Outdoor Briefs

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Scholarships available for conservation camp

MANCHESTER — It's time to register for the 2017 Green Mountain Conservation Camp at Lake Bomoseen, or Buck Lake this coming summer.

For children age 12-16 years, these week-long camps are owned and operated by the State of Vermont, and offer hands-on learning experiences about fish, wildlife, ecology, botany, forestry, hunter firearm safety, outdoor first aid, and so much more.

Ninety percent scholarships are available through the Manchester Rod & Gun Club for all Youths within a 30 mile radius of Manchester..All you have to do is contact Club Member Carol Dupont at 362-5556, and request your $225 scholarship authorization prior to filling out the online camp registration form.

If you need help with the online application, a Rod & Gun Club Representative will help you. Contact Eric Severance at 802-362-2666.

Visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com to find camp availability and application

Deer and moose season hearings set

MONTPELIER — Hunters, landowners and anyone else interested in wildlife, especially deer and moose, should plan on attending one of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife public hearings being held in late March.

The hearings will include results of Vermont's 2016 deer and moose seasons and prospects for hunting next fall as well as an opportunity for people to provide their observations and opinions regarding deer and moose.

The hearings will also include a review of the proposed 2017 moose hunting season and an opportunity for the public to provide feedback on the number of moose permits recommended for 2017.

On February 22, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board preliminarily approved a total of 80 bulls-only permits for the October 2017 moose hunting seasons. Based on the Fish & Wildlife Department's recommendation, 63 bulls-only permits will be issued for the regular hunting season and 17 bulls-only permits for the archery hunting season.

The 80 permits proposed by the department represent a 52 percent decrease from the 165 permits approved last year. Fish & Wildlife biologists estimate Vermont has 1,750 moose statewide with the greatest concentration in the Northeast Kingdom. Under the proposal, state officials expect about 34 bulls to be taken given typical hunter success rates.

"We continue to take a very conservative approach to moose management in Vermont," said Mark Scott, director of wildlife for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "The intent of the proposal is to allow slow population growth of Vermont's moose herd by eliminating all hunting of cow and calf moose." Scott explained to the Board that the 2017 moose season proposal will allow some level of hunting opportunity, yet still promote an increase of moose in many parts of the state.

Vermont's archery-only moose season is scheduled for October 1-7. The regular moose season is October 21-26.

The proposal is available for public review at vtfishandwildlife.com. Comments on the proposal can be sent to ANR.FWPublicComment@vermont.gov

The meeting in Middlebury will include an "Open House" discussion of deer, moose, bear, turkey, migratory birds, and habitat management projects.

The hearings are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, March 21: 6:30-9 p.m., Brattleboro Area Middle School, 109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro

Thursday, March 23: 6:30-9 p.m., Brighton Town Hall, 49 Mill Street, Island Pond

Saturday, March 25: 12-5 p.m., Middlebury High School Cafeteria, 73 Charles Avenue, Middlebury

Public meeting on central VT wildlife area

RUTLAND — The Vermont departments of Fish & Wildlife, and Forests, Parks, & Recreation are holding a public meeting to discuss future management and use of a Castleton-area wildlife management area.

The meeting will discuss the Blueberry Hill Wildlife Management Area from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29. It will be held at the Agency of Natural Resources Rutland District Office at 271 North Main Street, Suite 215.

This meeting will initiate public input into the development of the long-range management plan for the property.

The meeting will be open-house style and will feature individual stations, staffed by department biologists and foresters, that display resource inventory findings and maps along with educational information.

Department staff will be available at each station for conversation, to answer questions, and to listen to comments about the wildlife management area. Because there is no formal presentation, people may arrive at their convenience.

The 1,296-acre Blueberry Hill property is owned by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and managed for fish and wildlife conservation, as well as to provide the public access to enjoy these resources.

The wildlife management area was created in 1970 when the land was transferred from the Agency of Transportation during the construction of Route 4.

The site contains steep mountainous terrain ranging from 500 feet to 1,800 feet in elevation. It contains a mixture of hardwood forests and old fields with apple orchards which serve as a food source for a variety of species including deer, bear and turkeys.

The area also serves as habitat for hermit thrushes, indigo buntings, milksnakes and garter snakes. It is adjacent to other large conserved properties including Bird Mountain Wildlife Management Area, creating a large area of connected conserved lands which are critical for wildlife.

For more information, contact John Lones at john.lones@vermont.gov or Nick Fortin at nick.fortin@vermont.gov.

Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities are available upon request. Please include a description of the accommodation you will need. Individuals making such requests must include their contact information. Please send an e-mail to: Catherine.gjessing@vermont.gov or call the office staff at 802-828-1000 (voice), 1-800-253-0191 (TTY).

Vermont Fish & Wildlife talking turkey

MONTPELIER -- The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is hosting two free turkey hunting seminars this spring, on Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2.

"Both experienced and first-time turkey hunters stand to benefit from these seminars," said Hunter Education Training Coordinator John Pellegrini. "We will provide A-Z hunting information, including safe hunting practices, specialized equipment, calls, site setup, and other strategies for harvesting turkeys."

Both seminars will be held 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The April 1 seminar will be at the Barre Fish and Game Club on Gun Club Road in Barre. The April 2 Seminar will be at the Hartland Fire Department in Hartland.

Certified Volunteer Hunter Education Instructors Jeff Blanchard and Brett Ladue will be leading the seminars, with Jeff teaching on April 1 and Brett instructing on April 2.

You may register by going to VT Hunter Education Seminars at www.vtfishandwildlife.com. Participants are encouraged to bring a lunch and outdoor clothing suitable for the weather conditions. Do NOT bring your own shotguns or ammunition to the seminar.

If you have questions, please contact John Pellegrini by calling 802-272-2909 or emailing john.pellegrini@vermont.gov.

Lake Champlain muskie catches point to restoration progress

SWANTON -- A series of recent muskellunge catches by anglers ice fishing on northern Lake Champlain have provided fisheries biologists from Vermont Fish & Wildlife with added confirmation that muskie stocking and restoration efforts in Missisquoi Bay and the Missisquoi River are proving successful.

In a rare occurrence, Vermont anglers Ryan Carpentier and Gage Honsinger both landed muskie through the ice in mid-February at two different locales on the northern end of the lake. Carpentier's fish, caught and released in Missisquoi Bay, measured 38 inches in length and weighed 14.1 pounds. Honsinger's muskie, which measured 35 inches in length, was caught and released in the Inland Sea area.

While large, adult muskie have been caught sporadically in northern Lake Champlain over the years, biologists say the two February catches likely indicate a direct link to the department's recent muskie stocking efforts which began in 2008 and are part of the department's long-term muskie restoration plan.

"Based on known age-at-length data, we estimate these two fish to be between six and eight years old," said Shawn Good, a fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife who has led the muskie restoration program. "Given the age estimate and locations of these two catches in proximity to our muskie stocking sites, there is a strong likelihood that these fish are a product of our initial stocking efforts, which is incredibly encouraging and satisfying to see."

Muskellunge, which can grow to over 50 inches in length and weigh over 50 pounds, are one of four species of the pike family native to Vermont, along with northern pike, chain pickerel and redfin pickerel.

Although the Lake Champlain muskie population was once widespread, it began to decline in the 1960's and 1970's and is thought to have been extirpated completely from the lake by the early 1980's following a spill of untreated waste from a mill on the Missisquoi River.

Since 2008, the department has stocked over 50,000 fingerling muskellunge into the Missisquoi Bay and Missisquoi River area, working to restore the species to northern Lake Champlain.

"Our goal is to return the species to Lake Champlain and reestablish its place in the fish community," said Good. "Muskie are an apex predator that once played an important role in the lake's aquatic ecosystem. It's really exciting to see these catches and gather more evidence that the stocked fish are succeeding."

Good, who is reminding anglers that any muskie caught in Vermont must be immediately released based on state law, is also eager for the future recreational opportunities that the fish will provide.

"People who have caught them, like Ryan and Gage, will attest to the incredible fight they provide and what an experience it is to catch them," said Good. "They are known for vicious strikes, powerful runs and acrobatic leaps. It's an exciting prospect for Lake Champlain sport fishing and we're thrilled to see progress."

To learn more about fishing in Vermont, the department's fisheries programs, or to purchase a fishing license, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

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