There is no place to buy a Slim Jim or a Coke or a box of .30-06 shells, but I’ve got to tell you that from a hunter’s point of view I love the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service’s new check-in system for successful deer and turkey hunters.

The system replaces the one in which hunters ferried their game carcasses to a gas station or a tavern or a sporting good shop or a grocery store and had the whitetail or gobbler recorded by an employee of those establishments. That was fun too. I always enjoyed listening to other hunters stretch the truth about the distance of the shot or tell me about the one that got away. It was a part of Americana, for sure.

I don’t think Norman Rockwell ever painted a scene from a game checking station, but he should have.

I know for a fact that checking in deer results in additional income for such places. West Virginia still has such on-site check-in stations. Because of that, I bought six broadheads at a bait and tackle shop in Weston and a box of .32 Special shells in a store at Scherr. I probably would not have been in either place had I not needed to officially register deer that I had taken.

In spite of that, the ease of the new Maryland system is difficult to deny. In fact, it is as slick as my mustache on a windy, 15-degree day on a deer stand in December.

Although you can use the telephone toll-free for such an obligation, I have found it quite simple to use the personal computer at our house.

Those of you who have read my rants on this page for what is approaching three decades may remember that one of my pet peeves with the Maryland wildlife agency has been that it took until March, sometimes April, to get deer kill numbers from the previous year.

That problem is solved with the new check-in system. Biologists, outdoor editors and hunters now find out in a day or two how the season went.

There are no more paper tags to pick up in hollows throughout the state (though West Virginia seems to do it without a problem).

Because all the information is supplied electronically, people like Maryland Turkey Biologist Bob Long will have the 2006 spring gobbler harvest in a flash once the season ends.

In fact, because the data is easy to retrieve, Long has updated the ongoing season through May 8.

Through that day, 302 gobblers had been taken in Allegany County. A year ago, 328 were taken during the entire hunt. In Garrett, 319 were killed through May 8, compared to 365 for all of the 2005 hunt. The Maryland season continues through Tuesday.

Speaking of that, there are 31 actual glorious hunting days during the Maryland gobbler season. That looks like hunters in Allegany County will average a little more than 10 gobblers per day.

Think it’s easy? Ha!

Mike Sawyers is outdoor editor of the Cumberland Times-News. He may be contacted at

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