street.  That cat hung around for about three years.  We were pretty sure it was the same one as it had a very distinctive limp.   Neighbors Al and Martha Joyner got a kick out of watching it sunning itself on the top of their split rail fence. 

The handsome bobcat pictured was photographed on the lawn of neighbor Tim and Kathy Face also of East Street a couple of months ago.  According to Tim, she had two young kittens with her.  I wish they would visit our place and put a dent into the vole population that has been creating havoc in our vegetable garden.

For many years there was a bounty on them, presumably put on by the DFW in response to farmers’ complaints. Like foxes, bobcats like to frequent the hen houses, too.  The bounty system was ended in 1968.

If you see one of these beautiful animals, consider yourself lucky. There was a time when one would be lucky to see one or two in a lifetime.

Staying on the subject of wild cats (not wildcats) the bobcat’s larger cousin, the Canada lynx, has been sighted recently in Southern VT. One was photographed in Londonderry, VT, and biologists with the VT F&W confirmed the identification and visited the site to confirm its location.

Also, biologists suspect that a lynx was photographed by a game camera in nearby Searsburg, VT. It was photographed by a University of Vermont student who had set a trail camera out near a Rte 9 underpass.  Chris Bernier, a wildlife biologist for the VT F&W was thrilled to see the animal using a wildlife underpass that was created for the express purpose of allowing animals to pass safely under the road.

These were the first confirmed evidences of lynx outside of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom in decades. Lynx are listed as “threatened” under the Federal Endangered Species Act and “Endangered” in the state of Vermont.  Are they headed our way?

Spring Trout Stocking  About 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked this spring from MassWildlife’s five hatcheries. These fish, coupled with the more than 80,000 fish stocked last fall, will provide some excellent fishing in the coming months. Stocking took place in the southeastern area of the state last week with other regions of the state expected to follow soon after. Anglers can get daily stocking updates at Mass.gov/Trout, or contact individual district offices for the latest stocking information.

The following are the 2017 spring trout stocking stats: Most of the trout will be over 12 inches, nearly half of them will be over 14 inches, more than 1,400 brown trout will be over 18 inches, more than 600 brook trout will be over 15 inches and more than 2,000 tiger trout will be over 14 inches.

Beware, ticks are bad this year

I had some free time and decided to take my beagle, Jacques, out rabbit hunting on February 27 before the season closed.  I was hoping to bag a bunny and have it for a meal later in the week.  It was so warm that day that I hurriedly switched out my regular hunting jacket for a lighter one and off we went.


After some time, Jacques kicked up a rabbit and he was hot on its scent.  I picked an open spot where I could get a good shot, and while waiting for the bunny to circle back, I could practically taste that fried rabbit already.   Feeling something crawling on my neck, I rubbed the area, but there was nothing there.  A little while later I felt something crawling in my hair under my hat. This time I removed the hat, got out my comb and there was a tick.  I looked down and there were five others crawling up my pants leg.


After killing them, I reached into my hunting jacket pouch to get the can of Permethren clothing repellent and plastic bag in which to carry the rabbit home.  Oh oh, they were in my other hunting jacket.  Well, I wasn’t going to carry that rabbit with ticks in my coat pouch without being sealed in a bag.  No problem, I thought, I’ll simply field dress the rabbit and leave the fur and ticks in the woods.  Guess what, my hunting knife was in the other jacket, too.  It’s a wonder I remembered to bring my gun.


Jacques was barking excitedly and the rabbit was getting close.  Now what?  Do I shoot it and hand-carry it back home?  No way, I could picture all of the ticks jumping off of it onto my hand and crawling up my arm.


The shotgun bead was right on the rabbit’s head, a chance for a nice clean shot, with no pellets in the meat.  Nope, I didn’t shoot it and let the bunny hop away.


You have undoubtedly heard of lucky rabbit’s feet, well this was one lucky whole live rabbit.


Before leaving the woods, I pulled 3 more ticks off of my clothes. When we got home, we immediately washed up.  Interestingly, he never had a tick on him.


Parting message:  Use a good clothing repellent and check yourself often.

Small game hunting season is upon us



The woodcock hunting season opened last Wednesday and runs through October 29.  It reopens on October 31 and runs through November 19.  Because the woodcock is classified as a migratory game bird but not a waterfowl, lead shot may be used.  However, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) registration is required to hunt them as well as ducks, geese and other waterfowl.


Tomorrow morning marks the opening of duck and Canada goose hunting season in the Berkshire Zone and runs through November 26.  Duck hunting season reopens on December 5 and runs through December 24.  Goose season reopens on December 5 and runs through December 13.  (Although referred to as the Berkshire Zone, its eastern boundary is I-91, Rte 10 and Rte 202.)  Check the regulations regarding daily harvests for the various ducks, geese and woodcock.


The pheasant and ruffed grouse hunting seasons open next Saturday and runs through November 26.  The daily limit for pheasants is 2, and for grouse it is 3.   If hunting a Wildlife Management Area for pheasants or grouse and other small game, you must wear a hunter orange cap.  The exceptions are if you are hunting waterfowl from within a blind or boat or if you are hunting raccoons or opossums at night.


Cottontail rabbit hunting season opens next Saturday in Zones 1 – 12 and runs through February 28, 2017.  Snowshoe hare season opens next Saturday and runs through February 28 in Zones 1-4.  The other zones have differing seasons.  The daily limit is 5 cottontails and 2 hares.


The gray squirrel season, which opened on September 12 in our zone is ongoing and ends on January 2, 2017.  The daily limit is 5.  Rabbit, hare and squirrel hunting seasons are closed during shotgun deer hunting season.


Next Saturday, the coyote hunting season opens and runs through March 8, 2017. There is no daily limit on them but they must be checked in at an official check station or online with MassWildlife.


It is important that hunters check the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Guide for a listing of all of the hunting regulations and remember that hunting on Sundays is prohibited.


Brake for moose

As you may be aware, there have been at least two moose/auto accidents in the Berkshires recently. The Berkshire Eagle has covered them and as a public service, cautioned drivers to be on the lookout for them especially while driving at night.  This is important and bears repeating.

Hitting a moose with a car is dangerous and the results can be tragic. In September and October, cows come into their breeding cycles and they become reckless and travel into residential areas or across major highways.

Because they have no predators, moose can be oblivious to the potential dangers posed by automobiles and most people are unaware of the number of moose in our midst.

Be particularly alert, especially at night during the fall breeding season.  Moose will step out onto a roadway without showing the slightest concern for oncoming traffic. With their long legs, a vehicle hitting a moose take the legs out from under them, flipping their bodies onto the car’s windshield or roof. The dark body is difficult to see and its eyes are much higher in the air than the level of a pair of white tail deer eyes.  Always use your bright lights when traveling at night when there is no oncoming traffic.

Youth deer hunt

MassWildlife reports that statewide there were 1,236 youth deer permits issued this year for the special Youth Deer Hunt Day which was on October 1.  Of that total, 698 permits went to youths aged 12 to14 year olds and 538 permits went to those aged 15 to 17.  Last year, the first year of the youth hunt, 1,339 youths participated.

As of this writing, there were 118 deer reported online.   MassWildlife did not yet have the season total as there are some physical check stations that are not online.  It is expected that the final number could reach between 120 and 125.   Last year 146 deer were harvested during the Youth Deer Hunt Day.

The accompanying picture is of 12- years old Juliann Lawson with her proud dad, Dan, and her first deer.  She harvested the adult doe in Williamstown where her grandfather, Bob McCarthy, let her hunt at his favorite stand.  According to Dan, it took about an hour to see the deer, and she didn’t miss.


Incidentally, Dan Lawson is an avid sportsman and valued delegate of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS), representing the East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club.  Juliann’s grandpa Bob McCarthy is also a well known local sportsman and delegate to the League.  He was named the 1987 BCLS Sportsman of the Year.  With mentors like that, how could she not succeed in bagging her deer.  It is great to see the hunting tradition passed on from generation to generation.


I hope to have the names of other successful youth deer hunters next week.


Fall trout stocking

Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Manager recently reported that they will not be stocking the East Branch of the Westfield River this fall due to low water conditions.  They do intend to stock the Deerfield River as well as the following lakes/ponds:  Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Goose Pond, Richmond Pond, Lake Buel, Big Pond, Otis Reservoir, Windsor Lake, Windsor Pond, Ashfield Pond, Littleville Lake, North Pond, Upper Highland Lake and Norwich Lake.


DFW announces 2015 deer harvest numbers


The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reported that the statewide preliminary deer harvest for 2015 (excluding special hunts and any data not yet received) was 10,042.  The harvest figures for the previous four years beginning with year 2011 were as follows:    11,081, 10,938, 11,413 and 11,165.  In the Western District (WD), which includes all areas west of the Connecticut River (Zones 1 – 4), some 1,887 were taken.   For the previous four years beginning with year 2011 the figures were 3,417, 1,626, 1,664 and 1,737.    Zones 10 and 11 in eastern Massachusetts yielded 4,061 deer in 2015.


The statewide preliminary archery season harvest was 4,188.  Harvest figures for the previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 were as follows:  3,765, 3903, 4,474 and 4,456.  In the WD, 511 were taken with the bow in 2015.   The WD archery harvests for the previous four years, beginning with year 2011, were as follows: 522, 453, 577 and 505.    Zones 10 and 11 yielded 2,108 in 2015.

The statewide preliminary shotgun season harvest was 4,123.    For the previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 the harvests were as follows: 5,349, 4,950, 4,625 and 4,742.  The WD shotgunners checked in 898 in 2015, which compares with the previous 4 years:  904, 842, 739 and 888.  Zones 10 and 11 yielded 1,324 in 2015.  Note – 784 more deer were taken with the bow out there than with shotgun.

The statewide preliminary primitive season harvest was 1,599.  The previous 4 years beginning with year 2011 were: 1,959, 1,958, 2,314 and 1967.  In the WD, muzzleloaders checked in 320 in 2015, which compares with the previous 4 years as follows:   251, 301, 350 and 344.  Zones 10 and 11 muzzleloaders checked in 629 deer in 2015.

The first statewide preliminary youth hunt harvest was 132.  In the WD youths checked in 58 of them.

The total harvested deer by all methods in the WD were as follows: Zone 1 – 293, Zone 2 – 462, Zone 3 – 486, Zone 4N – 436 and Zone 4S – 210.

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

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

As you are well aware, this winter has been an unusually warm one.  Maybe we will get some winter weather yet, but so far winter sports such as skiing, snow shoeing and skating have been dismal.  The same holds true with ice fishing.  But, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal and some sportsmen’s clubs and organizations are still planning ice fishing derbies.  As of this writing I have information on only one derby.


On February 14, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will have its ice fishing derby at Goose Pond from 6AM to 2PM.  The awards and spaghetti and meatball dinner will take place at the LSA Clubhouse after the derby.  The cost for derby and dinner is $15 for adults and $6 for kids.


There will be no Locker Room Ice Fishing Derby on Sunday, February 21 due to ice conditions   but they will still have a pasta dinner and raffle prizes at the Locker Room from 1 to 4 PM.   The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students.  Proceeds will benefit: the Lee Youth Football program.


The Lenox and Cheshire sportsmen’s clubs as well as the Jimmy Fund derbies have been cancelled due to ice conditions.  May I suggest that if any derby is still scheduled, be sure to check with the derby organizers in advance.  Also, satisfy yourself that there is sufficient ice! *****


Next Sunday at 1:00 PM the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will be holding a multi-state firearms course.  It includes firearm laws covering licensing, storage, transportation, operation and safe handling of firearms, shooting fundamentals, etc.  Participants will receive a course certificate which will allow them to apply for licenses in Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire and Maine.  A Utah firearm permit is honored in 30 states.   The fee for the entire 5 hour course is $140 or one can take just the Massachusetts or Utah segments for $100.   Preregistration is required.   Call or e-mail Robert J. McDermott at (413)232-7700 or robmcdermott@verizon. *****


On Monday, February 15, the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club will hold its 33rd annual Presidents Day Rabbit Hunt.  Registration fee is $10 with weigh in at 4:00 PM.  Prizes awarded for heaviest hare and cottontail.  A venison dinner will follow which is included in the registration fee.    Pre-register with Ron Carr @ 413-442-5122 or sign up at the club.  *****


Berkshire waters accounted for 6 gold pin awards last year


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.


Steps taken to control burgeoning deer population near Boston

If you have been following the news releases by MassWildlife about the troublesome deer densities in the eastern part of the Commonwealth, you know they are having a devil of a time getting the numbers to a more manageable and safe level.  For years, they have been issuing tens of thousands of doe or antlerless permits annually.  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.

The hunters are doing their part.  Just in the years 2013 and 2014, they have harvested nearly 10,000 deer out of Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 10 and 11 alone.  But the densities continued to increase.  Part of the problem is that the towns are thickly settled where it would be dangerous to shoot guns.  Some of the towns have banned hunting within their confines.  The result being an ever increasing herd which is causing many automobile accidents, high incidences of deer tick borne illnesses, destruction of residential ornamental shrubbery and a serious threat to the state forests and woodlands there.  The deer are eating everything that is green and actually curtailing new growth and regeneration of the forests.

Well, this year the first ever deer hunt at the State’s Blue Hills Reservation in Milton and Quincy (just outside of Boston) took place. According to a recent MassWildlife news release the special hunt resulted in a total of 64 deer being taken, an encouraging start to a plan for addressing deer overpopulation at the Reservation. As part of a long term deer population management program designed to contend with negative impacts on the Reservation’s forest by high deer populations, the hunt was conducted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) with assistance from MassWildlife, the Environmental Police, and State Police. Hunting took place on 4.5 square miles of the 10-square mile property over 4 days in early December.

Due to the densely populated area surrounding the Reservation, public safety was a major concern and the controlled hunt was conservative and carefully designed with staffing at trail heads, signage, low hunter densities, and just four days of firearms hunting. According to MassWildlife, there were no injuries or other public safety issues during the hunt, demonstrating that a controlled hunt could be safely conducted in a suburban/urban setting.

“Overall, given the conservative framework design for this first year of the hunt, the preliminary 2015 harvest results are very positive,” said David Stainbrook, MassWildlife Deer Project Leader. “The 64 deer taken represents a reduction of approximately 14 deer per square mile from the hunted areas of the reservation. A more significant figure is that 47 deer taken were females, which equates to at least 120 fewer deer in next spring’s population.” A 2013 deer abundance survey conducted by MassWildlife and DCR revealed an estimated average of 85 deer per square mile of forest in and around the Reservation, a figure significantly above the MassWildlife’s desired management range of 6-18 deer per square mile of forest. In accordance with the Blue Hills Deer Management Plan, DCR and MassWildlife will be reviewing this first hunt to assess any needs for potential changes or modifications to the deer reduction phase of the plan. *****

The Berkshire Beagle Club, on Sleepy Hollow Road in Richmond, will be holding its Annual Rabbit Hunt next Saturday, January 16.  Entrance fee is $10 per person and that includes a dinner.  Weigh-in by 3:00 PM.  Contact John Demary at 413-441-2253 if you wish to enter and/or donate some raffle prizes. Prizes go for the largest cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare.  No hunting is allowed on the Beagle Club grounds. *****

For the second week in a row, local sportsmen received bad news of the loss of one of their own.  Last week it was the late Chris Porter.  This week it was the loss of Charles “Chuck” Jones of Dalton.  A very active member of the NRA and Board of Directors of the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club, Chuck was instrumental in starting a Youth Rifle League.  He coached the first competitive women’s pistol team in Berkshire County known as the “Hot Shots” since its inception.  In 2004, he was awarded the very prestigious Berkshire County League of Sportsmen Silvio O. Conte Sportsman of the Year Award.  Our condolences go out to his wife Evelyn (“Hot Shot” member) and his family.  He also will be sorely missed by local sportsmen and shooters.

Well, we didn’t get it for Christmas, but we got it for New Years.  The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) recently announced that its December fund drive realized the final $115,000 needed to buy a conservation restriction (C/R) on the 83 acre Undermountain Farm in Lenox.  (Some $335,000 was previously raised by the BNRC).  The Berkshire Eagle’s Clarence Fanto did a dandy job of spreading the good news (“Deal would preserve 83 acres”, January 5, 2016). Many thanks to the Sprague family for selling the C/R for half of its appraised value, to the 225 donors who really dug deep into their pockets to preserve this land and to the Lenox Land Trust which for years doggedly pursued its conservation.

Although there is no general public right of access to the property, there will be public access to two designated trails to be constructed by the BNRC which will allow the right to walk, cross-country ski or snowshoe on them.

Next up is the 63 acre abutting southern parcel which is part of Parson’s Marsh.  The BNRC will be asking us to come up with another $180,000 to purchase and conserve that land.  Hey!  We’re on a roll.  Let’s do it!

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



Recently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that due to the work and commitment of many conservation partners in New England and New York, the New England Cottontail (NEC) is on the path to recovery and will not be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.  It had previously been classified as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection. This once-common native species survives in five isolated populations across Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

The NEC is the only rabbit native to New England and the area east of the Hudson River in New York. A closely related species, the Eastern Cottontail, expanded across much of the area following introductions around the turn of the 20th century.  The two rabbits look alike— only skull characteristics and genetic samples can be used for an accurate identification.

Unlike the Eastern Cottontail, NEC rely exclusively on young forests and shrublands (early-successional habitats). These habitats are often associated with abandoned agricultural lands, wetlands, woodland clearcuts, coastal shrublands, scrub oak barrens, utility rights-of-way, or other areas where disturbance has stimulated the growth of young shrubs and other plants in dense thickets. The NEC’s range has drastically shrunk since the 1960s as development altered vast areas of the thick, brushy shrubland required by it and other young forest-dependent wildlife.  The remaining forests matured into older and taller woods with little ground-level shelter or food for the native cottontails.

Recognizing both the urgency and the opportunity to conserve the NEC, state and federal biologists began a coordinated, rangewide, science-based conservation initiative that has supported the rabbits’ ongoing path to recovery. The New England Cottontail Initiative represents an extraordinary effort to combine funding and cooperative efforts to advance the conservation of an animal that could have been federally listed.

“Unfortunately, many people view a species listing as a victory, when in fact the real victories are like today’s when we take collaborative action to avoid a listing,” said Jack Buckley, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife ((DFW)  “Proactively managing the rabbit’s conservation needs and keeping it unlisted allows for flexible management options, less conservation action implementation costs, and fewer land use or hunting restrictions.”

Conservation activities for NEC in Massachusetts are focused in southeastern Massachusetts and southern Berkshire County and are led by DFW and a broad range of committed partners. These activities include the following:

  • Conducting habitat management activities such as prescribed fires, tree clearing or thinning on state, federal, and private lands in the Bay State.  To date, over 1,100 acres of pitch pine and scrub oak habitats were thinned and/or burned and nearly 300 acres of trees were cleared to create young forest and shrublands to support NEC populations.  These land management actions took place on lands owned or managed by DFW, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, Joint Base Cape Cod, Mashpee-Wampanoag Tribal Land, UFWS, land trusts, municipalities, sporting clubs, and other private landowners. Additional habitat management activities are scheduled in the upcoming year are as follows:
  • Providing initial funding for landowners both public and private to create NEC habitat.  Primary funding sources in Massachusetts included the USFWS, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and State Wildlife Grants.
  • Collecting rabbit carcasses and pellets to locate NEC in the state.  Many hunters and other conservation-minded groups and citizens in Massachusetts contributed to this statewide effort, with the University of Rhode Island conducting genetic testing.
  • Live trapping and radio-collaring rabbits to learn more about their life history needs, to monitor movements and habitat use, and to provide stock for a captive breeding program.  DFW, USFWS, Mashpee-Wampanoag Tribe and the MA Air National Guard were all involved in this effort.
  • Analyzing vegetation on lands for habitat suitability and monitoring the resulting vegetation growth following habitat management alterations.
  • Continuing the collaboration with state and conservation organization partners across New England and New York. The New England Cottontail Conservation Initiative, consisting of representatives from all of the above mentioned conservation partners will continue oversight on the recovery effort for NEC across New England and New York, providing an important administrative mechanism that allows for conservation coordination across boundaries.

“Though the NEC is not listed, there is still much to be done,” said Director Buckley. He noted that DFW and its conservation partners are seeking help from landowners willing to create and maintain young forest and shrubland habitats. More information about New England Cottontails can be found at www.newenglandcottontail.org  or contact MassWildlife at mass.wildlife@state.ma.us. *****

This year, woodcock hunting runs from October 7 through October 24 and from October 26 through November 21.   Hunting hours are 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset (except on Wildlife Management Areas stocked with pheasants, where hunting hours begin at sunrise). A Harvest Information Program (HIP) Survey is required.  All migratory gamebird hunters must register with the HIP each calendar year either on line at mass.gov/massfishhunt or anywhere hunting licenses are sold. State and Federal Waterfowl Stamps are required for hunting ducks and geese, but are not required for hunting woodcock. *****


DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden recently reported that as a result of President Mark Jester and the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen efforts, the DFW will be implementing a new program similar to the highly successful National Archery in Schools (NAIS)  Program.  Called the Explorer Bowhunting Program it will be designed for other programs or after school programs (Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, etc.)  It was not designed to replace the DFW Bowhunter Education Program but it is a little more hunter based than the NAIS.  There will be more to come on this in the near future.

Schedule of 2015 ice fishing derbies is now available


The above is the schedule of upcoming ice fishing derbies this winter.  Our thanks go out again to Paula Dailey at the Onota Boat Livery in Pittsfield for compiling the 2015 schedule of ice fishing derbies and posting them on its web site   Simply log onto Onotaboat.com to access that list.

Although space does not allow listing all of the derbies raffle prizes, I am making an exception with the Lanesboro Volunteer Fire Dept derby.   For a $10 ticket, you can enter into its raffle which has the following prizes:  1st Prize – Eskimo ice auger valued at $560, 2nd Prize – Ice fishing jet sled filled with everything needed to go ice fishing(except an auger) valued at $650.  All of the proceeds benefit the Lanesboro Volunteer Fire Dept.  Tickets can be obtained at the Onota Boat Livery which, incidentally, donated or provided the above items at cost.   *****

According to Berkshire Beagle Club (BBC) Director John Demary, the rabbit hunt last Saturday was a success considering the cold and raw day.   Some 24 hunters participated, bagging 3 snowshoe hares and 7 cottontail rabbits.

The largest hare was taken by Rylan Kalisz of Adams with one weighing 3.59 lbs.  It was taken in front of his grandfather Dick Kalisz’s (also of Adams) dog Hudson.  The largest cottontail was taken by Dave Morris of Lee with one weighing 3.01 lbs.  It was taken in front of Tom King’s (of Cheshire) dog Boomer.   I am listing the dogs’ names along with the owners because, after all, they did all of the work.

Some of the bunnies were donated to member Russell Moody, Minister of The Pittsfield Church of Christ who cleaned them and gave them to families in need.  It is unfortunate that we have such needy families here in the Berkshires but if there is one consolation it is this:  wild rabbits are delicious.   I grew up eating them and still have a couple of meals of them every year.

Following the contest check–in, the participants enjoyed a delicious meal of venison pasta, venison chili and bear stew.   A raffle followed the meal.

Incidentally, the BBC recently held its officer elections and the following individuals were elected:  President – Rodney Hicks of Hancock, VP – John Demary of Dalton, and Treasurer – Tim Cahoon of Pittsfield.  The Secretary position is open. *****

A Basic Hunter Education Course will be held at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, on March 3, 5, 10, 12, 17 and 19 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  The course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.  All government-issued Basic Hunter Education certificates, from any North American jurisdiction, are accepted as proof of successfully completing the course in order to purchase a hunting or sporting license.

Anyone who has held a hunting license prior to 2007 in this or any other state, or is a graduate of a Basic Hunter Education course in this or any other state, does not need any additional training and may immediately create a customer account and purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license (www.mass.gov/massfishhunt).   Proof of a previous license or certificate is not required.  For more information, call 508-389-7820. *****


On Saturday, February 7 the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be having an All Women’s Basic Pistol Course from 8:00am to 6:00pm.  For more information call Vicki White (413) 442-8107.


Brady Kerr, Secretary of the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club reports that the following leagues have started but there is always time to join in:  Pistol League runs Mondays 7:00pm and Thursdays at noon, Rifle League on Sundays from 10:00am to noon, 2-D Archery shoots on Thursdays and Fridays from 6:00pm to 8:30pm or Saturdays from 12:30pm to3:00pm and 3-D Archery League on Mondays from 6:00pm to 8:30pm.


2013 Preliminary deer season results are in

Recently, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reported that the preliminary deer harvest for 2013 (excluding Quabbin and any data not yet received) was 11,413. Although preliminary, this figure is up 4% from last year’s total harvest. The harvest figures for the previous four years beginning with year 2009 were as follows: 10,381, 10,699, 11,081 and 10,938. In the Western District (WD), which includes all areas west of the Connecticut River (Zones 1 – 4) some 1,664 deer were taken. For the previous four years beginning with year 2009 the figures were 1,667, 1,568, 3,417 and 1,626. Interestingly, Zones 10 and 11 in eastern Massachusetts yielded over 5,000 deer in 2013.
The statewide archery season harvest was 4,474, up 15% from last year. Harvest figures for the previous 4 years beginning with year 2009 were as follows: 3,492, 3,778, 3,765 and 3903. In the WD, 577 were taken with the bow last year. The WD archery harvests for the previous four years, beginning with year 2009, were as follows: 449, 466, 522 and 453. Zones 10 and 11 yielded 2,321 in 2013.
The statewide shotgun season harvest was 4,625, down 7% from last year. For the previous 4 years beginning with year 2009 the harvests were as follows: 4,927, 4,846, 5,349 and 4,950. The WD shotgunners checked in 739 in 2013, which compares with the previous 4 years beginning with year 2009: 857, 815, 904 and 842. Zones 10 and 11 yielded 1,661 in 2013. Some 660 more deer were taken with the bow out there last year than with shotgun.
The statewide primitive season harvest was 2,314, up 11% from last year. The previous 4 years beginning with year 2009 were: 1,958, 2,068, 1,959 and 1,958. In the WD, muzzleloaders checked in 350, which compares with the previous 4 years as follows: 360, 285, 251 and 301. Zone 10 and 11 muzzleloaders checked in 1,020 deer in 2013.
Online reporting was available during deer season for the first time during the 2013 archery and primitive arms seasons. Over 70% of the deer taken during those seasons were reported by hunters through the MassFishHunt system.
Not only is the online reporting system convenient for hunters, DFW claims it allows them to provide preliminary harvest totals much earlier than in previous years. It also allows them to break down the preliminary harvest information by Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ). While total harvest by zone can be informative, it doesn’t provide the complete picture for monitoring trends in deer density because total harvest is influenced by antlerless deer permit allocations in each zone.
The DFW Deer Project Leader analyzes harvest, biological, and hunter effort data, along with hunter success rates, female versus male harvest, and other factors to manage deer populations in each zone. A complete harvest summary will be posted on the DFW website shortly after the annual deer review. Hunters who included their e-mail addresses in their MassFishHunt profile will receive a hunter survey by email in February. *****
The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club will be having its annual Valentine’s Dinner Dance next Saturday evening at 7PM at the clubhouse on New Lenox Road. Tickets costing $25 pp are available from all board members. There will be a roast beef dinner catered by That’s Amore Fine Catering and dancing to DJ Russ Davis. BYOB.

Members should be in great shape for the 6AM registration for their annual Hard Water Open, ice fishing derby on Stockbridge Bowl the next morning.

If that isn’t enough, on the following day (President’s Day) the LSC will be having its 32nd annual rabbit hunt. Pre-registration is required, (Ron Carr at (413)442-5122). The entry fee is $10 with prizes for the heaviest dressed hare and cottontail. Weigh-in deadline is 4 PM followed by a venison goulash dinner. *****

Starting next Friday and running through Sunday, the 17 annual Northeast Fishing and Hunting Show will be held at the Connecticut Convention Center at 100 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT. Click onto http://www.fishinghuntingshow.com for more information. *****

Congratulations to 12-year old Dylan Sondrini of Pittsfield who caught the above pictured largemouth bass last weekend and winning the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club Ice Fishing Derby on Echo Lake. It weighed 6 pounds, was 22 inches long and had a girth of 17 inches. Although he was ice fishing with his dad, Nathan, he set up his own tip-ups and figured out how to catch that big fish. Thanks to his proud mom, Nina, for sending in the picture.

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

Archery deer, fall turkey hunting seasons open tomorrow


Archery season opens tomorrow morning one half hour before sunrise (unless you hunt on a Wildlife Management Area which opens at sunrise) and it ends on November 30. Hunters are allowed to take two antlered deer and a doe if they have an antlerless permit. If they take all three during the archery season, they are done for the deer hunting season (including the shotgun and primitive arms seasons).

Also, the fall wild turkey hunting season opens tomorrow and runs until November 2. Be sure to check the regulations governing this sport.

New this fall, hunters and trappers have two options for checking in deer, turkey, bear, and most furbearers. As in the past, animals may be brought to a game check station, or they can use the online MassFishHunt system to report or check their game via computer. There are two exceptions to this process:
1. During the shotgun deer hunting season, all deer must be checked in at a deer check station in order for the DFW to collect biological data.
2. All bobcats and otters must be checked in at a furbearer check station because they are internationally regulated species.
Tagging and online reporting for bear, deer, and turkeys: are as follows:
Attach the paper tag from permit or license for bear, deer, or turkey to the carcass immediately upon harvesting the animal.
Log in to the MassFishHunt system to report them online within 48 hours of harvest. NOTE: Hunters must complete this checking/reporting process BEFORE processing game for consumption, or taxidermy.
After answering the online game checking questions, the system will assign a confirmation number for each individual animal reported. This number must be written on the tag attached to the carcass. The confirmation number written on the tag is the official seal issued by MassWildlife and takes the place of the traditional metal seals used at check stations.
The tag must remain attached to the animal until the game is skinned, butchered, or otherwise prepared for food purposes; or for mounting by a taxidermist.
Confirmation numbers are non-transferable to other animals and they cannot be used for any other game animals except the ones for which they were issued.
Deer hunters are reminded that during the shotgun season for deer, all deer must be checked in at a deer check station.
Hunters and trappers can report their furbearers (beaver, coyote, fisher, fox and mink) online also. Log in to the MassFishHunt system and follow the instructions on how to report the harvest of these animals.
Meat processors and taxidermists can only take into possession bear, beaver, coyote, deer, fisher, fox, mink, or wild turkey with either an official DFW metal or plastic seal affixed to the carcass or pelt or with a tag noting the assigned MassFishHunt confirmation number affixed to the carcass or furbearer pelt. It is illegal to accept any of the above game animals without a DFW official seal or confirmation number written on an attached tag. Bobcat and otters may not be accepted into possession unless tagged with an official plastic seal. *****
Flyfishing guide and author Marla Blair will be the guest speaker at the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited meeting this Thursday evening, at the Bass Water Grill on Rte 8 in Cheshire. She will be discussing “The Hatch and body language for trout and choosing a pattern”. She will also demonstrate the tying of her iconic Jailbird emerger fly during social hour. Marla achieved international fame when she wrote the popular fishing book Practical Fly Fishing. The event is free and open to the public. Social hour starts at 5 PM, Marla’s presentation starts at 6 PM and dinner off of the menu (if you so choose) to follow at 7 PM. For more information, contact Ron Wojcik at (413)684-4141 or rwojcik@bcn.net.
Staying with TU, congratulations go to the Mass/RI Council of TU for receiving national recognition in TU National’s quarterly publication of Trout. Magazine Members of the 13 Massachusetts and Rhode Island chapters received an appeal for help in replanting a portion of river bank at the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) Indian Hollow Campground. Located along the banks of the Westfield River in Chesterfield it was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Some 225 willow tubelings were secured and 85 volunteers from each chapter (including our local Taconic Chapter) planted them in about 2 hours. Their efforts have been praised by the ACOE and the Chesterfield Conservation Commission. Incidentally, Paul Knauth of Dalton is in his third term as Council Chairman. *****.
There will be a Multi-State Firearm License Course next Sunday at 1:00 PM at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club. This course is unique in that it qualifies you to apply for licenses in Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire and Maine. A Utah concealed firearm permit issued to a non-resident is honored in 32 states. If you apply for all 4 licenses, you will be legal in 36 states. The fee for the entire 5-hour course is $150 or you can take just the Utah segment for $100 or just the Massachusetts segment for $80. The fee is due in cash at the course. There is no exam but bring a pad and pen to take notes. Seating is limited and preregistration is required. Call or e-mail and provide your full legal name plus date of birth to Robert J. McDermott at (413)232-7700 or robmcdermott@verizon.net.*****
In last week’s column I erroneously listed the end of the coyote hunting season as being March 28, 2014. The correct date is March 8, 2014. I knew that and don’t know why I wrote otherwise. Freudian slip, I guess, or wishful thinking.