Early deer-kill numbers indicate management plan is working

OUTDOORS

January 30, 1994|By PETER BAKER

Late in November, when the modern firearms season for deer opened, the weather throughout much of the state was more suited to otters than hunters, and the first-day kill was off between 42 and 50 percent.

But with a two-week season for modern firearms, a record black-powder season late in the year and a good showing by bow hunters, Department of Natural Resources officials believe the overall deer kill again will be in excess of 50,000.

The modern firearms season accounted for 33,581 deer, muzzleloaders killed a record 5,096, and bow hunters, whose season ends tomorrow, are expected to account for between 11,600 and 12,000 deer.

For wildlife officials, kill numbers are a barometer of management programs, which are intended to keep the deer population at a level compatible with habitat and the tolerances of the state's human population.

Judging from the preliminary numbers for the 1993-1994 seasons, said Joshua Sandt, director of DNR's Wildlife Division, the deer management plan seems to be working.

This past modern firearms season, for example, shows that the kill in the western counties -- Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Frederick -- was down.

In those counties, especially in the mountainous or non-agricultural areas, sportsmen have been concerned in the past few years that the deer population was being too heavily culled. For the modern firearms season, DNR reduced its allocation of permits to hunt antlerless deer.

"DNR anticipated the drop in Western Maryland counties due to the 25 to 30 percent reduction in antlerless deer permits in those zones or counties requiring them," said Sandt. A reduced kill of antlerless deer should leave a stable breeding population in the western counties.

Ed Golden, project leader of forest game management in the state, said last week that the kill "overall is starting to move east" in the state, which means that suburban and agricultural areas, where the deer population can be thickest, are getting more pressure from hunters.

Part of that increased pressure is from black-powder hunters, who have been increasing in numbers over the past several years. This season's record kill by black-powder hunters was 353 more than the previous high of 4,743 in 1991.

All counties except Garrett had increased black-powder deer kills this past season.

And a survey of Maryland hunters commissioned by the DNR indicated that black-powder hunters may deserve hunting dates better than their traditional Christmas week allotment.

The survey, conducted by Responsive Management, a national polling organization that specializes in environmental and conservation issues, was made to determine hunters' views on Maryland's structure of deer seasons.

What it found was that 42 percent of the hunters polled showed strong support for a black-powder season before the start of the modern firearms season, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. Another 15 percent of those polled showed moderate support. Nine percent were moderately opposed and 24 percent were strongly opposed.

On parameters for an early black-powder season, the largest group (37 percent) said they preferred a three-day season late in October.

Sandt, citing a "clear message" from Maryland hunters, said last week that DNR will move toward an early black-powder season on Oct. 20-22 for the coming fall.

The season limit will be one deer, unless a bonus stamp is purchased. No decision has been reached on whether antlered and antlerless deer may be hunted during the season.

But Sandt said it is possible that the hunt may be separated into zones in which the antlered or antlerless kill will be regulated.

DEER GUN SEASONS AT A GLANCE

The following are the Department of Natural Resources' unofficial figures for firearms and muzzleloader/black powder seasons this year. Bow season counts have not been completed.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Modern .. .. .. .. ..Black

County .. .. .. .. .. .. ...firearms .. .. .. ...powder

Allegany .. .. .. .. .. .. ...2,207 .. .. .. .. .. .716

Anne Arundel .. .. .. .. .. .. .795 .. .. .. .. .. ..78

Baltimore .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1,081 .. .. .. .. .. .242

Calvert .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...688 .. .. .. .. .. ..90

Caroline .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..824 .. .. .. .. .. ..93

Carroll .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .2,183 .. .. .. .. .. .257

Cecil .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...1,474 .. .. .. .. .. .141

Charles .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .1,792 .. .. .. .. .. .246

Dorchester .. .. .. .. .. .. .1,615 .. .. .. .. .. ..55

Sika .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...918 .. .. .. .. .. ..75

Frederick .. .. .. .. .. .. ..2,550 .. .. .. .. .. .525

Garrett .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .2,408 .. .. .. .. .. .757

Harford .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .1,024 .. .. .. .. .. .112

Howard .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .590 .. .. .. .. .. .122

Kent .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .2,011 .. .. .. .. .. .203

Montgomery .. .. .. .. .. .. ...923 .. .. .. .. .. .186

Prince George's .. .. .. .. .. .497 .. .. .. .. .. ..72

Queen Anne's .. .. .. .. .. ..1,624 .. .. .. .. .. .143

St. Mary's .. .. .. .. .. .. .1,114 .. .. .. .. .. .120

Somerset .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..982 .. .. .. .. .. ..51

Talbot .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1,087 .. .. .. .. .. .113

Washington .. .. .. .. .. .. .2,404 .. .. .. .. .. .569

Wicomico .. .. .. .. .. .. ...1,242 .. .. .. .. .. ..57

Worcester .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1,494 .. .. .. .. .. ..49

Sika .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .54 .. .. .. .. .. ...0

Totals .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .33,581 .. .. .. .. .5,096*

* Includes 24 from Ft. Meade.

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