Talking deer season numbers
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://register-ed.com/ 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.