This week ...
The cooler weather has brought more sea ducks into the Chesapeake. The mouths of the Choptank and Potomac River have many; also, there are some at the mouth of the Chester and Eastern Bay. The daily bag limit is five, but it takes a box of shells -- and they must be steel -- for most hunters to limit out.
Saturday: Last day of Pennsylvania's buck season; the three-day antlerless season starts Monday.
* Sunday: Mountain Club of Maryland Appalachian Trail hike in Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania. Call 740-9754.
* Sunday: Photography tour of Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, 8 to 11 a.m., Upper Marlboro. Call 1-301-888-1410 for reservations.
* Monday: The Maryland Canada goose bag limit is increased to two a day.
* Tuesday: Opening of the Maryland brant season; also the season on all ducks, including blacks.
* Tuesday: Delaware's Canada goose season reopens.
Names and places ...
Blame the unseasonably warm Saturday opener for the dip in the modern firearms deer kill during the season that ended Saturday, but the harvest was sufficient to pretty much rule out any overpopulation problems for the time being. The muzzleloader season that opens Dec. 22 is expected to remove about 5,000 more, according to Josh Sandt, who heads the Department of Natural Resources' forest game management programs.
Modern firearms hunters bagged an unofficial 31,849 deer, about half of them bucks. Last year's kill was 34,518 -- but that included nearly 700 from Aberdeen Proving Ground where the shoot is still under way and is not included in this year's tally.
Figure several thousand more deer were spared because of rain in midweek and warmer weather the remainder of the hunt, and the decline is understandable. Last year, it was cold with snow on the ground to help hunters. Also, a warm fall kept bucks in rut longer, and antlerless deer stayed put. Deer must be on the move for best hunter success.
Bowhunters appear headed for another record, with excellent harvests reported in Western Maryland where -- as of mid-November -- Garrett County was leading the state with 808. To name a few others, Washington, 804; Allegany, 692; Carroll, 497; Baltimore, 429; Cecil, 276; Kent, 344; Dorchester, 288; Frederick, 623; Montgomery (despite anti-hunter activity), 211; and Anne Arundel (which 20 years ago had only 13 in the firearms season), 166.
Sandt said we might be approaching stabilization in the deer herd, roughly estimated at somewhere around 150,000 or 160,000. An increased antlerless deer kill helps.
This year, seven counties showed kill increases, and one -- Charles -- remained the same. Combined, Garrett and Allegany delivered 1,004 fewer deer to account for about half the difference -- and in those two counties snow makes a tremendous difference. Following is the tally, with last year's kill in parentheses:
Garrett, 3,385 (3,895); Allegany, 3,557 (3,951); Washington, 2,593 (2,545); Frederick, 2,614 (2,376); Carroll, 1,716 (1,870); Baltimore, 1,096 (1,128); Harford, 668 (670); Cecil, 1,155 (1,314); Kent, 1,739 (2,243): Queen Anne's, 1,193 (1,280); Montgomery, 858 (819); Howard, 477 (448); Anne Arundel, 371 (501); Prince George's, 464 (433); Calvert, 439 (451); Charles, 1,412 (1,412); St. Mary's, 981 (991); Talbot, 860 (1,032); Caroline, 652 (594); Dorchester, 2,221 (2,659); Somerset, 851 (868); Wicomico, 814 (914), and Worcester, 1,733 (1,460).
* Western Maryland deer hunters encountered more bear than ever during the deer season. The warm weather also played a part in this, prompting a late hibernation. The DNR's public meetings on bears apparently prompted better understanding of the situation because in 1990, for the first time, there were a few livestock killed by bears in Garrett County, but no ensuing outcry for immediate hunting. The incidents involved one sheep, one calf -- and possibly another, though it isn't known whether the bear killed the calf to eat it, or came upon it after it had died.
* Jason Bramble and Johnny Knox took 22 nice crappies from Mattawoman Creek on minnows. John Pushkin also scored with crappies there -- his biggest was 12 1/4 inches.
* Anti-hunter demonstrator Mary Beth Sweetland has chosen 10 days in jail rather than pay a $100 fine for harassing bowhunters at McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area, but don't feel too smug. Legislation will be introduced in the General Assembly next year to remove the anti-harassment law from the books.
Question box ...
Peter Taormino of Essex is curious why shore fishing is no longer allowed shoreside at the Loch Raven Fishing Center. Writing on behalf of himself, several other senior citizens and the Middleborough Rod and Gun Club, portions of his letter read:
"We have a complaint to make. The center is open year-round for bird-watching, which is OK, but why is it closed to fishermen from November through March -- when part of our fishing license money goes to operate the center?