Berkshire Woods and Waters: Young pheasant hunters enjoyed a wonderful day

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On Oct. 7, the Lee Sportsmen's Association held its annual Young Adult Pheasant Hunt. That was the day before the regularly scheduled opening day of pheasant hunting season, which MassWildlife reserves just for youths. LSA has held the hunt since 2006 in partnership with MassWildlife. This year, six youths participated in the hunt and every one harvested two pheasant each, which is the daily limit (I hope you noticed in the picture that four of the hunters were girls).

At the LSA, John Polastri, of Becket, heads up the program and he is also a mentor. In addition to John, other mentors this year were George Haddad, Mike Gigliotti, Dick Salice, Doug Frank, Carl Hines and Mike Kelly and their dogs, which included two Brittany spaniels, two German shorthairs and an English cocker spaniel. The dogs' jobs were to find, point and flush the birds.

The Young Adult Pheasant Hunt Program builds the confidence of young hunters (ages 12-17) in a safe, friendly environment. They don't need to be club members to participate.

These young hunters didn't just walk into the fields and started shooting birds. First, they had to complete the Basic Hunter Education Program. Then, if they were 15 years or older, they had to obtain a Firearms Identification Card. Then they had to find a nearby club to participate with for the seminar and hunt, then they had to attend the Pheasant Seminar, which included hands-on instruction in shotgun shooting fundamentals and firearm safety, how to have a safe and fun hunt and information on upland hunting basics. Finally, the young hunters moved onto the hunt to experience a real pheasant hunt under the supervision of an experienced hunter, who hopefully had a good bird dog.

At the LSA, Polastri also gets the youths out onto the skeet field before the actual hunt for some skeet shooting practice. On the morning of the hunt, the kids had a good breakfast at the clubhouse, and at noon, they enjoyed a nice lunch. Later on, they were taught how to clean the pheasants. Polastri thinks this is important because he doesn't want them needlessly killing the birds and wasting the meat (I hope their parents got hold of a good pheasant recipe and cooked up some pheasant under glass. Pheasant meat is a delicacy that only the finest restaurants have on their menus).

I wonder if they saved any of the pheasant feathers for decorations. Also, the pheasant tail is an important feather for tying flies. The Pheasant Tail Nymph is an excellent trout fly that many, if not most, anglers carry with them when they head for the streams.

Local participating sportsmen's clubs are as follows:

Worthington Rod and Gun Club (Worthington) — contact Walter Fritz Jr. at 413-238-5841 or email ridgerdizzaboo@verizon.net.

Lee Sportsmen's Club (Lee) — contact John Polastri at 413-822-8278.

East Mountain Sportsmen's Club (Williamstown) — contact Tom Brule at tom.brule@gmail.com.

To find out more about this program, click onto the MassWildlife web page. If you have more questions about the program, contact Youth Hunt Coordinator Astrid Huseby at 508-389-6305. Our local Western District Office in Dalton can help you also. The office number there is 413-684-1646.

Incidentally, it is worth noting that the LSA raises its own pheasants and stocks them on public lands twice a week. About 500 of them are stocked annually, which can be hunted by the general public. Club member Brian Fenner heads up that effort along with help from David Morris.

If you are one of the pheasant hunters who benefits from their stocking program, please know it is fairly expensive to raise them. A great way to thank the LSC is to attend their pheasant rearing fundraising meal on the last Sunday in January.

New MassWildlife web page

All Massachusetts government websites are migrating to a new system, which means you will start to notice changes to the look and functionality of MassWildlife web pages. If you have any trouble finding information, go to mass.gov/masswildlife and use the internal search box. With the new search engine, you should be able to find what you need on all mass.gov pages easier and faster than before. The new website is optimized for viewing on a tablet or phone as well as a desktop. MassWildlife asks that you please bear with it while it completes the website migration and make adjustments and improvements over the coming weeks. Also, MassWildlife recently announced that it is now on Instagram. Follow it @mass.wildlife for fish and wildlife news and photos and videos from the field.

Three Mile Pond Access Project

Three Mile Pond, a 168-acre impoundment owned by MassWildlife, is the largest pond in Sheffield. It is part of the Three Mile Pond Wildlife Management Area, which is 1,065.7 acres in size. Recently, MassWildlife announced that it has started a project to improve boat access on the pond. This is a joint effort funded by MassWildife, Ducks Unlimited, the Outdoor Heritage Foundation and the Office of Fishing and Boating Access. The project, which should be completed next spring, will result in a more usable parking and access for anglers and waterfowl hunters.

Elections

It's that time for the sportsmen's clubs to hold their annual elections.

Recently, the Taconic chapter of Trout Unlimited elected Henry Swerin of Dalton as its president, William Travis of Pittsfield as its treasurer and Fran Marzotto of Pittsfield asits secretary. The vice president position is open.

At its last monthly meeting, the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen elected Tom Brule, of Florida, its president, Wayne Mclain of North Adams as its vice president, Dan Kruszyna, of Cheshire, its treasurer and me its secretary.

Remembering our veterans

Planning on some quiet time sitting in a deer stand, hiking, paddling or enjoying Mother Nature in some form this upcoming week? You might want to look around and take a moment to silently thank those who fought and died to preserve this land and defend our freedoms. To all you veterans who are reading this column, many thanks for your service.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.

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