Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Coronavirus disruptions hit the outdoors community

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As readers are well aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected our day-to-day lives, including outdoor sportsmen, hikers and other nature lovers. Cancellations began coming in from all over and I will try to relay as many of them as I can. Let's start with information received from Marion E. Larson from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, in a press release that he sent out:"Due to the State of Emergency declaration by the Governor, MassWildlife is following guidance provided to state agencies to help reduce the spread of a disease that has serious health implications to many people. At this time (3/17/2020), MassWildlife offices and hatcheries are closed to the public until further notice. MassWildlife has also canceled workshops, clinics, courses, and events through April 15 including Hunter Education courses, Learn to Hunt Turkey Seminars, and the Becoming an Outdoorswoman Turkey Hunt Programs.

"All Youth Turkey Hunt Seminars have been cancelled. This means that the only youths who may hunt on the Youth Turkey Hunt Day of April 25, 2020 are those past participants who have completed a Youth Turkey Hunt seminar and Basic Hunter Education. While we know this is disappointing news for young hunters and their mentors, they can still hunt together during the regular spring turkey season.

"MassWildlife has been notifying participants and volunteers in all of these programs by email, phone, and letters. Cancellations are also noted on program calendars. Despite this, today we learned that some people taking the Cheshire hunter education course didn't receive the cancellation emails. We're working to resolve those email glitches and truly apologize for the inconvenience.

"Trout Stocking: MassWildlife's primary concern is for the health and safety of our staff. That being said, designated Emergency Personnel continue to operate our hatcheries. As circumstances allow, trout stocking will continue.

"We would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to get outside and connect with the natural world during this time of upheaval and uncertainty. Studies have shown that being outdoors provides important benefits to our health and well-being. Visit a neighborhood park, a wildlife management area or state park or forest with your binoculars, fishing rod and fishing license, or backpack. Practice healthy 'social distancing,' keep your pets leashed, and wave to others you might see along the way.

"Since this whole situation is still very fluid, please visit Mass.gov/MassWildlife for updated information on events or to purchase a license. Be well!"

Just about all of the local sportsmen's clubs have been affected in one way or another. Many clubs have had to postpone their Easter ham shoots, game dinners, gun and archery leagues, LTC classes, etc., until further notice.

The Pittsfield Sportsmen's Club planned on holding a Venison/Italian Buffet next Saturday to benefit its Land Development, but due to the virus threat, it had to be postponed to a later date. I hope to include information on that dinner if/when it is rescheduled in a future column.

Incidentally, in last week's column, I erroneously listed Fran Tromblay as the PSC's current president. I was wrong, the current president is Stanley Bushey. My apologies.

The Berkshire Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and the Lee Sportsmen's Association's 6th Annual Youth Sportsmen's Gala which was scheduled for April 4, has been postponed. At this time, it is uncertain when it will be rescheduled due to CDC and state restrictions and the availability of the Country Club of Pittsfield. Since we should be following social distancing guidelines of staying at least six feet away from one another, they have cancelled their weekly Gala Committee meetings until further notice.

The Lee Sportsmen's Association Board of Directors has decided to cancel all youth teams, programs, leagues, turkey shoots, orientations, trainings, and other scheduled events until at least March 27. The Board will reconvene on March 25 at its regular meeting to reassess the situation. All ranges are closed until at least March 27. The Berkshire County Pistol League Shoot-Off has been cancelled.

The Lenox Sportsmen's Club has announced that all events and leagues are cancelled and will not resume until further notice. That includes the Spring Ham Shoots, the April LTC- UTAH Class, and all Archery and Gun Leagues. Some ranges, such as the Lenox Sportsmen's Club GEAA Rifle Range, are open. The archery, rifle and pistol ranges will remain open for individual members to use. Anyone using the club should help others by cleaning any surfaces they encounter. Supplies will be made readily available. It has not been determined whether or not the Cub Scout Summer Camp is still on.

The Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club has postponed its Archery Scholarship Fundraiser Shoot and breakfast. Also, its youth Archery Fun Shoot has been postponed. All archery and shooting leagues are suspended until after April 1. Individual use of the ranges will still be allowed. Its annual Game Dinner has been moved to October. As of now, the next firearm license course will be on Sunday, April 26 at 1 p.m.

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The Great Barrington Fish & Game Club has cancelled its Ham Shoots.

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club has postponed its Ham Shoots that would have started today. Its Youth Archery class is also postponed until further notice.

Pete's Gun Shop in Adams has cancelled its its FID Classes at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club on April 4, and will be moving all those who are signed up to its May 17 class. They will be contacting all of those who are signed up.

The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen's Silvio O. Conte Awards Banquet scheduled for April 25 has been cancelled. Also, all BCLS meetings will be cancelled until it can meet after this virus is over. If there is a need to go over things the delegates can use phone, text or email. It is hoped that the League can hold the Conte Dinner at a later date this year.

The Massachusetts Sportsmen's Council Banquet scheduled for April 11 has also been postponed. No future date has been set.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has announced the temporary closure of the following facilities in our area: Mount Greylock State Reservation Visitor Center in Lanesboro; the Savoy Mountain State Forest Campground in Florida; the Western Gateway Heritage State Park Visitor Center in North Adams; and the Beartown State Forest Campground in Monterey. The closures will last through April 1, at which time DCR will reassess circumstances. Additionally, during the temporary closure all associated events at these locations are cancelled.

Importantly, all state parks and comfort stations across the state remain open and available for the public to utilize. DCR reminds residents and visitors to avoid gathering in large groups, maintain social distancing, and practice healthy personal hygiene to stop the spread of the virus.

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council has cancelled all events through March 31. It may extend these cancellations as necessary; updates to future events can be found at bnrc.org/upcoming-hikes or on Facebook. Most of its staff will be working from home during this time; email is the best way to reach them.

The Council encourages us to take care of our minds and bodies. Spending time in the natural world can help alleviate stress and anxiety. Its trails are always free and open to the public for this reason. It hopes we can find time to get outside, take deep breaths and feel rejuvenated and to please maintain a healthy distance from anyone else we encounter on the trail.

To find details about their trails and more visit: bnrc.org/trails-and-maps/top-berkshire-trails/or check out the BNRC Berkshire Trails app.

MassAudubon announced that its buildings have been temporarily shut down, but its 38,000 acres of protected land is there for you to explore. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, there will be no bathrooms available. For safety reasons, please don't allow children to play in the Nature Play Areas.

Local waters stocked recently

In spite of all of the MassWildlife cancellations, the Western District staff was able to stock some of our local waters with rainbow trout. The following are waters stocked as of Saturday: Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Konkapot River in Monterey and New Marlborough; Farmington River in Otis, Sheffield and Tolland; Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington; Mansfield Pond in Great Barrington; Richmond Pond; Onota Lake; Stockbridge Bowl; Westfield River in Cummington, Chesterfield, and Savoy; Littleville Lake in Huntington; Laurel Lake and Pontoosuc Lake

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


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