CARROLL COUNTY DEER HUNTERS — like others around Maryland -- will find more and bigger deer with better antler spreads when the modern firearms season opens Saturday.
If things were any better, they would be worse.
Worse, because in much of Maryland deer populations are nearing or exceeding the saturation point.
They feed on the crops of farmers and pose problems for motorists as the highway kill increases. Then, of course, there's the old dilemma of overbrowsing that results when game numbers become too great for available habitat.
They eat themselves out of house and home, so to speak, and in doing so create problems for other wildlife, from songbirds to forest and upland game,which also depend on that habitat.
So, deer populations must be kept in line with wise management.
Because deer are one of the mostpopular, if not the most popular, of all hunted wildlife, deer management is quite controversial.
Pick any deer hunter at random, and chances are he will tell you how he could better manage the herd.
Everyone has a solution, but thankfully the Department of Natural Resources has the ultimate responsibility -- and is carrying it in a wise manner.
As we go into this season -- the 39th since modern shooting started in Carroll County -- we should get heavier deer carrying more points. Also expected is a new county record, topping last season's 1,818 by modern firearms.
A kill of 2,000 is anticipated this year if the weather is accommodating. Not bad, when one considers that in that first shoot in 1952, the tally was six.
Overall, in Carroll County last year, hunters got 2,665 deer -- figure another 594 bybow and 253 by muzzleloader.
One never appreciates his own backyard until he compares it with the neighbors, so let's take a minute todo just that.
Carroll County's deer kill was the fifth best in Maryland last year. In addition, Carroll deer averaged 5.3 points, among the best in the state, which had an average of 4.5.
Also, Carroll yearling deer averaged 114 pounds, which was near the top in Maryland, the average being 107 pounds.
So, Carroll countians have something to look forward to in this, probably the last season in which hunters will need permits to bag antlerless deer.
Josh Sandt, who heads wildlife programs for DNR, said in order to stabilize deer populations in the county, the buck population and kill must level off, andmore antlerless deer be taken.
Among many hunters, antlerless deer are not considered equal to their antlered counterparts, but their harvest is essential to population control.
Last year's antlerlesskill was 632, about one-third of the buck kill. Three thousand antlerless permits were made available in Carroll this year, and all but about 300 were taken.
It appears that next year, it will be strictly hunter's choice in Carroll; no antlerless permits needed.
Deer management programs are not the easiest to implement in Carroll County, said Sandt. Relaxed regulations do not always accomplish what is intended, because this county is one where it is difficult for outsiders to gain hunting permission.
"It's not one of those counties where a fellow from elsewhere can get hunting permission, and in Carroll,written permission is necessary," said Sandt.
In many counties, when regulations are eased, more hunters move in because of brighter prospects for scoring. But, public hunting land is limited in Carroll,and most worthwhile hunting areas are tied up not by formal clubs but by informal family and friends' hunting groups.
Thus, much of management's success is dependent on the regular force of hunters, manyof whom already appear to be taking their share of game.
Statewide, the deer kill is expected to be another all-time record.
Last year's modern firearms season bagged 33,072; with good weather it should top 35,000 this year.
That sounds like a lot of deer, but Sandtfigures there are between 250,000 and 300,000 deer in Maryland, as compared with only several thousand when Maryland first opened the season in 1931 in a shoot restricted to Garrett and Allegany counties.
Just 32 bucks were killed in that first season.
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