Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Another successful Paraplegic Deer Hunt event

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According to Susan (Ingalls) McCarthy, wildlife biologist and Paraplegic Deer Hunt coordinator for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), the weather statewide was "pretty terrible" for this year's paraplegic hunts but participants and volunteers alike still had a positive experience. Here in the Berkshires, eight hunters participated — four in the southern and four in the northern Berkshires sites. Since 1972, MassWildlife has offered paraplegic hunters the opportunity to participate in a special three-day hunting season. This year's hunt was held Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at five sites statewide in the northern Berkshires, the southern Berkshires, the Quabbin Reservoir, Devens Reserve Forces Training Area in Lancaster, and Otis/Edwards Military Reservation in Falmouth.

Eighteen hunters participated in this year's hunts and five deer were harvested (one six-point buck and four does) for a 28-percent success rate. Hunters at all five sites observed deer and many were presented with shooting opportunities.

Over 35 volunteers and other MassWildlife staffers assisted the hunters. Staff and volunteers strategically placed hunters in safe locations where deer signs had been observed. If a hunter shot a deer, staff and volunteers assisted by tracking and retrieving the deer, field dressing them, reporting the harvest on site, and coordinating with a local butcher for processing.

"This is my ninth year staffing the deer hunt for paraplegic sportsmen and my second year as the coordinator of the program. Participating in this special hunt has always been an incredible honor and such an enjoyable experience," said McCarthy. "This program could not possibly be successful without our many volunteers, MassWildlife staff, DCR staff, military personnel at both Devens RFTA and Otis/Edwards MMR, and of course our amazing hunters."

The southern Berkshires folks hunted in the Mount Washington area and the hunt was coordinated out of the DCR Headquarters at Mount Washington State Forest. Fred Lampro and Mark Portiere once again headed up the hunt this year. The hunters were as follows: Sidney Eichstedt of Lee, Steve Gladding of Westfield, Vyto Sablevicius of Norwich, and Greg Baumli of New Lebanon, N.Y.

The Mount Washington helpers and the number of years they have served as volunteers included: Shaun Smith (46 years), Al Vincent (46), Marc Portieri (30), Greg Arienti (24), Matt Roache (14), Chuck Pickert (12), Rick Thelig (11), Tom Dean (8), Dallas Tidwell, Jim Santolin, Mike Gaffeny, and Gavin Ziegler. Vyto's brother-in-law Paul was also a volunteer. Once again, the cook was Chuck Pickert.

The volunteers did a lot of prep work by scouting several areas and placing (donated) trail cameras to see where the best deer activity was. They analyzed the pictures to determine the best places in which to place the hunters. Volunteers transported the hunters to the locations and helped to drive the deer toward them.

And what can I write about Chuck Pickert, his wife Beverly and Tricia Volmer. For the last 12 years, Chuck brought his trailer-mounted smoker/grill and they cooked breakfasts and lunches for the three days. A lot of friends who own restaurants and businesses donate food, charcoal, condiments, etc., every year.

On Thursday, the lunch menu was Irish Stew prepared by Tricia Vollmer and Chuck's Grandma's Poor Man Stew with corn bread (a good meal on a cold, rainy day). On Friday it was roast beef served with mashed potatoes and other veggies, and on Saturday it was brined pork loin cut thin like minute steak. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the event this year, but you better believe I already have my calendar marked for next year's hunt, which is Oct. 29-31, 2020.

So how did the hunt go this year in the southern Berkshires? Well, Sid Eichstedt shot a six-point, 145-pound buck and Steve Gladen got a 110-pound doe. Vyto Sablevicius and Greg Baumli both saw deer but didn't shoot any.

Southern Berkshire Paraplegic Hunt Donors included: Roma Pizza, Pop's Diner, C A Lindell and Jay Lawn Care — all from North Canaan, Conn. — Cranes Outdoor Power Equipment and Davis Tires of Canaan, Conn., Wood Creek Bar & Grill from Norfolk, Conn.; Mill River General Store; JTC & Sons, Greg S. Massini Bus Co. and Massini Bus Co. from Sheffield; and Fiddleheads Grill in Great Barrington.

Rick French coordinates the hunt with the volunteers and hunters at the northern Berkshires site. The four hunters there were: Dale Bailey of Clarksburg, Shawn Mei of Baldwinville, Dave Alderman of Petersburg, N.Y. and Kevin Hollister. Volunteers included French, Tony Mei, Robert Mei, Stacy Sylvester, J. Sylvester, Joe Benoni and Ben Pike. With permission, they hunted private properties in the Williamstown area. No deer were taken up there, but nearly everyone saw deer.

DFW Western District biologist Nate Buckhout, along with DFW staff Jacob Morris-Siegel, Derek McDermott and Ray Bressette were on hand at the sites to help out and check in the deer.

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For more information about the paraplegic hunt, contact MassWildlife Field Headquarters at 508-389-6300.

Lastly, thanks to you 18 Massachusetts hunters for staying in the game in spite of the lousy hands that you have been dealt in this life. You are an inspiration to all of us, especially those who also are struggling with physical and emotional problems. And kudos to the volunteers and everyone involved with this program for your time and energy in helping them enjoy a couple of days in the outdoors. We could use more of that selfless, "caring for our fellow man" attitude in these turbulent times.

New Pheasant Stocking Map

At the last meeting of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden announced that the Division is working on a new map showing pheasant stocked areas across Massachusetts. The map is still in development, and your feedback this season will help them finalize the features and design. The map shows general stocking locations and stocking frequency, provides directions to parking and special notes about stocked properties. Check it out at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/find-a-pheasant-stocked-area.

Feedback is welcome

New England Outdoor Writer Association Board Member Lyon killed in boating accident

NEOWA Board Member Harold "Hal" Lyon, 84, of Meredith, N.H., was killed when his, and his close personal friend's boats collided on Lake Winnipesaukee on the evening of Nov. 9. His friend, Jim Hanson, who piloted the other boat died also. Jim's wife, Carmel, suffered serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. She was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia, N.H. Hal was in the boat alone.

Both boats were making a turn near Bear Island (the second-largest island in Lake Winnipesaukee) at the same moment, shortly after 6 p.m. when they collided. Friends said that it wasn't a windy night, but it was cold and dark.

Jim and Hal were close friends and they often hunted for deer together. Friends said that the very reason that Hal was away from his home was so that he could scout for hunting spots to go with Jim once the season opened.

Lyon, was the author of seven books including the award-winning "Angling in the Smile of the Great Spirit," a guide on big glacial lake fishing based upon his fishing experiences on Lake "Winni." Incidentally, the Native American name given to the lake means either "smile of the Great Spirit" or "beautiful water in a high place."

I first met Hal at the Springfield Sportsmen's Show shortly after he wrote that book in 2008. He was manning a booth there and when he spotted my NEOWA ID tag as I walked by, he stopped me and started up a conversation. He was a pleasant, friendly person, someone who you would instantly like. We had a lengthy chat about outdoor writing and when it came time for me to move on to other exhibitors, Hal gave me a numbered, autographed, limited edition of his excellent book. We stayed in touch off and on over the years and the last time we chatted was at a NEOWA function on Post Pond in Lyme, N.H. a few years ago.

Isn't it ironic that his final moments were spent boating on the lake he loved so much in front of the island where he and his wife Karen were married in 2009.

I think NEOWA Board Member Joe Judd put it best: "His writings were legendary. Now, he is a legend lost ... but will live on through his writings forever."

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


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