Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods & Waters: Ronald R. Smith a turkey-hunting history-maker

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Wild turkey hunting began in Massachusetts in 1980 and the following year, on the second day of the season, a little bit of Massachusetts turkey hunting history took place right here in the Berkshires. In the predawn darkness, Ron Smith — then of Lee, now of Pittsfield — was carefully picking his way through thick brush and trees down a wooded mountainside to an area where he hoped to find a roosting tom turkey. He imitated the call of a barred owl (a turkey predator) and a tom responded with a loud gobble about 100 yards away.

After waiting until it was light enough out to find a good spot to stand, Ron selected an area where there was a large tree behind him to break his outline and disguise his presence. He was also fully camouflaged, including his face, hands and bow. He was somewhat familiar with the area, as he had done some pre-season scouting there. Cupping his hands to his mouth, he called again, this time clucking quietly to imitate the soft "tree call" of a roosting hen. The tom responded immediately, rapidly gobbling several times. Ron cautioned himself not to call too frequently, which could cause the tom to become suspicious and disappear.

He said that he was "unusually calm," probably because he had accepted the probability that any chance for bagging a wild turkey with a bow and arrow was just about nil. The fact that he had practiced for months did little to restore his confidence. A wild turkey is capable of spotting a slight finger movement at 80 yards, and if they do, they are out of there.

Several hundred yards further off, another roosting male started gobbling, resulting in fierce competition. Each bird tried to outdo the other in his attempt to lure the hen by calling continuously. Ron's concern mounted because other hunters might hear the birds, arrive at the scene and unintentionally ruin any chances that he may have at taking a tom.

He could hear the flapping of wings as the nearest tom left the tree and landed behind some thick brush about 80 yards away. The tom double- and tripled-gobbled and paraded back and forth waiting impatiently for the hen to come to him. Ron turned his head, covered his mouth and issued a few muffled yelps with the hope that the tom would think the hen was losing interest and was wandering off.

The tom stopped calling and Ron knew he was coming in. He raised his 57-pound draw Wing Impact compound bow to a shooting position and nocked the arrow. Seconds later, there was movement some 40 yards to his right. The bird had partially circled him and was proceeding cautiously, with its head turning and stretching and eyes searching for the hen. He was heading for a nearby clearing. Ron had specifically chosen that opening right in front of him knowing that turkeys seldom venture into bushy areas where vision is limited.

Now the excitement suddenly hit Ron. His mouth became dry and his chest started pounding and his arms started to shake. It appeared as though the bird's piercing eyes were staring directly into his. About 12 yards away, off to the right, the bird stopped behind a large tree. That gave Ron the opportunity to adjust his shooting position and draw his bow. After a while, his head appeared, his black eyes penetrated Ron's eyes and then withdrew his head and disappeared. There was silence. Then came a strange hissing and drumming sound and the tom stepped out strutting in full display. Ron let the arrow fly and it was over.

Then he sat down to control his shaking. He was a history maker, for he had taken a turkey with a bow — the first turkey bagged with a bow and arrow in Massachusetts in modern times.

The bird weighed 17.7 pounds, had 1 -inch spurs and a 9 -inch beard.

The late Ted Giddings, editor for The Berkshire Eagle, covered the story and had the attached picture of Ron and the tom on the front page of the May 6, 1981 paper with the headline "Lee man sets modern first by killing turkey with bow." Ron also wrote about his experience and his story was featured in the May 1983 issue of "Bowhunter," the national aagazine for the hunting archer.

Ron has always been an avid sportsman. Over the years he has served as president of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen and still is a delegate to the League. He was named Sportsman of the Year in 1995. He was secretary of the Lee Sportsmen's Association for over 30 years and taught bowhunting education for the state for many years. He has served as president of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited. In fact, he signed my diploma for passing a fly tying course back in 1982.

Now, at the age of 83, Ron is still an avid sportsman. He still bowhunts for deer and turkeys and goes out west to hunt elk in Montana, although lately, he hunts for elk with a camera. He is a member of several other sportsmen's clubs, and, lest I forget, he is the elder statesman of the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out), a group which gathers for lunch weekly.

Father, daughter have great spring turkey hunting season

Say, remember my May 6 column wherein I mentioned the Youth Turkey Hunting results? In that article, I mentioned that Grace Krzanik of Adams, while being mentored by her dad Scott, bagged an 18-pound bird. Well guess what? On May 12 Grace and Scott went hunting again and she shot her second tom at 5:19 a.m. As they were heading back to the truck, she heard gobbles, so they went back to where she shot hers and set up again. Two more came in behind them and Scott shot his second bird of the season at 6:30. Both father and daughter tagged out for turkey season.

Incidentally, Spring Turkey Hunting Season ended yesterday.

Trout stockings

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: Clesson Brook and Upper Branch of Clesson Brook in Ashfield and Buckland; Greenwater Pond in Becket; Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Huntington, Montgomery, Middlefield, Russell, Savoy, Worthington, Cummington, Chesterfield and Windsor; Deerfield River in Buckland, Florida and Charlemont; Cold River in Savoy, Florida and Charlemont; Chickley River in Hawley and Charlemont; Littleville Reservoir in Chester and Huntington; North Pond in Florida; Pontoosuc Lake in Lanesborough; Laurel Lake in Lee; Housatonic River (C/R) in Lee and Stockbridge; Onota Lake in Pittsfield; Stockbridge Bowl in Stockbridge; Windsor Pond in Windsor; Lake Garfield in Monterey; Otis Reservoir in Otis; and Richmond Pond in Richmond.

Firearms Course

On Saturday, June 2, the Lee Sportsmen's Association will hold a Multi-License Firearms Course from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. for a proprietary License-To-Carry course that qualifies for licenses in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, and Utah (those not participating in the Utah class can expect to be completed at approximately 3). This comprehensive one-day course includes information for federal and state firearm laws, operation and safe handling of firearms, shooting fundamentals, care and cleaning, concealed carry methods, a live fire session on the pistol range, and much more.

Seating is limited to the first 25 students who register. Course fee is $150, or you can take only the Massachusetts and Connecticut portion for $120 with live fire, or take only the Utah portion for $100 without live fire. State license application fees and processing are not included. Participants will receive a course certificate, application forms, an informative student resource CD and supporting documents. All firearms, ammunition, and eye and ear protection will be provided, including lunch as well.

For more information, contact Robert McDermott at 413-232-7700 or email robmcdermott@verizon.net.

Annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby

The 26th Annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby will take place on Saturday, June 2, at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Onota Lake in Pittsfield from 6 a.m. to noon. No fishing license is required because it is Free Fishing Weekend for the state of Massachusetts.

The derby's purpose is to raise money for the Jimmy Fund-Dana Farber Cancer Institute For Children. All of the proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Fund in memory of Harry A. Bateman, a former member of Central Berkshire Bowmen and I.U.E. Local 255 who was well known throughout Berkshire County and who became a victim of cancer in 1992.

Many trophies and prizes will be given out to the adult and youth winners of the fishing derby. There is even a special category for those fishing with a bow and arrow. All fish must be weighed in at noon and can be caught at Onota Lake from boat or shore. Everyone still needs to register before all fish can be weighed in. You must be wearing your wrist band provided at the registration desk in order to receive food and to weigh in your fish.

Fishing tackle is given with the trophy prizes and two prizes for heaviest trout. A sportsman award, which includes a tackle box with over $100 of tackle, is given out to a child.

The registration fee is $10 for adults and $5 for children 14-and-under, and it includes food and beverages. No alcohol is served at this event. All children receive a free gift and they get a chance at winning a mountain bike. The carp shoot is part of the fishing derby because that was something that Harry enjoyed. Advanced tickets may be purchased at Avid Sports, Dave's Sporting Goods, Maces Marine and Onota Boat Livery.

Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club fishing derby

According to club spokesman Tim Minkler, some 64 fishermen and fisherwomen showed up for the SSC's annual fishing derby on May 20 and fished from dawn to 3 p.m. at Stockbridge Bowl. Weather predictions were not good, calling for rain most of the day with thunderstorms coming through mid-day and temperatures in the 60s. Well, the weatherman was wrong. There were a few sprinkles throughout the day with a 10-minute cloud burst right around 2:30, but for the most part they stayed dry all day.

The $100 winners were as follows — Largest Trout: Sheila L. Malumphy, Lee, 1 lbs 12 oz., 16" long; Largest Bass: Tim Fogarty, Becket, 3 lbs 8oz., 18" long; Largest Pickerel: Dawson Farina, West Stockbridge, 4 lbs, 2 oz., 26.5" long; and Largest Bullhead: Seth Slemp, Lee, 1 lb, 3oz, 12" long.

The age 12-and-under winner was Dylan Trumps of South Lee with a trout weighing 1 lb 2 oz and 13" long.

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

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