Regulations change for deer

On the Outdoors

November 27, 1997|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The two-week firearms season for deer opens across the state Saturday, with 100,000 hunters expected in the field and regulatory changes in place to help control burgeoning white-tailed deer populations in most counties.

The firearms deer season, which closes Dec. 13, is the most popular hunting season in Maryland, with nine of every 10 hunters participating.

"Maryland's deer population is not only an important natural resource, but it is also a valuable economic benefit to the state," Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin said. "Deer hunting contributes more than $210 million to Maryland's economy and creates an estimated 3,250 full-time and part-time jobs across the state."

L. Douglas Hotton, DNR's deer project manager, said deer populations are stable or increasing across the state and hunters can expect a firearms season similar to last year, when 39,048 deer were checked in, the second highest on record. The record for the firearms season is 39,406, set in 1995.

"Weather will have a lot to do with it, of course," Hotton said. "But indications from bow and early muzzleloader seasons are that things are perking along about as we expected. We don't have official numbers yet, but the early muzzleloader count is up about 1,500 from last year."

In most counties, antlered or antlerless deer may be taken throughout the two-week season, but new regulations allow only one antlered deer per season.

"My gut feeling is that the new regulations are going to change how people hunt," Hotton said, adding that reducing numbers of antlerless deer is the most effective method of population control. "Hunters will take more antlerless deer, but it is going to be a slow changeover like anything else."

In all or parts of Carroll, Washington, Allegany, Frederick and Garrett counties, regulations differ from the rest of the state.

In Carroll and Washington (Zone 1) counties, only antlered deer can be taken from Saturdayto Dec. 6, and antlered or antlerless deer may be taken from Dec. 8 to Dec. 13.

In all or part of Allegany, Frederick (zone 1), Garrett and Washington (Zone 2) counties, only antlered deer may be taken from Saturday to Dec. 11, and on Dec. 12 and 13 antlerless deer may be taken if a hunter has received an antlerless deer permit.

"In the western part of the state, the deer population is good with stable increases, so it is not as important to decrease numbers of antlerless deer," Hotton said. "We did, however, increase the number of antlerless permits for this year [to allow a slight reduction of antlerless deer numbers]."

But while the western areas of the state have stable deer populations, the herd continues to grow in many eastern areas -- especially, Hotton said, in areas that can be hard to hunt.

"The suburban areas are the real problem, while in rural areas, where hunting is widespread, populations are stable or showing slow growth," Hotton said. "And it is a problem not just in Maryland, it is a problem in all the Northeast."

Deer adapt readily to living around humans, Hotton said, and flourish as woodlands are cleared and developed.

"Sometimes it seems that everyone wants a half-acre lot in the woods, and an acre away someone else has the same thing," Hotton said. "Deer couldn't ask for more, plus in those situations hunting has been removed."

Hunter safety The 10 commandments of hunter safety.

Carry your firearm safely, controlling the direction of the muzzle and keeping the safety on until ready to shoot.

Know the features of the game you hunt, identify the target and know what lies beyond it before shooting.

Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

Be certain the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and the ammunition on hand is of the proper size for the gun being used.

Unload firearms and leave actions open when not in use.

Case firearms on the way to and from hunting areas.

Avoid all horseplay with a firearm.

Never climb a tree or fence or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm, and never pull a firearm toward you by the muzzle.

Store firearms and ammunition separately and beyond the reach of children or inexperienced adults.

Alcoholic beverages or mood-altering drugs must be avoided before or while shooting.

Pub Date: 11/27/97

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