If the Department of Natural Resources is serious about thinning out the state's overpopulation of deer, perhaps it's time consider a longer season, perhaps of two weeks. In a short season, wet weather dampens hunter enthusiasm and washes out the best projections of deer managers.
In our season of seven hunting days, three were ruined by rain, a fourth by high winds, and the kill fell 3,844 short of last year's 33,072, which also was struck by a couple of bad days weatherwise. Yet, our '90 bag of 29,228 was the third best ever. The record was 34,200 in 1989 when the weather was snowy and frigid -- too cold for rain.
Why not a two-week season as enjoyed by Pennsylvania hunters? Not only should it increase the hunter bag and thin out more deer, but it would give those who prefer fewer crowds an opportunity to enjoy just that toward the end of the season. Traditionally, weekday hunter participation thins out as seasons progress.
Let's face it, the Sunday closure is here to stay -- we're never going to have regular hunting on the Sabbath in Maryland. It would keep the momentum going on the day after the opener, but to get it requires legislation, and such proposals in the past have never gotten out of committee.
Sure they have it in many other states, but tradition is tradition, and with all the anti-hunter sentiment around -- including in our General Assembly -- it would take a miracle to break tradition. Farmers control most hunting land, and they like a day off to visit, go to church, or just spend some time around the farmhouse.
They don't like taking time out to chase hunters -- and trespassing remains the biggest problem despite written permission laws in many counties. Who can blame them?
Sunday hunting is a good idea for those who can't get time from the job on weekdays. Twenty years ago, we opened the season on the Friday after Thanksgiving to give workers and students a day that was free for many, but that soon was changed. It took much of the luster out of the big Saturday opener, many complained.
Maybe deer hunters should use the Sunday day off to spruce up their tree stands. Of the nine hunting accidents reported the past season, five involved falls from stands, including the only fatality when a Kent County hunter apparently suffered a heart attack and fell 18 feet.
One youngster tumbled after falling asleep in his stand, not an uncommon occurrence, which could be solved by hunters securing themselves with a rope, or adding a rail to the platform. One hunter was mistaken for a deer, which is difficult to understand in view of the blaze orange law; the remainder involved self-inflicted wounds.
DNR Sgt. Morris Jones said all of the injuries were preventable, though hunting is not an unsafe sport. About 170,000 hunters go afield in Maryland annually, and accidents afield run between 25 and 30 -- and many of them could be avoided by wearing a lot of blaze orange as required by law in all but waterfowl, deer by bow, or wild turkey hunting.
"I wouldn't be caught dead afield without it," said Jones. "Then again, without it, I could be dead."
Deer kill down from last year
* The 1991 Maryland modern firearms deer kill, with two checking stations still to report, was 29,228 compared to 33,072 last year. Only six counties showed increases over last year. Following is the county-by-county kill with that of last year in parentheses:
Allegany 2,850 (3,737); Anne Arundel 333 (401); Baltimore 1,11 (1,107); Calvert 471 (535); Caroline 644 (641); Carroll 1,723 (1,818); Cecil 898 (1,116); Charles 1,355 (1,424); Dorchester 1,852 (1,530); Frederick 2,167 (2,625); Garrett 3,189 (3,571); Harford 656 (670); Howard 450 (475); Kent 1,840 (1,729).
And, Montgomery 835 (879); Prince George's 408 (479); Quee Anne's 1,351 (1,219); St. Mary's 789 (974); Somerset 783 (856); Talbot 861 (853); Washington 2,421 (2,570); Wicomico 817 (781); Worcester 1,305 including 102 sikas (1,677 including 60 sikas).
The sika bag in Dorchester County is not known at this time. In Wicomico County, two were bagged.