Expansion of bow hunting in state park protested State seeks to combat deer overpopulation

September 05, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

Neighbors of Patapsco Valley State Park are challenging the state Department of Natural Resources' recent proposal to triple the amount of parkland open to deer hunters with bows and arrows for the 4 1/2 -month hunting season that begins this fall.

The department may make a final decision on the proposal -- which is aimed at reducing the park's growing deer population -- within a week, said Walter Brown, the park's manager.

After a public meeting on the proposal Aug. 20 in Marriottsville, some park neighbors -- largely in western Howard County -- have collected more than 200 signatures on a petition opposing it.

They fear that expansion of deer hunting with bows and arrows would endanger nonhunters and limit their use of the 14,000-acre park, which stretches across Howard, Carroll and Baltimore counties.

The state deer hunting season runs from Sept. 14 to Jan. 31.

The proposal would open to 116 bow-and-arrow deer hunters about 3,600 acres of the park six days a week, including an additional 2,375 acres -- about 1,600 acres in Howard County, about 700 acres in Baltimore County and about 75 more acres in Carroll County.

Currently, about 40 bow-and-arrow hunters a day are allowed to hunt deer six days a week during the season on 1,200 acres of the park, all in Carroll County.

'Out of the question'

"I think a 4 1/2 -month bow-hunting season on state land used by equestrians, hikers and bikers is just out of the question," said Anne Michelle "Shelley" Stevenson of Marriottsville, who is helping to lead the petition drive. "No one wants to do any activity with hunting. Everyone out here is up in arms. They think it's absurd to have that long season."

Brown, the park's manager, said the proposal is a safe way to control the overpopulation of whitetail deer in the western part of the county. "We feel it's an effective tool," he said. "A lot of people enjoy that as a recreation."

The petitioners -- many of whom belong to the 600-member League of Maryland Horsemen, which owns seven acres near the 32-mile-long park -- want the department to keep the matter open for public comment and to make no decision without their input.

Opponents want Natural Resources officials to consider other options for controlling the deer population, including sterilization and extending the deer hunting season for hunters who use rifles. They consider rifles more humane and more effective.

Jonathan Jones, a 43-year-old federal government employee who rides horses with his family in the park, said, "There's no question there's a need to do something. But it limits the amount of time we'd be comfortable riding."

Stevenson, who operates a boarding stable in Marriottsville, said she worries about whether park rangers will be able to enforce park hunting rules, noting that there are already illegal hunters and poachers in the area.

"I cannot imagine how they are going to oversee an expansion of that magnitude with the staff they have," she said.

'Absolutely awful'

Sherry L. Valente of Kensington in Montgomery County, who also rides horses in the park, said, "I think it's absolutely awful that they'd put so many people in jeopardy for such a long period of time."

The state proposal includes adding six new parking areas and opening to bow hunters in Howard County:

An estimated 600 acres at the Steiner tract.

An estimated 400 acres at the Sorenson tract.

An estimated 500 acres in the River Road area.

An estimated 100 acres in the Hollofield area.

About 75 acres would be opened to bow hunting near Arrington Road in Carroll County and about 700 acres in Woodstock, in Baltimore County.

Under the state proposal, the coming hunting season would be delayed on the park's 2,375 acres of new hunting grounds -- but not on the current 1,200 acres -- because officials would need six to eight weeks to post signs in the newly opened areas, Brown said.

Usually, the bow-and-arrow hunting areas are kept 150 yards from occupied dwellings, he said.

Bow-and-arrow hunting has been allowed at the park for four years, Brown said, since sportsmen's groups expressed an interest.

He said more than 4,000 permits have been issued since 1992 and that no bow-and-arrow accidents have been reported at the park, which attracts about 800,000 visitors a year.

Bow-and-arrow deer hunting has been growing for the past 10 years, said Bill Blamberg, co-owner of Clyde's Sport Shop in Lansdowne and a supporter of the state plan. He said bow hunters can hunt in areas where rifle hunters can't because their sport doesn't involve noise and the arrows don't travel as far as bullets do.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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