Muzzleloader hunters get increased bag limits Three-day early season will begin on Thursday


October 18, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Maryland's three-day early muzzleloader hunting season for deer has grown in popularity over the past few years, and this year hunters will benefit from increased overall bag limits under the state's new deer management plan.

The early season runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

"Muzzleloader bag limits have been modified to allow hunters to take more antlerless deer in sections of the state with growing or stable but high deer populations," said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin.

The management plan, which was unveiled earlier this year, created four regions in the state and separate bag limits for each for bow, muzzleloader and firearms seasons. Deer taken in one region will not count against the bag limits for the other three regions.

The regions, from west to east across the state, are A, B, C and D. Boundaries of the four regions are explained in detail in the "Guide to Hunting and Trapping in Maryland," which is issued when a hunting license is purchased.

In Region A, hunters may take one antlered white-tailed deer during the early season, and in Region B, the limit is one antlered or antlerless white-tail. Bonus deer stamps cannot be used in either Region A or Region B during the early season.

In regions B and C, however, hunters can take one antlered or antlerless white-tail in each and after purchasing a $5 bonus deer stamp, may take a second deer, which must be antlerless if the first deer was antlered. If the first deer was antlerless, the bonus deer may be antlered or antlerless.

In Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, sika deer may be hunted, but bonus deer stamps are not valid during the three-day early season. Sika may be antlered or antlerless.

Muzzleloader hunters may use telescopic sights in all regions except A (Allegany and Garrett counties and zone 2 of Washington County).

Last year 5,725 deer were taken during the early muzzleloader season, 38 percent more than the previous year, and one in five Maryland muzzleloader hunters took a deer during the October hunt.

Whither the rockfish?

Each autumn, as water surface temperatures fall through the 60s, rockfish (striped bass) move progressively into deeper holes of lower rivers and the bay proper. Exactly when they move and where, remains a mystery, even after years of study.

In his weekly fishing report from the Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service biologist Martin L. Gary addressed the conundrum every fall rockfish angler tries to puzzle out.

"After spending the past eight years observing the movements of these fish [through our tagging harvest monitoring programs], I can tell you this much: While some generalizations may be made as to when and where they may be found, in any given year all bets are off," wrote Gary, addressing anglers' concerns that the rockfish bite has been off for a few weeks.

"No doubt certain parameters of water chemistry come into play. Dissolved oxygen and temperature influence them. And so does the location of their forage base."

Atlantic silversides, bay anchovies and menhaden are preferred food items, he said, and wherever there are large concentrations of baitfish, there also are likely to be rockfish nearby.

"What we appear to be seeing now isn't so much an anomaly of how they distribute themselves," Gary said. "It just appears to be another example of temperature-influenced distribution from one of the most unusually mild years we have experienced in many years."

In 1993 for example, Gary said, deep water trolling for tightly packed schools of rockfish produced excellent late October rockfish angling along the main bay channel edges and off Eastern Bay.

"Last year they never oriented that way at all, even in the middle of January," said Gary. "Fishing is a never-ending learning process for a quarry we may never fully understand."

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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