Berkshire Woods and Waters: Four generations of hunting tradition for the Curtins

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In 1967 Neil Curtin, of Tyringham, and his brothers bought 60 acres of land in Monterey at the top of the mountain on the Tyringham-Monterey line. They built a deer camp that September. The first day of shotgun season, he shot a nice 8-point buck at the old birch tree up on the side hill where he had decided would be a good spot. That was the very first day of the then-new Massachusetts bucks only law, unless you had an antlerless deer permit. That birch tree was where Neil's son, John Curtin, got his first deer a few years later. Neil and John's uncle, Peter Curtin, are gone now, as well as the old birch.

But this year, John's 16-year-old grandson, Colby Curtin, went to the spot of the old birch and shot a 175-pound black bear. He was very excited and a little rattled by the experience.

"My father would never have thought a black bear would be shot at that spot when he shot that deer 50 years ago," John said. (There were few, if any bears around there then, in spite of the fact that the mountain is called Beartown Mountain).

Also, later in the same day Colby's dad and John's son, Michael Curtin, shot another bear. Then, to top the day off, John's son, Mark Curtin, shot a 6-point buck.

John said that he got to walk about three miles that day and got nothing.

"What I did get was a great deal of satisfaction and a lot of good memories!" said John.

Black Bears

Black bears typically enter their winter dens at this time of year and exit between March and April. Bears commonly den in brush piles, in mountain laurel thickets, or under fallen trees or rocks. If food is available, bears that are not pregnant may remain active throughout the winter.

Incidentally, black bears mate in summer and don't give birth until January, after being pregnant only for two months. This isn't a riddle, it's delayed implantation! After breeding, the fertilized egg develops into a tiny ball of cells that remains free-floating in the uterus. If the female is well-nourished, the cells will implant in the uterine wall in November, and she'll give birth to 1-4 cubs after two months.

In his December report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Department of Fish & Wildlife Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden noted that over 60 bears were harvested statewide during this year's shotgun deer hunting season. He suspects there will be even more when the final figures come in. Some 120 or so were harvested during the September bear hunting season and 23 were harvested in the November season.

Deer

The harvest figures for the archery hunting season have not been released yet, but it appears to have been a very good year, perhaps a potential record year. That's according to Madden. It's also too early for the preliminary figures of the shotgun deer hunting season, but the Western District deer checking stations reported a "solid" first week.

In the above referenced report, Madden presented graphics illustrating the age structure and antler beam diameters for Massachusetts deer. In the Western District (Wildlife Management Zones 1-4), statistics show that 46 percent of the harvested deer were 1 1/2 years old or younger, 27 percent were aged 2 1/2 years and 27 percent were aged 3 to 5-plus years. Those are the exact ages at which MassWildlife wants our herd to be.

Illustrations were also presented giving the Western District average yearling male antler beam diameter. Measured in millimeters, they hope the diameters would fall between 15 and 17 millimeters. Below 15 millimeters would indicate that the food supply is not sufficient to grow the body and antlers, which would mean the herd is in trouble. Here in the Western District, the average figure was 18.2 millimeters, which exceeded their highest hopes. That is an indication of an ample food supply and a really healthy deer herd.

That's why MassWildlife requires hunters to bring deer to a biological check station during the first week of the shotgun season, so they can collect this important information.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman Deer Hunt

Congratulations to the nineteen women statewide who participated in the recent BOW Deer Hunt. MassWildlife thanks all of its "fantastic" volunteer mentors. Two of the women had success and dropped nice bucks. One of those bucks had a beautiful 8-point rack, definitely suitable for mounting. You can see pictures of the lucky women and their bucks by logging onto the MassWildlife Facebook page and scrolling back a week or so.

The deer hunting seminar and guided hunt is designed for women (18 and older) who are new to deer hunting. In the seminar, participants learn about deer behavior, what to wear, what gear to bring on a deer hunt, deer management, sighting in a firearm and other useful tips. Then comes the guided deer hunt. No previous hunting experience is required for the seminar and registration priority is given to new hunters.

Reminder to gamebird and archery deer hunters

If you completed a MassWildlife log while hunting game birds or during archery deer season, it's time to send them in. Hunters who submit completed logs before Wednesday will be entered in a drawing to win a blaze orange MassWildlife cap or a Massachusetts Wildlife one-year magazine subscription. You can email scanned logs to mass.wildlife@state.ma.us or mail completed forms to MassWildlife, Attn: Game bird hunting log / Archery deer hunting log, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Fishing and Boating Access Maps

Anglers, check out the new Fishing & Boating Access Maps and give the Office of Fishing and Boating Access your feedback. Go to the MassWildlife web page and search boating maps and access. One of the new features gives directions to access sites via Google Maps. The OFBA provides boat and canoe access sites, shore fishing areas, and sport fishing piers at more than 275 locations on coastal waters, great ponds and rivers throughout Massachusetts.

Habitat Work

If you have been noticing some sawing and other activity lately on the Peru Wildlife Management Area off of Mongue Road, fear not. DFW Western District staff members are continuing habitat work in there this month. The area of work is a hilltop that was clear-cut in 2003. Their goal is to clear the area to reset the clock for establishing young forest conditions. Such work is very important in encouraging early successional growth, which is good for wildlife and song birds.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.


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