Sportsman’s Corner: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  

  • Paul Rullo of Essex walks in to a steady point by his Draghtaar, Gunther, at a group training session at Hedgerow Hunt Club in Royalston. PHOTO BY MIKE ROCHE

Published: 3/16/2023 4:26:12 PM
Modified: 3/16/2023 4:26:17 PM

By Mike Roche

March 17 is a day when everyone is Irish and celebrates the Patron Saint of Ireland. A lingering myth is that he drove away the snakes, but in truth he is credited with bringing Christianity to the island.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17, the anniversary of his death in the 5th century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years and on St. Patrick’s Day—which falls during the Christian season of Lent—Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. This writer is a big fan of a boiled dinner of corned beef, cabbage and vegetables cooked all day in a slow cooker.

So now with that straightened out, we can turn to the crazy weather of this week. The work on this column began Tuesday morning with heavy, wet snow piling up. Spring blizzards are not uncommon in New England and three of the worst all-time snowstorms occurred in this month with two major storms taking place on this day. The warm weather forecast to immediately follow will melt the snow and we, and the natural world, should be no worse for wear.

Some of the early arriving migrants, like the robins who popped up on lawns last week, should be able to get through the period of deep snow and any woodcock that are already here should be able to survive by using seeps and protected low areas to probe for earthworms until the snow clears. Some really large flocks of northbound Canada Geese were observed passing overhead Monday and songbirds and turkeys have been engaged in early mating season activities. An April or later snow can have a more significant impact after nesting has begun but this event should just be a minor inconvenience.

Meanwhile, MassWildlife was already engaged in the trout stocking for this fishing season, as trucks were already rolling earlier this month. The agency will stock nearly 500,000 brook, brown rainbow and tiger trout across Massachusetts this year. Of those fish, nearly 470,000 will be stocked during the early spring. To get real-time information you can visit for daily stocking updates and find out when your favorite fishing spot will get a visit from the stocking truck. Stocking in southeastern waters started March 6 and other regions of the state will begin as soon as weather conditions allow. MassWildlife is known for raising trout that are both fun to catch and delicious to eat at its five hatcheries in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland and Montague.

“Anglers can look forward to another outstanding trout fishing season. Thanks to the year-round work of our dedicated staff, the quality and size of the fish we are stocking this spring is exceptional,” said Dr. Caleb Slater, MassWildlife’s chief of hatcheries. “MassWildlife stocks these trout in more than 220 cities and towns across the Commonwealth, which helps make great fishing opportunities more accessible to anyone who enjoys the outdoors.”

Notable 2023 spring trout stocking statistics include the fast that most of the trout will be over 12 inches, more than 175,000 rainbow trout will be over 14 inches, more than 51,000 brook trout will be over 12 inches (including 300 18”+ retired brood fish), 50,000 brown trout will be over 12 inches (including nearly 700 18”+ retired brood fish), and more than 2,500 tiger trout will be over 14 inches. If that does not get you pumped up for spring trout fishing, nothing will! We are blessed locally with a number of excellent fisheries and it will not be long before we can sample that great spring fishing.

Meanwhile, we can also expect to encounter black bears as they emerge from the den, hungry and looking for an easy meal. Please take steps to discourage the bruins from getting to your birdfeeders by at least taking them in at night, if not altogether. Once spring arrives, there is plenty of natural food for birds.

Natural foods such as acorns and other nuts are usually available on the ground, but last year’s fall hard mast crop was meager. Bears will often ignore seasonally available natural foods, including skunk cabbage, in favor of an easy meal at a backyard bird feeder. You should also remove other potential food sources including garbage or open compost. If you enjoy watching birds in your yard, MassWildlife suggests adding a water feature, growing native plants, shrubs, and trees to attract birds. Individuals should also secure bee hives, chickens, and livestock. Properly maintained electric fencing is the only way to protect chickens or bee hives from bears. Taking these actions may prevent the unnatural feeding of the 4,500 bears estimated to reside in Massachusetts and other kinds of neighborhood wildlife.

Last week yours truly enjoyed some great dog work and pheasant hunting with Steve Pelz and his fine black lab, Blue. We went to the Swift River Sportsman’s Club and Steve had five pheasants released in advance of our hunt. Blue flawlessly located and flushed the birds and my shooting was awful! Fortunately, Steve also invited John Gudzik and he took care of my misses. He is an active shooter and a ‘vintager’ who prizes classic shotguns. His double barrel hammer gun was a beautiful firearm and he shot it very well! Blue is from field trial stock and well trained and a pleasure to hunt behind.

Saturday was my first chance to observe a group training session at Hedgerow Hunt Club and it was very impressive. Five dog handlers took advantage of the facilities and Pat Perry’s expertise and they ran their dogs, locating chukkars that Pat provided. The Brittany, German shorthaired pointer, Vizsla, Drahthaar and impressive pair of English setters were a pleasure to watch. All the folks had traveled a distance to Hedgerow, some two hours for the chance to train and it was inspiring. We will see if we can get Tessie to that level!

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the MaharFish’N Game Club, Counselor and Director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at

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