The figures are in, and once again county deer hunters...


February 16, 1992|By Bill Burton

The figures are in, and once again county deer hunters have had another great year.

The combined bow, modern firearms and muzzleloaderbag for the 1991-1992 season was 2,640, 25 below the 1990-1991 total, Department of Natural Resources figures show.

In Maryland, bowmen set a new record with 9,016; muzzleloaders dipped slightly to 4,530, and modern firearms hunters took 29,778 compared to 33,072 last year.

Taking into consideration the special late January two-day gun hunt to thin out the Worcester County herd, thetotal statewide count was 43,870 compared with the 1990-1991 tally of 46,317.

What lies ahead?

First, Carroll hunters might have witnessed their last season involving permits for shooting antlerless deer.

Considering the size of the herd regionally and statewide, special considerations to protect the does might not be needed.

JoshSandt, former DNR forest game management chief and now head of all Maryland hunting programs, mentioned the possibility last September. He says the herd can be managed under a hunter's choice option, and henow has more authority to implement such a program.

Some hunters surely won't agree, but probably more do. And many farmers undoubtedly are cheering Sandt on, because they suffer most from overpopulationof hungry deer. And indications are that deer have reached or exceeded the saturation point across Maryland.

The only evidence of a leveling in deer population growth seems to be in Garrett County, and the mountains already have too many deer.

To the uninformed hunter,this might sound ideal. The more deer, the better the hunting is thephilosophy of short-range thinkers.

But to wildlife scientists who manage deer herds, it is a nightmare. Their objective is to create a balance, both in nature and within the human environment.

Too many deer literally will eat themselves out of house and home, resulting in less food and cover for whitetails and other species depending on the habitat; also more crop depredation among farmers, more costly deer-auto encounters on highways, disease and starvation among herds,and nuisance complaints from homeowners.

If deer continue doing their thing with insufficient controls, catastrophe could be down the road -- especially in counties such as Carroll, with its mix of farmland, small woodland patches and increasing development.

As with man, deer cannot be expected to stop reproduction on their own, and thesuggestion of humane extremists that we sterilize many of the animals is laughable. Also, as with wild turkeys and black bears, deer havelearned to co-exist with man in the midst of development.

Our forefathers removed from the wild panthers, mountain lions, coyotes and natural predators that once controlled deer herds, and the only responsible alternative is for hunters to do the job.

The answer to overpopulation is culling females. It is the females who birth; just a few males can service many females.

It's a tricky business, this management of deer herds, and we have the humane extremists looking over the shoulders of both hunters and wildlife managers. We cannot ignore their charges that we enhance habitat to produce more deer despiteunrefutable evidence that we already have too many.

Our best chances to keep the sport of hunting alive and healthy is for continuation of sound management practices by the Department of Natural Resources, to keep deer programs running smoothly by instituting changes whenneeded.

Unfortunately, the so-called "Bambi syndrome" has stirredsympathy for deer and disrespect for hunters among not only extremists, but also more moderate people who don't hunt. The sport of hunting is threatened more than Maryland's prospering deer herd.


Year.. Firearms.. Archery.. Muzzleloader.. ..Total

1991.. .. 1,723.. .. .605.. .. .. .. 312.. ..2,640

1990.. .. 1,818.. .. .594.. .. .. .. 253.. ..2,665

1989.. .. 1,886.. .. .486.. .. .. .. 234.. ..2,606

1988.. .. 1,215.. .. .405.. .. .. .. 170.. ..1,790

1987.. .. 1,001.. .. .232.. .. .. .. 101.. ..1,334

1986.. .. ..850.. .. .167.. .. .. .. .91.. ..1,108

1985.. .. ..583.... .132.. .. .. .. .46.. .. .761

1984.. .. ..532.. .. ..89.. .. .. .. .34.. .. .655

1983.. .. ..466.. .. ..81.. .. .. .. ..7.. .. .554

1982.. .. ..351.. .. ..60.. .. .. .. ..6.. .. .417

1981.. .. ..322.. .. ..58.. .. .. .. ..8.. .. .388

1980.. .. ..244.. .. ..39.. .. .. .. ..2.. .. .285

SOURCE: Maryland Department of NaturalResources

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