Berkshire Woods and Waters: Hunting season has arrived

The fall hunting season has begun.

Waterfowl, upland game birds, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares hunting seasons have already opened up.

Woodcock (timberdoodle) hunting season opened on Oct. 4 and runs through Oct. 28. It reopens on Oct. 30 and runs through Nov. 18. It will be interesting to see how the season goes this fall, for many folks never heard or saw any woodcock mating rituals on their properties last spring. Some wildlife biologists feel that with the early spring weather they began their migrations early and then got caught in the sudden return of wintry weather, killing many of them.

In our region, the duck and Canada goose hunting seasons opened on Oct. 10 and will run through Nov. 25. They reopen on Dec. 4 and run through Dec. 13 for geese and Dec. 25 for ducks.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that there are 10.5 million mallard ducks this year, 11 percent lower than 2016 but 34 percent above the long-term average. The decline amounts to about 1.3 million fewer birds than in 2016. The bulk of that appears to be related to drier conditions in the Canadian Parklands region, where the surveys detected about 0.6 million fewer mallards, they said.

Pheasant stockings

MassWildlife reported that some 40,000 pheasants will be liberated statewide this year. In our zone, the pheasant season opened on Oct. 14 and runs through Nov. 25.

Pheasants are stocked on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and other locations that are open to the public for hunting. According to DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden, they have changed the stocking schedules a little bit by varying the stocking times and days, but not the numbers of birds to be stocked. Unfortunately, some hunters had known the usual stocking dates and times and were frequently waiting for the stocking trucks to arrive. The new schedules will allow more people to have a chance at hunting them. Stocking locations and frequencies for the Berkshires are as follows:

Cheshire/Windsor: Stafford Hill WMA, 2-3 stockings per week.

Hinsdale: Hinsdale Flats WMA, 2-3 stockings per week.

Lee: Hop Brook WMA, 2-3 stockings per week.

Lenox: George L. Darey Houstatonic Valley WMA, 2-3 stockings per week.

Sheffield: Three Mile Pond WMA, 2 stockings per week.

West Stockbridge: Flat Brook WMA, 2 stockings per week.

Windsor: Eugene D. Moran WMA, 2-3 stockings per week.

Windsor: Peru WMA, 1 stocking per week.

Other stocked areas

Great Barrington: Beartown State Forest, between Monterey Road and Mt. Wilcox Road, 2 stockings per week.

Great Barrington: Taft Farm off Rte. 183 and Division Road, 2 stockings per week.

Lee: Meadow Street, 2 stockings per week.

Lenox: Post Farm, 2 stocking per week.

Pittsfield: Brattle Brook Parkland East, off Longview Terrace, 2 stockings per week.

Richmond: Sleepy Hollow Road, 2 stockings per week.

Tyringham: Slater Farm, 1 stocking per week.

Washington: October Mountain State Forest, dry reservoir site, 2 stockings per week.

Williamstown: Taconic Trail State Park off Rte. 2, 2 stockings per week.

Due to factors including equipment failure, personnel, inclement weather, high water or other unforeseen circumstances, they are unable to provide actual stocking dates and locations.

The ruffed grouse season also opened on Oct. 14 and also runs through Nov. 25.

Hunting Season Logs

Massachusetts hunters spend many hours in the woods observing wildlife of all varieties. These observations can provide wildlife biologists with a tremendous amount of information to better understand wildlife distribution and abundance across the commonwealth. Consequently, MassWildlife is asking archery deer and game bird hunters to complete daily hunting logs during their hunting seasons this fall.

Hunters who complete hunting logs before Dec. 20 will be entered in a drawing to win a blaze orange MassWildlife cap or a "Massachusetts Wildlife" one-year magazine subscription. One hundred and twenty five winners will be randomly selected to receive hats and 25 winners will be randomly selected to receive magazine subscriptions. Prizes will be mailed to the address provided by the hunter on the completed hunting log.

Bow hunters are asked to keep a daily log of their hunting activities and observations of wildlife during the archery deer season (Oct. 16 through Nov. 25). Game bird hunters are asked to keep a daily log of their hunting activities and observations of game birds while hunting bobwhite quail, pheasant, woodcock, and grouse (Oct. 14 through Nov. 25). Click onto the MassWildlife website to download a copy of the recommended logs.

Huge trout were stocked this fall

That's according to DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden.

"The trout stocked this fall are some of the best quality fish that we have ever stocked during the fall season. Some of those fish weigh three-plus pounds."

So far, they stocked the Deerfield River, Upper Highland Lake, Littleville Reservoir, Pontoosuc Lake, Goose Pond, Laurel Lake, Windsor Lake, Windsor Pond, Onota Lake, Richmond Pond, Stockbridge Bowl, Ashfield Pond, North Pond, Norwich Pond, Lake Buel, Big Pond and Otis Reservoir. As of this writing, no word as to whether or not they will stock the East Branch of the Westfield River this fall.

Lake drawdown

According to a bulletin issued by Lee Hauge, president of the Friends of Pontoosuc Lake, this year's target level for the annual drawdown will be only three feet. This would have been the year for a deep drawdown (five feet), but the purpose of the deep drawdown is to control Eurasian watermilfoil, and they have not observed this plant species in the lake since the spring of 2015.

"This is surprising, and very good news," wrote Hauge. "Therefore; there is no need for the deep drawn this year or anytime unless we experience a resurgence of this invasive species."

The annual drawdown will begin Oct. 16. They will lower the lake level at a rate of about one inch per day until the target level is reached. Refill will start at ice-out, except if that ice-out has not occurred by April 1, partial refill will be started then to enable fish spawning.

Trout Unlimited Meeting

Dr. David Christensen, a fisheries biologist from Westfield State University, will be the guest speaker at the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited meeting which will be held on Oct. 19 at The Cork and Hearth Restaurant on Rte. 20 in Lee. He will be speaking about both river ecology and lake/pond ecology and how it relates to fishing. With summer temperatures in the rivers being quite high and water levels low, we often have to look for other species and other waters to fish so as not to stress our resident trout. Christensen will shed some light on pike, pickerel and bass fishing, as well, during these summer months.

The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will begin with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by a short business meeting at 6 and then the presentation. Following the presentation an optional "order off the menu" dinner is contemplated. For more information, contact chapter president John Burns at 802-318-1600 or 413-243-0535

Reach Gene Chague at or 413-637-1818.


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