Cumberland Times-News

August 11, 2012


Maryland archery season starts earlier than ever

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— It used to be that Maryland had an extremely lengthy bow season for deer hunters.

Well... now it is lengthier.

For decades, the first day of the bow season has been Sept. 15. From here on out the first day will be the first Friday after Labor Day. This year, that means Sept. 7.

Since Labor Day can occur any date from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7, that means the opening day of bow season can happen on any date from Sept. 5 through Sept. 11.

I know there are plenty of bowhunters who don’t like early bowhunting. You know, the sweat, the bugs, the need to very quickly refrigerate deer meat that has been acquired.

I am one, though, that enjoys the early hunt. The bucks are still grouped a bit and moving on summer patterns. In 2008, I was in a tree stand when the sun came up on opening day. About 8:30 I looked to my left and an 8-point buck had slipped in beside me unannounced.

Somehow I missed that buck. Don’t ask.

As I was sitting there visually using my right boot to kick my sit parts, a 4-point came on the same trail. I got that buck. Saw it drop 50 yards from the stand.

I waited a spell, drank a Coke, and walked over to the buck. I had just filled out my tag and attached it to the antlers when I looked back the trail that the two bucks had used and here came another 8-point, this one bigger than the first. And behind it was a funky-horned buck that looked to have five points sticking out in various directions.

During the early days of this year’s hunt, there is a decent chance you will see bucks that are still in velvet. I have seen them as late as Sept. 23.

If you kill a buck in velvet and it is one you want to have mounted, Dan Martin has some tips for you.

Martin is the decorated taxidermist who owns Reflections of the Wild Taxidermy in Deer Park.

“The best thing a hunter can do is get it to a taxidermist or freeze it as soon as possible.”

Before that, though, the hunter has to get it out of the woods and Martin cautions that the buck should not be grabbed by the antlers. In addition, the antlers should not bump or scrape against anything during the dragging or carrying process.

“Once the animal dies, the bacteria in the velvet starts breaking down,” Martin said. Handling the antlers can leave them with permanent dark spots from the blood.

If all else fails, Martin said, artificial velvet can be applied by a taxidermist and it looks very real.

Martin said it is his experience from watching captive bucks that the larger-racked males lose velvet first.

Brian Eyler, Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service, said most bucks lose velvet in early September.”It’s difficult to pinpoint because the process happens very fast. In a matter of a couple days they can go from full velvet to polished antlers. Testerone triggers a shutdown of the blood supply to the velvet, which causes it to dry and harden and is then rubbed off.”

I consider the September portion of the Maryland bow hunt and the pre-rut portion — first 10 days of November — to be the best times to take a nice buck out here in the hard scrabble hills of Almost Maryland.

I’ve bagged a couple-three. I’ve missed a couple-three. I’ve seen others.

October can be tough, though my first nice buck came to a bleat call on Oct. 18, 1995.

The bow season will begin in 26 days.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at