Saturday, April 22, was the day when the youths and their mentors took to the woods to bag a gobbler. For the kids it was the culmination of classroom instructions, safety classes, shooting practice, etc. Traditionally, the special youth turkey hunting day occurs on the Saturday before the opening day of the spring turkey hunting season. Each year I try to cover the kids at a different sportsmen’s club that has the youth turkey hunting program. Last year I was at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, this year the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club and next year I hope to be at the Lee Sportsmen’s Club.
This year the SSC had a fairly large group of kids (20) to mentor. As you can see by the photo, they did very well with 5 kids bagging birds and just about every kid and mentors had action, either by having toms respond to their calls or having opportunities to see some. That’s really important for it takes a great deal of fortitude for the youngsters to get up early and be out in the woods before daybreak. If they don’t have some kind of positive action, they may get immediately discouraged and not ever go turkey hunting again.
Mike Buffoni, who heads up the Stockbridge program and who also is a mentor had a memorable morning himself. He and his accompanying youth spotted a female moose during the hunt. Others hunters spotted a bear of two. Mike has to be super proud of his two sons Max and Marco for they both bagged gobblers.
The day started off damp and raw with a few sprinkles here and there but as the day progressed, it warmed up. When the kids and mentors returned to the club around noon, (turkey hunting must cease at noon) they were treated to a hot roast beef dinner expertly prepared by Chef Peter Delgrande.
After the meal, the customary procedure is to teach the kids how to dress the birds, breast them out for consumption, and save the tail feathers, beards and spurs for display. Getting that first turkey was a big event for these kids and I’m sure they wanted to save such items for fond memories and bragging rights.
While one of the mentors was eating his meal, he picked at least 20 ticks off of his shirt – both wood ticks and deer ticks. He had hung his hunting jacket on the back of his chair and they were jumping off of that onto his shirt. He said that he had also pulled a lot of ticks off of him when he finished hunting and was leaving the woods.
From what I hear and see, this is going to be one heck of a year for ticks, so please make sure you use a tick repellent spray on your clothes, such as permethrin, and be sure to carefully inspect yourself when you get home.
Matt Ranzoni, who headed up the Lee Sportsmen’s Association youth hunt, had 6 kids participate this year and 3 of them were successful. Donavan Coccomo got a tom weighing 21 lbs, Hunter Briggs got a 20 lb bird and Matt Driscoll got a 15 lb jake. Travis Bush passed up a jake because he saw a tom that he was after. The other two hunters, Dorian Page and Owen Bush had close calls.
No word was received as to how the kids at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club did.
The Lee and Cheshire youth turkey hunt programs are similar to that of the Stockbridge Club, but I doubt very much that they had the kind of delicious meal that Delgrande prepared.
As of midweek, MassWildlife only had harvest numbers on what had been reported online. Many check stations still issue physical seals so they aren’t able to obtain harvest numbers until they get information back from all the check stations statewide after the season closes.
Incidentally, readers may recall my March 5 column, ”NE Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame inductees announced”, wherein I mention that MassWildlife’s James Cardoza was one of the inductees for supervising the recovery of Massachusetts wild turkey. Following that article, 90-year old Joe Robinson called me to tell the rest of the story. Robinson, a former DFW Western District biologist, retired 35 years ago, but he remembered the turkey recovery effort quite well and related the following:
The real credit for reintroducing the turkeys back into Massachusetts belongs to the then DFW Western District Supervisor Winn Saville, and his staff including Frank Putnam, Ed Hover, Fred Bohlman and Joe. “We were the pioneers”, he said. “Members of the staff traveled to New York in the early 1970’s, got the birds and released them in Beartown State Forest. We kept an eye on them to see how they were doing. We built feeders for the turkeys and put bags of corn into them. The deer got a lot of that corn.” Joe said that the first turkeys migrated to the Great Barrington area along with their poults. After some years of reintroducing them and their own self populating, the hunting season was opened 1980.
The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation in Hartsville-New Marlborough is having a free children’s fishing derby next Saturday, May 13 from 9 to 10:30am at its lower pond. Children aged 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: West and Middle Branches of the Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield and Worthington; Littleville Reservoir in Chester and Huntington, Trout Brook in Peru, York Lake in New Marlborough, Otis Reservoir, Laurel Lake, Richmond Pond and Windsor Pond in Windsor.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818
Front left to right; Curt Wilton III, Max Buffoni, Madison Gilmore, Nick Powers, Zack Lupioni Back row left to right; Kadin Shafiroff, Brady Whalen, Matt Fletcher, Bailey Gilmore, Marco Buffoni, Nick Puntin, Darrin Cloran, Nate Smith. Not in picture; Kade Groeber, Kevin Triono, John Field III, Myles Houle, Juliana Hektor, Briel Winters, Brett Smith.
On Friday, April 21, Earth Day, MassWildlife conducted a trout stocking event at Onota Lake in Pittsfield. Usually, the stocking dates and times are kept secret so as to avoid “stocking truck followers” from catching a lot of fish before the trout have had time to acclimate to their new surroundings. But this time it was different. MassWildlife wanted the public, especially children who were out of school during school vacation to be there and to participate. And a lot of kids and their parents and grandparents did show up.
About 350 nice sized rainbow trout were put into white 5 gallon pails, 3 or 4 at a time, and the kids and older folks scurried to the lake’s edge to toss them into the water. They had to hurry as no water was put into the pails in order to keep the loads lighter.
It was a great day for all involved. I couldn’t help but chuckle as some of these kids weren’t much bigger than the pails they were carrying. MassWildlife’s Western District Aquatic Biologist Leanda Fontaine-Gagnon stood in the water in hip boots to ensure that every trout was safely liberated and I am happy to report that there were no casualties—at least not until some nearby fishermen caught some. Derek McDermott and Ray Bresette of MassWildlife carefully netted the trout out of the stocking truck and placed them into pails for the kids lined up to take their turns at stocking. Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden ensured that the operation went smoothly and also provided some pamphlets and animal track information.
There were a lot of smiling faces seen that day, not sure who had the most fun, the kids, their parents/grandparents or the MassWildlife team.
Pictured above, wearing the tiara, and stocking some trout was 15 year old Meghan Kalbaugh of Chicopee, MA who came to the event with her parents. She is the reigning Miss Western Mass Outstanding Teen. She had a beautiful sash but took it off while stocking so as not to get it wet and slimy from the fish.
Message to the young lads, turn off the smart phones and computer games, pick up your fishing rods and head for the lakes. No telling who will be out there stocking the trout. Look at what you missed!
The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked last week: Hoosic River in Cheshire and Adams, Deerfield River in Buckland, Florida and Charlemont; Clesson Brook in Ashfield and Buckland, Swift River in Ashfield, Cummington and Goshen; Pelham Brook in Charlemont and Rowe, Housatonic River in Hinsdale and Dalton, Little River in Worthington and Huntington, West Branch Brook in Chesterfield and Worthington, Ashfield Pond and South River in Ashfield, Dry Brook and South Brook in Cheshire, Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton, North Pond in Florida, Stones Brook in Goshen, Dunbar Brook in Monroe, Mill Brook in Plainfield, Bronson Brook in Worthington, Plunkett Reservoir in Hinsdale, Goose Pond in Lee and Tyringham, Lake Buel in Monterey, Windsor Lake in North Adams and Otis Reservoir in Otis.
Lakes are being remapped
In his latest report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Fisheries and Wildlife Board member Stephen Sears of Dalton, reported that DFW fisheries personnel are in the process of making new maps of all our lakes. He said that they will be incredibly accurate. They will also be available on-line. They already mapped Onota Lake and will be doing Pontoosuc Lake soon. Click onto the MassWildlife web page to check out the new Onota Lake map.
MassWildlife cautions us that Common Loons, a species of Special Concern, have been observed taking shiners on anglers hooks and hooking themselves. They urge anglers to pull hooks baited with shiners out of the water when loons are present and continue fishing when they have passed. Anglers may recall that the protection of the loons was a major reason why the use of lead weights under 1 oz have been prohibited in Massachusetts. Apparently, the loons ingest them and then later die an agonizing death from lead poisoning.
I love loons. Of all the sounds heard in the wilds, by far my favorite is the yodeling sound of a loon on a quiet night on or near a crystal clear northern lake. Upper Maine and Canadian lakes provide such waters. Loons require clear lakes because they it make it easier for them to see prey underwater. Chances are, while listing to the loons, you may also be marveling at the Aurora borealis (northern lights). They go hand-in-hand.
Last year, while fishing in Labrador, I saw some loons and commented to a guide my fondness for this bird. He did not share my feelings, in fact, he downright despised them. He said that they can grow to 12 lbs and they eat an awful lot of fish each day. The outfitters and guides up there get their livelihood from fishermen and they want them to catch a lot of fish so that they come back. Loons compete with them for the fish.
Thinking that he was exaggerating, I checked into it when I got hone. In one study, scientists estimate that loons eat 22% of their body weight each day. In another study, biologists estimate that loon parents and their 2 chicks can eat about a half-ton of fish over a 15-week period.
Well, even so, I still love the sight and sound of that bird and support its restoration in Massachusetts.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818
Accompanied by a picture of Miss Teen Western Massachusetts, Meghan Kalbaugh, stocking trout. Standing next to her is her father James.
From left to right: Mark Jester banquet emcee, BCLS President Mike Kruszyna, George Darey, Doug Frank, Tom Macy, Karen Karlberg and Robert McDermott.
About 130 people packed the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club banquet hall last Saturday evening for the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen’s (BCLS) Silvio O. Conte Memorial Awards Banquet. Award recipients included Doug Frank of Lee (2016 Sportsman of the Year), Karen Karlberg of Becket (Lifetime Achievement Award), Tom Macy of Sheffield (Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award) and Robert McDermott of West Stockbridge (John Zuber Outstanding Achievement Award).
All were selected by the delegates of the various sportsmen’s clubs which make up the BCLS. Their individual feats were highlighted in my March 26, 2017 column, “2016 BCLS Award winners announced”. The banquet was dedicated in honor of George “Gige” Darey of Lenox. Mark Jester of Pittsfield was the emcee for the event. Congratulations to all of the recipients.
Gige Darey respectfully declined to accept an award preferring that one go to one of the above deserving recipients. He did give a moving speech recounting his 38 years on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board. Gige has been kept busy giving talks these days. Recently, he received an award from the Worcester County League of Sportsmen and two weeks ago, he received a Special Recognition award from the Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council. At that banquet, Lt Governor Polito, several State Senators and Representatives and many other dignitaries honored him for his many achievements.
As you may know, Gige recently stepped down from the F&W Board, of which he served as its chairman for 35 of years. During that time he accomplished a great deal. He oversaw the restoration and recovery of the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, turkey, deer, bear and piping plover. He was instrumental in increasing land acquisition and protection, habitat identification and management, education and outreach and the new environmentally state-of-the-art Field Headquarters in Westborough.
One of his proudest achievements was to getting “Presumption of Openness” into the language of the Open Space Bond Bills, ensuring that all state land so purchased would be open to passive recreation including hunting, fishing and trapping. He led the efforts to transfer the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program to the DFW, now a model for the nation.
Referred to as the champion for all wildlife, from fish and big game, to the less heralded species greatly needing our understanding and protection, it is no wonder that the 818-acre Housatonic Valley Wildlife Management Area bears his name.
Gige is not done receiving accolades yet. On May 13, there will be an event celebrating his lifelong commitment and achievements as well as raising funds for the MA Outdoor Heritage Foundation. It will take place at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, 24 West Stockbridge Road (Route 102), MA.
The event, co-chaired by Bob Durand former Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Dave Peters former Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, Wayne MacCallum former Director Division of Fish and Wildlife and Steve Sears President of the MA Outdoor Heritage Foundation Board, will take place from noon to 4:00pm. Buffet at 1pm, speaking program at 2:00pm, silent auction and raffle at 3:00pm. The cost is $50 per person.
If you are unable to attend but still wish to contribute to the Outdoor Heritage Fund, of which Gige is a founding Board member, make checks payable to: Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation (note George L Darey fund) P.O. Box 47, Westborough, MA. 01581. You may want to consider a sponsorship and tax deductible donation that will honor and further the mission of natural resource protection which has been Gige’s lifelong commitment.
Some sponsorships categories are: Woodcock -$100, Whitetail Deer-$250, Black Bear -$500 and Bald Eagle-$1000. For more information about the Foundation, visit them at massoutdoorheritage.org.
On April 29, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association is holding a fundraiser called Aiming for Zero Steel Match. The purpose of the event is to support the fight against veteran suicide. Shoot times are 9:00 am and 1:00 pm with no preregistration required, $25 registration fee, $5 side match. Centerfire pistols and .22LR pistols and .22 rifles welcome. If you can’t attend but would like to donate, visit the Aiming for Zero/Active Heroes website. Click on join existing club then List on registered teams. Choose individual fundraiser and type in Paddy Sullivan. He is registered as an individual, and not with a team. He is doing this for His National Honor Society service project.
The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked last week. Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Chickley River in Charlemont, Hawley and Savoy; Cold River in Charlemont, Florida, and Savoy; Westfield River in Chesterfield, Cummington, Huntington and Russell; Housatonic River in Lee and Pittsfield, Hop Brook and Goose Pond Brook in Lee and Tyringham, Upper Highland Lake in Goshen, Mansfield Lake in Great Barrington, Kinderhook Creek in Hancock, Norwich Pond in Huntington, Greenwater Brook in Lee, York Lake in New Marlborough, Berry Pond in Pittsfield, Buck and Clam River in Sandisfield, Larrywaug Brook in Stockbridge and Onota Lake in Pittsfield.
Spring Turkey Season
The spring turkey hunting season opens tomorrow in Massachusetts and runs through May 20. Immediately following harvest, hunters must fill out and affix the tag from their turkey permit to the turkey. The turkey must be reported either online via the MassFishHunt system or at a traditional check station within 48 hours of harvest and before the bird is processed for food or taxidermy. The MassFishHunt system generates a confirmation number which must be written on the harvest tag attached to the turkey; the confirmation number serves as the official seal. The tag (or metal seal from a check station) must remain on the bird until it is processed for food or taxidermy.
Recently, MassWildlife has requested us to report local eagle sightings to Andrew Vitz, MassWildlife’s State Ornithologist, and/or to DFW Western District Supervisor, Andrew Madden. Mark Thorne of Pittsfield has been observing and documenting the Onota Lake eagle nest for 10 years now, and the female has been the same one every year.
She was banded in 2002 (#T98) from the Hudson River in New York. Now 15 years old, she may be considered middle aged as they can live up to 30 years. The males have changed over the years, three since Mark has been monitoring them, and the current one has been with her since 2014. He was banded (#WR8) as a chick in 2006 from the Connecticut River area here in Western Mass, making him 11 years. They had been on eggs since the beginning of March, with both eagles sharing duties sitting on them. Eaglets may have hatched by now.
Supposedly, they mate for life, but if one member of a pair dies or is killed, the other will actively court another mate. However; there has been some contention over this nest from a third eagle. No locked talons that Mark has seen, “just a lot of fast flying and screaming from all parties, ending with the intruder being shown the door to another part of the county”. Sadly, Mark says, that’s how her current beau came into the picture, so we’ll have to see how this plays out. He believes that “mating for life” depends particularly on how long the current male can withstand the challenges of other younger males.
Breeding Bald Eagles were extirpated from Massachusetts during the early 1900s. However, from 1982 to 1988, forty-one young Bald Eagles from Michigan and Canada were relocated to Quabbin Reservoir. Following this restoration effort, they were confirmed to breed successfully in the state by 1989. Eagle numbers have increased slowly but steadily since that time. During 2015, an all-time high of at least 51 pairs of Bald Eagles maintained breeding territories in Massachusetts. Around here, they were located as follows: Westfield River (2), Deerfield River (2), Housatonic River (1), Onota Lake (1) and Lake Buel (1). Population abundance in Massachusetts is limited mainly by amount of potential breeding habitat (i.e., number of large water bodies surrounded by mature forest and having shallow waters and abundant fish).
Fishermen should be diligent in proper disposal of fishing line and equipment, as eagles are known to accidentally ingest hooks. At least one eaglet has been killed in Massachusetts after becoming tangled in fishing line.
Be careful while driving, too. Recently, a very important bird in the history of Bald Eagle restoration in Massachusetts died after being hit by a vehicle on Rte 5 in Northampton. A veterinarian determined it had a broken back and spinal cord damage, and had to be euthanized. Known by #W02 on its leg band, this 28-year-old eagle was one of the three first wild-born eagles to hatch in Massachusetts in modern times. Since 1989 when W02 hatched, at least 646 wild-born Bald Eagle chicks have fledged in the Commonwealth.
Poor bird, it died without a real name. RIP #W02.
On Thursday, April 20, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited will have Ron Merly, Connecticut fishing guide and Author of Flyfisher’s Guide to Connecticut as its guest speaker. He will be speaking about the Farmington and Housatonic Rivers.
An avid fisherman, Merly has been fishing the trout streams of Connecticut and on Long Island Sound for over 45 years. He has held the current Connecticut state record for sea-run trout since 2006. A self-taught writer, he was awarded first place in the Best Magazine Article category by the New England Outdoor Writers Association in 2009 and 2010. He has served as the president of the Nutmeg Chapter of Trout Unlimited since 2010, and has been a member of its Board of Directors since 2000. He has resided on the Connecticut coastline for his entire life, and has flyfished all over New England, as well as in Mexico and Honduras.
The event will be held at the Berkshire Hills Country Club at 500 Benedict Rd., Pittsfield. Doors open at 6:00 pm. The presentation is free and open to the public. Dinner is optional.
Earth Week runs from April 17 through April 23 this year. Numerous communities celebrate an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces. The most common practice of celebration is planting new trees. Coincidentally, that is also school vacation week.
Friday, April 21, is called Earth Day and MassWildlife has planned a trout stocking event that day. It will take place at Burbank Park on Onota Lake at 1:30 pm. Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Supervisor, plans to liberate 400-500 rainbow trout into the lake. The public, especially the youngsters, are invited to watch them release the fish. DFW may allow some of the kids to carry pails of trout for release. They may also have some stuff to hand out to the kids.
The following local waters were scheduled for trout stocking last week: Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlborough and Sheffield; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Farmington River in Otis and Sandisfield, Hoosic River-South Branch in Cheshire and Adams, Hoosic River-North Branch in Clarksburg, Green River in Alford and Great Barrington, Williams River in West Stockbridge, Egremont and Great Barrington; Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield and Worthington; Hudson Brook in Clarksburg, Littleville Reservoir in Chester and Huntington, Trout Brook in Peru, Green River in Williamstown, Greenwater Pond in Becket, and Big Pond in Otis.
The Massachusetts Division of Environmental Restoration (DER) was created in 2009 with the merger of the Riverways and Wetlands Restoration Programs. DER coordinates ecological restoration to improve habitat for fish and wildlife and restores important ecosystem services that improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts citizens. DER works with many partners across a variety of aquatic systems, from freshwater to saltwater, to restore the ecological integrity of degraded habitats for the benefit of people and the environment.
In 2016 alone, the Division removed 2 dams and completed 2 wetland restoration projects, restoring 285 acres and opening 13 river miles statewide. It advanced work on multiple river and wetland restoration projects that have recently initiated construction or will begin construction next year. Once complete, those projects will remove 8 dams, reconnect more than 78 river miles and restore nearly 280 acres of degraded wetlands.
Using Commonwealth funds, DER leveraged $10 million in newly awarded external funds. Volunteers worked in 72 communities devoting more than $100,000 worth of labor towards protecting and restoring our rivers and wetlands. The DER provided technical support and guidance in more than 170 communities and across all 27 major watersheds.
DER, together with its partners, has restored in total over 1,800 acres of coastal wetlands and reconnected over 250 miles.
In Western MA, the DER was recently awarded a $179,620 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The grant will build municipal capacity to upgrade culverts and increase the pace of culvert replacement in the Deerfield River Watershed. The Deerfield River has an abundance of coldwater streams, which provide essential habitat for fish species. In 2011 many towns were hard hit in the region after Tropical Storm Irene. This grant, in conjunction with other DER funds will immediately advance the design and/or construction of up to 6 culverts in the Deerfield River Watershed and, in time, will lead to many more replacements.
DER’s Streamflow Restoration program continues to work with municipal partners in Pittsfield to improve streamflow below recreational dams. This past winter, DER installed a telemetry station at the Onota Lake dam that measures water level and assists with lake management and downstream releases to Peck’s Brook, a tributary to the West Branch of the Housatonic River. Last fall DER also funded a survey of macro-invertebrates in Peck’s Brook, along with several other streams in the area, to better quantify changes in the aquatic community after modifications were made to upstream dam management. Recent monitoring shows significant improvements in both streamflow and macro-invertebrate populations in the brook, despite 2016 drought conditions.
In 2017, DER will be working on 11 new priority projects adding to its total roster of 62 projects. Here in the Berkshires, the Kitchen Brook Dam in Cheshire, has a provisional status of Significant Hazard. It has an impassable obstruction on the brook, which drains part of Mount Greylock’s eastern slope and is tributary to the coldwater trout stream Thunder Brook. That brook is where DER previously worked with the town to removal another aging dam and to replace an undersized culvert with a fish-friendly crossing. Removal of Kitchen Brook Dam will open up 4 miles of high quality cold water habitat for Eastern Brook Trout.
The Kinne Brook Dam in Chester was removed in 2014, and now two undersized culverts will be replaced in 2017-2018. The goal is to restore river functions to the high-quality cold-water stream which is a tributary to the Westfield River. It is abundant with eastern brook trout. The barrier removals were done in partnership with Trout Unlimited and others.
Several years ago, the DER removed a dam on the North Branch of the Hoosic River in Clarksburg. Now, there is an Urban River Restoration Priority Project planned for the Hoosic River in North Adams. The goal is to modernized North Adams’ aging concrete flood chutes with habitat, river and community friendly modifications while maintaining existing flood risk management levels. So far a concept design for the South Branch Hoosic River restoration is in place including preliminary designs for a Phase I restoration in the Noel Field area. Soil, sediment and groundwater sampling was just completed in the Phase I restoration area. Concept design work for the North Branch of the Hoosic River is just beginning and will take about a year to complete.
The DER is a division which reports directly to the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. Tim Purington is its Director. It is one of my favorite state agencies because we can see tangible results which affects our lives and benefits the critters. I hope it continues to receive sufficient funding to accomplish it very important work.
The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked last week. Due to the rain and high waters, this schedule was subject to change: Ashfield Pond, Housatonic River (East Branch) in Dalton and Hinsdale, Housatonic River SW Branch in Pittsfield, Pontoosuc Lake, Lake Garfield, Lake Buel, Windsor Lake in North Adams, Onota Lake, Goose Pond, and Windsor Pond in Windsor.
According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in the Commonwealth result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water or weather. Paddlers in canoes and kayaks are required to wear life jackets from September 15 – May 15. They also advise us to: Make sure everyone wears a life jacket, follows navigation rules, such as safe speed and spotters, never boat under the influence and keep in touch by using cell phones, etc. Don’t panic if you fall into the water. Stay afloat with the help of your life jacket, regain control of your breathing, keep your head above water in vision of rescuers, and stay with the boat if possible