State's deer take grows by 9 percent

ON THE OUTDOORS

March 11, 2001|By CANDUS THOMSON

If you thought deer hunting season was better than last year's, you were right. Numbers released late last week by the Department of Natural Resources for the firearms, bow, and muzzleloader seasons show a 9 percent increase in deer kills.

But the statistic that jumps off the page and has the Wildlife and Heritage Division managers exchanging high fives is the 39 percent increase from three years ago in the number of antlerless deer shot.

"We're on track," says Doug Hotton, DNR Eastern regional manager. "We're seeing what we're supposed to see."

And if folks leave the experts alone, suburbanites should some day see what they want: fewer deer eating shrubs and tangling with their cars.

Communities all over the state have been complaining about the rapid rise in the deer population. In response, the state game guys revised regulations in 1998 to make it easier for hunters to shoot more deer and for some of their prey to be does.

Making rules is one thing. Making them work, however, is something else.

"When you embark on something like this, you don't know if it's going to work because you don't know if the public is going to embrace it," explains Paul Peditto, who heads the state's deer management program.

But hunters adjusted, and over the last two seasons the number of antlerless deer killed increased.

Hotton says the same thing is happening in other states in the region.

"It's just a change in the thought process," he says. "In the 1800s and 1900s, there were no rules and regulations, and people took all the deer. We developed rules, and the deer came back."

Peditto says hunters made other adjustments, as well. Instead of going out for a day or two during firearms season, hunters are extending their season by trying muzzleloaders and bows.

He also notes that the program that distributes donated venison to needy people is giving hunters a place to take extra deer. Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry received 61 tons of venison this season, enough to provide 488,000 meals for state residents.

This plan sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Well, in a high-tech state such as Maryland, shooting deer to reduce the numbers is too easy.

So down in Annapolis right now, there's a dog-and-pony show going on called the Non-Lethal Task Force on Wildlife.

Sixteen people are sitting around trying to think up ways to make the deer go away. Maybe the state should buy them bus tickets to New Jersey. Or perhaps they'll move along if we ask them nicely. Contraception is a thought.

OK, that's fine to deal with the committee. Now what about the deer?

Seriously, why not let the biologists, whose expertise we pay for, do their jobs?

Hotton says the deer management team will look at the numbers next year and fine-tune the regulations.

"We do a review every other year county by county, region by region. A one-year snapshot doesn't tell you a lot. You need to look at trends," he says.

What we know from this year is that 84,776 deer were killed, 1,684 of them sika deer. Fifty-seven percent (48,248 deer) were shot by modern firearms.

Bowhunters and muzzleloader hunters each saw a 6 percent increase in totals, with bowhunters bagging 18,241 deer and muzzleloaders bagging 18,287.

The top 10 counties are Garrett (7,974), Frederick (7,843), Allegany (7,555), Washington (7,524), Carroll (4,440), Baltimore (4,439), Dorchester (4,382), Worcester (3,732), Kent (3,720) and Montgomery (3,670).

Found treasure

Man finds lure. Man uses lure. Man catches record fish. Pretty good story, eh?

It gets better for Ed Martin, of Cumberland. The 23-year-old set a state record March 1, when he caught a 13-pound, 7.5-ounce brown trout while fishing near Barnum on the North Branch of the Potomac River.

Martin found the lure - a Rapala plug - floating near the bank on the Maryland side and gave it a try.

He hooked the monster brown and then battled it for 45 minutes while his dad watched with a feeling of deja vu.

Less than a year ago, David Martin, 44, caught the state record cutthroat trout in the same vicinity.

What are the odds?

"Slim to none at all," the elder Martin says, chuckling.

The father grabbed the net and got the fish on the first swipe, "but I could only get the head in," he says. "I had a vision of it getting away."

The younger Martin took the big brown to B.J.'s in Swanton, a state citation center. The fish measured 30.5 inches long and 16 inches around.

The deja vu continued at the tackle shop, where the senior Martin checked in his cutthroat last May.

"We see a lot of record-class fish from the stretch of water," says shop owner Jim Minogue. "The confluence of the Potomac and the Savage has been a tremendous spot."

Either Minogue or his wife, Gerry, have checked in three of the past four record brown trout and the record walleye, in addition to the Martins' fish.

Martin's brown trout, the first record of the year, surpassed the old mark set last year by Baltimore's Ray Ferstermann, whose trout was 12 pounds, 14 ounces, 29.25 inches long and 19.12 inches around.

The senior Martin set his cutthroat record of 7 pounds, 9 ounces on his other son's rod and reel.

Minogue says the two Martins should savor their records but not rest on their laurels.

"I don't expect the [brown trout] record to last long. There're some big fish in the lower Savage and that section of the Potomac," he says. "I wouldn't be surprised to see the cutthroat record fall, too."

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