Bowhunters targeted again on season opener

Bill Burton

September 13, 1991|By Bill Burton

It is suggested in sports that a tie is something akin to kissing your sister, but that doesn't bother either side on the eve of what is becoming an annual confrontation between hunters and anti-hunters.

Tomorrow, the Maryland bowhunting season will open, and once again humane extremists are preparing to harass deer stalkers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County for the fourth consecutive year. And for the second year, organized hunters will turn out to promote the vital part their role plays in conservation.

More demonstrators than ever are expected on both sides of the issue, possibly 1,000 or more, but unless something happens to ignite a confrontation that goes beyond cat-calling, it shapes up as a virtual tie.

Yesterday, Wayne Pacelle, national director of the Fund for Animals, said his forces will accomplish something if their presence confines hunters to demonstrating instead of going afield for whitetails.

Last night, Russ Nichols, president of the Maryland Bowhunters Society, countered "hunters don't mind giving up a morning of the hunting season to help spread the word of the success of conservation programs paid for by sportsmen."

Meanwhile, within the 2,000-acre state hunting area of fields, hardwoods and submerged timber, deer are expected to have a relatively safe opener, though a handful of Robin Hoods may choose to hunt rather than participate in what MBS bills as its "Hunting: An American heritage" program.

Keeping peace will be a force of Department of Natural Resources police, whose intelligence unit has heard the animal rights forces do indeed plan on making a showing. The word yesterday was that 30 DNR officers were undergoing intensive crowd control briefing at Gwynbrook.

County police and state park rangers also can be called in, which when considered with overtime and traveling costs for rounding up regular DNR police from across the state, can add up to a sizable tab for keeping the peace to allow hunters to use public lands that they financed.

"It is a potentially volatile situation," said Lt. Col. Frank Wood, assistant superintendent of DNR police. "Hunters have a limited time to go hunting and strongly believe in it, and the activists want to preclude that -- and they strongly believe hunters are intent on murdering animals.

"Such [meetings] have not been without incidents in some other states," said Wood, who added the "professionalism of officers" has kept things within bounds in previous years.

There have been numerous arrests in the past, and all cases -- with the exception of earlier this year when the Circuit Court failed to notify those bringing charges -- have ended up with fines for extremists who followed hunters afield making noises to spook deer. And the decisions held on appeal.

Nichols expects 500 to 600, maybe more hunters, some from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and possibly West Virginia. A large tent will be erected to house pro-hunting exhibits, and among supporters there will be the Maryland Farm Bureau, Izaak Walton League, Wild Turkey Federation, and individual hunters.

Nichols urges all hunters interested in supporting the right to hunt to make an appearance by showing up -- preferably at 4 a.m. one hour and a quarter before the season starts.

So it will probably be a sister-kissing standoff in the morning, but in the afternoon most of the bowmen plan to hunt from their usual stands elsewhere across the state. Oh, yes, the DNR predicts the bow kill this year could be a record-breaking 10,000 before closing out in late January.

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