Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Large black bear harvested in Sheffield - is it a record?

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It was a pleasant afternoon on Nov. 5 and after work, Mike DiGiovanni, of Sheffield, decided to go hunting for bear on a local farmland. He hunted out of a tree stand with a crossbow (due to a permanent disability, he had permit to hunt with a crossbow). After a while he saw a deer in the nearby field acting oddly and then ran off. Then Mike saw why. A bear approached the field, hugged the edge of it and headed right toward him. He held off his shot until the bear was about 10 yards away and let the bolt fly. The first bolt hit him high in the shoulder and the second shot was a lung shot and down he went.

He knew it was a decent sized bear, perhaps around 300 pounds, but it wasn't until he climbed down from the tree stand and approached it that he realized how big it was.

Mike described himself as being "dumbfounded."

Then came the realization of what to do now. He took a picture on his cell phone and sent it to his wife Molly saying: "I'm going to be home a little bit later than expected."

Then, he called a couple friends while Molly called his brother-in-law for help. Mike also reached out to the farmer for an extra set of hands. The farmer had a four-wheeler to help him get it out of the woods and into the field. Dragging a bear of this size is no small feat and the more help he could get, the better. It took six guys, the farmer's four-wheeler and a pick-up truck. Thank goodness it was only 10 feet from the field, said Mike, because if it was deeper in the woods, there was no way to get him out — not without equipment. With permission from the farmer, they were able to drive a truck into the field to get to him.

Can you imagine what it was like lifting that bear onto Mike's truck?

After getting the bear out of there, they weighed it at a gravel bed truck scale and the weight they came up with was 540 pounds. Roughly a day and a half after, they got it to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters in Dalton and it weighed 535 pounts on those scales. Perhaps the day delay could have made the five-pound difference (drying out)? Anyway, the official weight stands at 535 pounds. Mike has been bear hunting for 12 to 14 years and never got a bear this large.

One of the biologists at the DFW headquarters guessed it weighed around 640 to 650 pounds live weight and estimated the age as being between 7 and 12 years old, but it could be older. They can't know until a tooth is sent to the DFW labs for analysis.

Is it a state record? Not sure. Massachusetts doesn't keep official state bear records; however, they do maintain a database of the largest bears on record. I am not aware if there has ever been a larger bear checked in with DFW so it is quite possible that it is the record. If the DFW wants to establish a state record for black bears, may I suggest that they start with this one.

Mike said that he lost some of the meat due to the weather, but will salvage as much as he can to eat.

"It's quite good," he said, "if I didn't like the meat, I would not shoot a bear."

He is going to get a whole rug mount done by Kevins's Taxidermy of Middlebury, Conn. Incidentally, the taxidermist measured the hide from nose to the tail at 86 inches and the girth at 65 inches. The unofficial Green Score skull came in at 21.25 inches. To make the Pope & Young record book, it has to be 18 inches; however, crossbow kills are not recognized.

The farmer was ecstatic over getting rid of that bear. Not only because he kept destroying his crops, but also once a week the bear was flipping dumpsters over on his property.

Mike met a couple of neighbors who live on the same street and they were very grateful that that bear is gone. They were intimidated by the size of it. Bears are opportunistic, wherever the food is, that is where they are going to be, whether it is at your house or somewhere in the woods. They are going to eat whatever they want and you are not going to stop them, said Mike. He has heard stories of bears taking livestock, goats, pigs and all sorts of animals (not to mention the deer fawns).

Mike was adamant that the names of the helpers be included in this column for without them, he could not have gotten the boar out of the woods. They were: Jameason Russin, Tony Bleau, Kolby Bleau, Dave Ullrich and the farm owner Bob.

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That feat was "something I'll never forget," said Mike.

A Patriotic Turkey Shoot

The Murphy-Leary American Post 298 and Adams-Budz VFW Post 8183 of Housatonic will be jointly sponsoring a Turkey Shoot at the Great Barrington Fish and Game Association Club, located at 338 Long Pond Road in Great Barrington, on Dec. 1 starting at noon. The purpose of this event is to raise funds to help the organizations foster strong national security, provide help for disabled and needy veterans and their families, and promote Americanism by educating our communities in patriotism.

Also, they sponsor and provide scholarships to civic programs such as the Boys/Girls State Program, Student Trooper Program and to local students. In addition, their fund-raising initiatives also allow them to offer academic and vocational scholarships to selected graduates from local high schools.

The turkey shoot is billed as a great opportunity to come out and compete for a turkey, pork, steak, beef, or maybe a money prize as well as enjoy a barbecued hamburger, hot dog, fries, and refreshments. You don't even have to shoot to win a prize. There are many people that will be there who will shoot for you.

You are invited to come out and have some fun with family and friends in one of the most picturesque locations in the Berkshires. In addition to having some old-time outdoor fun, you will be helping our Housatonic American Legion and VFW to raise money so that they may give back to the youth in our community.

MassWildlife's Habitat Management Grant Program

Thirteen municipalities, conservation organizations, and private landowners were recently awarded a total of $341,396 for habitat management projects to improve habitat for rare or declining populations of wildlife. The grants will fund 13 wildlife habitat improvement projects totaling 698 acres in 14 communities across the state.

In its fifth year, MassWildlife's Habitat Management Grant Program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife deemed in greatest conservation need and certain game species. The projects are also designed to complement ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands and expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor recreation.

"Fish and wildlife habitat management for both rare and common species and to enhance wildlife-related recreation opportunities is a top priority for MassWildlife," said Dr. Mark Tisa, Director of the DFW. "Because 80% of Massachusetts is in private ownership, working with committed municipal and private landowners is a no-brainer. These grants help protect everyone's investment in wildlife, habitat, and the enjoyment of outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, or watching wildlife."

Congratulations to the following local recipients of the 2019 MassWildlife Habitat Management Grants:

Great Barrington — The Nature Conservancy was awarded $28,576 to create and improve old field and shrubland habitats at the Schenob Brook Preserve.

Lenox — The Town of Lenox was awarded $26,810 to remove the invasive hardy kiwi plant at Kennedy Park and Mass Audubon's Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

South Lee — South Lee Associates was awarded $13,655 for efforts to control invasive species on Housatonic River properties.

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


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