In 2nd season, deer check-in system is virtual hit

Outdoors

November 12, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON

Testing, testing. One, two, three.

Is this thing on?

Good. We'll begin this column with an apology.

Last year, I savaged the state's new game Telecheck system, which replaced the time-honored practice of deer and turkey show and tell at the local outdoors shop.

It seemed like a bad move eliminating the one opportunity the hunting public had to connect with wildlife managers in favor of pressing phone buttons or tapping away on a computer keyboard to check in a carcass. It also seemed to be a slap in the face to all of the mom-and-pop sports shops that opened in the pre-dawn hours and counted on hunter traffic to boost sales.

Well, I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

You folks have overwhelmingly embraced Telecheck. More than 90 percent of Department of Natural Resources survey respondents thought it was good or excellent.

And Brian Eyler, the state deer biologist who sweated the details of Telecheck, deserves a tip of the cap (color: hunter orange) for making it run so smoothly and for addressing two of my concerns.

First, hunters now have 24 hours - not just until midnight - to check their game. That should give folks who shoot game late in the day and deep in the woods plenty of time to field-dress and transport their kill and file a report.

Second, to help boost foot traffic, the Wildlife and Heritage Service is running a contest during firearms season at the 40 or so outlets that sell licenses and used to be check stations.

For two weeks, hunters can fill out an entry form and drop it in the box on the counter. One name will be drawn at each store, and that person will get a free hunting license for next season. The names of all winners will be placed in a drawing in December for a $500 gift card, redeemable at the store where the entry form was filled out.

"We've heard from a lot of check stations that Telecheck took away some of their business, and we wanted to help them," said Karina Blizzard, associate director of Wildlife and Heritage. "This is simple and straightforward."

And, I might add, a welcomed change from the nearly incoherent, insurance-driven rules of the "Diamond Jim" fishing challenge of the past two years.

After mastering those rules, I feel fully confident in my ability to follow IKEA assembly instructions.

Deer management

The state has begun revising its 10-year deer management plan.

No, it has nothing to do with "Bambi, you stand here and have your mate, Faline, stand over there."

The plan contains all the moving parts - practical and philosophical - it takes to keep Maryland's estimated 260,000 deer under control and healthy.

To kick things off, DNR officials met with representatives of hunting groups, officials from other agencies, citizens and animal rights advocates to begin outlining the parameters of the plan.

There's not enough space to outline all that was suggested in the nearly three-hour meeting, so here's the CliffsNotes version (no test will be given).

Several hunters suggested a longer season, elimination of baiting and less confusing regulations.

Non-hunters wanted the state to spend more time and effort on deer contraception, public education, hunter ethics and safety.

Doug Hotton, the biologist heading the effort, said the suggestions would be studied and organized for the next stakeholders meeting in March.

After two rounds of public hearings, the new plan would go into effect in time for the 2007-08 hunting season.

Waterfowl festival

Friday was a great day to be at the Easton Waterfowl Festival.

Although there were lots of things to take you inside - decoy sales, waterfowl calling contests and art displays - there were lots of things that kept you outside in shirtsleeve weather.

Spectator stands were full as retriever dogs put on a show.

"The dogs love it," said Phyllis McGinn, owner and trainer of Wyatt, a 5-year-old retriever. "They know it's time to be hams and play to the crowd."

Some of the performers will be on stage again in Trappe on Dec. 3 for the Maryland Retriever Gundog Championship, sponsored by the Maryland Waterfowler's Association. (For details, send an e-mail to butchchambers@mdwfa.org.)

The Easton festival, in its 36th year, closes today at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, at DNR

With the elections over, the jockeying begins for the top jobs at DNR headquarters.

Although the O'Malley transition team swears it will not conduct a wholesale housecleaning, there's little to suggest that won't happen at the resources agency. The Glendening and Ehrlich administrations both loaded up DNR with supporters.

It's safe to say that Secretary Ron Franks can go back to drilling teeth at his Kent Island dentistry practice. His deputy, Ron Guns, a former delegate who hopped from the Public Service Commission to DNR, is probably looking for something that involves fewer dead animals.

And it's probably a good guess that others will be offered the opportunity to: 1) spend more time with the family; or 2) pursue other options.

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