Traditionally, this is a time for looking ahead -- and that could be because for the moment it may be somewhat painful to look back any further than the first cup of black coffee.
Good morning, 1992.
Looking ahead traditionally involves asking questions about the future and then formulating some preliminary answers. The following is a random Q&A for 1992. The questions are simple enough, but the answers may be far from definitive.
Question: Will this be year that the spring runs of big bluefish slam into the Chesapeake Bay?
Answer: According to biological studies of bluefish, the strong year class of 1989 will be coming of age and there is potential for runs of slammers. Barring the unusual tongues of cold water that have extended out of the mouth of the bay the last couple of years, the blues should come in. If the mouth of the bay again is blocked by unseasonably cold water, the blues will probably head north along the Atlantic Coast.
Q: Will this be the year that the black bear can be hunted in Maryland for the first time since 1953?
A: Biologists say that the black bear population is up in Western Maryland because of a spillover effect from Pennsylvania stocking programs in the 1970s. However, the total number of black bears residing in Maryland probably does not exceed 200, and the need to cull the population will depend on the willingness of the human population in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties to coexist with the bruins. Hearings on the black bear will be held later this month.
Q: Will this be the year the brown trout population booms in the North Branch of the Potomac River?
A: The Department of Natural Resources has had a research and development program under way near Bloomington Dam, and it has been successful enough so that a pen rearing program has '' been initiated above the dam. Will sportsmen get a shot at those browns from the Maryland side of the river? Perhaps not for another year.
Q: Will this be the year that state parks are fully operable?
A: Take a look at the economy. Take a look at the state budget. Then look back at the good job done by volunteers in several parks last year and ask yourself whether any governmental organization is going to pay for something when it can get it for free.
Q: Will this be the year the federal boat user fee is rescinded?
A: Probably not. If you were operating at a huge deficit and had a chance to reduce it by some $700 million, would you go quietly into the night?
Q: Will the black-powder deer season be moved out of the December holiday season?
A: An outlandish idea, you say. But Frank Lloyd of Edgemere begs to differ. Look at it his way: The current dates take six Sundays or holidays out of 14 in which a family man might hunt. Also, the dates are late enough to allow fetuses to have formed in pregnant does. He'd like to see a week in mid-October and a second week two weeks after rifle season ends.
Q: Will this be the year that the regular firearms deer season is extended?
A: In recent memory, only one firearms season has been extended -- and then only in Garrett County because of a heavy snowfall. Chances are that despite a burgeoning deer herd and a string of warm autumns, firearms deer season will remain as it has been.
Q: Will the bag limit for Canadas in goose season be increased this year?
Q: Will this be the year that the legislature decides to allow Sunday hunting in Maryland?
A: You must be kidding. Sunday shopping was tough enough to get on the books some years ago.
There are hundreds of questions concerning the outdoors and our natural resources and for some questions there are no answers.
But that doesn't mean the questions shouldn't be asked.
Write your legislators and let them know the issues that concern you. Let them know you are out there and that you care.
Do it before the second cup of coffee, while the last of 1991 is still rattling around in your head.