Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Spring turkey hunting season starts Monday

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GILLIAN JONES — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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The spring turkey hunting season opens Monday and runs through May 25. Hunting hours begin a half-hour before sunrise and end at noon. Hunters can harvest up to two bearded birds in the spring (one per day).

MassWildlife predicts this spring turkey season will be a productive one for hunters across Massachusetts. In 2017, there was a record high spring harvest, and 2018 was the third highest spring turkey harvest ever. These continued high harvest years indicate a strong, resilient turkey population across all Wildlife Management Zones.

Spring and summer brood productivity can locally influence turkey populations, but overall brood success has been strong over the last several years. Winter severity may sometimes reduce turkey populations in northern climates, but habitat conditions are very good across the state and help buffer the effects of winter.

But don't let the high abundance of turkeys fool you, says MassWildlife. It's still very important to scout pre-season. Turkey hunting is very popular in the spring, especially during the first week of season, so scouting will help you identify multiple areas where hunting may be productive.

As always, remember to be respectful when hunting on private and public lands, watch out for ticks and be careful.

Rainbow trout liberated

The skies were leaden colored and there was a chilly wind which whipped across the lake into our faces, at the Stockbridge Bowl boat ramp on Thursday, April 18. But that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the 50 or so people who were gathered there to witness or take part in the great trout liberation. Little children, along with their siblings, parents and grandparents, helped the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife release about 800 rainbow trout into the bowl, which had a total estimated weight of approximately 1,000 pounds.

Everyone was focused on getting those trout into the lake. They were beauties, averaging around 14 inches with brilliant reddish pink bands along their sides.

Aquatic biologist Leanda Fontaine trucked the fish in from the McLaughlin Hatchery in Belchertown. Prior to releasing the fish, she gave a little talk about the DFW and the various functions it provides. She talked about the five state hatcheries, the number of fish that are stocked statewide (500,000) and in our area (100,000), how long the stocking will take place this spring and other tidbits of interesting information. The overall reason for the event was to get kids, their parents and the general public aware of MassWildlife and its activities.

Fontaine and her boss, DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden, then netted some fish from the truck fish holding tank, put them into buckets and had the kids rush them to the water's edge and toss them into the lake. Some of those kids weren't much taller than the buckets. but there were plenty of adults to help them. When everyone got tired of racing to the water's edge with the buckets of fish, Fontaine and Madden flushed the remaining hundreds of fish directly from the truck to the water.

I am happy to announce that there were no casualties, as all the fish survived the ordeal and no buckets were accidentally tossed into the lake with the fish in them. I'm not sure who had the most fun — the adults or the kids.

Warning to the parents/grandparents: Many of these kids are old enough to remember where those fish were stocked and you can safely bet that they will be looking to you to bring them back to catch some of them. Perhaps you may want to catch a few yourself.

Look at that cute girl in the attached photo. The look of joy and excitement in her face tells it all. Don't you just love seeing happy kids enjoying the outdoors? Who knows, maybe she was so inspired that someday she will become an aquatic biologist.

Trout stockings

The following local water bodies were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week.

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Rivers and brooks: Bronson Brook in Worthington; Depot Brook in Washington; Factory Brook in Middlefield; Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington; Little River in Worthington and Huntington; Mill Brook in Plainfield; Walker Brook in Becket and Chester; West Branch Brook in Chesterfield and Worthington; Westfield Brook in Windsor and Cummington; Westfield River (East Branch) in Cummington and Chesterfield; Williams River in West Stockbridge and Great Barrington; and Yokum Brook in Becket.

Lakes and ponds: Big Pond in Otis; Lake Buel; Lake Garfield; Goose Pond; Greenwater Pond; and Otis Reservoir.

Firearms Safety Course

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club will be hosting a scheduled live fire NRA & Massachusetts State Police Certified Firearms Safety Course next Sunday, May 5. This is to qualify Massachusetts residents and non-residents alike for the Mass. License-To-Carry, or FID, Card. It will be a hands-on, live-firing, one-day course. A full lunch and a $10 gift certificate to Pete's Gun Shop will be provided.

The cost is $100, which covers all ammo, safety gear, class materials, certificates, an NRA Firearms Safety textbook and the food. The class starts at 9 a.m. and lasts until about 4:30 p.m. Interested parties are asked to pre-register by calling Pete's Gun Shop at 413-743-0780, or stopping in as space is limited. This live fire course fills up very quickly and you should call or stop in early to pre-register. They also ask you to be there by 8:45 am to sign in.

New Land Protected

MassWildlife recently acquired 13 acres in the town of Worthington on Sam Hill Road. This small, but strategic acquisition provides greatly improved access to the part of the Fox Den Wildlife Management Area which is in Worthington. Beware, Sam Hill Road is an unpaved dead-end road which can get very muddy at times.

Map, Compass & Survival Course

On Saturday, May 11, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., MassWildlife will be conducting a Map, Compass & Survival course at the DCR/Mass. Park's Visitor Center, located 740 South St. in Pittsfield. This course is not recommended for students under 12 years of age. To enroll, call 508-389-7830 on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Let's not take this anymore!

What's going on with those aggressive wild animals lately? Not too long ago, a young girl from Norwell was chased into her house by a coyote. It bit her arm and ran off with one of her shoes. Then there was the bear incident in Hinsdale a couple of weeks ago where a family's small horse was killed. Now comes news of gangs of wild turkeys becoming aggressive, intimidating and pecking people near Boston.

Lock em up! That's what I say. Build a wall! They're thugs, bad actors! They're intimidating us. Let them know that they are not welcomed in our neighborhoods. Round them up and drop them off in a sanctuary town, like Ripton!

Or we could take a more sensible approach by taking down those bird feeders to help keep the bears and turkeys away. We could put our garbage pails near the curbside in the morning instead of the night before. We could cover windows and shiny objects to keep turkeys from responding aggressively to shiny objects and their own reflections while they're trying to assert dominance within their flock.

Pardon the levity this morning, but I think you get the point.

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


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