"Give us any rough weather, but, please, no rain," George Barker of Joppatowne said the other day while sighting in his .50-caliber Lyman Great Plains front end loader in preparation for Saturday's opener of the Maryland muzzleloader season.
The recent modern firearms season was marred by moderate weather, and primitive weapons buffs will settle for any conditions that won't interfere with efforts to keep their powder dry. Snow would be nice, ditto for freezing temperatures, but no rain, thank you.
"All we want is anything to keep the deer moving," said Barker, who got a 9-pointer during the modern gun hunt and now plans on hunting Dorchester County in the season that continues through Jan. 5. Josh Sandt, the Department of Natural Resources' chief of forest game management, predicts smokepole hunters will bag 5,000 whitetails and sikas if the weather is right.
Rarely is there a second chance for black powder shooters; deer don't wait for the ramrod routine. But Barker probably won't need a second chance. He scored four bull's eyes in five shots, the fifth missing by an inch to the lower left -- but between each shot it took him two minutes to clean the barrel and charge up again.
Also planning to be in the muzzleloader hunt is Brad Dysinger of Cambridge, an All American shotgun shooter and Dorchester County guide who has quite a record this year. His bowhunters already have taken 45 deer; his gunners took 26 in the modern firearms hunt.
Dysinger's operation covers both sikas and whitetails. Call 1-301-228-7329.
If you get a trophy deer, this year's Maryland Trophy Deer Contest will be July 26-28 at Howard County Fairgrounds. All bucks must be scored by an official scorer of Maryland Taxidermist's Association or Boone & Crockett scorer prior to the contest. Sorry, no antlerless deer regardless of size. Someone should reconsider this.
Sponsors are the Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Bowhunters Society. Call co-chairmen Tinker Johnson at 1-301-349-2413, or Don Travis at 1-301-778-4107.
Saturday: Mountain Club of Maryland hike of 7 miles at Lake Roland. Call 486-2887.
* Sunday: Another MCM hike at Susquehannock State Park in nearby Pennsylvania. Call 335-2146.
Jan. 12: Opening of seventh annual International Auto Show with its biggest display ever of 4x4 and other outdoor-oriented vehicles at Baltimore Convention Center and Festival Hall. Call 385-1800.
So you want to take part in organized fishing junkets, but have neither time nor inclination to attend meetings. Sign on with The Fishbusters Fishing Club, which schedules trips from New Jersey to North Carolina at exceptionally reasonable rates (it's a non-profit group), and all that's required is you go fishing when it fits into your schedule, or desire. And there are no dues. Call 1-301-292-8377.
* Continuing through January at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington -- Healing a River: 50 Years in the Life of the Potomac.
Names and places
Now there seems to be a question whether the Canada goose hatch earlier this year was slightly improved over last year's dismal production. First, it seemed not, then in late summer there was the suggestion it had improved slightly. But now Larry Hindman, DNR's waterfowl chief, said there is indication the age ratio of honkers bagged this year appears to be about the same as last year -- slightly below one juvenile goose for every adult.
Incidentally, Hindman also said news from New Jersey indicates the wintering honker population is up slightly, and North Carolina is down 55 percent. Earlier, Delaware reported a record low, and Maryland a fairly good increase in November. Lingering moderate weather appears to have affected migrations.
* A good suggestion from Kent Countian Tom Geist, who manages a rockfish aquaculture operation in Kent County: "Instead of traipsing through the woods pestering deer hunters, why don't those animal rights fanatics do something constructive and come out and try to help us scare herons that feed on the fish we're trying to raise? We can't shoot them -- only pTC people can scare them away -- and we don't have the manpower."
* Kennedyville guide Jerry Haggerty brought up a new aspect of the behind-the-scenes problems associated with lessening waterfowler interest due to depressed Canada goose populations and bag limits when we were shooting recently. Pointing to a field of harvested corn, he said it was the first time he had seen it cut.
"Usually it is left for geese, but with the number of hunters and hunter income down, we can't afford not to harvest it -- there's a lot of money tied up there." And that's the way it's going on the Eastern Shore. It's not economically feasible for farmers to leave large tracts of corn for waterfowl, yet to attract geese to the shore honkers must have feed in winter.