The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board unanimously approved changes to pheasant and quail hunting regulations after holding a public comment session during a Zoom meeting on Tuesday.
Mark S. Tisa, the director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, presented the proposed changes. The new regulation changes establish a permit required for pheasant and quail hunting during the regular season that will cost $4, and incrementally rise up to $20 for Massachusetts residents, starting in 2022. Permits will not be required in commercial shooting preserves. Daily bag and possession limits for pheasants (daily bag limit of two birds, possession limit of four birds) and quail (daily bag limit of four birds, possession limit of eight birds) will also be eliminated. These regulations are intended to take into effect in 2022, so the board needed to vote right after the oral public comment session to stay on schedule.
While the Island does not have natural populations of quail or pheasants, the state does provide pheasants to be released into areas for hunting, according to Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank administrative assistant Maureen Hill. The release locations are on properties owned by the Land Bank, usually in Sepiessa Point Reservation, Peaked Hill Reservation, and Waskosim’s Rock Reservation. The shipments of birds will start coming in on Oct. 16, when pheasant hunting season begins. “We stock more pheasants than any other New England state,” Tisa said.
The board received 14 written comments regarding the regulations prior to the meeting. According to Tisa, 12 comments, primarily from hunting organizations, were in favor of the regulations. The other two comments came from individuals opposed to the changes because of concerns about the fees, removal of bag limits, and the overcomplication of the licensing process.
The oral comment session also showed a mix of responses toward the proposed regulation changes from 11 commenters.
Keith Fritz, state chapter president of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Massachusetts branch, supported the fees, since it will provide revenue to DFW. Fritz voiced support for getting rid of the bagging limits, since it “will increase hunting opportunity and hunting satisfaction.” Fritz also said the pheasant stocking programs allow for the development of better habitats.
Meanwhile, Dennis Ross, a Massachusetts hunter, voiced concerns over the fees. Ross said many gun clubs are strapped for cash because of COVID, and are unable to operate as normal, which would cause private clubs difficulty in providing pheasant stocks. Additionally, Ross was concerned that the removal of the bag limits would give hunters who bring dogs an unfair advantage over those who don’t own one. “There’s a lot of disappointment out there,” Ross said. “I see this bill … is going in the opposite direction, driving people away from the sport.”
Bill Bettelle, one of the commenters, brought up the issue of the state’s blue laws restricting people’s only available day for hunting to be Saturdays. Blue laws restrict or ban some activities on Sundays, which includes a ban on hunting. Betelle says the laws do not reflect the people’s living and operating conditions of today. Tisa said this issue is planned to be discussed in a future meeting.
Connecticut Valley district board member Mike Roache made a motion to approve the regulation changes as written, receiving a unanimous vote of approval.