Talk­ing deer sea­son num­bers

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­

Deer sea­son of­fi­cially ended on the last day of Jan­uary.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mar yland De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, 85,193 to­tal deer (in­clud­ing both white-tailed and sika) were taken by hun­ters dur­ing the com­bined archery, muz­zleloader and firearm sea­sons, ex­ceed­ing last year’s to­tal by more than 1,000 deer.

Once again, the avail­abil­ity of Sun­day hunt­ing in some coun­ties helped to in­crease the to­tal num­ber of deer taken. Al­most 10 per­cent of all deer were har­vested on a Sun­day.

Deer hunt­ing is al­lowed on Sun­day on pri­vate lands only in South­ern Mary­land. As a mat­ter of fact, the only coun­ties to al­low Sun­day hunt­ing on specif­i­cally des­ig­nated pub­lic lands are the three coun­ties that make up Western Mary­land.

“Our Sun­day har vest con­tin­ues to grow as hun­ters take ad­van­tage of ad­di­tional week­end days to spend in the woods,” DNR Wildlife and Her­itage Ser­vice Di­rec­tor Paul Peditto said. “This growth is re­mark­able con­sid­er­ing some coun­ties have only one Sun­day open to hunt­ing in firearm sea­son and three of our high­est deer den­sity coun­ties have no Sun­day hunt­ing at all.” Those coun­ties are Bal­ti­more, Howard and Prince George’s.

Fred­er­ick County led the har­vest to­tals both last year and this year, with 7,556 deer taken dur­ing the 2016-17 hunt­ing sea­son. Charles and Calvert coun­ties ex­pe­ri­enced slight de­creases in har­vest to­tals, but Calvert County’s to­tal of 1,867 deer (614 antlered and 1,253 antler­less) rep­re­sents a growth of nearly 12 per­cent over last year’s to­tal.

DNR has also an­nounced the un­wel­come news that six more deer in Mary­land have tested pos­i­tive for chronic wast­ing dis­ease.

Five of the in­fected deer were killed by hun­ters in Al­le­gany County dur­ing the statewide deer sea­son and the sixth was a road-killed deer col­lected near Cum­ber­land, also in Al­le­gany County. These deer bring the statewide num­ber of pos­i­tive cases to a to­tal of 17 since CWD was first de­tected in Mary­land in 2011.

DNR has tested thou­sands of deer for CWD since 1999. In 2005, the first case of CWD oc­curred in West Vir­ginia in Hampshire County, which caused great alarm for us here in Mar yland, and with good rea­son.

CWD, which is al­ways fatal, could se­ri­ously re­duce deer pop­u­la­tions and, while it poses no known hu­man health risk, threaten the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of con­sum­ing veni­son.

CWD was found in Fred­er­ick County, Vir­ginia in Fe­bru­ary 2010. And the first case of CWD was de­tected in Mary­land in a deer taken by a hunter in Novem­ber 2010, which was an­nounced in 2011 af­ter the test re­sults were con­firmed. Penn­syl­va­nia had its first case in 2012. So far, all the cases of CWD in Mary­land are iso­lated to a ver y small per­cent­age of deer in Al­le­gany County.

DNR con­ducts ro­bust

test­ing on deer from all 23 coun­ties in Mary­land, both road-kills and deer brought in by hun­ters to co­op­er­at­ing deer pro­ces­sors. Tis­sue sam­ples from the brain stem and lymph nodes are sent to a lab­o­ra­tory for test­ing and any sam­ples that test pos­i­tive are then sent to the USDA Na­tional Ve­teri­nary Ser­vices Lab­o­ra­to­ries for a con­fir­ma­tion test­ing. Most of the test­ing is fo­cused on the Al­le­gany, Gar­rett and Wash­ing­ton coun­ties.

CWD is a fatal neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease that can af­fect white-tailed deer, moose, mule deer and Rocky Moun­tain elk. Ex­perts now say that sika deer are also sus­cep­ti­ble.

There is no ev­i­dence that the dis­ease can be trans­mit­ted to hu­mans. Var­i­ous rules ex­ist re­gard­ing the pro­cess­ing and han­dling of deer meat and car­casses in the man­age­ment area that in­cludes all of Al­le­gany County and a por­tion of Wash­ing­ton County to limit the pos­si­ble spread of CWD to other parts of the state.

Take a hunter safety course

If you want to bag your own deer later this year, don’t wait un­til hunt- ing sea­son to take the re­quired hunter safety course. It will be too late.

Mar yland Hunter Ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses are gen­er­ally taught dur­ing the off­sea­son for the sim­ple rea­son that the in­struc­tors are hun­ters them­selves and will be out in the field when hunt­ing is get­ting un­der­way. Keep in mind the spring turkey sea­son starts April 18 this year.

In 1977, the Mary­land leg­is­la­ture made it manda­tory for all first-time hun­ters to pass a hunter ed­u­ca­tion course. To pur- chase a hunt­ing li­cense in Mary­land, you are must present a Cer­tifi­cate of Com­pe­tency in Firearms and Hunt­ing Safety. If you’ve got a young­ster in the house about to ven­ture out on his or her first hunt this year, sign them up and your­self, too. Most cour­ses re­quire an adult to at­tend with a stu­dent un­der the age of 14.

The Mary­land Hunter Ed­u­ca­tion Course is a min­i­mum of 10 hours in length, with most classes run­ning about 12 to 14 hours. Stu­dents must at­tend all ses­sions of the class, pass a 50-ques­tion mul­ti­ple choice test with a grade of 80 per­cent or bet­ter and sat­is­fac­to­rily par­tic­i­pate in a live fir­ing, as well as be rec­om­mended by the in­struc­tor for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by demon­strat­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity and ma­tu­rity to be a safe, re­spon­si­ble and eth­i­cal hunter.

These classes fill up very quickly, so reg­is­ter as soon as you can. The classes are usu­ally ei­ther a com­bi­na­tion of week­day evening hours and one week­end day or all day on Satur­day and Sun­day.

The next class in Calvert County will take place at the fair­grounds in Prince Fred­er­ick on May 3 to 6. In Charles County, the next class will be of­fered at the In­dian Head Se­nior Cen­ter on the week­end of April 29 and 30. In St. Mary’s County, there are only a few spots still avail­able for the up­com­ing course that will be taught March 28 to April 1 at South­ern Mary­land Coon­hunters in Loveville.

It’s easy to reg­is­ter and the class is com­pletely free. To get fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about classes, view other up­com­ing dates and lo­ca­tions and to reg­is­ter on­line, go to https://reg­is­ pro­grams/mary­land.

In ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional class­room course, there is an on­line op­tion avail­able for stu­dents 13 and older. How­ever, it costs $15 to take the exam on­line and a one­day Hunter Ed­u­ca­tion Field Day Work­shop, which ful­fills the live fire re­quire­ment, is still nec­es­sary to ob­tain a cer­tifi­cate.

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