Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Writing/art contests for young and old, but don't feed the deer

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Outdoor artistic/writing opportunities available for youngsters

Junior Duck Stamp Contest: "There is still time to enter the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) contest," advises MassWildlife's Wildlife Education Specialist Pam Landry. "Any student, from kindergarten through Grade 12, regardless of whether they attend public or private school or are home-schooled, can submit original artwork in this fun and educational competition. Even if students do not enter the art competition, the related information can serve as a valuable resource in art or science classrooms."

The entry deadline is Feb. 15, 2018.

The JDS program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students in grades K-12 learn about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese and then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, by creating a drawing or painting which can be submitted to the JDS art contest. The art is judged in four age group categories in a statewide competition; the entry judged Best of Show moves on to represent Massachusetts in the national JDS competition. Art teachers, science teachers and parents who home-school can visit its website for an information packet and entry information.

For more information, contact Pam Landry at 508-389-6310, or pam.landry@state.ma.us.

New England Outdoor Writers Association outdoor writing contest

NEOWA recently announced its 6th annual Youth Outdoor Writing Contest. The rules for the contest are as follows:

1. The contest is open to students in New England. Submissions from students in grades 6-8 will be entered in the Junior Division; grades 9-12 will be entered in the Senior Division.

2. The topic must be outdoor-oriented (fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, hiking, camping, nature, ecology, etc.). Any prose or poetic form is acceptable.

3. First, second, third and two honorable mentions will be chosen in both the junior and senior divisions. Winners will receive certificates and cash prizes. First place $150, second $100, third $50, honorable mention $25.

4. The written work should not exceed 500 words. Entrants must submit by mail, three legible 8 x 11 copies of his or her work with a title of the entry and the author's name. The entrant must also include a cover sheet including name, age, address, telephone, e-mail and grade in school. One copy of the entry must also be sent by email.

5. The deadline for mailing contest entries is Feb. 15, 2018. Mail entries to Youth Writing Contest, c/o Randy Julius, 487 Central St., East Bridgewater, MA 02333.

Email: randyjulius19@gmail.com Phone 508-378-2290, 508-642-2997.

NEOWA will announce the contest winners during spring 2018.

Don't feed the deer

A message from MassWildlife: Though well-intentioned, people who feed deer in the winter may not understand the negative unintended consequences of this seemingly benign activity.

A host of microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa and fungi) and enzymes in the deer's digestive system enables the breakdown of plant material into a form that allows for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. The composition of this digestive microflora actually changes during the year to help deer digest the different types of seasonally available foods. As warm weather foods, such as green, soft vegetation, die off in the fall, deer gradually shift to browse, woody plant material such as twigs and buds. Accordingly, the deer's digestive microflora slowly adjusts to this dietary change over a period of weeks.

During the winter months, if abrupt changes in diet occur with introduced high carbohydrate foods like corn, apples, and deer pellets, it can disrupt the deer's stomach chemistry, triggering bloat, diarrhea, damage to the rumen (the first of four stomach chambers), and even death. High levels of lactic acid produced as a by-product of the carbohydrate-digesting bacteria overwhelm other microflora, reduce the rumen's pH (rumen acidosis), and damage the rumen lining. This lactic acid can also be absorbed into the bloodstream and can rise to potentially fatal levels.

Even if a deer survives the initial issues, damage to the rumen lining can be permanent, potentially leading to future digestive problems. Feeding deer can also cause deer to congregate in larger numbers, increasing disease transmission risks, and causing deer to adjust travel patterns that increase vehicle collision risk.

A healthier, safer way to support deer through particularly rough winters is to improve existing natural habitat. Creating areas of young hardwood and shrub-dominated understory forests (e.g., recently cut), especially near coniferous covers of hemlocks, pines and firs, is very beneficial. In locales where deer numbers are much higher than what the natural habitat can support (evidenced by over-browsing), opening large blocks of land to regulated hunting can reduce deer densities, benefiting the remaining deer and the local ecosystem.

Private landowners, land trusts, and cities and towns can provide winter food and cover for deer and other wildlife by including selective forest cutting in their habitat management plans.

Basic Hunter Education Course

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. The Basic Hunter Education course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America. All government-issued Basic Hunter Education certificates, from any North American jurisdiction, are accepted as proof of successfully completing the course in order to purchase a hunting or sporting license.

Anyone who has held a hunting license prior to 2007 in this or any other state, or is a graduate of a Basic Hunter Education course in this or any other state, does not need any additional training and may immediately create a customer account and purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license (www.mass.gov/massfishhunt). Proof of a previous license or certificate is not required.

A Basic Hunter Education Course will be taught at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club, 310 Curran Road, Cheshire, MA, on Feb. 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and March 2, 2018 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for all six evenings. You must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.

If you are interested in this course and wish to enroll, call (508) 389-7830.

Firearms safety courses

The Lenox Sportsmen's Club is having a License-to-Carry/UTAH firearms course on Saturday, Jan. 28 from noon to 4 p.m. It is a Massachusetts State Police Compliant course. The cost is $70 for LTC, $125 for UTAH and $150 for both. Preregistration required. Contact Tom Nadolny at 413-822-6451 or tnadolny1@gmail.com or Dennis Leydet at 413-329-7081 or djleydet@gmail.com.

Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club News

In its most recent newsletter, the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club announced that it has recently purchased approximately one hundred acres of land adjacent to its existing property, along the northwestern boundary. This purchase brings the total acreage to just over two hundred acres, and helps protect the Club from potential encroachments. It thanked those involved in the extended negotiation and purchase, led by its immediate past president, Wayne Slosek. Special thanks also went to its attorney and Club member Jack E. Houghton, Jr., "whose diligence and persistence" saw it through some difficult issues. Thanks were also given to the Skorput family, who were the previous owners, for their patience and generosity throughout the process, most especially Peter, who acted as point man for the family.

The Club was able to pay the cost from its treasury, but as a result, is requesting the membership to step up when paying this year's dues by including an additional donation to help replenish it. I'm sure it wouldn't refuse donations from non-members as well.

Incidentally, after forty years of putting out the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club newsletter, Gary Johnston handed off the responsibility to Max Scherff, a new club member who has graciously volunteered to share his literary expertise with all members. "It has been my great pleasure to contact you over the years through this newsletter" wrote Johnston, "I have always felt that communicating with the membership about the ongoing activities at the club are vital to our continued success. I have great confidence in Max."

Ice fishing derbies

The 40th annual Raymond "Skip" Whalen Ice Fishing Derby will be held at Stockbridge Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 28 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entry fees are as follows: Kids under 15 years old are $5 (and they all get something), Club members and Town residents are $10, nonmembers aged 15 and up are $15. Tickets may be purchased at Wheeler & Taylor and Berkshire Insurance Group in Stockbridge, at the Club on Saturday mornings 9 a.m. to noon, or on Derby Day at the Bowl only until 9 a.m.

Also on Jan. 28, the Onota Fishing Club is having an ice fishing derby on Onota Lake from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be cash prizes for adults and kids and donuts, muffins, coffee and hot cocoa. There will be a pasta dinner afterwards. The adult entry fee is $15 and for kids under age of licenses, $5. Tickets for the dinner after the derby cost $12. Register at the Controy Pavilion.

Please note:

Any club or organization that wishes its ice fishing derbies (or any other events) mentioned in this column must get the information to me two weeks before the scheduled event. It has to be in this column the Sunday before the scheduled event and my deadline is the Wednesday before that. Thank you.

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


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