Hunting ban doesn't impose unfairly upon sportsmen

OUTDOORS

Outdoors

October 20, 2002|By CANDUS THOMSON

It's not like we're going to run out of deer anytime soon, so why do some folks have their innards in an uproar about the ban on deer hunting until the hunter of people in the Washington suburbs is caught?

Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan was right to ask, and Gov. Parris N. Glendening was right to agree to a temporary halt in recreational shooting in the two affected counties and two adjacent ones. The executive order puts a major dent in the muzzleloader season and small-game hunting.

The police deserve every opportunity to nail this bugger, the sooner the better. Under normal circumstances, the sounds of gunfire in suburbia during hunting season light up police switchboards and send officers out in pursuit. With a sniper among us, these are not ordinary times.

If Glendening can cut the distractions with the stroke of a pen, bully for him.

Of course, that's not how everyone sees it.

Some sportsmen, and I hesitate to use that label, think it's their right to hunt. One of my callers insisted it was his "constitutional right." I can't find that one listed in my copy of the U.S. Constitution, but maybe I'm not reading the Ernest Hemingway version.

Other losers have called here and the Department of Natural Resources, demanding a refund on their hunting license. (Do I look like I'm made of money?)

Still others, including one quoted in The Sun, said elected officials failed to understand that "there's a difference between a hunter in the woods and a sniper in suburbia."

True. But to folks in Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George's or Howard counties, a gunshot is a gunshot. Call 911, ask questions later.

Part of being a responsible citizen is, to quote the Zen philosopher Kenny Rogers, knowing when to hold them and knowing when to fold them. This is one case in which sportsmen can play the cards dealt them by circumstance and polish their image.

Steve Huettner, president of the 16,000-member Maryland Sportsman's Association, understands that.

"If this is what we have to do to end the killing, then so be it," he says.

And, of course, it's not like this ban ruins the entire year.

In the first place, most hunters are not single-season enthusiasts. They may hit the woods for bow, muzzleloader and modern firearms hunting, or two out of the three.

Then, let it be noted that the four counties aren't a hotbed of white-tailed deer action, anyway. Heck, more deer become venison at the hands of motorists than hunters.

According to Department of Natural Resources records, last year, 1,616 deer were shot during the five-day early muzzleloader season that stretched over two weeks. The breakdown is as follows: Anne Arundel, 340; Howard, 355; Montgomery, 584; Prince George's, 337. By comparison, cars killed more than 1,700 deer in Montgomery County in 1997, and about 900 in Howard County in 2000, the last years for which figures were available.

Then, too, hunters can take their business to public lands in the state's 19 other counties for the time being.

And that's not to say DNR won't try to make it up to hunters this season with an extended season. With Maryland up to its ears in deer, it makes sense to trim the herd by tacking some days onto the end of the late season.

"We're already looking to compensate for the loss of days," says Paul Peditto, director of the wildlife and heritage division of DNR. "We have a fair amount of flexibility, and extending the season is not unprecedented."

Peditto's deputy, Bob Beyer, has asked biologists to run the numbers on how the loss of hunting days affects the growth of the deer population to develop an extension that would best serve management needs.

The top option will be run up the DNR chain of command for approval and then on to the 20-member Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislation Review.

Del. John Arnick, the House chairman of the regulatory oversight panel, says, "At first blush, I'd say no, I don't see any problem with an extension. But I'll have to hear all sides. If it's best for all the major players, I don't see a problem."

If the chairwoman of the committee, state Sen. Delores Kelley, doesn't hear any opposition to the extension, she can poll the members by telephone.

DNR has prepared a question-and-answer on the hunting ban. You can view it at www.dnr.state.md.us.

This bears watching

The chance that the black bear hunting issue will not come up next legislative season is about as likely as me getting a gubernatorial Christmas card.

So, now's as good a time as any to get up to speed on an issue sure to provoke debate in the halls of Annapolis.

Harry Spiker, the leader of DNR's black bear project, will be at Bass Pro Shop in the Arundel Mills mall at 7 p.m. Oct. 31 to discuss the biology and management of the state's bruin population.

It's free, and you can use it as an excuse to scout out your Christmas wish list.

Cart me away

Repeat after me: "I can quit when I want to."

Now, hold that thought until next fall.

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