This year, regional DNR meeting stirs little controversy New format helps keep atmosphere on calm side

OUTDOORS

March 28, 1993|By LONNY WEAVER

Nearly a hundred area sportsmen attended the regiona Department of Natural Resources hunter hearing Tuesday evening at Manchester Elementary School.

Each year the DNR is required to collect the public's comments on the coming season's proposed hunting and trapping regulations. After the DNR considers the comments, the year's regulations are formally set and announced, usually in late April or May.

Unlike recent past hearings, this year's have been unexpectedly calm. Chalk this up to a proposal agenda that is little changed from last year's list of hunting changes and a new hearing format adopted last year that essentially changed the scope of the public hearing from individual comment to more of an exchange of ideas and group cooperation.

"The subject of an early muzzleloader deer season is our hottest issue this year, unless you happened to attend the Easton

hearing where our announced proposed goose-season cutbacks generated most of the interest," said Josh Sandt, director of wildlife.

And, the early muzzleloader season isn't even officially proposed by the DNR this year, though it is a good bet that the issue will not only be official, but possibly adopted, if Tuesday's hearing was an indication.

"There is so much interest being expressed in an early muzzleloader hunt of some sort that we have commissioned a private consultant to handle a public survey on the matter for us, so that we can make a sound decision," Sandt said.

Ed Golden, the project manager of the forest game section, which includes deer, turkey and grouse as well as black bear, said a random telephone survey will be limited only to licensed Maryland deer hunters.

"We've found that when we throw open a subject like this at a public hearing, a lot of the comments come from people who do not hunt deer," he said. "That tends to defeat the entire idea behind the hunter hearings. That's why we've decided to use this outside survey group on this subject."

Most of those at the hearing supported a two-day muzzleloader hunt for the last weekend in October and limited to private property.

For the most part, hunters expressed satisfaction with the results of last year's debut of a two-week firearms deer season.

There is still a limited amount of opposition in Carroll County, as well as those counties to the west, to the idea of harvesting does during the traditional buck-only hunt. Don't look for the DNR to back off on this any time soon as long as the deer population continues to grow.

A great deal of comment concerned a desire for the opening of more public land (i.e. Loch Raven, Gunpowder Park, etc.) for limited hunting. One group of bowhunters said it would like to have the opportunity to bag a third deer via another antlerless-only stamp.

In other areas, Golden reported that his section trapped and moved 120 ruffed grouse from Western Maryland and Pennsylvania to Charles County last year thanks to money raised by the Ruffed Grouse Society.

"Also, we released turkeys in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties last year," he said. "All of the counties within Maryland are now supporting turkey populations and I expect to see our first statewide spring turkey hunt in 1995."

Larry Hindman, who is the DNR's waterfowl manager, said he hopes the new proposed resident Canada goose season will result in a harvest of 500 birds.

The proposed hunt will take place Sept. 7-15, which Hindman said is "about a full month before the migrant geese begin showing up in Maryland. The season was approved this past week by the Atlantic Flyway Council, and I don't see any reason for denial by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who has the final say."

Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and North Carolina have early resident goose seasons. Georgia, South Carolina, Connecticut and Massachusetts also have late-season resident goose hunts in January and February when no migrants are in those areas.

Upland game proposals are limited to a slight shortening in the quail season on the Eastern Shore and a slight lengthening of the rabbit season.

Said Peter Jayne, upland game and fur-bearing game manager, "The public comments on both issues are running 50-50 pro and con on the quail issue. I'm proposing this because of a serious decline in bobwhite numbers that we are documenting throughout the Eastern Shore. These birds, as you may know, have already virtually disappeared from Western Maryland."

Locally, the worst upland game news concerns the ringneck pheasant. Jayne said, "There has been no measurable gain in pheasants throughout the Central Maryland area."

Jayne believes that a full closure of the pheasant season wouldn't serve any purpose.

"We think the current short, one-bird-a-day hunt is conservative enough," he said. "There are still a few pheasant hunters and isolated pockets of pheasants. Plus, I'm afraid that if we would shut down the season what interest that does remain in the bird would eventually vanish."

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