Sandy Point youth bow hunt postponed again DNR decision comes after 2nd public meeting


November 07, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The Department of Natural Resources postponed the opening of a proposed bow hunt for whitetail deer at Sandy Point State Park last night for the second time in two weeks.

DNR said the postponement will allow the state to further evaluate the views of hunters and anti-hunters expressed at two public meetings, including one session last night.

The bow hunt, proposed to be open to 14 adult-youth teams each legal hunting day through Jan. 31, was to have opened tomorrow. No decision has been made on when the hunt will be held or whether it will be held at all.

Hunting never has been allowed at Sandy Point State Park, which is located at the western end of the Bay Bridge.

When Helene Tenner, Public Participation Coordinator for DNR's State Forest and Park Service, announced the delay at last night's meeting at the park, the decision was met by both cheers and boos from the 350 people in attendance.

Officials estimated the crowd to be split about 60-40 between anti-hunters and hunters.

During the first 90 minutes of the session, hunters and anti-hunters were extremely vocal, and several times Tenner and other officials threatened to close the meeting unless the factions stopped shouting at each other.

Residents of neighborhoods close to the northwest border of the park expressed concerns about the safety of their children and pets. Representatives of animal rights groups expressed concern for the well-being of the deer and decried the "barbarity and inhumane" nature of bow hunting. And there was a voice from opponents against the "recruitment of children to hunting."

For each statement against the hunt, there was a rebuttal from proponents of the hunt.

Biologically, DNR officials said, the deer population in and around the park is on the verge of a population boom that would severely damage habitat vital to other species and the deer themselves.

Thomas Matthews, wildlife program manager for DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Division, said studies of the park and surrounding areas showed an average deer population in excess of 40 per square mile, twice acceptable levels.

"And a deer population can double in one to two years in good habitat," said Matthews. Hunting, he said, is the accepted method of reducing deer populations.

Bow hunting is used in areas where the range of firearms is incompatible with topography and human population density.

Ranger Wendell Jones, assistant park manager, said the increase in early stage habitat destruction, deer-vehicle collisions on Route 50 and increasing deer sightings by park personnel, all led him to request an evaluation by a DNR team of land managers, foresters and biologists.

"The recommendation to the park was to conduct a managed deer hunt," said Jones.

Both adults and their teammates, licensed junior hunters, are required to qualify by placing three of five shots in a 9-inch pie plate at 25 yards and to hunt from tree stands, which would cause a downward trajectory of arrows and limit their flight.

"The core of this issue is you're taking children and teaching them to kill " said Charlotte Sullivan, executive director of Protect Animal Life, an organization of 400 children younger than college age. "Wherever you are on this, the issue is don't exploit the children in your desire to kill."

Steven W. Keithley, president of the Maryland Bowhunters Society, said that while his organization "certainly concurs with the philosophy of using hunting as a wildlife management tool," children are not being forced to hunt. Nor, he said, would junior hunters be allowed to hunt unless they qualified.

"It appears the anti-hunters do not want to allow another generation to be introduced to the sport," said Keithley. "They have no right to do that. The sport is open to all those who have a desire to pursue it."

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake Bay: Rockfish action still good at Love Point, Baltimore Light, Podickory Point, Belvedere Shoals and 7-Foot Knoll, with catches generally running 18 to 24 inches. Poole's Island area still producing stripers on drifted eels and for chummers on the falling tide.

Middle Chesapeake Bay: Chumming was on again for rockfish at Stone Rock, Diamonds, Gas Docks, Gooses, Hill, Flagpole and the dropoffs at the mouth of the South River. Chumming has been doing better than trolling in most instances.

Lower Chesapeake Bay: According to reports from DNR, sea trout staging their migration from the bay are present in greater numbers than in many years, with schools of 12- to 24-inch fish stacked up under breaking schools of rockfish in 40 to 60 feet of water.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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