Liberal limits, abundant deer expected to yield large harvest

ON THE OUTDOORS

November 25, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The two-week firearms hunting season for deer opens across Maryland Saturday, and wildlife managers expect liberal bag limits and an abundance of whitetails through most of the state to produce an excellent harvest.

Last season, with hunters allowed separate bag limits for each of the four management regions in the state, a record 41,073 deer were bagged, including nearly 22,000 antlerless deer.

"Maryland's new deer management structure increased the total antlerless deer harvest by almost one-fourth within sections of Maryland with elevated deer numbers," said Michael Slattery, director of Wildlife and Heritage for the Department of Natural Resources. "Maryland's deer hunters are playing a crucial role in deer management by increasing the number of antlerless deer harvested."

Hunting regulations encourage the harvest of antlerless deer, except in Western Maryland, where antlerless deer may be taken only with permits issued through a lottery.

According to wildlife managers, reducing the number of antlerless deer is the most effective method of stabilizing the deer population.

Doug Hotton, deer project manager with DNR, said the deer population is "stable but with very good numbers" in Western Maryland and the emphasis there on antlered deer will "leave more does in the woods."

But while deer numbers are stable and well-balanced in Western Maryland (Region A), Hotton said, the large deer population continues to be a concern in the remainder of the state.

"In regions B, C and D, we are encouraging the antlerless harvest," he said, "because in many areas deer are abundant and having an impact on agricultural crops and forest vegetation."

Hunting antlered deer and protecting the females of the species was the preferred management strategy in Maryland, as deer populations in the state were restored.

"For 55 years, we have encouraged antlered harvests," said Hotton. "Now the population is plentiful, so we need to place more controls on the species."

The controls include a bag of up to 12 deer, if a hunter were to limit out in all four regions of the state.

The breakdown by regions:

Region A (Garrett, Allegany and zone 2 of Washington): One antlered deer plus a second antlered on a bonus stamp. Hunters selected for bonus antlerless permits can take one antlerless deer on Dec. 10 or 11. Combined bag limit is two.

Region B (Carroll and zone 1 of Washington and Frederick): Combined bag limit is two, only one of which may be antlered. First deer may be antlered or antlerless from Nov. 27-Dec. 4 and only antlered deer may be taken from Dec. 6-11. With a bonus stamp, the second deer may be antlered or antlerless if taken between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 if the first deer taken was antlerless. If the first was antlered, the second must be antlerless. Hunters whose first deer was antlered cannot take a second deer from Dec. 6-Dec. 11.

Region C or D: The combined bag possible is four in each region. The first deer may be antlered or antlerless, and three bonus stamps may be purchased per region. No more than two antlered deer can be taken in either region and two antlerless deer must be taken before a second antlered deer is pursued.

Blues at Ocean City

The first big bluefish have moved into the surf at Ocean City and Assateague, according to reports from DNR's Fisheries Service.

"Look for better numbers of 7-pound-plus chopper blue to turn up off the beaches over the next 10 days," said Martin Gary, fisheries biologist. "If we are lucky, we might see a full-blown blitz for a few of those days."

The blues are migrating south along the coast to their wintering grounds, and warm days with east or northeasterly winds could bring increasing numbers inshore.

Big stripers in lower bay

DNR also reports increasing catch reports of big rockfish along the deeper edges of the main shipping channel in Chesapeake Bay. While the greatest number of these 30- to 47-inchers have been caught in St. Jerome's Creek south to the Virginia line, some have been caught as far north as the Dumping Grounds above the Bay Bridge.

"Over the past few years, we have encountered some numbers of these coastal migrants from mid-November into early December," Gary said. "This year, there appear to be more than we have ever seen before."

In addition to these larger fish, he said, great numbers of 24- to 27-inch rockfish have been caught the past two weeks. These slightly smaller fish apparently are from the huge 1993 year class, 90 percent of which joined the coastal migratory stock this year.

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