Sportsman’s Corner: Manage your land

  • Mike Roche's French Brits Dinah and Laney are rarin' to go bird hunting. Photo/Mike Roche

Published: 9/17/2020 5:50:56 PM
Modified: 9/17/2020 5:50:46 PM

Massachusetts landowners, large and small, are eligible for grants to do work on their land that will benefit wildlife. The MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program (MHMGP) provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to enhance wildlife habitat, while promoting public access for outdoor recreation. Over the past five years, the MHMGP has awarded over $1.9M in funding to 31 different organizations and individuals for 74 habitat projects. The MHMGP grant applications are available through Oct. 16. More information is available on the MHMGP web page.

This program has been a rousing success and locally, Fred Heyes has done significant wildlife habitat improvements on lands he owns and manages. Wildlife, from insects to birds to plants and game and nongame animal species, all thrive when thoughtful cutting and clearing are used to enhance natural habitat. The MHMGP encourages owners of conserved lands to engage in active habitat management on their properties to benefit many types of wildlife, including species of greatest conservation need and game species.

Although MassWildlife and other conservation organizations have made unprecedented investments in land acquisition in Massachusetts, land protection alone is not enough to guarantee the persistence of the commonwealth’s diverse wildlife. Investment in habitat restoration and management is urgently needed on public and private lands across the state.

To address this need, MassWildlife and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have substantially increased their investment in habitat management on state wildlife lands and are committed to working with partners to promote these efforts on other conserved lands across the state.

I encourage landowners to make an inquiry to see if their property would be a candidate for the grant program. Believe this hunter: It works and wildlife flourishes where scientifically designed management plans are put into place!

Report from the field

You have got to love these cool nights and brisk mornings! This a great time to be outdoors and walking around viewing the seasonal changes. Maples are turning red, and wildlife activity is increasing. Unfortunately for me, it is also very dry and some of my traditional wood coverts are not holding birds as it is just too dry for “timberdoodles,” who feed on earthworms in moist soil.

Dinah, Laney and I are finding a few woodcock but ruffed grouse — aka partridge — are few and far between. I used to get a lot of information from U.S. Postal Service employees and others who frequently traveled dirt roads and would share sighting of grouse, who frequently “dust” themselves or pick up grit for digestion on dirt roads. Those tips resulted in the discovery of new covers, which is important because covers only are productive a short while. With no active management, (cutting) habitat becomes inhospitable for the birds, and many other wildlife species when mature trees — or worse, species like white pine or invasive species — take over, and without the benefits and food resources of the openings, the birds move or just do not survive without the basic things they need.

With New York upland season right around the corner, all three of us (Dinah, Laney and yours truly) are in excellent condition. Dinah, soon to be 13, is a marvel. “Vibrant” is the word my daughter Jen uses to describe Dinah and she has provided high energy food, glucosamine chewables and a supplement added to water to freshen breath. It must work as she is thin and energetic and most eager to run. Unfortunately, like many older canines, she seems to be rapidly losing her hearing. That is a concern when hunting as she can get out in thick cover and lose track of where I am as she follows scent. The SportDog Upland Hunter collar I use on both dogs has a feature that allows me to activate a tone that is used to track her whereabouts. I am trying to use a whistle now more frequently, hoping she may hear that better than my voice. Regardless, she is more than ready for another hunting season.

Laney has filled out and is “cob.” Cob is a term used traditionally to describe a small horse, usually of a stout build, with strong bones, large joints and steady disposition; it is a body type of horse rather than a specific breed. French Brittanys are described using the same term and Laney is barrel-sided while still lean.

This writer is also in training and gets 30 minutes of cardio faithfully each day by outdoor walks, using a treadmill, or biking or kayaking during the summer. It has paid dividends in weight loss and energy level. After two heart attacks, it was relatively easy to choose a healthier lifestyle that included better food choices and exercise. Good Irish Whisky only contains about 65 calories! Each day of bird hunting results in six to eight miles of walking for me and two or three times that much for the dogs. We will be ready!

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