New deer seasons will be familiar Recommendations to follow hearings

OUTDOORS

February 21, 1993|By PETER BAKER

The Department of Natural Resources, basing its thinking on data available through the middle of last week, will recommend 1993-94 deer hunting seasons that are similar to those instituted for 1992-93.

Those recommendations, however, will be subject to change following a series of public meetings next month.

"It is way too early to conclude that we are not going to change [some things]," said James Peck, assistant secretary of the DNR. "There are concerns in Western Maryland already. We will be taking a new look at the meetings to see what we want to change."

In brief, the early recommendations for white-tailed deer are:

* Bow season -- Sept. 15-Nov. 26, Dec. 13-Dec. 17, Jan. 3-Jan. 31.

* Firearms season -- Nov. 27-Dec. 11, with some zone restrictions on antlered and antlerless harvest.

* Muzzleloader season -- Dec. 18-Jan. 1.

Last deer season included Maryland's first two-week modern-firearms season, and the first-day kill was 15,561, an increase of more than 23 percent over the previous opening day. The unofficial kill for the two-week season was 36,087, a state record.

The two-week firearms season has not been without controversy. Bow hunters feel that it cuts into their days in the field; muzzleloader hunters believe it pushes their season too far into winter, after deer have bred.

But from the standpoint of deer management, the feeling is that the expanded firearms season was successful.

"Overall, I think we are on the mark as far as the deer kill is concerned," said Ed Golden, director of the forest game program for DNR's Wildlife Division. "The firearms kill was up, the bow kill was up just a couple of hundred and the muzzleloader season dropped back a little bit."

Last fall, Golden said that a kill of 47,000 to 50,000 deer through the three seasons would come close to stabilizing the state's deer population, which had grown to between 160,000 and 200,000.

"The kill is up in a lot of metropolitan counties, and that is where we are having a lot of our problems with our increase in deer," Golden said.

In Prince George's County, for example, the modern firearms kill was up 47.9 percent. In Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford and Montgomery counties, the kill was up more than 20 percent.

Urban and suburban deer management has been problematic, Golden said, because much private and state land has been closed to hunting. Among the Wildlife Division goals is to open more of these lands to hunters in the manner that Blossom Point, Gibson Island and, last year, the Sweet Air area of Gunpowder Falls State Park have been opened to special hunts.

"Urban deer management is just starting to get going," Golden ** said. "I think we will have a lot of different types of hunts that we can pursue. They will be more restrictive than normal types, but if we can get permission to hunt on these [types of] areas, we can control the herd."

In the central and southern regions, Golden said, "there was a significant increase in kill, which corresponds with the increase in the herd."

In the western region, the herd has been stabilized, Golden said, except in the extreme eastern parts of the region in Frederick and Washington counties.

Only Anne Arundel, Garrett and Worcester had decreases in kills from the 1991-92 season. Worcester County showed a 30 percent decrease, largely because the previous season included special hunt in late January.

"Everybody talks about the good old days, but these are the good old days," Golden said. "Go back and look at the 1983 kill compared to the 1992 kill."

The muzzleloader kill has gone up 1,024 percent since 1983. The modern-firearms kill has increased 139 percent over the same period.

"Our goal on deer is to maintain what we call the cultural carrying capacity [the greatest number of deer that will be tolerated by the most landowners]," Golden said.

"We will start looking at harvest zones and maybe eventually we are going to have to open up with a two-week season and use these zones to harvest more or less deer in particular areas [to maintain cultural carrying capacity]."

Joshua L. Sandt, director of the Wildlife Division, said that although no changes to white-tailed deer seasons have been proposed so far, the DNR would like to know more about what hunters want and will survey all kinds of deer hunters before the start of next season.

"Any time we go through a hearing process, we get those people who are very much in support for one proposal or very much against it," said Sandt, adding that the hunter survey will be designed with the assistance of representatives of bow, firearms and muzzleloader hunters. "It is not a good true feeling of deer hunters statewide.

"We want to get a true feeling of what all deer hunters want, and we want to tell people what we are doing and why we are doing it."

The schedule of meetings:

* March 15 -- South Hagerstown High School, 1101 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown, 7 p.m.

* March 16 -- North Carroll High School, 3801 Hampstead-Mexico Road, Hampstead, 7 p.m.

* March 18 -- Talbot County Free Library, 100 W. Dover St., Easton, 7 p.m.

* March 19 -- Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative Building, Route 231, Hughesville, 7 p.m.

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