Out in Massachusetts state parks, Wildlife Management Areas, and forests, there’s a winter wonderland just waiting to be explored.
Whether you’re into hunting, fishing, or camping, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) have resources to help you to enjoy the great outdoors all season long.
Ice fishing can be a great way to relax and unwind — just bundle up, grab a thermos of warm soup, and drop your line. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) has a map of public ponds in Massachusetts to get you started. Pay attention to local restrictions — most but not all public ponds allow fishing year-round. You should do your own research, but some regulations and safety tips to keep in mind include:
- Get a Fishing License — Anyone over 15 must have a freshwater fishing license. You can buy your license online through MassFishHunt. A license for an adult Massachusetts resident costs $27.50. Licenses are free for anglers aged 15–17. Check MassFishHunt for more fishing license types and fees.
- Follow Regulations — Keep up to date on the most recent Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing, and Trapping, and pay attention to fishing seasons, catch limits, and other restrictions.
- Learn Ice Safety — Before heading out, read DFW’s ice strength and safety tips.
- Respect the Environment — Follow DFW’s code of angler ethics.
DCR allows hunting at many state parks, forests, and reservations outside Greater Boston. Wildlife Management Areas allow hunting and can be explored using the MassWildlife Lands Viewer. Check the most recent Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing, and Trapping for full listings and dates, but a selection of winter hunting and trapping seasons include:
- Snowshoe hares
- Cottontail rabbits
- Gray and red foxes
Restrictions regarding waterfowl hunting can be found in the 2015–16 MassWildlife Migratory Bird Regulations. If you plan to hunt geese or other permissible migratory game birds in January or February, you must visit MassFishHunt to register for the 2016 Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey.
Visit DFG’s webpage to learn more about hunting and trapping license types and fees. Before hunting, familiarize yourself with the applicable laws and regulations, as well as DFG’s rules of firearm safety and outdoor recreation safety tips. Dress warmly and ensure you are easily visible — wearing blaze orange is an effective way to reduce the risk of accidents.
With snow on the ground and frost on the trees, off-season camping has a rustic and adventurous quality you can’t find any other time of the year. For the determined outdoor enthusiast, DCR provides a list of available sites and schedules. If you decide to take on the challenge of off-season camping, you want it to be unforgettable for all the right reasons — remember these tips:
- Choose the Option that Fits You — Know your limits and comfort level. Options range from bare-bones experiences to grounds with cabins and heated bathroom facilities.
- Plan Ahead — Reservations are required for cabins at Mohawk Trail State Forest, Savoy Mountain State Forest, and Camp Nihan Environmental Education Camp. You may check availability and make camping reservations online or by calling (877) 422-6762. DCR strongly recommends that anyone interested in winter camping do a great deal of research and preparation beforehand, because additional or special equipment may be required. Always contact the park prior to your arrival — winter camping is subject to closure due to weather conditions.
- Beware of Extreme Cold — Keep the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s (MEMA) safety tips for extreme cold in mind, and pay close attention to changes in the weather.
There’s no reason a little snow and ice should keep you cooped up inside. For more winter activity ideas, check out three ways to keep moving this winter.
What are your winter adventure plans? Leave a comment below or tweet @MassGov to let us know!
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