Athol Daily News – MassWildlife Proposals Offer Greater Opportunity and Consistency

Published: 6/24/2022 12:54:37 pm

Modified: 06/24/2022 12:54:19 pm

The Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board met Wednesday at the field headquarters in Westboro. The Board also held a public hearing on proposed regulatory amendments to 321 CMR (Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regulations) 3.00 Hunting: specifically, the regulations relating to the hunting of pheasant, quail, and small game.

The proposed regulations:

Create a late pheasant and quail season so hunters can go after any birds not previously caught in storage through December 31.

Extend hunting hours in stored WMAs. Hunting hours would remain from sunrise to sunset while hunting pheasant, but would be expanded for other species. For example, archery deer hunters can now hunt from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset in pheasant-filled WMAs.

Standardize pheasant and quail hunting hours from sunrise to sunset throughout the state.

Remove WMA hunting implement restrictions and standardize implements (shotgun and archery) for pheasant and quail. For example, bear and coyote hunters would now be allowed to use any legal hunting implement, including rifles, in WMAs filled with pheasants. Hunters would now only be able to use shotguns and archery equipment while hunting pheasants throughout the state.

Simplify and extend the hare, cottontail, and gray squirrel seasons. Hunting seasons for jack rabbits, cottontails and gray squirrels would be extended through the end of February in a single state season for each species.

Eliminate black-tailed jackrabbit season. MassWildlife staff believe the species is extirpated and has been absent from Massachusetts for decades.

The Board received approximately 80 comments on the proposals and will continue to accept comments through July 6. There was overwhelming support for changes that provide additional opportunities for athletes and clarify regulations. The changes will be on the agenda for consideration at the July Board meeting.

The annual Deer Review was on the agenda and Deer Project Leader Martin Feehan presented the staff’s proposed allocation for Antlerless Deer Permits (ADP) for all Deer Management Zones for the upcoming season. The 2021 deer harvest showed a reduction in the total deer harvest in Massachusetts. Feehan noted that this was a consistent trend across states in the Northeast and that hunter participation declined after the significant increase in 2020 related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also noted that Massachusetts worked with the USDA on SARS CoV 2 testing in the state. A total of 86 of the 558 samples tested positive. There is no evidence that the virus has any impact on deer or humans. Deer COVID testing did not show any cases of COVID being transmitted from wild deer to humans.

Massachusetts continues to successfully keep the chronic debilitating disease out of state and regulations limit the entry of deer from other states. It is illegal to import venison parts from states or provinces where the chronic wasting disease has been detected (a map of those states is available on the MassWildlife website). It is legal to import boneless meat, clean skullcaps, headless hides, or fixed taxidermy mounts. This prohibition includes all members of the Cervidae family, including but not limited to white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer, moose, caribou, or elk.

The allocation of antlerless animals was increased in almost all areas of the state as the Massachusetts population goal of 12 to 18 deer per square mile is in effect in most of the 14 areas of the state. Locally, Zone 5 was increased by 150 permits to a total of 1,950 and Zone 6 was increased by 30 to 400. Deer Project leader Feehan, who joined MassWildlife about a year ago, noted that the increase of allocations would be monitored for three years, and a number of data points would be reviewed at that time. Both zones are currently on target.

If you want to hunt antlerless deer this fall, you need an antlerless deer permit. If you apply for a permit before the July 16 deadline, you must check back after August 1 to find out if you have been granted the ability to purchase the permit. Hunters can apply online using MassFishHunt on a computer or smartphone. You need a valid hunting or sporting license to apply for an antlerless deer permit. There is no fee to apply; $10 fee is charged only if you are granted a permit during the instant grant period.

The instant grant period begins on August 1 at 8 am and ends on December 31. Your chances of getting a permit are the same no matter when you check your permit status. You can check the status of your permit through MassFishHunt.

Prior to the Board meeting, a ceremony was held to recognize Massachusetts Ducks Unlimited for their generous contribution of a catch net launcher that would be used to make waterfowl collection for data analysis much more efficient. efficient. The Western Mass Duck Hunters Association, an organization this writer has been a member of for decades, and the Nashua River DU Chapter, which was founded by my lifelong friend Mike Donnelly during my tenure as Regional Director of Ducks Unlimited, provided a significant portion of the financing for the launcher. Grassroots Ducks Unlimited volunteers were recognized by several of those who spoke for being known for “walking the walk AND talking the talk” as they have always selflessly stepped forward to do things that benefit vast resources and not just to the ducks.

Mike Roche can be reached at