Decked out in camouflaged hunting gear, William hTC Jowanowitch stood, looking armed, ready and eager to shoot a white-tailed deer -- as part of a managed hunt program in the wooded 630 acres of the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area in west Columbia.
"I'm ready to get up in there," Jowanowitch said at yesterday's announcement of the hunt. "If it's as bad as they say it is with deer eating up stuff, I'll be able to take one out of there to fill up my freezer, and two or three more."
Because of the exploding deer population in the mostly wooded area, county Department of Recreation and Parks officials confirmed that starting Dec. 1, 125 hunters -- 10 at a time -- will be allowed to hunt in a 300-acre area in the core of the park on weekday mornings.
County park officials said they expect at least 50 deer will be killed in the two hunting sessions -- Dec. 1 to 19 and Jan. 5 to 16.
"Our purpose is to reduce the deer population, not to provide traditional recreational hunting," said Jeffrey Bourne, director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks. "We've tried to err on the side of safety in making this [hunt] in a suburban area."
Last year, Montgomery County parks officials began a similar managed hunt in three Montgomery County parks -- totaling more than 600 acres -- that attracted about 100 hunters who killed more than 300 deer, Montgomery County park officials said.
"We have the same number of deer, but the big difference is that we have a lower percentage of does and that means the reproduction has dropped," said Rob Gibbs, a wildlife ecologist in the Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning.
The Montgomery hunt drew protests from animal rights activists and neighbors of the parks, but few have spoken against the planned hunt in the Middle Patuxent area, though it is surrounded by residential housing.
At yesterday's announcement, most complaints came from hunters who argued that the many rules and regulations might discourage hunters.
"They're going overboard with the safety," said John Shetrone of Pasadena. "I've been hunting since 1968 and now you have to prove all this stuff, just to help reduce the herd."
Among the rules:
Each hunter must shoot at least two female deer before shooting a male deer, which have antlers coveted by many hunters.
Hunters must use shotguns that fire slugs, not buckshot, and shoot from tree stands. Shotguns have a much shorter range than rifles and a missed shot, the theory goes, would drive harmlessly into the ground.
Hunters can sign up for two days to hunt. They can start a half-hour before sunrise and must be out of the park by noon.
Hunters are required to track wounded deer. If they track deer to the border of the park, they would have to inform the hunt coordinator. Hunters can follow deer onto private property, but would have to have the property owner's permission before shooting again.
To apply, hunters need a valid state hunting license, a 1997 state shooter's qualification card and a valid hunter safety card. There also will be a mandatory meeting Nov. 20.
Bows are not allowed.
A 300-yard buffer is planned between hunters and houses along the park's western edge at the Village of River Hill. On the eastern side of the park -- which borders the villages of Hickory Ridge and Harper's Choice -- the border would be closer to 200 yards but would include the Middle Patuxent River.
The Middle Patuxent area will remain open to other visitors during the hunt. Hikers will be encouraged to wear high-visibility clothing, and the break between the sessions ensures that there will be no hunting during Christmas vacation from county public schools.
Although there is no count of the deer population in the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, park officials say the growing deer herd continues to destroy habitat for birds and small animals in the park. In surrounding communities, they eat expensive shrubs, get hit by cars and have raised fears of the spread of Lyme disease.
Park officials say that this winter they will use infrared equipment -- which detects a deer's body heat when they are bedding down -- to count deer in the Middle Patuxent and the Little Patuxent and Turf Valley corridor.
Pub Date: 11/11/97