Firearms deer season coming up
Maryland’s popular firearms deer season runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 10 this year. The folks at the state’s Department of Natural Resources expect roughly 30,000 deer to end up in home freezers during the upcoming two-week season.
The tally is in from the early portion of the archery and muzzleloader deer seasons and DNR reports that hunters harvested fewer deer during the early hunting season compared with last year.
In September and October, hunters harvested an estimated 19,859 deer using bows and muzzleloaders, a 14 percent decrease from the harvest during the same period last year, which was 23,097. DNR biologists credit this decrease to factors such as less deer, poor weather on key hunting days and more abundant mast.
Mast you might ask? How could sailing impact deer hunting? This is a different kind of mast that DNR is referencing. Mast is the technical term for fruit or seed of woody trees and shrubs. Think hickory nuts, walnuts, apples, grapes and — possibly the most important crop that many of Maryland’s wildlife depend on to get through winter — acorns.
The next time you are standing under an oak tree, look around you. Those acorns aren’t just food for squirrels. Deer, wild turkey, quail, black bears and even rabbits and foxes, all consume acorns this time of year to get ready for the cold months ahead.
When mast is more abundant, animals — like deer — don’t have to move around as much to find food during this “fattening up” period before winter. And if deer aren’t traveling as far to find food, they are less likely to walk past an occupied tree stand and into a hunter’s scope.
The total number of deer harvest during archery and muzzleloader seasons decreased nearly 24 percent in Charles County and about 18 percent in St. Mary’s County, while the harvest in Calvert County stayed about the same as last year, with a modest 1 percent increase over last year’s numbers. In fact, Calvert County was the only county in the entire state not to experience a decline in the number of deer harvested.
For the upcoming firearms season, hunting hours are one half-hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset. Total bag limits in our region are one antlered deer and 10 antlerless deer. An additional antlered deer is permissible with the purchase of a bonus antlered deer stamp but only if two
antlerless deer are taken first.
This focus on harvesting antlerless deer is a fundamental part of Maryland’s effort to manage the deer population. In addition, Sunday deer hunting — Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 is allowed in all three Southern Maryland counties.
The deer population is quite robust these days and if you add them all up, you’ll need more than two hands to count the number of deer each hunter is permitted to harvest per regulations during firearms season.
The statewide bag limit of one buck per weapon season (archery, muzzleloader, and firearms) plus 10 antlerless
deer and a bonus antlered make for some memorable experiences in the great outdoors and some mighty fine dinners, too.
And during this season of giving, hunters are urged to donate any extra deer meat they harvest to Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Last year more than 600,000 venison meals were provided to food banks.
A man and a teenager in Charles County attempted to get a jump start on firearms deer season more than a month early, violating a number of hunting laws and winding up in some serious legal trouble.
You can, and should, report any illegal
hunting activities you see out there by calling the Maryland “Catch-A-Poacher” 24-hour hotline at 1-800-635-6124.
Keep that number handy and don’t be afraid to use it. The anonymity of your call is guaranteed. These kinds of crimes can give lawful hunters a reputation they don’t deserve.
Maryland Natural Resources Police announced that 27 young men and ladies graduated from the academy on Nov. 12, the largest class in police history. After 7 1/2 months of live-in academy training, the recruits will spend another 12 weeks training in the field with senior law enforcement officers.
The Natural Resources Police is Maryland’s oldest state law enforcement agency and traces its lineage back to 1868 when the Maryland General Assembly created the State Oyster Police Force. These graduates will join over 250 other officers to enforce fishing and hunting laws, protect state park visitors, carry out search-andrescue missions and ensure maritime homeland security.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) was on hand to offer honor this new class of officers and offer his congratulations. A well-staffed law enforcement branch, focused on protecting our natural resources, is an important part of sustaining our environment for the future.
How about we all give them a hearty welcome and round of applause?