The fu­ture of the out­doors in Mary­land is se­cure

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­

Turkey sea­son al­ways seems too short. There just aren’t enough week­ends from April 18 to May 23 even with Sun­day hunt­ing al­lowed in all three coun­ties of South­ern Mary­land. You might just miss the en­tire spring sea­son if you blink.

I mar­vel at how many wild tur­keys that I can ob­serve around my home with­out even try­ing to look for them. Usu­ally they can be seen along the side of the road, at the edges of the woods, and in the swaths of scrub grass un­der power line tow­ers. It’s no won­der that 2017 is the third con­sec­u­tive year of record spring turkey har­vests across Mary­land with a to­tal of over 4,000 tur­keys har­vested.

The to­tals in all three coun­ties in South­ern Mary­land ex­ceeded last year’s har­vest to­tals. Gar­rett, Wash­ing­ton and

Fred­er­ick coun­ties re­ported the most tur­keys, which is no sur­prise. But what might be a bit of a stun­ner is that Charles County re­ported the fourth high­est to­tal.

Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources at­tributes the rise in num­bers to all-time high pop­u­la­tions of wild tur­keys in some places. I would also haz­ard a guess that the devel­op­ment of the land with new hous­ing tracts and shop­ping cen­ters is carv­ing up and re­strict­ing the size of the ar­eas hunters might find them in as well.

One way DNR en­cour­ages young peo­ple to par­take in the tra­di­tion of hunt­ing is to des­ig­nate spe­cial Ju­nior Hunt days for hunters 16 and

younger to take to the field with a men­tor and try their luck at bag­ging a turkey, deer, duck or goose. This spring, 230 youth hunters across Mary­land were suc­cess­ful dur­ing the Ju­nior Turkey Hunt held April 15 and 16.

An­other way is through the Ju­nior Hunter Field Day pro­gram or­ga­nized by DNR’s Wildlife and Her­itage Ser­vice.

The men and women of the Wildlife and Her­itage Ser­vice are well aware that our youth are the fu­ture of wildlife con­ser­va­tion. They hold this pro­gram in sev­eral lo­ca­tions through­out the state ev­ery year to pro­vide a fo­rum for teach­ing hunt­ing skills and safety, along with just en­joy­ing the out­doors.

This past week­end, my 11-year-old daugh­ter was for­tu­nate to at­tend the south­ern re­gion Ju­nior Hunter Day, gra­ciously hosted by the Stoney Creek Fish­ing and Hunt­ing Club in Pasadena.

The men and women of Stoney Creek rolled out the red car­pet for our next gen­er­a­tion of out­door en­thu­si­asts. They co­or­di­nated with DNR staff and pro­vided the fa­cil­i­ties, ranges, weapons, ammo and the qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced range staff and in­struc­tors to make the whole event go like clock­work. I like to say that it takes a whole lot of work to make things look

that easy, and they did it all with a smile.

Ev­ery child had the chance to par­take in shoot­ing a com­pound bow, .22 ri­fles, trap, and to try their skill at shoot­ing a mov­ing air­borne tar­get with a bow and ar­row. The pro­gram was com­pletely free and open to chil­dren 8 to 16. A nice lunch of al­lyou-could-eat pizza was pro­vided as well.

How­ever, judg­ing from the re­sponse and dis­cus­sions amongst the kids, al­though ev­ery­one en­joyed the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties, I don’t think any of

those things were rated as their fa­vorite ex­pe­ri­ence for the day.

That’s be­cause, at heart, what ev­ery kid likes is a great dog. And great dogs were pro­vided by mem­bers of the Mary­land Water­fowler’s As­so­ci­a­tion. They kicked off the day for ev­ery­one with a demon­stra­tion on the finer points of duck hunt­ing and re­triev­ing.

Sev­eral dogs were run through their paces and af­ter they were done each kid had a fa­vorite dog. If you haven’t seen a re­ally well-trained re­triever in ac­tion, you need to find the time to make it hap­pen. It was rather in­spir­ing to

see how well they took di­rec­tion from their mas­ter.

My daugh­ter en­joyed all parts of the event, and es­pe­cially the dogs, but her in­ter­est in shoot­ing the .22 ri­fles is some­thing we’re go­ing to pur­sue here at home this sum­mer. I’ll have to make a pri­or­ity of get­ting some ad­di­tional shoot­ing time wedged into our sum­mer sched­ule, which of course I wel­come.

My fa­vorite part of the event was get­ting the chance to see our state’s next gen­er­a­tion of hunters up close. If you are in­ter­ested in my take, the fu­ture of the out­doors in Mar yland

is se­cure.

About 25 per­cent of the group were girls, which I re­ally like to see, and even bet­ter about 100 per­cent of the group would have made you proud. Don’t be­lieve ev­ery­thing you hear about the sad state of our youth. These kids were well be­haved, smart and had par­ents that in­stilled proper man­ners I heard plenty of, “Yes, sir” and, “No, sir” and, “Thank you, please” that Satur­day.

If you have any young­sters in your life who might en­joy such an event, check the DNR web­site pe­ri­od­i­cally at http://dnr.mary­

Ed­u­ca­tion/JrHun­terField­Days.aspx. These pro­grams are held through­out the state ev­ery year and are a good op­por­tu­nity for kids to learn more about hunt­ing and the out­doors.

Al­though the south­ern re­gion event has al­ready come and gone, there are two more dates, in Ce­cil County and Wash­ing­ton coun­ties, later this sum­mer and would be well worth the drive. Many thanks to the Wildlife and Her­itage Ser­vice staff and Stoney Brook. Mis­sion ac­com­plished.

Sup­port the ‘round up’ cam­paign

Dur­ing the month of June, Bass Pro Shops is ask­ing cus­tomers to sup­port the Qual­ity Deer Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion through the “round up” cam­paign at all store lo­ca­tions across the United States.

Cus­tomers are in­vited to do­nate their change to help QDMA’s mis­sion of en­sur­ing the fu­ture of white-tailed deer, con­serv­ing wildlife habi­tat and pass­ing down our hunt­ing her­itage to youth. QDMA will re­ceive 100 per­cent of the money cus­tomers do­nate at the cash reg­is­ter, and Bass Pro Shops will match 50 per­cent of the do­nated to­tal at the end of the month.

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