State ordered to tighten restrictions on deer hunting in Gunpowder park Bowmen must be advised to avoid trails, judge says

November 27, 1996|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County judge yesterday ordered state officials to tighten restrictions on bow hunting for deer in Gunpowder Falls State Park, an issue that has prompted turmoil in the small communities of Monkton, Hereford and Sparks since hunting season opened this fall.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Sr. ordered the state Department of Natural Resources to advise hunters not to hunt near three major trails in the park, acting after a two-day hearing on bow hunting safety issues last week.

Cahill's order also recommends that hunters use tree stands to shoot at deer in one of the two 1,000-acre hunting sections and advises DNR officials to attempt to notify the 47 approved bow hunters who have not taken state safety courses that such courses are available. Cahill's order angered administrators at Hereford High School, who had sought stringent safety guidelines because the bow hunts take place near an area used by students to ride mountain bikes, study the environment and run cross country.

"We would have liked to have the support of our courts to assure the safety of our children," said Hereford Associate Principal Bob Hamilton.

But Susan Rossi, a Sparks resident who filed a civil suit against DNR seeking safety requirements for deer hunting, said she was pleased with the ruling.

"We didn't get everything we wanted, but some things we're happy with," Rossi said.

The issue surfaced after the state Department of Natural Resources this fall opened 2,000 acres in the park to bow hunters to stem the booming population of deer in the Northeast -- a topic of discussion from rural dinner tables to "60 Minutes."

Last week's hearing aired strong sentiments for and against the sport in a year when DNR says the deer population in Maryland has leaped to about 300,000 -- nearly 65,000 more deer than last year.

While the issue was being debated in court, hunters said they felt unfairly targeted by the dispute, which mirrored a similar bow-hunting conflict this month in Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis where community protests over a youth bow-hunt forced DNR to retreat.

At the J. D. Hunting Supplies store in Parkton, owner Jerry Dewese said his colleagues "are taxpayers, too" who pay $24.50 each year for a state hunting license and an extra $50 for a bow-hunting permit.

The recent uproar has caused friction in the rural communities, Dewese said, where many hunters consider the recent civil suit a waste of taxpayer's money.

"The school and PTA are just using their safety excuse as anti-hunting tactics," said Dewese, an expert marksman who gives bow-hunting lessons.

Hunting is ingrained in many families who live around the woods of Hereford, three miles from the Mason-Dixon Line. In Dewese's store on the rim of the Gunpowder park, men and women gather in a back room to play an unusual video game in a darkened tunnel that is 20 yards long.

For $10, they take blunt-arrow bow shots at deer roaming peacefully in the woods, scoring 10 points for a direct hit in the heart; five points for a hit in the animal's lungs. The video hunt often is interrupted by commercials for hunting gear -- hyped salesmanship that resembles ads for concession goodies at movie theaters.

When those opposed to hunting stop by his store to question the sport, Dewese asks them, "Do you like crabs?"

"When they say 'yes,' I ask them what can be worse than putting something in a pot and steaming them?" he said.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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