On The Ridge: Join the process

Published: 2/3/2021 6:34:26 PM
Modified: 2/3/2021 6:34:22 PM

If you haven’t already heard, for the first time since 1996, MassWildlife is considering an increase in hunting and freshwater fishing license fees. During a Jan. 14 public presentation to the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, state officials noted that expenses have been exceeding revenue for several years. They also cited contributing factors such as inflation and declining license sales.

It is no secret that MassWildlife has taken on increased responsibilities over the last 25 years, including stewardship of 226,000 acres of wildlife lands, habitat management activities, and administration of the Hunter Education program. Strangely enough, the agency derives its funding primarily from hunting and fishing license sales and federal excise taxes from the sale of hunting and fishing equipment. I know for a fact how grateful MassWildlife is to the many sportsmen and women who purchase annual hunting and freshwater fishing licenses that help the agency ensure the health of wildlife populations, protect habitat, and maintain access for outdoor recreation. License fees are essential to ensuring the continuation of management programs, which includes over 226,000 acres of wildlife lands for trout programs, pheasant stocking, Hunter Education, and Angler Education.

Starting tonight, the public is invited to ask questions and learn more about their programs, how they are funded and why a license increase is needed. You can participate by attending one of the upcoming virtual information sessions on the Zoom platform: The first Zoom session is Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The sessions dates that follow are Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. and Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. Instructions for joining the sessions online or by phone can be found on mass.gov/masswildlife-funding. These sessions provide an opportunity to learn more about the process and provide input in advance of any formal proposal to raise fees. Expect to see a list of the increased fees and more formal public hearings in the spring. The public may also provide input using an online form on mass.gov/masswildlife-funding or by mail to: MassWildlife, Re: License Fee, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

This is probably something that is long overdue as our license fees statewide support many important wildlife projects that include programs right here in the Connecticut River Valley region. MassWildlife has worked in partnership with Trout Unlimited for many years, initiating the Deerfield River Brown Trout Project that allows for more tagging of brown trout for increased data collection. The agency also manages more than 65,000 acres of Wildlife Management Area lands, access sites and other property that provide opportunities for fishing, hunting, trapping and other wildlife-related recreation. Last year, approximately $615,000 was invested in the protection of 260 acres of wildlife lands just in the Connecticut River Valley alone. So, catch one of those meetings if you can!

Below are up to date figures for the 2020 deer and bear hunting seasons. This past hunting season offered many opportunities to recruit and retain newbies to outdoor activities, from hiking, birding and photography to boating, fishing and hunting. This also extended into the deer season, with the preliminary tallies listed below. With the information currently in hand, 2020 becomes the second-highest deer harvest on record after the 2018 harvest of 14,516 (2019 harvest: 13,891). The complete breakout of numbers is a summary and will most likely not be complete until spring. The following is the initial Deer and Bear Season harvest numbers for 2020:

Season — Harvest Numbers

Youth Deer Hunt: 120

Paraplegic Hunt: 2

Archery: 6,552

Shotgun: 4,855

Primitive Arms: 2,802

State Preliminary Total: 14,331

2020 Bear Season Results

Essentially, these are final numbers for the 2020 bear season numbers. The 2020 bear season was also a record year, with 325 bears taken in the state, breaking the high of 283 bears taken in 2016. Both the September and November seasons were also record high numbers.

Season — Harvest Numbers

September: 236

November: 57

December: 32

Statewide total: 325

Been thinking about ice fishing? Well, on Feb. 22 a virtual ice fishing clinic is a great way to get outdoors. The Angler Education Program will host a one-hour virtual ice fishing clinic to give you the confidence to give hard water fishing a try from 5-6 p.m. on Zoom. Participants will learn how to tell if the ice is safe, how to properly dress for the experience, what gear to bring and lots more tips to get started. Registration is required. Sign up on the MassWildife Calendar at their website.

Also, on Feb. 22, you can join the Rare Species Conservation Panel, Andover as members of the Andover Conservation Commission, the Andover Conservation Division, local volunteers, and Andover High School’s Destination Imagination Teams, for a facilitated discussion about endangered and threatened animals, insects and plants. Panelists include MassWildlife’s State Herpetologist, Dr. Mike Jones, butterfly expert and photographer Howard Hoople, and Officer Glen Ota of the Andover Police Department. This virtual meeting will take place on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. Please email the Andover Conservation Division at CDPConservation@andoverma.us or call (978) 623 8630 to register for the event.

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff.

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