Berkshire Woods and Waters: Paraplegic hunters enjoy another special day

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According to Trina Moruzzi, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife supervisory biologist and paraplegic deer hunt coordinator, 16 hunters participated statewide in the paraplegic hunts which were held Nov. 2-4. Three deer were harvested, all bucks — one in southern Berkshire County, one at Devens and one at Otis/Edwards. This translates to a 19 percent success rate for this year's hunt. In the past five years, these hunters have averaged around a 25 percent harvest success rate.

Here in the Berkshires, six hunters participated this year — four in the southern and two in the northern Berkshire sites.

The southern Berkshire folks hunted in the Mount Washington area and it was coordinated out of the DCR Headquarters there. Fred Lampro and Mark Portiere headed up the hunt this year. The hunters were: Sidney Eichstedt of Lee; Greg Baumli of New Lebanon, N.Y.; Steve Gladding of Westfield and Vyto Sablevicius of Norwich. Helpers included: Shaun Smith, Brian Ingerson, Marc Portieri, Greg Arienti, Rick Thelig, Tom Dean, Paul Antonozzi, Fred Lampro, Al Vincent, Paul Mullins and Chuck Pickert, all from the Berkshires or northern Connecticut.

For the ninth year in a row, Chuck Pickert brought his trailer-mounted smoker/grill and cooked breakfast and lunch for the three days. Tricia Vollmer made the fish chowder, and other individuals also prepared the desserts and other food needed for the three-day event. A lot of friends who own restaurants and businesses donated food and condiments. I intentionally arrived there Friday, just before lunch. On that day, the lunch menu was homemade fish chowder, smoked pot roast, smoked Vidalia onion gravy, luau baked beans (with pineapple) and homemade desserts. The day before, Pickert prepared a smoked pork loin lunch.

So how did the hunt go this year? A button buck was taken the first day by Eichstedt. Over the last 20 years that Eichstedt has been participating in the paraplegic hunt, he has taken 14 deer. Three of the four other hunters saw deer. I didn't get to see the deer, as it was already cut up.

The volunteers are amazing. They did a lot of prep work by scouting several areas and placing trail cameras to see where the best deer activity was. They analyzed the pictures to determine the best places in which to place the hunters. They set up wooden ramps on which to place the wheelchairs, transported the hunters to the locations and helped to drive the deer toward the hunters. If a hunter shot a deer, they tracked it, field-dressed it and dragged it to the hunter's van. In Sidney's case, one of the volunteers even drove the deer to a butcher to be cut up that evening.

This year, one of the hunters and his volunteers encountered two other deer hunters who planned to hunt the same area. When they learned that paraplegic hunters wanted to hunt the area, they graciously left the woods with no hard feelings.

The two hunters at the northern Berkshire site were Dale Bailey of Clarksburg and Shawn Mei of Baldwinville. Volunteers included Rick French, Alex Daigle, Tony Mei, Stacy Sylvester and J. Sylvester. They hunted in the Williamstown area but had no luck.

DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden and his staff of Nate Buckhout, Jacob Morris-Siegel, Derek McDermott and Ray Bressette were on hand at both sites to help out and check in the deer.

"Since 1972, this hunt has provided thousands of hours of recreational opportunities for paraplegic sportsmen and women and I am proud to be part of it." said Moruzzi. She noted that volunteers are integral to the program and thanked them all for their enthusiasm and commitment. There is some concern that the numbers of hunters taking advantage of the paraplegic hunt have been dwindling, mainly due to their aging or passing away. If you are a paraplegic sportsman or sportswoman interested in participating in the 2018 hunt, contact Moruzzi at trina.moruzzi@state.ma.us or call 508-389-6318.

Incidentally, the definition for paraplegic per 321 CMR 2.06 states: "(b) Paraplegic: A Division (MassWildlife) application form completed by the applicant and an attestation on the form by a physician that the applicant is a person who has total paralysis of the lower half of the body, or a condition that prevents any use of the lower limbs."

2017 Tri-Club Champions

Congratulations to the Sheffield Sportsmen's Club, which won the 2017 Tri-Club Championship Skeet Tournament. The scores were: Sheffield Sportsmen's Club, 1350; Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club, 1340;, and Lee Sportsmen's Association, 1216

Lee Donsbough was the high scorer for Sheffield. The "Iron Man Shoot" at Sheffield was won by Buddy Atwood. High trap was won by Mike DiGiovani and high skeet was won by Ryan Simmons. The 50 5-Stand, 25 Skeet and 25 Trap are shot in this contest.

Shotgun Deer Hunting Revisions

Shotgun deer hunting season will be starting Nov. 27. A new regulation revision is that hunters must check in their deer at a deer-checking station the first week, but can check their deer online during the second week of shotgun deer season.

Also, DFW Western District Supervisor Madden recently reported that there is a new deer-checking station in East Otis. It is Papa's Healthy Food & Fuel at 2000 East Otis Road, and the number is 413-269-7779. It will be open for the first week of shotgun season only, with the special hours, from Nov. 27 through Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Shortnose Sturgeon

In August, near the Vernon Dam, in Vernon, Vt., an angler caught and released a shortnose sturgeon. This is the first confirmed case of a shortnose sturgeon living above the Turners Falls Dam. It was thought that the dam and the natural waterfall there had always been the limit of where these fish lived in the river. This is exciting news for the sturgeon, which is endangered in the Connecticut River.

However, this also has implications for the hydroelectric facilities in the region, particularly the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility. It's critical that their equipment function in a way that does not harm these fish. And the problem with Northfield Mountain is, there's not any protection against fish — big or small — from being drawn into the intake pipes.

The Connecticut River Conservancy, which issued this news release, was already on top of the problems with the intake pipes before the shortnose sturgeon was caught. It will be even more committed to ensuring that this problem be fixed when the new FERC hydro licenses are issued.

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