DNR's proposals for hunting seasons clear the way for true muzzleloaders

OUTDOORS

March 06, 1994|By PETER BAKER

The start of 1994-95 deer hunting seasons are more than six months off, but the process that will determine how, when and where we will hunt whitetails and other game is about to begin in earnest.

The Department of Natural Resources has released its proposed seasons, bag limits and regulations for upland and forest game and resident Canada geese, and the proposals include interesting changes -- most notable of which may well be a three-day muzzleloader season for deer in October.

Other notable changes that have been proposed:

* In all or parts of Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Frederick counties the take of antlerless deer will be restricted and the kill of antlered deer will be closely monitored through 1996 to ensure it does not exceed preset parameters.

* A spring turkey season open statewide in 1995.

* The September season on non-migratory Canada geese has been expanded to include all the counties on the western shore and Caroline County south of Route 404, Talbot County east of U.S. 50 and Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties.

* The western zone for rabbit hunting is being extended east to Wills Creek in Allegany County.

* Muzzleloaders used for hunting in the state can be loaded only from the muzzle.

dTC DNR has scheduled a series of public information meetings later this month to discuss its proposals.

The early muzzleloader season, which would be Oct. 20, 21, 22, is likely to be the hottest topic at the public meetings, despite the findings of a DNR-funded survey of Maryland hunters.

Some bow hunters and modern-firearms hunters are concerned that the early muzzleloader season will adversely affect their seasons.

For bowhunters, the October dates come as the trees are losing their leaves and the deer are preparing for the rut.

For modern-firearms hunters, an early muzzleloader season could mean that someone else gets the first shot at a big buck that has been scouted diligently through the summer and early fall.

Another part of the argument has been that black-powder weapons have become so sophisticated that some are as effective as shotguns, which are permitted only in the modern-firearms season. Some black-powder weapons, in fact, have become more effective than shotguns.

To counteract the impact of state-of-the-art black-powder weapons, DNR is proposing that only weapons loaded through the muzzle can be used during the seasons.

"This is to return the black-powder season to the way it was meant to be," said Joshua Sandt, director of DNR's Wildlife Division, "one shot at a time and then reload.

"With some of the cartridge guns, hunters are approaching the shotgun category, and that is not what the season should be."

The western counties are the area of the state in which the deer population seems to have been stabilized, and for the next two seasons, the number of antlered deer taken will be held within plus or minus 200 of the following figures:

Allegany County, 2,500; Frederick County, 2,000; Garrett County, and Washington County, 2,100.

In the areas of those counties requiring permits to take antlerless deer, Allegany, Frederick zone 1, Garrett and Washington zone 2, the antlerless hunt in modern-firearms season would be limited to Dec. 9 and 10, the final two days of that season.

In the other western zones, Carroll County, Frederick zone 2 and Washington zone 1, the modern-firearms season hunt for antlerless deer would be limited to Dec. 5-10.

The September season for Canada geese, which drew reasonable interest when it was initiated last year but did not produce a substantial kill of nuisance birds, would be expanded to slow the growth of the non-migratory population in areas where there would be little or no conflict with the flyway population.

The dates for that season -- Sept. 6-15 -- again would be set to avoid potential conflict with early migrants, and there would be no early season in Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne's counties.

Changes in the rabbit season in Western Maryland, moving the early season dates east to Wills Creek in Allegany County, are intended to allow hunters more opportunity to hunt before winter weather closes in, Sandt said.

One of the brightest aspects of game management in Maryland has been the trapping and transplanting of wild turkeys from Western Maryland to every county in the state. The program has been so successful that in 1995, the spring season would be open statewide.

MEETINGS ON PROPOSED HUNTING REGULATIONS

The Department of Natural Resources has scheduled a series of public information meetings on proposed hunting seasons and bag limits for 1994-95. All meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

March 14 -- Holly Center, Route 12, Salisbury.

March 15 -- Loch Raven High School, Towson.

March 17 -- West Lake High School, Waldorf.

March 22 -- Frederick High School, Frederick.

March 23 -- Northern High School, Accident.

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