Deer season starts with a bang for local hunters


Note: With the exception of the author, this will be a turkey-free column.

Tens of thousands of deer hunters took to the field yesterday under the skies we wish for when the Orioles first take the field.

The opening day of firearms season started frosty but quickly warmed to shirt-sleeves weather. After years of too hot and too cold (with the occasional snow flurry to give us something to whine about), the weather gods delivered the goods.

And hunters delivered, too.

At Austin's Deer Processing, a 10-point buck shot in Talbot County was dropped off before the butchers could finish their first cups of coffee. From then on, it was a steady stream of hunters, ranging from delighted first-timer Matt Preble of Glen Burnie to Joe Joisy of Dundalk, who killed an eight-point, 153-pound buck but was quick to say he had taken a bigger buck with a bow last week in Prince George's County.

After getting skunked last year on the family farm in Frederick County, Preble was sure early on he was headed for a repeat performance.

His two hunting buddies were seeing does everywhere from nearby stands, but Preble was seeing only his breath.

"I was thinking, 'Wow, this is going to be another one of those years,' " the young federal worker said. "Then I turned, and 25 yards to my left, he stopped and stared back at me."

The buck, a seven-pointer, wasn't huge, but it will provide a freezer full of roasts, steaks and tenderloins for Preble and his wife, Tammy.

"We hunt to eat," said Tammy, a part-time worker for the Anne Arundel Parks and Recreation Department who can't wait to make a Norwegian venison roast with goat cheese.

But she had another reason to give thanks: "I'm so excited because I thought we'd be out there all day long."

Matt Preble said he would spend the rest of the weekend watching football and polishing his hunting story for co-workers tomorrow morning.

"He'll be talking about it all day long," his wife said, before reconsidering. "No, he'll be talking about it for months."

Brian Eyler, the head of the Department of Natural Resources' deer management program, spent the morning taking tissue samples that will be tested to determine whether chronic wasting disease has invaded Maryland's herd of more than 225,000 deer.

The fatal disease attacks the brains and nervous systems of captive and wild deer, moose and elk, working much the way "mad cow disease" does. It has been detected in animals in 15 states and two Canadian provinces. The closest infected animals were detected in a West Virginia county that abuts Maryland, first in 2005 and again this year.

While there is there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans, Maryland biologists sample the brain stems of hundreds of deer each year.

"The longer we can hold it off, the more we can learn about the disease," Eyler said.

Just after the Prebles left, Joisy showed up with his second big buck from the National Agricultural Center in Beltsville.

"It was a real tough shot," hunting buddy and brother-in-law Kevin Johannes confided. "The buck walked right under him."

Joisy, an accomplished hunter who fills the freezers of friends and family, said he was so busy focusing on the horizon he failed to notice the large mass under his stand. It was only the crunch of leaves beneath hooves that broke the spell.

Unlike Preble, Joisy and Johannes weren't resting on their laurels.

"We're going to get something to eat and go back out," said Johannes. "How often do you get days this nice?"

Rock (Hall) Lobster

When you fish crab pots in the summer and net in the winter year in and year out, it stands to reason that there are very few surprises left in the Chesapeake Bay.

But a surprise is just what Capt. Bobby Coleman and mate Gerald Jacquette got Nov. 14, when they checked a pot at Swan Point just off Rock Hall. There, in among the crabs, was a visitor from up north, a lobster.

DNR fisheries biologist Marty Gary said he had never heard of a lobster in the bay.

Jack Cover, general curator of the National Aquarium, said that while high-salinity ocean critters sometimes venture up the brackish bay, a more likely scenario is that a live lobster from a grocery store was released by a "well-meaning animal advocate."

Although clearly out of its element, the "bug," about a pound and a half, was lively. So were the jokes that followed.

"I said to Gerald, 'Did you take the rubber bands off the claws before you showed it around?" said Sandra Coleman, the captain's wife. "I said, 'Maybe if we run out of crabs, we can lobster.' "

If the lobster did find its own way north, it had to perform a shell game, scuttling past the veteran watermen of Crisfield to arrive at Rock Hall, across the bay from the mouth of the Patapsco River,

"Only the lobster can tell the true story of how it ended up in Rock Hall," Cover said.

But that's one lobster tale that won't be told. Coleman and Jacquette steamed the crustacean and ate it.

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