Berkshire Woods and Waters: Most hunting seasons are closed

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The rabbit and hare hunting seasons closed on Feb. 28, and last Wednesday, the coyote and bobcat seasons also closed.

And not a bit too soon for this attractive putty cat.

For some reason, we have been seeing an increase in bobcats lately, at least on the east side of Lenox. Jim Lahey of Lee was surprised last winter to see one stroll across his patio. A few years back, there was one that made its home in our neighborhood on East Street. That cat hung around for about three years. We were pretty sure it was the same one as it had a very distinctive limp. Neighbors Al and Martha Joyner got a kick out of watching it sunning itself on the top of their split rail fence.

The handsome bobcat pictured was photographed on the lawn of neighbor Tim and Kathy Face, also of East Street, a couple of months ago. According to Tim, she had two young kittens with her. I wish they would visit our place and put a dent into the vole population that has been creating havoc in our vegetable garden.

For many years, there was a bounty on them, presumably put on by the DFW in response to farmers' complaints. Like foxes, bobcats like to frequent the hen houses, too. The bounty system was ended in 1968.

If you see one of these beautiful animals, consider yourself lucky. There was a time when one would be lucky to see one or two in a lifetime.

Staying on the subject of wild cats (not wildcats), the bobcat's larger cousin, the Canada lynx, has been sighted recently in Southern Vermont. One was photographed in Londonderry, Vt., and biologists with the VT F&W confirmed the identification and visited the site to confirm its location.

Also, biologists suspect that a lynx was photographed by a game camera in nearby Searsburg, Vt.. It was photographed by a University of Vermont student who had set a trail camera out near a Route 9 underpass. Chris Bernier, a wildlife biologist for the VT F&W, was thrilled to see the animal using a wildlife underpass that was created for the express purpose of allowing animals to pass safely under the road.

These were the first confirmed evidences of lynx outside of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom in decades. Lynx are listed as "threatened" under the Federal Endangered Species Act and "Endangered" in the state of Vermont. Are they headed our way?

Spring Trout Stocking

About 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked this spring from MassWildlife's five hatcheries. These fish, coupled with the more than 80,000 fish stocked last fall, will provide some excellent fishing in the coming months. Stocking took place in the southeastern area of the state last week with other regions of the state expected to follow soon after. Anglers can get daily stocking updates at Mass.gov/Trout, or contact individual district offices for the latest stocking information.

The following are the 2017 spring trout stocking stats: Most of the trout will be over 12 inches, nearly half of them will be over 14 inches, more than 1,400 brown trout will be over 18 inches, more than 600 brook trout will be over 15 inches and more than 2,000 tiger trout will be over 14 inches.

Beware, ticks are bad this year

I had some free time and decided to take my beagle, Jacques, out rabbit hunting on Feb. 27 before the season closed. I was hoping to bag a bunny and have it for a meal later in the week. It was so warm that day that I hurriedly switched out my regular hunting jacket for a lighter one and off we went.

After some time, Jacques kicked up a rabbit and he was hot on its scent. I picked an open spot where I could get a good shot, and while waiting for the bunny to circle back, I could practically taste that fried rabbit already. Feeling something crawling on my neck, I rubbed the area, but there was nothing there. A little while later I felt something crawling in my hair under my hat. This time I removed the hat, got out my comb and there was a tick. I looked down and there were five others crawling up my pants leg.

After killing them, I reached into my hunting jacket pouch to get the can of Permethrin clothing repellent and plastic bag in which to carry the rabbit home. Uh-oh, they were in my other hunting jacket. Well, I wasn't going to carry that rabbit with ticks in my coat pouch without being sealed in a bag. No problem, I thought, I'll simply field dress the rabbit and leave the fur and ticks in the woods. Guess what, my hunting knife was in the other jacket, too. It's a wonder I remembered to bring my gun.

Jacques was barking excitedly and the rabbit was getting close. Now what? Do I shoot it and hand-carry it back home? No way, I could picture all of the ticks jumping off of it onto my hand and crawling up my arm.

The shotgun bead was right on the rabbit's head, a chance for a nice clean shot, with no pellets in the meat. Nope, I didn't shoot it and let the bunny hop away.

You have undoubtedly heard of lucky rabbit's feet, well this was one lucky whole live rabbit.

Before leaving the woods, I pulled three more ticks off of my clothes. When we got home, we immediately washed up. Interestingly, he never had a tick on him.

Parting message: Use a good clothing repellent and check yourself often.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818.


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