The upcoming modern firearms season for deer, which runs from Nov. 30 through Dec. 7, could well be the last involving permits for bagging antlerless deer. So says Josh Sandt, who heads forest game management for the Department of Natural Resources.
While tending a DNR booth at last Saturday's anti-hunter and hunter demonstrations on the bow season opener at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County, Sandt conceded lifting the permit system in Carroll County could be controversial, but he added it could be necessary for bothhumans and whitetails of the county.
"I think we've got to go either sex in Frederick and Carroll counties, and the farmlands in Washington County," said Sandt. "This is getting beyond the farmers and their crops; it's getting to landownersand, eventually, could have great impact on the carrying capacity ofthe land for the growing deer population."
Then, too, there is just plain human tolerance of growing deer populations, added Sandt. "Cultural aspects," is his way of putting it. It goes beyond crop depredation -- there are road kills, which are costly to cars and potentially for their occupants; shrubbery; lawns; and that new concern, Lymedisease.
Sandt admits wildlife managers goofed back in the 1960s,when the county was opened to antlerless hunting without permit. Thekill skyrocketed, and shortly thereafter hunters suffered the consequences in poor hunting.
It took years for the herd to bounce back,and now it is in excellent shape -- but, as with the rest of the state, is increasing almost out of control despite new kill records eachyear for bowmen, modern firearms hunters and muzzleloaders. Deer management is more sophisticated today, and Sandt is confident a repeat of the 1960s can be avoided.
He feels the herd can be controlled while offering good shooting.
"We can maintain a kill of 1,500 bucks annually in the three seasons, while allowing the taking of antlerless deer without permits," he said. If the buck kill drops, then antlerless hunting could be tightened.
Sandt said a conservative estimate -- and he stressed "conservative" -- would be 7,000 to 8,000 deerin the county. This year, 3,000 permits are available, and "chances are we can't give them out." Without a permit system, he doesn't think the antlerless kill will get out of hand -- "It wouldn't go up thatmuch," he predicted.
Last season, bowhunters took 193 antlerless deer; modern firearms hunters, 637; and muzzleloaders, 200. That's 1,030 antlerless out of a total county bag of 2,665. Muzzleloaders werethe only segment to get more antlerless deer than antlered -- and byan overwhelming score of 200 to 53.
Otherwise it was nearly 2-1 in favor of antlered deer.
Consider that number -- 2,665. Whew. Carroll County's first modern deer hunt was in 1952, a bucks-only affairduring which six whitetails were checked in. The next two years, each produced 13, then it dropped back to seven. It wasn't until 1961 that the kill reached three figures, then only 108.
Then came the mid-1960s, and the kills surpassed 200. When the reins were tightened on antlerless kills in later years, the harvest dropped back to around50. It didn't begin to pick up again until the mid-1970s.
Incidentally, Maryland's first modern deer hunt was in 1931, confined to Garrett and Allegany counties, with 21 kills for Garrett and 11 for Allegany. Frederick and Washington were opened in 1937, each with a kill of seven. St. Marys, Dorchester and Worcester also opened that year with small kills.
By 1964, with the addition of Montgomery County, deer hunting began -- and remains -- a statewide affair.
The kill continues to rise, so do deer numbers.
Carroll County has few public hunting areas -- among them Liberty and Hanover watersheds, the Spiegel/Sawmill Cooperative and one other -- which contributed 92 killslast season.
All the rest were taken on private lands.