Cumberland Times-News

January 25, 2014

Md. eyes significant changes to hunt regs

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Among the possible changes to Maryland hunting regulations for the next two seasons is an elimination of the bear harvest quota and a statewide turkey season in January.

The Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service is in the early, conceptual phase of setting regulations that will kick in with the next license year beginning this summer. Those concepts will be discussed at an upcoming stakeholder meeting and again at public hearings, usually in March, in various parts of the state.

Agency spokesman Pete Jayne points out that the concepts are very flexible at this point.

BLACK BEARS

Among the potential changes to black bear hunting regulations is one that would eliminate the setting of a harvest quota that, when reached, triggers the closing of the season. For example, this past season the quota was 95 to 130 bears.

Instead the season would be opened for a predetermined number of days. Hunters would still have to be chosen via a lottery to participate. Wildlife officials believe this change would allow hunters to plan more effectively and it eliminates the need to call a hotline each night to determine if the season continues the next day.

In addition, the agency is considering scrapping the regulation that requires a bear hunting permit holder and a subpermittee hunting associate to maintain visual contact with each other. Also on the chopping block is the landowner subpermittee option. Instead, the permit holder would be allowed to name two subpermittees, one of which could be a landowner. As in the past, only one bear could be harvested by any of the associated hunters.

Subpermittees would still be allowed to hunt only if the permit holder is hunting with them.

WILD TURKEY

A major change is possible for turkey hunters.

A statewide, seven-day season during which hunters could bag either a hen or gobbler is being considered. Right now, the idea is to start that hunt on the third Saturday of January. The use of rifles would not be legal in any county, according to the concept.

Wildlife officials said many requests for a statewide fall or winter turkey season have been received in recent years. Turkey populations have grown substantially. For example, the turkey population in the central counties has doubled since 2007.

Agency biologists say the harvest from such a season would not jeopardize the well-being of the species.

The one-week fall turkey season in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties — that now begins on the last Saturday in October — would open on the first Saturday in November to avoid conflicts with muzzleloader hunting in Region B and bear hunting in Region A.

A hunter who kills a turkey during the November hunt would not be allowed to hunt for another turkey in January. The spring gobbler bag limit would remain at two per hunter.

MOURNING DOVES

Twenty days would be added to the mourning dove season, mostly to the first two segments of the three-segment hunt.

The additional days were recently approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

DEER

The agency plans to review the pros and cons of requiring mandatory antler restrictions in deer hunting Region A.

Such restrictions, the agency said, tends to reduce the number of yearling bucks harvested, but also increases the harvest of antlerless deer, including button bucks.

Biologists state such a regulation may or may not be compatible with the agency’s deer management strategy or acceptable to license buyers.

WANTON WASTE

Agency officials are giving thought to allowing a hunter who has successfully checked in a deer, presumably via cell phone, to butcher the animal in the field and leave the site with only the edible portions in his or her possession. The intent is to reduce the number of animals that are wasted.

FURBEARERS

• End fox trapping season when the fox hunting season ends.

• Extend skunk season to close on the same date as opossum and raccoon season.

• Move beaver and otter trapping seasons about two weeks earlier in Allegany and Garrett counties, around Dec. 1.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times.com.