By: Andrew Pelletier
Welcome to the second edition of the Upper Farmington Sportsman’s Journal. For October, we’ll take a look at our area’s growing moose population and we’ll take a quick look at what October has to offer local hunters. We’ll share another wild game recipe you hunters who are beating the brush with dogs for pheasant will surely enjoy, and we’ll see what October has to offer our die-hard anglers in local waters. Grab a cup of coffee, put another log in the stove and enjoy this month’s edition of Upper Farmington Sportsman’s Journal.
Some Thoughts On Our Growing Moose Population And Some Shared Encounters…
Last week as I drove west on Route 44 past the junction of 179 in Canton, I caught a glimpse of a large, dark form between the clap of wipers on a rain soaked windshield. As I got closer, there in the Bristol’s Wild Carrot Farm field was a handsome young bull moose with a decent set of antlers. He was making his way toward the highway and the Farmington River on the other side. Fearing for the animal’s safety and the safety of fellow motorists using the highway at 7:45 that morning, I decided it would be best not to stop. A moose has the knack of creating a gaggle of rubber-neckers, and rightly so, but it also creates a dangerous situation for beast and commuter alike.
Since I’ve moved to West Hartland, moose capitol of Connecticut, 12 years ago, I have had 9 moose encounters. Sadly, two of those encounters were with bull moose with very impressive racks that were being hauled away by MDC and DEP officials on heavy-duty flatbed trailers. Both animals were victims of moose versus vehicle collisions. The drivers’ vehicles did not fair so well either and the motorists were lucky to survive with minor injuries.
From the end of September through October we see a drastic increase in moose activity. The bulls are ranging far and wide in search of receptive females and that means more road crossings. Be on the alert when you are driving through rural areas near lakes, reservoirs and rivers, especially at night. Moose are very tall creatures with very slender legs and a vehicle’s headlights will be focused under the animal’s belly. The telltale reflection of their eyes will not be easily seen either because they are so tall. Most human fatalities that occur are from when the moose ends up coming through the windshield; I’ll spare you the graphic details of what a 1,000-pound animal will do when it comes through a windshield. Your best defense is to slow down and remain alert and aware when traveling rural roads at night.
My first encounter with a Connecticut moose happened in the Tunxis State Forest while picking blackberries on a fire road; see the story I submitted in 2002 to “Connecticut Wildlife,” page 12 of the November/December edition. The majority of my sightings have been in West Hartland. One morning, heading eastbound on Route 20 at the top of Barkhamsted Reservoir, I encountered a huge bull moose with enormous antlers who ran for 1/3 mile alongside my car in the westbound lane before veering off into the woods! I also captured a picture of a moose calf which took advantage of the buffet in my backyard. The calf’s mother was around because I found her hoof prints where the calf kept looking up the hill at her as it fed. The photo included in this report is blurry, but it leaves no doubt, these huge animals are here and their numbers are growing. It’s always enthralling to see these creatures, but even more so when you get to see them here in Connecticut. Remember these are wild animals and they will turn on you if they feel threatened. Use common sense and park your vehicle safely off the highway if you are lucky enough to have an encounter with one of these most majestic animals. I also do a lot of fly fishing and moose watching in Pittsburg, New Hampshire on the Canadian border and I caught this encounter on my video camera and posted it to YouTube, set to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
What’s In Season For October?
For current licensing, permits, bag limits, hunting areas and special conditions go to www.ct.gov/dep/hunting.
Fall Archery Deer and Turkey season is in full swing as of the posting of this report.
Fall Firearms Turkey started on October 1st and is open until October 31st.
Upland Bird Hunting
Pheasant starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st (a series of pheasant tags are required to hunt pheasants)
Ruffed Grouse starts on October 15th and ends on November 30th (Hunters should think about NOT hunting grouse due to depleted grouse populations statewide)
Quail starts on October 15th and ends on October 29th
Chukar Partridge starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st
Crow starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st
Waterfowl Hunting (Season dates are relative to the AP unit local for NewHartfordPlus waterfowl hunters)
Requires a Valid Federal and State Waterfowl stamp as well as a CT H.I.P. Permit. For more Waterfowling info. go to: www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2700&q=323426&depNav_GID=1633#WFSEAS
Ducks, Merganzers and Coots Early season starts on October 12th and ends on October 22nd. Late season starts on November 9th and ends on January 5th
Canadian Geese Early season starts on October 31st and ends on November 5th. Late season starts on November 9th and ends on January 5th
Snow and Blue Geese Early season starts on October 1st and ends on January 14th. Late season starts on February 22nd and ends on March 10th
Woodcock and Snipe Season starts on October 27th and ends on December 10th.
Small Game Hunting
Grey Squirrel Season starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st
Cottontail Rabbit Season starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st
Snowshoe Hare Season starts on November 19th and ends on December 31st
European Hare Season starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st
Woodchuck Season starts on October 15th and ends on November 15th.
Fox And Coyote Hunting
Red and Grey Fox Season starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st
Coyote Season starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st.
Raccoon And Opossum Hunting
Raccoon Season starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st
Opossum Season starts on October 15th and ends on December 31st.
Know and completely understand all hunting regulations BEFORE you head out!!!! Questions? Go to www.ct.gov/dep/hunting
Local Hunting Areas
Maps for most of these areas can be found at www.ct.gov/dep/hunting.
- State Land
- People’s State Forest – Barkhamsted (2942 acres)
- American Legion State Forest – Barkhamsted (1037 acres)
- Nepaug State Forest – New Hartford (1367 acres)
- Tunxis State Forest – Hartland (9518 acres)
- Wildlife Management Areas
- Cedar Swamp WMA – New Hartford/Torrington (278 acres)
- Roraback WMA – Harwinton (1975 acres) – added at the request of NHPlus reader, Brian Sikorski. Thanks, Brian!
- State Leased and Public Access Areas
- MDC – Greenwoods Pond – New Hartford (400 acres)
- MDC -Colebrook Reservoir/ Hogback Dam – Colebrook/Hartland, etc. (4159 acres)
Wild Game Cookery
Ah, the blessed days of October and the crisp, pleasant days spent afield. Working the dog through the middle of a thicket or corn stubble and that perfect moment of filtered sunlight dappled on the back of your Brittany, locked in a classic point. The scene burns into memory and you almost forget you’re hunting when the big rooster whirrs toward the blue, cackling. The report of the double, the smell of spent powder and fallen leaves and earth and the vision of your Brittany, dutifully retrieving the beautiful bird to your hand…
Here’s a recipe that’s not very fancy but is delicious and easy:
Aunt Shelly’s Far-Out, Double-Dipped Pheasant Cutlets
4 Pheasant Breasts
Progresso or 4C seasoned bread crumbs
Vegatable or Peanut Oil
Split the breasts and remove the tenders from each side and put aside. Put one side of the breast in an unzipped zip lock bag and with a meat mallet, pound the breast out to roughly half an inch. Slice the breast into strips and repeat with the remaining breast halves.
Beat 3 eggs with a fork and dip the tenders and strips in the egg. In a large bowl combine equal parts bread crumbs and panko and coat the egg-dipped breast strips with the bread crumb mixture. Now re-dip the coated pheasant in egg, return to the bread crumb mixture and put on a plate or paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the tenders and strips while about 2 inches of vegetable or peanut oil heats to about 350º in a deep skillet.
Place the breaded pheasant in the skillet but don’t crowd them. Let them fry for 3 minutes on one side then flip the cutlets and fry for 2 -3 minutes more or until crispy and golden brown. Remove the cutlets to a platter lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil and continue frying small batches until they’re all done.
Serve with buttered egg noodles and corn. If there are leftovers put them in the fridge and you’ll find that they’re as equally delicious, cold, the next day. No pheasant?? Chicken works just as well! Try it: You’ll like it!
October is a great time to be out on the Farmington River casting to trout that are feeding in earnest with the approach of winter. The Farmington, fortunately, is a year-round fishery due to the fact that its headwaters begin deep beneath the Hogback Reservoir which stays a fairly consistent temperature. Last week I saw that the stocking trucks were making their rounds between the iron bridge in Pleasant Valley all the way up to, and beyond, Riverton. The heavy rains of late will also have redistributed many holdover trout throughout the river system that should create some great sport once the river recedes a bit.
If I’m out for sport you’ll see me with fly rod in hand, casting hopper patterns or streamers. However, if you see me with a cooler and my spinning rod, that means I’m looking to put some trout in the smoker. My favorite lure to use for spinning this time of year is a 4″ floating Rapala in black and silver with the middle trebles removed. I’ll usually cast slightly upstream, diagonal to my position and with quick, short twitches of the rod tip, make the lure dive and dart just below the surface like a wounded or panicked baitfish. The trout will usually smash the lure with gusto and because it is a large lure, usually the largest trout in the pool respond. When I catch a trout I quickly dispatch them with a homemade trout “priest”, fashioned from a broken drumstick, then I gut them and put them on ice in the cooler. Trout cared for in this manner are of the finest eating quality. Most people who don’t like trout have only eaten those left on a stringer to die. That’s a sad end to such a noble and delicious fish.
When I get the trout home I remove the back bone and ribs and “butterfly” the trout, then put them in a brine of 1 cup salt, 1 cup sugar and 1 quart of water. I let them sit overnight in the brine then take them out and dry them with a clean dishtowel. Then I’ll season them with thyme, tarragon and pepper and leave them out to dry for an hour or so. I start the smoker with a pan of alder and then a second pan of maple and smoke them for 4 hours or more depending on the size of the trout. When smoking is done, I’ll usually take two smoked filets and put them in a food processor and add a package of Philly Cream Cheese. I’ll blend that until it’s smooth and toast up a sesame bagel and spread it on the bagel. Then I’ll slice some of the smoked trout filet and put that on top of the bagel along with some thinly sliced red onion. Try it out and Im sure I’ll be seeing you on the river more often!
Share Your Photos And Experiences With Us!
We encourage those who hunt, fish or observe wildlife to share their pictures and stories with us and other readers. Please send your photos and/or stories to: firstname.lastname@example.org, attention: Andrew Pelletier, and we’ll be happy to post them in future editions of The Upper Farmington Sportsman’s Journal.
We wish all of you a safe and successful season!