Firearms season kicks off, but deer harvest has twist

On The Outdoors

November 29, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

At 6: 30 a.m. yesterday, Gina Reed had the grill up to temperature at the Lisbon Country Corner sandwich shop and deer-checking station and sounded as if she wished she, too, were out in the woods and fields of western Howard County for the opening of firearms hunting season.

"We've had a lot of nice bucks brought in during bow season," she said as she took a fried egg off the grill and slid it and a few slices of ham between two pieces of toast.

"But a lot of people have been waiting for this one day all year."

Indeed, the last Saturday in November always generates a special stir in the early morning hours across the state from Worcester County to Garrett County, as tens of thousands of hunters awake early and set off into the fields, forests and woodlots.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, hunters spend 1.7 million man-days in the field during bow, muzzleloader and firearms seasons, and the positive economic impact from state deer seasons is more than $209 million.

The great majority of days afield and the bulk of economic gains usually have come during the two-week firearms season.

For many hunters, the tradition has always included bagging a trophy buck.

But in many areas of the state, the hunt figures to be a little different this year.

Under a new deer management plan in all but Garrett and Allegany counties and Zone 2 of Washington County, bag limits have been restructured to emphasize antlerless deer.

In Carroll County and Zone 1 of Frederick and Washington counties, the basic bag limit is one, and with a deer bonus stamp, hunters can take a second deer, but only one can be antlered.

Hunters whose first deer was antlered are prohibited from hunting the second week of the season (Dec. 7-12).

"Figuring it out isn't too bad," said Stacy Faidley of Carroll County, who hunts during bow, muzzleloader and firearms seasons and checked in a 7-pointer at C&C Taxidermy near Manchester.

"But I wish [DNR] would keep from changing [the regulations] so often. I got my buck and that means with my bonus stamp I have the rest of the first week to take a doe."

Sheila Murphy and Harold Leest were working the scales at C&C Taxidermy, and the pace was brisk 90 minutes after dawn's first light.

Pickups, jeeps and SUVs crammed the small parking lot, and a steady stream of hunters moved in and out of the taxidermist's shop, completing paperwork or arranging for mounts.

Murphy said that by 8: 30 a.m. they already had checked in "about three dozen" whitetails, and the busiest hours of the day were still ahead.

Carl Seiler, a farmer in upper Carroll County, said he had no plans to hunt yesterday, but he showed up at the checking station with an 11-pointer.

"I was just working at the farm when I saw him," said Seiler, accompanied by his 15-year-old nephew, Ross Bell.

"So that's when we went hunting."

Mike Glass, a nonresident hunter from Shrewsbury, Pa., registered a 9-pointer taken from private land north of town just after sunrise.

Glass said he has hunted in Wisconsin the past two years but returned to Maryland for opening day because he already had taken his antlered buck in Pennsylvania this year.

"I'd hunted here for years, though," he said, "and it's still all right but a little crowded -- and Pennsylvania is worse than here."

The three Saturdays of the 13-day firearms season are the busiest hunting days of the year, according to DNR, which estimates as many as 100,000 hunters annually participate in firearms season.

George Bixler has run a farm near Manchester for many years, he said, "and I've been hunting ever since I was 16 years old -- and it does get a little crowded and crazy around here this time of year, but I've seen it much worse."

The majority of whitetails checked in at C&C Taxidermy yesterday morning were bucks, and Faidley said he thinks that's how it should be.

"Taking a doe, I don't really like that. But it's the law," he said. "Does should be kept alive because they keep the herd going."

In Baltimore and all or parts of 18 other counties from Central Maryland to the Eastern Shore, the basic bag limit is one antlered or antlerless deer. With bonus deer stamps, hunters can kill three more deer, but at least two does must be taken before a second buck.

James Pickett came to the scales at Baltimore County Hardware in Reisterstown with a 6-point buck and a 97-pound doe taken 2 minutes apart in an undisclosed area of Baltimore County.

"I know one thing. There's more than enough deer out there," said Pickett, who runs a tree service and landscaping company. "We're inundated with deer."

In certain areas, said Pickett, whose trade takes him throughout Baltimore County, deer damage to crops, gardens and ornamental shrubbery "is so great people have to put up electric fences to keep them out. They are a pestilence."

At midmorning yesterday, Michael Arbaugh and Richard Cool had checked in a pair of bucks taken from the Cool family property off Dover Road.

"In this county, it seems does are the key," said Arbaugh, a heavy equipment operator for C.J. Miller Co.

"The deer population is exploding, and if you don't do something, they'll starve or become diseased. I think [the emphasis on does] is good, but you don't want to overdo it."

Cool, a millworker who grew up on the family's 86-acre farm, said when deer populations are too high, they can "get in with the cattle and make them sick, too."

"I think the thing to do is try it, check it out and re-evaluate for next year," he said.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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