This and that
Whew! What a whirlwind week. I feel like a dark funnel cloud has swept me away. Maybe I’d best just go limp and let it drop me where it pleases, totally at its mercy, hopefully depositing me a freshly harrowed field. But first, as I brace for the landing from this dizzying spin, a few observations.
I was hoping to have something on the preliminary September bear harvest and queried the proper person but have heard not a word, which is about what I’ve grown to expect. That’s just the way it goes nowadays, ever since Gov. Mitt Romney made it impossible to get quick, candid answers from state employees, who by law cannot speak to the press without prior approval from an inside screening agency. Of course, part of me feels like that rule gives employees every opportunity to drag their feet and work at a snail’s pace. So what can you do? Thank the Mittster. When I do receive the numbers, I’ll be curious to find out what, if any, impact the EEE scare had on hunter participation. I myself knew a hunter who took a town robo-call alert about EEE and would not sit in his stand for fear of being bitten by an infected mosquito. Who could blame the man? Anyway, it’s no secret that the Bay State bear population continues to grow at a burgeoning rate, one that clearly cannot and never will be effectively managed under current hunting regulations that forbid hounds and bait and refuses to address other potential measures, such as opening the shotgun and primitive-firearm deer seasons to random bear kills when opportunities present themselves. I’m not saying I’m for bear hunting during deer season, only listing it as a potential solution from a limited pool of options. The choices are few if the state wants to rely on hunting as its bear-management tool. Bait and hounds are legal in surrounding states, where their annual bear harvests dwarf ours.
Something else worth mentioning is that the Western and Valley district fall trout-stocking trucks have been out and about for more than a week, with, as always, some local waters on the list. Those waters include the upper and lower Deerfield River, the Millers River, Ashfield Lake, Upper Highland Lake in Goshen, Lake Mattawa in Orange, Lake Wyola in Shutesbury, Laurel Lake in Erving, and Sheomet Pond in Warwick. Although I have not seen the Millers or Deerfield rivers this week, I do observe the Green River daily and it looks prime for angling, flowing at near perfect depth and current. No, the Green won’t receive a fall allotment. Still, there must be many plump spring holdovers that are by now fully acclimated to their new home. The same can be said for most river systems that were generously stocked in April and May.
Meanwhile, woodcock season opened Wednesday, and you should soon start noticing pheasant-stocking trucks on the highways and byways for that upcoming season, which opens on Oct. 13, along with the partridge and rabbit seasons. Squirrel season has been open for a couple of weeks. What about waterfowling, you ask? Well, the Berkshire and Central zones will open for ducks and geese on Wed nesday; the Coastal Zone opens three days later, on Oct. 13. Two days after that, on Oct. 15, the archery deer season will commence, with the fall turkey (Oct. 29) and second segment of the bear season (Nov. 5-24) on the immediate horizon.
It’s difficult for me to assess the hard and soft mast crops because I have not traveled widely, but do hope to be out on woodland missions soon. Judging from what I have seen in my daily rambles and heard from trusted sources, wild apples are hard to find. The apple tree in my yard produced not one apple that I could find, and I mow. Likewise, only one of three wild trees I pass on my daily walks with the dogs produced any fruit at all, and even that tree dropped less than 10, which my dogs found and ate in late August. A quick look at the tree Wednesday produced no apple sightings. Acorns and beechnuts are said to be spotty but can be plentiful in some places. There are acorns on the ground where I walk daily, also hickory, but I have not seen a butternut or beechnut on the ground where they were plentiful last year.
On a long, relaxing hike through the woods of South Amherst and northern Granby last week with a dignified lady — following a network of trails connected to the Matacomet/Monadnock Trail behind her home, off the old Bay Path — we found many acorns and beechnuts in gorgeous hardwoods marked by distinctive landscape and ledge remarkably similar to Whately/Conway woods I patrol and worship. Among our samples on the ground were what I believed to be white-oak acorns that looked like those oblong commercial green grapes you’d buy at Big Y. The ones that caught my attention were shiny and out of their caps, which for some reason were scarce on the ground next to the nuts. My friend speculated that a windstorm may have been responsible for separating them from their caps. Although I hadn’t packed my Sibley’s guide to trees, my thinking was that we were dealing with white-oak acorns that, unlike those from red oaks, germinate in the fall. Upon closer inspection of random oak trees here and there for rest of the two-plus-hour hike, we found many white oaks, some of them chestnut oaks, easily identifiable by their rounded leaves and deep-furrowed bark, similar from afar to black locust. My friend said she often bumps into hunters on her daily fall walks, and I can see why. The woods behind her home are an example of classic Pioneer Valley hardwood deer country, the terrain open and manageable afoot, with many ravines and rocky knobs to use as observation decks.
I must say that walk inspired me to find a partner for a walk to a certain balanced rock I know high atop a Williamsburg mountain. A photographer has already offered to accompany me there and to other sites in the same quadrangle. Great news! I want some photos of the large sacred stone that oozes Manitou, pushing it through the dense mountain-top laurel. That journey is on my short list, a good excuse to assess the deer sign through personally sacred woods. But first I must escape this disorienting manmade cyclone, definitely not the worst I’ve encountered, in fact, not even close.
I suppose that’s why I’m confident I’ll get through it.
Who knows? I may even land in a better place.
Recorder sports editor Gary Sanderson is a longtime member of the outdoor writers’ associations of New England and America. Read his blog at tavernfare.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.