Hunters line up for licenses Sport: Permits guaranteeing rights for duck-blind sites are such a hot ticket that some people line up for days to obtain the first choices.

August 13, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The window opens Thursday morning, and three youths are already in line -- one of them since the middle of last week. Rock concert tickets? Ravens tickets?

Nope -- it's duck-hunting licenses.

All three say they are being paid to hold places in line, one for a farmer and the others for their uncles, to assure they get the first choices for so-called squatter's licenses guaranteeing hunting rights for duck-blind sites along county waterways.

"It was hard to sleep the first couple of nights," said Robert Hendley Jr., 14, pointing to bright overhead lights in the ceiling of the covered veranda of the Baltimore County Courts Building in Towson where he has camped out for his boss since Wednesday.

He contended with other distractions -- such as the group of people who came to pray and chant next to the large fountain in the court plaza one night, and the several homeless men who scrounged for cigarettes in the trash on another.

But the Essex youth said the "boring" ordeal of waiting in line for farmer George Zahradka III is well worth it -- he gets more than a week's pay every two days, though he wouldn't reveal the amount, and plans to use the money for school clothes and supplies and a used, off-road dirt-bike motorcycle.

The state hunting licenses for squatters -- people who do not own the waterfront land and marshes suitable for duck blinds -- are sold through the Circuit Court in each county on a first-come basis for specific sites not claimed earlier by the property owners themselves.

Every year, as the hour of the sale approaches, the line forms. Many of the buyers bring maps marking the sites they want for the duck season, which this year runs from Oct. 9-12, Nov. 18-29 and Dec. 16-Jan. 18.

The licenses, which cost $5.50 per site, also cover a special hunt Nov. 2 for youths age 15 and under who are accompanied by an adult, said Ken D'Loughy, a wildlife official with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Hendley said he likely would try the sport, as did the others in line -- Jack R. Bailey Jr., 15, of Essex, who arrived Friday to hold a place for his uncle Jim Scott, and Josh Rice, 15, of Cockeysville, who joined them yesterday on behalf of his uncle, Keith Rice.

For his patience and persistence, Hendley likely would do quite well waiting in a duck blind.

While the older boys are stand-ins only during the day, Hendley is there around the clock -- his only breaks coming every other night when a member of Zahradka's hunting club relieves him long enough to go home for a shower.

Sheriff's deputies on duty in the building lobby keep an eye on him at night and let him use the bathroom, he said.

For entertainment, Hendley has a radio, a battery-operated mini-television and magazines. Food is delivered several times a day, to supplement his large cooler packed with snacks and drinks.

Zahradka, 25, said he has obtained licenses for hunting spots at his family's rented waterfront farmland in eastern Baltimore County, but needed 11 more for himself and eight friends in his small hunting club.

"I've got 10 real good spots that you can go to and kill ducks every day," he said, but added that the ducks would wise up if the hunters returned too often to the same locations.

"I think a duck is smarter than most people," said Zahradka, who notes that he loves matching wits with gun-wary quackers but does not enjoy deer hunting.

He likes to hit them as they are coming in for a landing, Zahradka said, when the ducks are about 3 feet above the water. Shooting ducks sitting in the water isn't sport, he said -- and isn't legal, either, according to wildlife official D'Loughy.

The limit is four ducks per day per hunter.

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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