Friday, July 29, 2016

National Parks 100th Anniversary Producing Record Turnouts

Posted by Wayne G. Barber
On August, we'll be celebrating the National Park Service's one hundredth anniversary. And it seems Americans are recognizing that auspicious anniversary by visiting those parks in record numbers.

National park visitation hit an all-time high last year, but this year's on pace to blow right through those 2015 numbers. That means more than 307-million of us will pass through those entrances around the country.

In fact, a recent American Automobile Association (AAA) survey says 79 percent of Americans are likely to visit our national parks this year. "The demand for national parks is off the charts this year, and it's exciting to see that Americans are poised to take even more national park vacations in the years to come," said Bryan Shilling, managing director of AAA Travel Products and Services. "In times of global uncertainty, many people are turning to domestic vacations and the wide variety of national parks offer something for every traveler to discover."

Eighty five percent of all Americans have visited a National Park at one time or another, and a majority of us still call those parks "must see" destinations. Having visited my first national park (Mammoth Cave) early- and often- in my childhood, I've never missed an opportunity to visit others.

They seldom disappoint -and in this time of global uncertainty, they're viable options for families that might seek their adventure elsewhere in the world otherwise.

"It's not surprising to see that younger generations are particularly interested in visiting national parks," added Shilling. "Travel is part of Millennials' DNA, and they consistently seek experiential travel opportunities, a major draw for national park visitors."

According to the AAA survey, we seem to feel that spring, fall and summer, respectively, are the best times to visit. But you'd do well to remember that there are select dates in honor of the 100th anniversary when you can enjoy discounts. All sites that charge an admission fee, for example, will offer free admission August 25-28, September 4, and November 11.

Before starting our weekend (ours will include a drive through the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park), here are some of the "factoids" to consider about our National Parks:

The vast majority of visitors (91 percent) drive to their destinations.
Most of us (66 percent) stay in hotels, but camping, vacation rentals or cabins are popular with the others.
Walking, hiking and sightseeing are the favorite activities, regardless of how you arrive.
If you have the opportunity, check out one of our National Parks this year….for a listing of them, visit:

Have a great weekend, and if you're headed outdoors -take along a friend and introduce them to our world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

NEW Maine Archery Law for 2017

Posted by Wayne G. Barber


NEW law requires an archery license when hunting with archery equipment

Hunters should be aware that beginning January 1, 2017, the Department will begin enforcing the requirement that all hunters who wish to hunt with archery equipment in Maine hold a valid Maine archery hunting license.

The law change will no longer allow exceptions to hunt with archery equipment on the firearms hunting license. (Previously an archery license was only required when hunting deer, with bow and arrow during the expanded archery season and special October archery season on deer.) Instead bow hunters must hold a valid archery license.

Anyone wishing to obtain an archery hunting license must show proof of having successfully completed a bow hunter education course or show proof of having held an adult archery license in any year after 1979; (Nonresidents who can show proof of having held a valid archery license in another state after 1979 or who can show proof of completion of a bow hunter education course from another state will be able to purchase a Maine archery license).

To find a bowhunter education course in your area  please visit

Monday, July 25, 2016

VanDam Clinches Bass Fishing's Elite 8 Bracket Championship on Niagara River

Posted by Wayne G. Barber

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In the final round of the Bassmaster Classic Bracket event on the upper Niagara River, Michigan's Kevin VanDam collected his 23rd B.A.S.S. win in a dramatic ending to this first-of-its-kind tournament.

In today's championship match, VanDam was pitted against Brett Hite of Arizona, and fans were able to watch live on as the two Elite Series anglers clashed rods for a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro and a $10,000 first-place payday. Unlike the first two elimination brackets of this derby — and traditional Elite Series tournaments — where a five-fish limit was the goal, every legal-size bass caught today was weighed and counted.

VanDam, who was worried about the change in format after it was announced Thursday, had no issues locating and catching enough fish to eliminate Hite, as he landed 11 bass that weighed-in at 20 pounds, 3 ounces.

"I hit a whole lot of spots looking for keepers, but really the key to my weight today was a spot where I caught my biggest fish (Thursday)," VanDam said. His key area was a flat littered with grass and rock that slowly dropped from 5 to 10 feet deep. And there was plenty of current. "Fish spawn here a lot later than people think, and I was sight-casting to a lot of smallmouth."

VanDam swapped between three Strike King baits, including a tube, drop shot and jerkbait. "The drop shot was key on the sight-fish, but being able to cover water with the jerkbait in this crazy Niagara River current was important in connecting with fish."

Hite committed to fishing a bridge on the northernmost boundary of competition waters, where he easily eliminated his first two opponents.

"I identified three pilings in the center of the bridge that were holding nice schools of bass," he explained. "The water was 10 to 18 feet deep and I drop shotted with a Yamamoto Shad Shape worm the whole time."

Unfortunately for Hite, those bass had lockjaw during the championship match. "It was really overcast today, and I think I needed sun to position those fish where I could catch them," he said. "Plus, we had a strong cross-current wind that could have messed 'em up."

He caught a little more than 7 pounds on the bridge during the first five hours of competition.

"I ditched the bridge pattern with an hour left in the match and caught two keepers quickly," Hite said. "And I was fighting a third keeper as the buzzer went off. I made a big mistake by not leaving that bridge earlier." Hite ended with seven bass weighing 13-9.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Decorated Olympian Partners with NWTF to Promote Shooting Sports

Posted by Wayne G. Barber
EDGEFIELD, S.C. — Wildlife conservation and introducing youth to shooting sports are of significant importance to both the National Wild Turkey Federation and Vincent Hancock, the first-ever back-to-back Olympic gold medalist in skeet.

The shared passions led to a partnership for the promotion of the 300-acre Palmetto Shooting Complex at the NWTF.

"I have been involved with hunting and shooting my entire life," said Hancock. "This partnership provides the opportunity to truly embrace the growth that shooting sports are seeing and allows adults and kids alike to experience clay target shooting and conservation efforts all at the same time."

Hancock's role as spokesperson for the Palmetto Shooting Complex includes range appearances, especially during youth clay shooting competitions, and promotion of the facility leading up to and after his trip to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Hancock also will promote the positive impact shooting sports can have on the growth and discipline of today's youth, something he knows and understands due to the early start he got in shooting sports.

"Vinny is an incredible role model for youth of today, and we know he will have a positive impact on our efforts to recruit the next generation of hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts," said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. "We could not be happier to have him as a spokesperson for our Palmetto Shooting Complex and will be pulling for him to secure an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal next month in Rio."

In addition to back-to-back gold medals, Hancock's career highlights include being a three-time world champion, gold medalist at the 2014 Championship of the Americas, 16-time medalist in World Cup and ISSF World Championship competition and holder of every national, world and Olympic skeet records.

About the NWTF
The NWTF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage. Through dynamic partnerships with state and federal wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore wild turkey populations across the country, improving more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introducing 100,000 people to the outdoors each year. The NWTF was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Edgefield, S.C. According to many state and federal agencies, the restoration of the wild turkey is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North America's wildlife history. To learn more, visit or call (800) THE-NWTF.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Connecticut: Bowhunting Course: August 8 and 9 The Institute for American Indian Studies

Posted by Wayne G. Barber

This unique class gives children 11-15 years old the opportunity to complete the current bowhunting requirements and also learn the traditional Native American methods that inspired the bowhunting tradition we enjoy today. DEEP certified instructors will teach proper archery techniques and safety while educators from the Institute for American Indian Studies provide a background in traditional Native American hunting.
This two-day class will be conducted at the Institute's Museum and Research Center located in Washington CT, on August 8 and 9. Registration is limited. Visit the CE/FS website today to register.

Fishing Access Areas Not Safe for Swimming

Posted by Wayne G. Barber

MONTPELIER, Vt. – The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department reminds the public not to swim at fishing access areas due to safety concerns.  The primary use of the fishing access areas is for launching and retrieving motorboats. 
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department maintains more than 180 developed fishing access areas on lakes and rivers throughout the state.  These areas have allowed uses determined by law, and swimming is not one of them. 
The access areas were purchased and are maintained with funds derived from the sale of fishing licenses and motorboat registrations, as well as a federal excise tax on fishing equipment, fishing tackle, and gasoline for motorboats.  These funding sources explicitly prohibit activities that are in conflict with fishing and boating.
Fish & Wildlife regulations prohibit certain uses of fishing access areas including, but not limited to -- swimming, littering, camping, picnicking, making a fire, parking of vehicles not related to priority uses, and commercial activity.
“It’s great that people want to get out in the water, but a boat ramp is not the right place to go swimming,” said Mike Wichrowski who oversees the Fishing Access Area Program.  “There’s a reason motorboats aren’t allowed in swimming areas, and swimming isn’t allowed at fishing access areas -- it’s simply not safe.”
Vermont game wardens have responded to several incidents in recent weeks involving people swimming at fishing access areas.  In some cases people, including children, were swimming right at the boat ramps while boats were being launched, risking injury or preventing the launching of boats.
“We understand that people want to go swimming, especially during hot weather, but we are urging folks to swim at locally approved swimming areas,” said Colonel Jason Batchelder.  “Finding a safe swimming area is easy in most communities.  Just ask at a general store or other place where people gather.”
The fine for swimming at an access area is $162

When You Find a Fish Kill

Posted by Wayne G. Barber

Report a Fish Kill - Contact the Massachusetts Environmental Police Radio Room at 1-800-632-8075.

The sight of up to hundreds of dead and dying fish along the shores of your favorite pond or lake can be distressing and often lead to concerns about pollution. But in fact, the  vast majority of the fish kills reported turn out to be natural events.
Natural fish kills are generally the result of low dissolved oxygen levels (anoxia), spawning stress or fish diseases. Dissolved oxygen depletion is one of the most common causes of natural fish kills. This can be the case at anytime of the year but generally occurs during severe winters or late spring/early summer.

Conversely, in the spring and summer, as water temperature increases over time, the water simply cannot hold as much oxygen as when it was cold. During the long hot days of summer, oxygen levels in shallow, weedy ponds can further decline as aquatic plants consume oxygen at night resulting in low oxygen levels in the early hours of the morning. This situation can become critical if the levels fall below that required for fish to survive which is approximately 4-5 parts/million. In addition to the depressed oxygen conditions, late spring and early summer are when most warmwater fish species, such as sunfish (bluegill, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass etc.), begin to spawn. At this time, large numbers of these species crowd into the shallow waters along the shore vying for the best spawning sites. These densely crowded areas are susceptible to disease outbreaks especially as water temperatures increase. The result is an unavoidable natural fish kill, usually consisting of one or two species of fish. Nothing can be done to prevent this; it is a natural occurrence and does not pose a public health risk.

MassWildlife's Response to Fish Kills

Fish kill inspection
So how does MassWildlife know if a reported fish kill is a natural event or the result of pollution? As the lead agency in determining fish kill response, a Division fisheries biologist will review each call and through a series of questions, make a determination on whether the kill is natural or requires a site investigation. Generally, pollution impacts all kinds of aquatic life, therefore the most important piece of evidence for the biologists is knowing the number of fish species associated with the fish kill. Fish kills in which only one or two species are involved are almost always a natural event.
When it is likely a fish kill is due to pollution, MassWildlife notifies the appropriate state agency which takes the lead on a formal investigation including analysis of water and fish samples to determine the source of pollution. MassWildlife provides the investigating agency with technical assistance by identifying the kinds and numbers of fish involved. MassWildlife maintains a 40+ year database which helps track waters with a history of natural kills.