Few deer die on first day of Howard Co. hunt Middle Patuxent area officials hope to cull park's growing herd

January 06, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Yesterday's final score: Hunters, 2; Deer, many, many more.

The much-publicized first managed deer hunt at Howard County's Middle Patuxent Environmental Area got off to a rocky start as 10 hunters in bright orange vests managed to fire only four shots and kill two does in six hours yesterday morning.

That leaves dozens, maybe hundreds of deer free to roam the heavily wooded park -- and John Byrd with a slight case of disappointment.

"I would've hoped to see more [deer killed] on the first day," said Byrd, Howard's chief of parks and program services, who organized the hunt in the park that borders Columbia. "I would certainly like to see some deer removed."

The hunters were optimistic about the prospects of bagging more deer during the five weeks of the hunt.

"I don't see a deer every time I go out," said Leon Jude of Laurel, one of yesterday's hunters. "A lot of times, I just fall asleep right there in my stand."

Added Larry Knight of Columbia: "Some days are good days, some days are not. But the weather was great, wasn't it?"

The managed hunt took place in 300 acres of the 630-acre park that borders the Columbia villages of Hickory Ridge, River Hill and Harper's Choice. It is supposed to reduce the park's deer population, blamed for destroying gardens, colliding with cars and supporting a tick population suspected of carrying Lyme disease.

The hunt begins every weekday -- except holidays -- at 5 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m. County park officials say they expect hunters to harvest at least 60 deer during the hunt, which ends Feb. 6.

Twenty-six hunters were selected to participate and 10 of them -- the maximum allowed on any one day -- disappeared into the fog-shrouded woods two hours before sunrise yesterday, leaving behind county park officials and members of the media who waited at the front entrance to the park.

During the next six hours, only four shots were heard.

Garry Dabbs of Odenton was the first hunter to emerge from the woods with a doe about 10: 45 a.m. Dabbs killed a 43-pound yearling from about 30 yards, he said.

Mark Wilson of Clarksville also killed a deer, an 18-month-old, 62-pound doe from about 40 yards.

Hunters, who must shoot shotgun slugs from tree stands -- meaning, in theory, that missed shots would harmlessly hit the ground -- are required to kill two does before they can take a buck.

This population-reduction measure frustrated at least one hunter yesterday who said he watched a buck with antlers walk past his stand.

"Miserable," the hunter, who declined to identify himself, said of the outing. "All I got was a cold."

The hunters offered several reasons for the absence of deer. Woody Shields of Columbia, who did not hunt yesterday but will be part of the hunt tomorrow, said the weather was too warm.

"It's like anybody wearing a thick fur coat, you minimize the amount of activity," Shields said, adding that the optimal deer-hunting temperature ranges between 35 and 45 degrees.

Dave Cole of Odenton said he and other hunters may have scared the deer off as they walked to their stands.

"They're smart," Cole said of the deer. "They hear us and see us, and they just lie down to avoid us."

Jude said he was angered when he heard a fellow hunter making too much noise walking to his stand and let the person know it. Later, he discovered the noisy offender was Carl Thacker of Columbia.

"Was that you?" Thacker asked Jude. "I was wondering who was cussing at me."

A 300-yard buffer separates hunters and houses in River Hill along the western edge of the park. On the eastern edge of the park, which borders Hickory Ridge and Harper's Choice, the buffer is about 200 yards but includes Middle Patuxent River.

Jacqueline Rana of Clarksville, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said she was surprised by the low volume of shots.

"I was expecting something like artillery out there," Rana said. "I didn't hear a thing, and I have the windows open."

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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