Berkshire Woods and Waters: Local turkey hunter an inspiration to us all
It had rained the night before, but this day was turning out to be a nice one. The only thing he had to worry about was the tires of his wheelchair getting stuck in the mud.
Dave Willette, author of "Coyote Wars" and columnist for the Northwest Sporting Journal wrote about that day in his August 2017 Mass Wanderings column, entitled "Determination and Desire Personified," and much of the following is derived from it.
Zach couldn't get into his normal spots that morning, so he tried a new place where he had permission to hunt. It's a real challenge for Zach to find suitable places to hunt as he has to take into consideration what his limitations are, especially if there is a slope of any kind and if it's wet. He has to know that there are birds around, because he can't do any scouting. He usually hunts out of his wheelchair, but if he has to use his truck, he has to be sure not to trample the farmers' hay.
On this day, Zach drove his custom truck to the edge of a farmer's field and backed out 30 yards to drop the turkey decoys out of the truck window. He then drove back to the edge and watched for birds by looking through his mirrors.
An hour after daylight ten or so turkeys popped out of the hedgerow 400 yards away, so Zach started calling with his box call. By 10 a.m., the birds had gotten within 200 yards and soon two jakes broke off and came within 50 yards. When Zach started to turn a little, they saw him and ran off. He then got into a better position.
Unable to sweat like he used to due to his injuries, Zach got very hot sitting in the truck. Around 11, he was getting ready to quit. But before doing so, he decided to try his new turkey call. He got a response! Zach slowly turned to see two toms about 20 yards from the decoys, but the bigger one detected him and decided to bail. He shot the second one with his .20-gauge shotgun and "it dropped like a stone."
Because Zach only has partial use of his upper extremities, he had to pull the trigger with both hands while supporting the gun on his knees. He then had to drive his truck closer, grab a rope, get into his wheelchair and push it 20 yards over a meadow to retrieve his turkey. He had to bend over, tie the turkey by its feet, push himself back upright, put the rope into his mouth and drag it to the truck while pushing his wheelchair. (That bird weighed over 12 lbs!).
"I was exhausted by the time I got back into the truck", he said.
Zach, who is married to his wife Samantha and has two children, is quite a guy. He hunts other birds and animals, too, including bears.
He felt funny about relaying this story. He prefers to keep stuff like that to himself. It wasn't until I stressed upon him that he is such an inspiration to all of us, especially to others who are battling physical disabilities, that he relented.
Many thanks to Dave Willette for providing much of the above information. Incidentally, you may want to check out the Northwoods Sporting Journal. It is an excellent outdoor sporting magazine which focuses mainly on northern New England.
The Friends of the Berkshire Hatchery will host its Lobsterfest fundraiser on Aug. 20 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Hatchery at 240 Hatchery Road in Hartsville. This event supports the programs and scholarships that the foundation provides. The full lobster dinner, which will be catered by Other Brother Daryl's, costs $65 per person. Tickets can be obtained by calling 413-528-9761.
Basic Hunter Education Courses
All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. One will be taught at the Lee Sportsmen's Club at 565 Fairview Street in Lee, on Aug. 21 and Sept. 9. The times are 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 21 and 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 9. Participants must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course. To enroll, call 508-389-7830.
Young Adult Pheasant Hunt
Hunter Education graduates aged 12-17 can participate in the Young Adult Pheasant Hunt. The program involves shooting instruction and practice, a pre-hunt workshop, and a mentored hunt prior to the regular pheasant season. All young adults between the ages 15 and 17 will need a hunting license and FID card to participate in this program.
This hunt takes place on Saturdays in September and October; specific dates vary and are determined by participating sportsman's clubs. For more information and to view participating clubs, visit the MassWildlife website or contact Astrid Huseby by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The August meeting of the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board will be held on Aug. 22 at 1:00 p.m., at the Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Ave. in Dalton.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: 413-637-1818.
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