ANNAPOLIS — About 100 hunters from around Maryland gathered near the State House on Thursday to talk with lawmakers about hunting season, baiting regulations and other issues.
The Maryland Hunting Coalition organized the Blaze & Camo Day rally to bring hunters’ voices to the state capital. Participants wearing orange hats and camouflage jackets assembled on Lawyers’ Mall and spoke with passing lawmakers, then visited legislative offices, handing out hats as they went.
“Hunting is enjoyed by Marylanders in every county,” said Allan Ellis, executive director of the coalition. “We are conservationists, and there are some significant bills here that we are engaged in supporting and opposing.”
One such bill would loosen the state Department of Natural Resources’ strict liability policy for waterfowl baiting violations. It is illegal to hunt waterfowl by laying down corn, wheat or other food to lure the birds; this prohibition applies for 10 days after bait is removed, according to a DNR factsheet. Currently, Natural Resource Police can charge hunters with hunting over bait regardless of whether they were aware it was there.
“The Maryland law on baiting waterfowl is more egregious than the federal law,” Ellis said — if the DNR alleges a violation, “you’re guilty and there’s no defense.”
A pair of bills introduced in the House of Delegates and the Senate would apply punishments for baiting only to a hunter who “knows or reasonably should know that the area is a baited area,” aligning DNR policy with federal regulations.
“They’ve asked us to conform this to the federal law, which would require that DNR just can’t come out and charge you if you had no clue that the bait was there, and that’s intent,” said Delegate Wendell Beitzel, R-Garrett and Allegany, who introduced the bill. Beitzel is a co-chair of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.
Hunters also wanted state lawmakers to know that they favor local regulation of hunting seasons rather than one statewide policy, Ellis said, citing the expansion of Sunday hunting in Maryland through county action.
Delegate Glen Glass, R-Harford, spoke with the hunters and said he supports their interests.
“Fortunately, a lot of the delegates and senators … do look after the hunters, and I’m somebody who does that,” said Glass, who added that he hunts with a crossbow and muzzleloader. He said he is working on bills that would legalize bow hunting on private land on Sundays and ensure that archery season always ends on a weekend.
Glass said his bills, which he has not yet introduced, are intended to give sportsmen who work more chances to hunt. He said the archery season bill would extend bow hunting until a Saturday if it would have ended on a weekday.
“A lot of hunters are working. … They’re taking care of their families,” he said. “They’re working, so it gives them an extra opportunity to hunt.”