Hunting application deadline is extended

County wants to have 120 qualified hunters thin the deer population

August 24, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Although more than 160 people have applied to Howard County in the past two weeks for a managed deer hunt this fall, county officials have extended the sign-up period through Friday.

Philip C. Norman, hunt manager for the county's Department of Recreation and Parks' effort to thin herds in the 1,018-acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, said the county wants more hunters to apply because the list is often sharply reduced to provide the safest and most experienced people.

"There's a number of different community groups and neighborhood associations concerned with the hunt who want to be sure we have well-qualified, safe hunters in there," he said.

Norman, who recently returned from a year in Eastern Europe as a church missionary, said he managed the hunt in 1997, when the county chose 36 hunters from a list of 125 applicants. Norman has replaced Jeffrey Duguay, who was manager of the environmental area from May 1998 until he left for a college teaching job in Texas this month.

Thirty-six qualified hunters are on file, Norman said. The county hopes to have 120. The application period has been extended to 4 p.m. Friday at the Recreation and Parks headquarters on Oakland Mills Road in Columbia.

The hunt, scheduled for 28 days sprinkled through October, November and December, is designed to thin a deer population estimated at more than 350 in an area considered large enough to support 40.

In an interview last month, Duguay said deer had eaten all the low vegetation in the refuge, which sits on Columbia's western edge. That could force ecological changes in the food chain, affecting plants, insects and birds.

Several hunters said they approve of the added registration time and don't object to more applicants.

"Certainly there are enough deer in Howard and surrounding counties -- enough for everybody," We'll have a better opportunity to meet their harvest management goal," said Joe Webster, a hunter from Bethesda.

Mark Wilson, a Clarksville hunter who helped draft some of the questions for applicants, said the Howard standard is "very strict. It's the strictest one I know."

The county does a criminal background check on each applicant, checks for violations of state natural resources laws, verifies possession of a hunting license and seeks proof of gun and safety training. Applicants are interviewed and must fill out questionnaires.

"If someone answers a question about why they like to hunt by saying `I like to blast wildlife,' " that person will be disqualified, Wilson said. Only 30 hunters will be allowed in the woods on each day, from a half-hour before sunrise to 11 a.m.

The proposal is controversial with animal lovers, represented by the Animal Advocates of Howard County. The group opposes hunting, arguing that nonlethal methods such as road reflectors can cut down on the hundreds of collisions each year between vehicles and deer, and that birth control can help reduce the population. They were happy when County Executive James N. Robey canceled a winter hunt shortly after taking office late last year.

But county officials say birth control hasn't been perfected and the hungry animals are causing millions of dollars in damage each year to plants, crops and vehicles. That's why, Robey said, he decided to go ahead with a larger hunt this year.

Pub Date: 8/24/99

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