Sportsman’s Corner: What will 2019 bring?

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 1/4/2019 9:00:10 PM
Modified: 1/4/2019 9:00:15 PM

As we begin the new year, it is easy to ponder exactly what will unfold as the 12 months go from winter to spring, then summer to fall. For those of us who enjoy hunting and fishing, there is each new season to look forward to with a fair amount of planning and dreaming. To start off, let me remind ice fishermen to observe a great deal of caution before engaging in that sport, which is a favorite of many. The mild weather has made conditions on most bodies of water risky so make sure to check the ice before venturing out. Remember to have with you the things you may need, like a rope to throw, and heed the warning printed in this space earlier. You can go to the MassWildlife website to get all the safety info you need. Please, be smart and do not take unreasonable risks. Never go out on the ice alone!

On the evening of Dec. 21, this writer let my older French Brittany out at about 9:30 p.m. to “do her business” before going into her kennel for the night. As soon as the light went on, I noticed that one of the bird feeder stands was bent over parallel to the ground. The dog’s demeanor, which included growling and the hair on her back standing straight up, was a second clue that a bear had just visited our yard. The feeders came in and neighbors were alerted. Dec. 21 is very late to have black bears still prowling about, but hibernation is triggered by lack of food as much as weather and this month has surely been very mild. That event led me to look at what was going on with Massachusetts black bears and here is what the preliminary harvest report from MassWildlife contains:

During the three hunting seasons in 2018, a total of 201 bears were harvested. This represents a drop from the 270 bears taken in 2017 and record of 283 bears taken in 2016. A breakdown by season is as follows:

First season (Sept. 4 – Sept. 22): 150

Second season (Nov. 5 – Nov. 24): 26

Shotgun season (Nov. 26 – Dec. 8): 25

The September and November seasons were virtually identical in 2017 (151 and 26) and 2018. The big decrease in harvest in 2018 was during the shotgun season. Bears were active very late in 2017, resulting in a high shotgun season harvest, 91 bears taken. The lack of hard mast in 2018 saw bears enter their dens early which resulted in a corresponding reduction in the shotgun season harvest, with only 25 bears taken.

Massachusetts black bear harvest by county

Total

B

F

H

HC

M

W

2017

268

119

64

38

38

-

9

2016

283

106

57

65

42

1

12

2015

237

75

77

30

38

1

16

2014

240

78

56

51

43

4

8

2013

148

57

33

25

24

1

8

2012

185

47

56

39

36

1

6

2011

131

45

25

23

31

-

7

2010

144

57

42

16

26

-

3

2009

169

61

42

27

35

1

3

2008

100

41

24

9

23

-

3

2007

143

71

33

9

29

1

-

2006

148

76

32

17

18

-

5

2005

113

52

34

14

13

-

-

2004

146

56

30

33

27

-

-

2003

153

66

43

20

23

-

1

2002

116

50

27

21

17

-

1

2001

104

36

30

17

21

-

-

2000

81

33

21

9

18

-

-

KEY: B: Berkshire County; F: Franklin County; H: Hampden County; HC: Hampshire County; M: Middlesex; W: Worcester

The management of black bears in Massachusetts is a challenge because of a number of factors, but a significant one is the lack of participation by hunters specifically targeting black bears. The serious bear hunters who scout, plan and put in considerable effort tend to have fairly good success, but mast production can really make targeting bears difficult. With recent season modifications, deer hunters can take bears, if they have a bear permit, during November archery season and during the shotgun deer season. Think ahead and get your bear permit when you get your 2019 Massachusetts Sporting or hunting license. As a reminder, get that 2019 license now so you can be ready to hunt and fish.

My great friend and mentor, George L. (Gige) Darey, former Board Member and Chairman of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, passed away at his home in Lenox on Dec. 21 and his funeral is Saturday. Gige represented the Western Wildlife District on the Fisheries and Wildlife Board for 38 years, 35 as chairman, until December 2016. He served under eight different governors and worked with four MassWildlife directors. During his tenure on the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, Gige was instrumental in generating public support for important wildlife issues, including the funding of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program; establishing the Wildlands Conservation Stamp, a $5 assessment to the sale of hunting and fishing licenses dedicated exclusively to protecting wildlife habitat open to hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-related recreation; and promoting science-based management of wildlife and wildlife habitat. He was honored by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board in 2004 when the Housatonic Valley Wildlife Management Area in Lenox was renamed the George Darey Wildlife Management Area. This past October, Gige received the prestigious Francis W. Sargent Conservation Award from the Fisheries and Wildlife Board for his contributions to the sporting community and to the conservation of the Commonwealth’s natural resources. RIP my friend!


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