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About 160 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.

The award recipients included the late Christopher Porter of Pittsfield, Al Buck of Adams, Steve Bateman of Pittsfield and DCR Deputy Director Matthew Sisk of Braintree. The banquet was dedicated in memory of the late Chuck Jones of Dalton.

The honorees were selected by the various sportsmen's clubs which make up the BCLS. Their individual feats were highlighted in a prior column.

In acknowledging Chuck Jones, emcee and former League President Mark Jester said that Jones was instrumental in getting the Friends of NRA here in the Berkshires and every club, including the BCLS, benefitted from the work he and his staff did over the years. Chuck's widow, Evelyn, thanked the League for the banquet dedication in Chuck's honor. She read a touching poem of remembrance.

Steve Bateman has raised over $25,000 through his fishing derbies for Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award, which acknowledged "his achievements all while enhancing the image of sportsmen in our community." On receiving the award, he thanked all those who helped along the way.


Al Buck was recognized for his work with the sportsmen and the Adams Outdoorsmen for Youth by receiving the John Zuber Award "for his unwavering dedication to introduce and perpetuate the ideals of sportsmen in Berkshire County." He thanked the League and the many people who helped him over the years.

Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George "Gige" Darey presented the Sportsmen's Appreciation Award to Matt Sisk. Darey noted that there were thousands of acres of local state forests that were inaccessible to hunters. That was until Sisk became deputy director of DCR. Upon hearing of the problem, Sisk immediately came to the Berkshires, checked out the situation and got the access issues resolved. The award was " in recognition of his sport dedication and oversight to the preservation of open space and wildlife."

In accepting the award, Sisk said that he was really honored and proud and that the award means a lot to him. "If it wasn't for Fish & Game Commissioner George Peterson, Darey and DFW Director Jack Buckley," he said, " this wouldn't have happened."

In presenting the Sportsman of the Year Award, Jester noted that the late Chris Porter should have gotten this award years ago. He was very involved in the sports level and was very helpful, usually behind the scenes.

"We want his memory to live on," Jester said. The award was "in recognition of his lifelong dedication and leadership of sportsmen and youth of Massachusetts." Chris' son, Ryan, accepted the award on behalf of his family. He thanked the League and related some shooting experiences that he had with his dad.

During the banquet, Mark Jester recounted how he became a BCLS delegate when he was 23 years old. He mentioned how the late U.S. Congressman Silvio O. Conte always made it a point to attend the raccoon dinners that the Lakewood Sportsmen's Club put on. At one dinner, Conte suggested that Jester become involved with the BCLS. The rest is history, with Jester serving as a delegate for 34 years and 18 years as its president. Having recently stepped down, he took the opportunity to thank all of the delegates and sportsmen and women who have helped him over the years. He said that he has developed many close friends that he never would have met were it not for the League.


The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Walker Brook in Becket and Chester; Goose Pond Brook in Lee and Tyringham; Greenwater Brook, Beartown Brook and West Brook in Lee; Little River, Bronson Brook and West Branch Brook in Worthington; Yokum Brook in Becket; West Branch Brook in Chesterfield; Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton; West Brook in Great Barrington; Little River in Huntington; Factory Brook in Middlefield; Mill Brook in Plainfield; Larrywaug Brook in Stockbridge; Depot Brook in Washington; and Westfield Brook in Windsor.

Vernal pools

Vernal pools are unique wildlife habitats best known for the amphibians and invertebrate critters that use them to breed. They usually dry during summer which prevents fish from establishing populations. That is critical to the reproductive success of many amphibians and invertebrates that rely on breeding habitats free of fish predators.

If you want to learn more about vernal pools, join the Wild & Scenic Westfield River exploration at noon April 30 at the Becket Town Hall in Becket. After an hour presentation by Berkshire Environmental Action Team specialist Jane Winn, there will be on-site training to learn how to identify and certify a vernal pool. The presentation is free and open to the public and the site visit requires registration. For more information, call Meredyth Babcock at 413-623-2070.

Send your questions and comments to Gene Chague at or 413-637-1818.