On the Ridge: Spring events nearing

Published: 03-15-2023 5:18 PM

You wouldn’t believe it by looking outside, but the first day of spring is less than a week away. For sportsmen and women, and those who just love the outdoors, there are a ton of things going on right now all around us, including late season sportsmen shows (which is pretty much all I’ve been doing since January), seminars, workshops and not to mention, the 2023 turkey hunting and fishing seasons — also right around the corner!

Too much is happening to not take some advantage of it. Below are some of the activities that will be kicking off the spring of 2023 in a very big way, and most are activities you can attend and participate in as you prepare for the adventures of your choice during a great time of year to be out and about, especially if you’re into hunting and fishing. So here’s hoping that something that follows will catch your eye, your interest, and help you have a little fun, or perhaps become more informed of what’s happening out there with information you need to know or events that you just might want to attend.

Trout stocking has begun. MassWildlife is stocking nearly half a million brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout throughout the state. Stocking trucks are now rolling in the southeast and will be entering other areas throughout very soon. In 2023, MassWildlife will stock nearly 470,000 trout across Massachusetts during the spring with most of the trout being over 12 inches. More than 175,000 rainbow trout over 14 inches, more than 51,000 brook trout over 12 inches (including 300 18-plus inch retired brood fish) and 50,000 brown trout over 12 inches (including nearly 700 18-plus inch retired brood fish). There will also be more than 2,500 tiger trout over 14 inches. Daily stocking updates can be viewed online (Mass.gov/Trout), as all rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds that are stocked in the spring can be found there. Bold waters are stocked in the spring and fall.

Bears are emerging! Despite what’s been happening with the weather over the past few days, in the next few weeks, bears will begin to emerge from their winter dens searching for food. You can help keep bears wild by taking down bird feeders, feeding pets indoors and securing garbage and compost NOW. And if you own backyard chickens or bees, an electric fence is a must. That’s right, March is when hungry bears begin to emerge from their winter dens and start seeking out food again. And if you live in Western Massachusetts or other areas where bears are plentiful, it’s time to take down your bird feeders. Natural foods such as acorns and other nuts are usually available on the ground, but last year’s fall hard mast crop was meager.

That said, bears will often ignore seasonally available natural foods including skunk cabbage in favor of an easy meal at a backyard bird feeder. Other species including wild turkeys and coyotes may also frequent bird feeders leading to a variety of nuisance issues. To avoid these problems, property owners must be proactive by removing bird feeders and other potential food sources including garbage or open compost. This is also the time when you secure bee hives, chickens and livestock. Properly maintained electric fencing is the only way to protect chickens or bee hives from bears. Taking these actions may prevent the unnatural feeding of bears and other kinds of neighborhood wildlife. And remember, there are at least 4,500 black bears in Massachusetts and their range is expanding from high populations in the west, to the far eastward regions of the Bay State. Act now, by educating yourself and talking with your neighbors about taking measures that can help avoid conflicts with bears.

April 11: Turkey Calling Seminar, Westborough – Calling all interested turkey hunters! Join MassWildlife and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) for a one-hour class to learn all about turkey calling. This class will give you an opportunity to practice calling under the guidance of experienced turkey callers. Go to the MassWildlife website to register for this event.

April 13: Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee meeting, Zoom – This meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. Members, associate members, and MassWildlife staff will meet virtually via Zoom; the meeting is open to the public.

April 22: Still time to take part in the state’s annual Youth Turkey Hunt. To participate, basic hunter education graduates ages 12-17 need to complete an in-person or online seminar. The program includes a seminar and a mentored turkey hunt. Go to the MassWildlife website to find out more about this event.

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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.