WASHINGTON – For Jack Moberly, the Maryland deer season that starts Saturday boils down to a pretty simple equation.
“There are plenty of deer around,” said Moberly, manager of the Gun Center in Frederick. “It’s just a matter of finding a way to get in there and shoot them.”
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources essentially agrees, estimating the deer population at about “260,000 and change” this fall and hoping that hunters can cull about 50,000 deer during the firearms season — slightly more than the 48,988 deer harvested during the 2003 season.
“I fully expect a good crowd out there if the weather is decent,” said Bob Beyer, associate director of the wildlife and heritage service.
Beyer estimates that there are about 90,000 licensed deer hunters in Maryland, many of whom are expected to participate in this firearms season that runs from Saturday through Dec. 11.
The state has increased bag limits and made some other changes this year in order to get the deer herd down to a target population of 210,000.
The state has gone from four to two deer management regions, with Garrett and Allegany counties in region A and the rest of the state making up region B. Hunters may hunt in both regions and, with the proper stamps, could conceivably bag as many as 16 deer each over the next two weeks.
“They’ll be eating deer meat ’til they’re about 400 years old,” if they bag the maximum, Moberly said.
In region A, where Beyer said deer population has been leveling off or declining, hunters are limited to a total of two white-tailed deer for the season, only one of which may be antlered.
In region B, the herd has been growing, but more slowly. Hunters there may bag up to 10 antlerless deer and two antlered deer for the season. Hunters must have a bonus deer stamp for the second antlered deer, however, and must take two antlerless deer before hunting a second antlered deer.
Region B counties accounted for the most deer kills last firearms season. Frederick County led the state with 4,645 deer harvested, followed by Washington, Garrett, Allegany, and Dorchester.
“We want to give as many opportunities as we can to make an impact a little quicker,” Beyer said of the increased limits. But “we don’t want to decimate the herd.”
Hunters may also take up to two sika deer — one antlered and one antlerless — in Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties. Sika deer are shorter than white-tails and are identified by their reddish-brown coats and white spots.
Following a streak of hunting accidents this fall, the Maryland Natural Resources Police said hunters should pay careful attention to their safety habits during deer firearms season, the busiest hunting season of the year.
Almost anyone hunting deer during firearms season is required to wear a minimum of a blaze-orange baseball cap or 250 square inches of blaze orange, front and back.
“The more orange you have, the better,” said Vic Maccallum, a hunter safety coordinator for the Natural Resources Police. Maccallum said that a hunter can cover his entire body in blaze orange if he wants to, because “deer live in a black-and-white world,” and see the orange as white.
Hunters on their own property are not required to wear orange, but it is strongly encouraged for safety, Maccallum said.
And Tom Crow, also a hunter safety coordinator for the state, stressed firearm safety in the wake of last month’s hunting accidents. Guns should be unloaded while hiking or climbing and while being raised or lowered from tree stands, he said.
Most important, Crow said, is that hunters take the extra time to be absolutely sure of what they are shooting at, because once you pull the trigger, “you can’t bring it back.”
“It’s not like a videogame, where you can just hit escape and start again,” Crow said.
-30- CNS 11-24-04