Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Small game hunting season is upon us

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The woodcock hunting season opened last Wednesday and runs through Oct. 29. It reopens on Oct. 31 and runs through Nov. 19. Because the woodcock is classified as a migratory game bird — but not a waterfowl — lead shot may be used. However, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) registration is required to hunt them as well as ducks, geese and other waterfowl.

Monday morning marks the opening of duck and Canada goose hunting season in the Berkshire Zone and runs through Nov. 26. Duck hunting season reopens on Dec. 5 and runs through Dec. 24. Goose season reopens on Dec. 5 and runs through Dec. 13. Although referred to as the Berkshire Zone, the zone's eastern boundary is Interstate 91, Route 10 and Route 202. Check the regulations regarding daily harvests for the various ducks, geese and woodcock.

The pheasant and ruffed grouse hunting seasons open next Saturday and runs through Nov. 26. The daily limit for pheasants is two, and for grouse it is three. If hunting a Wildlife Management Area for pheasants, grouse and other small game, you must wear an orange hunter cap. The exceptions are if you are hunting waterfowl from within a blind or boat, or if you are hunting raccoons or opossums at night.

Cottontail rabbit hunting season opens next Saturday in Zones 1–12 and runs through Feb. 28, 2017. Snowshoe hare season opens next Saturday and runs through Feb. 28 in Zones 1-4. The other zones have differing seasons. The daily limit is five cottontails and two hares.

The gray squirrel season, which opened on Sept. 12 in our zone, is ongoing and ends on Jan. 2, 2017. The daily limit is five. Rabbit, hare and squirrel hunting seasons are closed during shotgun deer hunting season.

Next Saturday, the coyote hunting season opens and runs through March 8, 2017. There is no daily limit on coyotes, but they must be checked in at an official check station or online with MassWildlife.

It is important that hunters check the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Guide for a listing of all of the hunting regulations and remember that hunting on Sundays is prohibited.

Brake for moose

As you may be aware, there have been at least two moose/auto accidents in the Berkshires recently. The Berkshire Eagle has covered them and, as a public service, cautioned drivers to be on the lookout for them, especially while driving at night. This is important and bears repeating.

Hitting a moose with a car is dangerous and the results can be tragic. In September and October, cows come into their breeding cycles and they become reckless and travel into residential areas or across major highways.

Because they have no predators, moose can be oblivious to the potential dangers posed by automobiles and most people are unaware of the number of moose in our midst.

Be particularly alert, especially at night during the fall breeding season. Moose will step out onto a roadway without showing the slightest concern for oncoming traffic. With their long legs, a vehicle hitting a moose takes the legs out from under them, flipping their bodies onto the car's windshield or roof. The dark body is difficult to see and its eyes are much higher in the air than the level of a pair of white-tail deer eyes. Always use your bright lights when traveling at night when there is no oncoming traffic.

Youth deer hunt

MassWildlife reports that statewide there were 1,236 youth deer permits issued this year for the special Youth Deer Hunt Day which was on Oct. 1. Of that total, 698 permits went to youths aged 12 to 14 years old, and 538 permits went to those aged 15 to 17. Last year, the first year of the youth hunt, 1,339 youths participated.

As of this writing, there were 118 deer reported online. MassWildlife did not yet have the season total, as there are some physical check stations that are not online. It is expected that the final number could reach between 120 and 125. Last year, 146 deer were harvested during the Youth Deer Hunt Day.

The accompanying picture is of 12-year-old Juliann Lawson with her proud dad, Dan, and her first deer. She harvested the adult doe in Williamstown, where her grandfather, Bob McCarthy, let her hunt at his favorite stand. According to Dan, it took about an hour to see the deer, and she didn't miss.

Incidentally, Dan Lawson is an avid sportsman and valued delegate of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS), representing the East Mountain Sportsmen's Club. Juliann's grandpa Bob McCarthy is also a well-known local sportsman and delegate to the BCLS. He was named the 1987 BCLS Sportsman of the Year. With mentors like that, how could she not succeed in bagging her deer? It is great to see the hunting tradition passed on from generation to generation.

I hope to have the names of other successful youth deer hunters next week.

Fall trout stocking

Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Manager, recently reported that they will not be stocking the East Branch of the Westfield River this fall due to low water conditions. They do intend to stock the Deerfield River, as well as the following lakes/ponds: Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Goose Pond, Richmond Pond, Lake Buel, Big Pond, Otis Reservoir, Windsor Lake, Windsor Pond, Ashfield Pond, Littleville Lake, North Pond, Upper Highland Lake and Norwich Lake.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: 413-637-1818.


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