Bow-hunting in the park Patapsco Valley: DNR balancing safety with need to control deer overpopulation.

September 09, 1996

IT'S NOT SURPRISING that a plan to reduce the burgeoning deer population in Howard, Baltimore and Carroll counties is angering residents and users of Patapsco Valley State Park.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources seeks to triple the amount of space in the park, which meanders along the Patapsco River through the three counties, for use by deer hunters with bows and arrows.

People who use the park to bike, hike and ride horses argue that an expansion of land for hunting to about 3,600 acres would intrude into their leisure space. It's easy to imagine a horseback rider being unsettled by the thought of someone in camouflage flinging arrows nearby. Some park-users may be dissuaded from strolling there, having heard about the program.

But bow-hunting is not a threat to equestrians or other users. It has proven to be a safe method of harvesting deer. Of the 24 hunting accidents in Maryland in the 1995-96 season, not one was linked to bows and arrows, says Lt. Chris Bushman, DNR's deputy regional manager. Accidents came from hunters falling out of trees, shotguns, rifles and muzzleloaders. State officials have yet to record their first bow-hunting accident since allowing that method of killing deer at Patapsco Valley four years ago.

Expanding the area for bow-hunting seems to be a sound way to control the deer, whose numbers have mushroomed to a record 235,000.

Arrows travel only a short distance to their targets -- usually 30 to 35 feet, preferably closer. A misfired arrow will not travel hundreds of feet past the quarry to hit an unwitting target. Also, the maximum 116 daily bow hunters would be at least 150 yards from occupied homes and pathways, with natural boundaries often separating them from most park users. Bow hunters are limited to two deer per season.

Natural Resources officials want to expand the hunting area before the season begins Saturday to help control the overpopulation. Task forces in Howard and Montgomery counties are trying to address the problem. Deer are one of nature's most beautiful animals. But their spiraling numbers in populous suburbia contribute increasingly to dangerous car accidents and crop damage. Expansion of bow-hunting on public parkland seems a restrained response to address this dilemma.

Pub Date: 9/09/96

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