Maryland's deer season started yesterday, and hundreds of Carroll County hunters likely have their whitetails hanging and cooling already. For those who didn't get their venison on the opener, six more hunting days remain.
In the modern firearms hunt, chances are good. Statistics indicate that about one in four who participate bag a deer.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources numbers suggest a success rate of about one in three, but some hunters get more than one deer because of different seasons or bonus permits, meaning the totalwho actually bag an animal is somewhat smaller.
Still, one in four is a good average. Statewide, deer outnumbered hunters about 2-to-1going into this season, but that is also misleading. Hunters have toget their deer -- and whitetails have some advantages.
We hunt them in their habitat. Good as a hunter is, regardless of how much he plans his hunt and learns the hunting grounds, deer know them better -- they live there.
Also, once the shooting starts, deer realize something is amiss. They retreat to areas less-frequented by humans, become even more wary and change daytime feeding, wandering and restingpatterns.
They're not dumb.
In addition, their sense of smell is much better than that of man, and so is their eyesight. Their hearing is so good that in a brisk wind, they can hear a twig snap 100 yards away.
Curiosity sometimes means they end up as venison, but not all deer pause to see the source of a strange scent, sound or movement.
Like a wild turkey, the wariest of all wildlife, many deer just take off at a hint of potential problems.
Any hunter with extensive experience on the deer trail can tell a tale or two about a deerthat knew it was in trouble and simply outfoxed a hunter by doublingback to get behind him, slipped away by taking advantage of its surroundings or simply vanished into thin air.
So, next time animal-rights extremists complain hunters have all the advantages, tell them they're wrong. Most successful hunters earn their trophy -- and it involved more than being accurate with a firearm or bow.
Traditionally, opening day of the modern firearms season is the big day. Between one-quarter and one-third of the season's bag is taken that day.
More hunters are afield, and in many instances the deer aren't aware the season has opened.
The counties surrounding Baltimore have skyrocketed into the deer-hunting limelight in the past decade.
As deer have learned to coexist with man and his development, their numbershave increased dramatically, and so has hunter success.
In Carroll County, the modern firearms bag has increased six-fold in a decade.In 1981, it was 322; last year it was 1,818.
In Baltimore County,the harvest jumped from 351 to 1,107. In Howard, the increase was from 61 to 475; Montgomery, from 284 to 879; in Harford, 738 to 1,222.
Harford's relatively low percentage increase can be attributed to Aberdeen Proving Ground, where half the county's deer are taken annually.
Aberdeen's heavily populated herd is hunted over a long period of time to keep the population down since too many deer can pose serious problems.
Special hunting regulations have kept it stabilized.
One county resident, meanwhile, already has his trophy -- but it isn't a deer.
Jim Orzolek of Taylorsville, bagged a six-by-six bull elk weighing an estimated 900 pounds while elk hunting in Eagle County, Colo. The threesome included John Hammond of Finksburg.
A member of the Call of the Wild Club of Frederick, Orzolek was on his first elk hunt. Four of his five shots at 500 yards with a 30-06 scored with Federal 180's.