By Gene Chague, Special to The Eagle
Hard to believe the turkey hunting season is beginning its 34th year in Massachusetts. The spring season runs from April 28 to May 24.
At the time of colonial settlement the wild turkey was widespread in Massachusetts, ranging from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. As settlement progressed, however, hardwood forests were cut and the range of the turkey began to shrink. By the early 1800s turkeys were rare in the state, and the last known native bird was killed on Mt. Tom in 1851. Fortunately, conservation and wildlife organizations intervened, and the wild turkey made a dramatic recovery.
Between 1972 and 1973, 37 birds were captured in New York and released in southern Berkshire County. Supplemented by an overflow from adjacent states, turkeys ranged throughout most parts of Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River. In-state transplants of the birds, conducted from 1979 to 1996, expanded the range of the bird into the central, northeastern and southeastern parts of the state.
Back in 1980, there was an estimated 1,250 turkey hunters and 72 turkeys were harvested. Last year, some 21,115 hunters applied for turkey permits and they bagged close to 3,000 birds -- 2,778 in the spring and about 200 in the fall seasons. The estimated fall population of turkeys now exceeds 15,000 birds. The wild turkey was designated the official state game bird of Massachusetts in 1991.
Here are some reminders from MassWildlife: A permit is required to hunt them. An official green safety sticker must be attached to the firearm such that it is visible to the hunter when sighting down the barrel. The annual bag limit is two turkeys per year either by: (a) two bearded birds in spring season (one per day) with no fall turkey hunting allowed, or (b) one bearded bird in spring season and one bird of either sex in fall season. No hunter may take two birds in the fall season.
Turkey hunters can check their harvested bird online. Immediately after harvest, the hunter must fill out and affix the tag from the turkey permit on the harvested turkey. The turkey must be officially "checked" 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 for taxidermy. Find a check station near you at mass.gov/dfw/checkstation.
If checking your game online, the MassFishHunt system will generate a confirmation number; this number must be written on the harvest tag that is attached to the turkey. (The confirmation number serves as the official seal.) The tag with confirmation number must remain on the bird until it is processed for food or for taxidermy. Turkey hunters should read the regulations (Page 32 of the Fish & Wildlife Guide) for more information.
It will be interesting to see how the hunters do this spring because many claim that the turkey flock is down this year. Remember, turkey hunting is one of the most dangerous forms of hunting. Use your noggin!
The Stockbridge Police Department will present an NRA Home Firearm Safety Course on Monday, May 5, at 6 p.m. in the Community Room at the Town Hall. This free course is exclusively for women who are residents of the Town of Stockbridge.
The four hour non-shooting course teaches students the basic knowledge, skills and explains the attitude necessary for the safe handling and storage of firearms and ammunition in the home. The application deadline is 8 a.m., May 1, and applications are available at the Stockbridge Police Dept.
The Greylock Bass Club reports the following 2013 Results: Angler of the Year was Bill Gates; second place, Chip Mcann; third place Dave Benham; fourth place, Jim Underhill; and fifth place, Joe Chague. The lunker largemouth for the year weighed in at 4 lbs 9.5 oz, caught and released by Bill Gates. They will host a two-person Open Bass Tournament on June 1 at Pontoosuc Lake. Check local sporting good stores for more information.
The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: Hoosic River in Cheshire and Adams; Clesson Brook in Ashfield and Buckland; South River in Ashfield; Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Chesterfield, Cummington, Huntington, Middlefield, Russell, Savoy and Windsor; Potash Brook in Blandford and Russell; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Dry Brook and South Brook in Cheshire; West Branch Brook in Chesterfield and Worthington; Sackett Brook in Dalton and Pittsfield; Swift River in Ashfield and Goshen; Stones Brook in Goshenb; Kinderhook Creek in Hancock; Little River and Norwich Pond in Huntington; Hop Brook in Lee and Tyringham; Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield and Lanesborough; Yokun Brook in Lenox; York Lake in New Marlborough; Windsor Lake in North Adam; Big Pond and Otis Reservoir in Otis; Berry Pond, Housatonic River (SW) and Onota Lake in Pittsfield; Mill Pond in Plainfield; Richmond Pond in Richmond; Buck and Clam Rivers in Sandisfield; Westfield Brook in Windsor; and Bronson Brook in Worthington.
Questions? Email Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com, or call (413) 637-1818.