Firearms deer sea­son com­ing up

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors @out­look.com

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.

‘Catch-A-Poacher’

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.

Grad­u­a­tion time

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?

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