On the Ridge: Short hikes

  • Joe Judd Contributed photo

Published: 6/17/2020 5:14:26 PM

If you read my column a few weeks back about the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School Puddle Jumpers and their book, “A Kids Guide to the Deerfield River,” you may remember how taken I was with them and their project. Well, it seems like others are as well, as requests for this book, and people wanting to know where they can get it, have been coming in. For now, contact Virginia Gary at vgary@mtrsd.org. She has copies left of the original printing. Email her and she’ll be happy to tell you how you can obtain a copy of your very own.

Without a doubt, the 2020 spring turkey season will be a season to remember. Even with the rough start in late April and early May, hunters outdid themselves. The final harvest tally was 3,304, including 73 turkeys taken during Youth Day. This represents the highest harvest ever recorded for a Massachusetts spring season. Only twice have numbers totaled more than 3,000 – first in 2009 with a harvest of 3,027, and again in 2017 with a 3,181 final tally. This record is attributed to the increase in hunter effort resulting from COVID-19 closures. Obviously, Massachusetts hunters have taken their turkey hunting game to a higher level, and it’s starting to show in an excessively big way. CONGRATS to everyone who got out and enjoyed a successful season, and that includes those who maybe didn’t fill a tag, but still had a great time chasing “big bird” as often as they could.

Every year MassWildlife conducts a Brood Survey from June 1 through August 31 to estimate the number of turkeys in the state. The brood survey helps biologists assess populations while providing an estimate of fall harvest potential. Citizen involvement is encouraged as a great way to gather useful data. It can also be a fun way for people to connect with nature. Turkey brood observations are needed from all regions of the state and there are two ways to participate. You can report what you see online at the MassWildlife website by searching for turkey brood surveys, or you can download and print survey forms off the website to complete over the summer. The latter is what I do, and once it’s completed, I mail it off to: Brood Survey, MassWildlife Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd, Westborough, MA, 01581. Just remember not to mail in a duplicate survey if you’re already doing it online.

On a different topic, but still thinking about state records, despite being the third-most densely populated state in the country, Massachusetts is still a state where quality deer are found almost anywhere. Today, conservative estimates indicate a population of over 100,000 deer statewide. Deer density ranges from about 12-18 per square mile in western and central Massachusetts, to over 50 deer per square mile on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

In 2019, the statewide deer harvest was 13,920 — the second highest on record. As we inch closer toward the fall of 2020, don’t be surprise if another record topples before the end of the year. More on that in a future column.

While we’re still talking about deer, fawns have been dropping since late May and early June with some does still dropping. If you happen upon a fawn over the next 6-8 weeks, please leave it alone. While a fawn may be motionless and seem vulnerable, this is normal behavior for them. Even if you see one alone for several days you should still leave it alone, because its mother is probably feeding or bedded nearby.

Does nurse very infrequently during this period, a behavior that helps fawns avoid detection by predators. It’s not uncommon for them to be left alone for 6-8 hours at a time. Young fawns are usually quite safe when left alone because their color pattern, and lack of scent, help them stay undetected. If you should happen upon one that looks weak and sickly, is crying or bleating, or seems to be by itself, just move on and leave it be. While this may be alarming to see, this is all normal behavior for them, and humans will do more harm than good when attempting to care for one.

Finally, bald eagle numbers are soaring as wildlife officials have already documented 70 new, and active, nests this spring. Nine new nests have been confirmed so far this year in Fitchburg, Wenham, Concord, Rutland, Wareham, Medford, Northampton, Hudson and Barnstable.

The “Barnstable nest” marks the first new nest with eggs on Cape Cod in 115 years — the last was in Sandwich in 1905. That is amazing. As populations continue to grow, more and more people across the Commonwealth are experiencing the thrill of seeing bald eagles for the very first time. As these birds continue to expand their range, it’s safe to say that the status of the bald eagle, recently improved from “threatened to special concern” on the Massachusetts Endangered Species List, is safe and well in Massachusetts, not to mention the rest of New England.

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff.

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