State parks authorities will allow bow hunting this fall in two sections on the Carroll County side of the Patapsco Valley State Park.
Donald Gaver, the state's park manager for the central region, announced the decision last night to about 30 people meeting in the Liberty High School auditorium in Sykesville.
The season will run from Nov. 1 through January. After that, the state will evaluate the results for possibly continuing the hunt another year, expanding it or ending it.
"Let's give it a shot for a year," Gaver said, "and we'll take comments, good and bad."
In several states, the deer population is growing explosively. In Maryland, the herd is estimated at about 150,000, despite an annual kill that has risen from 14,500 in 1980 to about 46,000 last year. The animals are numerous enough to defoliate forest floors in some areas, raid farm crops and cause car accidents.
Gaver stressed that the decision to allow a deer hunt in Carroll County was made to provide safe recreation. But Joshua Sandt, a deer expert with the State Forest, Park and Wildlife Service, has previously urged a more liberal deer hunting season to control population growth.
Maryland has licensed 120,000 deer hunters, who already are allowed to hunt in many parts of the state. The Carroll County Sportsmen's Association has been urging deer hunting in Carroll for about two years and entered a formal petition last October for Patapsco Valley State Park. Steve Weidman, the association president, welcomed the decision and hopes it leads to allowing a season for muzzle-loading guns in the park.
"The majority of people I've been working with are happy to have something," he said.
But a few hunters in the audience grumbled that the hunting ground was too small and the season too short. It starts well after the September rut, the mating season when bucks, preoccupied with does, cast their natural caution to the wind, they pointed out.
During a state hearing last fall, Delton Glass Jr. of Sykesville spoke against hunting in the park, objecting to hunting in park land that abuts his property on College Road. Restricting the hunt to bows and arrows "certainly makes it better than having firearms over there," he said in a telephone interview at home, though he hears people firing guns illegally at night there anyway.
Glass, who hunts deer with a rifle on the Eastern Shore, said the decision to allow a hunt in the park "seems to me like the state went out of the way to accommodate a sportsmen's club."
The state has set aside two tracts of the Patapsco Valley State Park, from Arrington Road south to the Howard County line and from Raincliffe Road south to Howard County, an area of about 800 acres. After marking off buffers of at least 150 yards from roads and houses, the total hunting ground will be about 500 acres, Gaver said. Most of the land is open fields, with some forest.
Despite the restriction to that area, Gaver said, a hunter who wounds a deer may pursue that deer across the river into Howard County to finish it off.
Anyone with a Maryland hunting license may apply, starting in September, to hunt in the park. The state will allow only 10 hunters a day there, chosen through a lottery.
By limiting the hunt to bows and by curtailing the season from the normal start in September, Gaver said he hoped to allay fears of opponents. The most vehement objections were to hunting with firearms, he said, especially when walkers and horseback riders were plying the trails in great numbers. Gaver said that far fewer people are using the park in the cold of November.
In response to the objections from residents of College Road, he said the buffer probably would extend well beyond the required 150 yards from their houses.
Gaver said his agency walks a fine line trying to please several recreational constituencies, some of them in conflict with each other. "We try to please all the people all the time," he said, but "we can't give everybody everything they want."