Disappointing Deer Season

December 18, 1992

Deer hunters in Carroll County racked up a record kill with the end of the two-week firearms season last Saturday.

The season was doubled this year, in an effort to curb the state's rapidly expanding deer population, which is now estimated at 200,000 head.

At Carroll County check-in points, 2,200 deer were registered, an increase of 300 over the 1989 record of 1,870. That should signal a successful hunt, for hunters claiming a trophy and for state game managers. The season "went real well," according to Ed Golden, forest wildlife supervisor for the state's Wildlife Division.

But in the eyes of Robert Boyer, who's operated a deer check-in station at his general store near Taneytown for five years, this season has been badly mismanaged by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

"In my opinion, what DNR is doing is instituting bad hunting practices, especially for young hunters," he said, after surveying the pitiful collection of scrawny, low-weight carcasses that came through his official station.

Instead of shooting the healthy deer most likely to reproduce -- those that add to the increasing problem of overpopulation -- more hunters have taken the weaker, relative runts of the herds. That, concludes Mr. Boyer, means "there's not as many deer out there as DNR said there were."

With a season twice as long as last year's, with no stretch of bad weather, and with no permits required for does, hunters had every reason to expect to significantly increase their kill this year. And they should have harvested larger deer, especially in Carroll County, where live yearling weights sampled by DNR were among the heaviest in the state.

One check station in one county cannot tell the entire story for the state. But relatively low numbers countywide in Carroll indicate that expanded, unrestricted hunting is not achieving the game management goals set by DNR.

Given the low statewide rifle kill of 33,082, the same total as 1990, large numbers of these wild animals will either starve or further encroach on human environs in order to survive this winter.

We repeat our call for regulated, licensed professional hunters to cull state deer herds to manageable levels, especially those that menace human residences and roads. Amateur hunting may be good business for the state, but it is not good wildlife management.

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