LENOX -- In last week's column, I mentioned Ithat state Representative Gailanne Cariddi showed up at a recent Berkshire County League of Sportsmen meeting to hear some of the concerns of sportsmen. The sportsmen really appreciated her taking time to hear their concerns. Here is part two of that meeting: Massachusetts Fish and Wild Board Chairman George "Gige" Darey raised a very important issue that has local sportsmen very upset, that of closing or barricading access to DCR state lands for hunting. He cited cases where access is blocked off on Mount Greylock and Pittsfield State Forest. Although October Mountain is not blocked off, the roads are not being maintained from the north and western access points. DCR is doing nothing to improve our forests, just barricading them, he said.
Darey said that years ago the F&W Board supported what is called the Presumption of Openness Rule, which Governor Weld signed. It states that all public lands have to be open for passive recreation, which included hunting, fishing and trapping.
"Now we are noticing lots of DCR lands are closed, where they should be opened to hunting," he said.
He noted that the problem is not only the inability of hunters getting access to these lands, it also prevents DFW from managing wildlife properly. "If they keep blocking access, we will start to see an overpopulation of deer, deer ticks and Lyme disease, damage to people's gardens and shrubs and more auto/deer accidents," he said. Darey also mentioned some communities in the eastern part of Massachusetts are already experiencing this problem.
"This situation should be taken care of right now, not when everyone has Lyme disease or their gardens eaten up. We are talking about the health, safety and welfare of people in the Commonwealth."
According to the Insurance Information Institute, 200 Americans die each year in more than 1.2 million collisions with deer, causing more than $4 billion in repairs.
I share Gige's concerns regarding our public lands. Seems to me the last thing we should be doing is blocking hunting access to them.
Here's why: On the December 9 issue of Time Magazine, the front cover shows a doe with a heading "America's Pest Problem: Why the rules of hunting are about to change," written by David Von Drehle. In the feature article, he makes a solid case for stronger management of wildlife.
"Time to Cull the Herd," he writes.
The whitetail deer population in the U.S. today is estimated to be 30 million, more than when Columbus arrived, according to the National Wildlife Research Center.
"We now live, work and play in closer proximity to untamed fauna than any other generation of Americans in more than a century," the article said.
Von Drehle is not advocating for unregulated indiscriminate hunting such as what occurred in the 19th century which brought several species of wildlife to near extinction, but rather well-planned hunting which can safely reduce the wildlife populations to levels that won't invite an invasion of fangs and claws.
The story goes on: "Too many animals can be almost as bad as too few.
We built suburbs next to forests and threaded them with green space and nature trails, then stocked their neighborhoods with vegetable gardens and fruit trees and big plastic cans full of yummy garbage. At random intervals they installed even bigger metal dumpsters overflowing with pungent delectables, not to mention pet bowls heaped with kibble and barbeque grills caked with succulent grease."
Anti-hunters advocate for bearproof garbage cans, hidden pet food and birdseed, locked sheds and garages. If these steps were taken tomorrow, animals such as bears would be restored to their paleo diet. Being cut off from human feed will likely cause them to become more desperate and brazen. Slow starvation, Von Drehle writes, is no happier a way for bear to die than a hunter's arrow or bullet.
Non-lethal strategies such as loud noises, nipping dogs, strobe lights, etc. are advocated by some, but experiments in New Jersey show that the lure of the dumpster quickly overwhelms a bear's memory of such traumas. Birth control methods may work on captive populations, but without an enclosure they mingle with non-medicated ones and have more fawns.
"Now it is wise," he writes, "to correct the more recent mistake of killing too rarely. By shouldering the role of careful, conservative minded predators, hunters make the coexistence of humans and wildlife sustainable."
Say, remember those wonderful Ducks Unlimited banquets which were held in the Berkshires several years ago? No question, they had the best raffle items, prizes and auctions. Anyone who has ever attended one will tell you that. But to put on banquets of that quality requires a lot of help from volunteers and the people who put them on in the past either got burned out or are no longer with us. I received an email from Ray Ilg, who reported that he and some other folks are bringing back the Berkshire County Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. They plan on putting together a dinner event this spring and welcome everyone to help make it a success. Two fellows, Joe Delsoldato and JP Murphy, have already agreed to cochair the event. They are planning a meeting sometime in January and are looking for volunteers to help out. If interested, contact Ilg at (603) 748-3111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still no deer harvest figures from DFW yet. I was able to find out that a 205-pound buck was taken in Becket; one weighing 197 pounds in Hinsdale; another weighing 184 pounds in Hinsdale; while Windsor yielded 173- and 169-pound bucks.
One weighing 166 pounds also came out of Becket. These are all fielddressed weights. Sorry, I didn't get the sizes of the racks.
To reach Gene Chague: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or (413) 637-1818.