Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: New turkey hunting regulations to take effect in 2020
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Board recently voted to approve changes to turkey hunting regulations affecting bag limits, fall season dates, shot size, and the Youth Hunt. These regulation changes will take effect with the 2020 season. There are no changes to the 2019 fall turkey hunting season. The summary below provides an overview of the changes.
Increase the annual limit to three birds (two bearded turkeys in the spring and one of either sex in the fall): Currently, hunters may harvest either two bearded birds in the spring with no fall birds, or one bearded bird in the spring and one bird of either sex in the fall, for an annual limit of two birds. The change allows all hunters to take two bearded birds in the spring and an additional turkey of either sex in the fall, increasing the annual bag limit to three birds.
Increasing the daily bag limit to two in the spring allows hunters to take their spring season limit in a more efficient manner.
Expand the fall season (archery only) to coincide with the archery deer season: Currently, the fall turkey hunting season begins the second to last Monday in October and ends the second Saturday thereafter, during which hunters may use a shotgun, muzzleloader, or archery equipment. This change allows turkey hunters to harvest turkeys with archery equipment during the entire duration of the archery deer season (6-8 weeks depending on zone). Turkey hunters would continue to be permitted to use shotgun, muzzleloader, or archery equipment during the traditional two-week season from the second to last Monday in October through the second Saturday thereafter.
Allow no larger than #4 shot size: Currently, turkey hunters may only use #4-#7 size shot for turkey hunting. The change removes the minimum shot size restriction. Due to advancements in ammunition technology, there are now shotshells available that are made of lead alternatives like tungsten, which are denser than lead. These alternatives can utilize small shot sizes (#7 or #9) while still maintaining lethal ballistics down range to effectively and humanely harvest a wild turkey at common hunting ranges. These types of ammunition allow hunters greater flexibility when choosing ammunition/shotgun combinations for turkey hunting, including the use of smaller gauge shotguns that may be easier or more convenient for hunters to carry and shoot.
Expand Youth Day turkey hunting hours to 30 minutes before sunrise until 5 p.m: The Youth Turkey Hunt Day occurs on only a single day — the Saturday before the last Monday in April. Approximately 250-285 young adults ages 12-17 participate each spring. This change provides young hunters the opportunity to hunt on a special day before the start of the regular spring hunting season. The expansion of the hunting hours will greatly increase the total time available for hunting.
Allow Youth Turkey permits issued to youths aged 12-14 to be used in the fall turkey hunting season: At this time, youths ages 12 to 14 years old who successfully complete the mandatory training program for the Youth Day are issued a free permit with two turkey tags and must always hunt with a licensed adult mentor hunter. These tags are currently only valid on the Youth Day and the remainder of the regular spring turkey hunting season. When hunting turkeys in the fall, these young hunters must currently use their accompanying mentor's turkey tags and license. Because young adults who complete the mandatory training workshop for the Youth Day demonstrate significant initiative to earn the permit and must always hunt with a mentor, it is unnecessary to restrict the use of their tags to the spring season only. This change provides additional opportunity for young hunters with the Youth Turkey Permit to use their own tag during the fall season by providing them with two spring tags and one fall tag (Note: Under current regulations, youth aged 15-17 are required to have their own hunting license and turkey permit, which allows them to hunt in the spring or fall seasons).
The Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt
The Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt is an annual event conducted on Quabbin Reservoir watershed lands, implemented as part of the management program to maintain a balance between deer herd densities and forest regeneration. Participants are selected from an applicant pool in a special lottery in early September. Since 2016, all applications must be submitted online; the application must be filled out and submitted from the DCR Deer Hunt web page between July 1 and August 31. Hunters can get assistance completing the online application at the Quabbin Visitor Center on Saturdays (9 a.m. to noon) and Wednesdays (noon to 3 p.m.) during the application period.
Once selected, all successful applicants will receive written notification by early October.
Organization of the Hunt
During 2019, hunting will occur at Petersham between Gates 38 and 40. This area will have one, two-day segment — December 12-13.
Access will be restricted to designated gates. Hunters must check in and out by posted times on each day they hunt and obey all regulations and directions of DCR and law enforcement personnel.
Hunters will be assigned to a specific access zone where they must check in and out each day. There will be a limited number of antlerless deer permits available to participating hunters, so unlike in past years, not all hunters are able to purchase an antlerless permit.
Since 2007, hunters have been able to use muzzleloaders for the Quabbin Deer Hunt. However, all hunters must possess a valid FID Card in order to participate in the hunt.
The hunt may be cancelled due to severe weather conditions or security situations.
The application must be filled out and submitted online through the DCR Deer Hunt web page. There is no application fee. To minimize vehicular traffic and increase efficiency, hunters may apply in groups of up to six with a MINIMUM of two. Hunters may only apply on one application. There are several required fields on the application which must be completed before it can successfully be submitted, including a valid email address for Hunter #1. This hunter will receive an email message confirming successful submission of the application.
Once selected, hunters will be assigned to a specific access zone where they must check in and out each day.
This is the application for the Petersham hunt only. There are plans to hunt other areas of Quabbin in 2019. Details will be posted on the web page when available.
Hunter Selection Process
The drawing to select hunters will be based on the last digits of your MassWildlife Customer ID Number. All eligible Customer ID numbers listed on the application will be included in the lottery.
Selected hunters will be required to complete an orientation session prior to the 2019 Quabbin deer hunt except for those who completed an orientation session in 2018, 2017, or 2016. DCR has developed an online orientation session option for returning hunters who have not completed an orientation session in 2018, 2017, or 2016 but have attended an orientation session at some point in the past. New Quabbin hunters will still be required to attend an in-person orientation session.
For more information, go to https://www.mass.gov/service-details/wild-turkey-hunting-regulations.
All about rivers program
On Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. the Housatonic Valley Association is having a free community program all about rivers. This is an opportunity to meet river critters, learn about our river ecosystem and our current river issues. You will be able to take home tips for protecting our rivers' health. If interested, meet at the Stearns Elementary School parking area, 75 Lebanon Ave., Pittsfield. Heavy rain or thunder cancels. Call 413-298-7024 for more information.
Gene Chague can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-637-1818.
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