The Last Hurrah

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/16/2018 8:06:49 PM
Modified: 11/16/2018 8:07:03 PM

The upland hunting season this writer lives for each year ends when the last migrating woodcock are gone.

I suspect that we have seen the last of the “timberdoodles” for this fall here in the Northeast. After spending most of October in New York, my Massachusetts hunting has consisted of a couple trips to the Berkshires and a few days visiting local covers. Up until the last cold weather and this week’s snow, it was quite good for woodcock but, unfortunately, ruffed grouse, which are more commonly referred to locally as partridges, were hard to find. Unlike the New York covers, there is little active management (AKA forestry cutting) and without the early successional habitat grouse do not do well.

The heyday for ruffed grouse was the decade or so following the second world war when farms were abandoned in huge numbers and the openings grew up creating great grouse cover. It’s also noteworthy that there were very few predators at that time as raptors like hawks and owls were not protected by law and furbearing predators were trapped for their valuable fur. Those conditions are not likely to happen again, but MassWildlife is undergoing an active program to manage lands and cut to create suitable habitat for game birds, song birds, turkeys, deer and most species of wildlife that thrive in early successional forest and do not do well in mature forest.

Hopefully the dogs and I will get out some more before the season officially closes but we did have a good fall, it was just too short! As the season transition, the archery deer hunting heats up. It is the peak of the rutting season for white-tailed deer and the bucks are actively pursuing females. It is a race to find does when they are fertile for the brief period of estrus when mating can take place. In most seasons, archers take three bucks for every doe as the bucks may throw caution to the wind in pursuit of does. If the does are not bred, they will come into heat again in 28 days so the so-called second rut can be going on into December.

The two-week shotgun hunting season will begin the Monday after Thanksgiving and then the black powder season runs until the last hunting day of December. Hopefully, a dumb deer will present itself so that we can have some venison for meat pie this Christmas!

Word from the snowy north woods of New Hampshire is that at least one big buck will be coming back when the Pittsburg crew returns this weekend. Steve Johnson posted a picture of a nice rack buck he took. Since the gun he is carrying in the picture appears to be a muzzleloader, I am guessing he took it during the New Hampshire black powder season, but they usually hunt New Hampshire black powder season and then have both New Hampshire and Maine licenses for the rifle seasons as the hunt near the border of the two states. There will be stories!

Pheasant hunters have been pursuing ringnecks stocked by MassWildlife and waterfowlers have been after migrating ducks and geese. Stories of success have filtered through and there was also fall turkey season which ran from Oct. 22 to Nov. 3. During that time, four toms had the audacity to stroll through my backyard, seemingly daring me to do something. Unfortunately, things did not work out, they never seem to, and another year passed without me being able to bag a bird for Thanksgiving. There is presently a review of Massachusetts turkey hunting regulations which may ultimately lead to liberalized regulations as the wild turkey in Massachusetts is doing really well and could easily withstand more hunting pressure.

In the good news/bad news department: The bad news is that Chris Noyes of Grrr Gear has announced that the store will be closing. She and her late husband Al built a terrific outdoor store and stocked it with everything an outdoors person might need. The good news is that everything in the store is marked down and you can save big while inventory lasts. This is every Christmas shopper’s dream and you need to stop in soon, while there still is a great selection of everything.

Don’t forget to check out your hunter orange gear as it fades and may not meet the requirements. Shotgun season requires that every hunter wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on their head, back and chest. Get to the range and sight in your shotguns and black powder firearms early so will be ready when that big buck steps out in front of you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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