— It is getting to be that time of year when those of us who would like to hunt bears in Maryland start thinking about applying for one of the limited number of permits.
Harry Spiker, who directs the bear program Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service, said some information technology issues are being worked out, but he expects the application period to begin about the first of August.
Check the website at www.dnr.state.md.us.
That limited number of permits will expand this year, with 450 being available. The drawing will take place Sept. 3. A year ago there were 380 permits.
Also new this year is elimination of what I always called Bear School.
Bear School was a requirement for first-time Maryland bear hunters. Those folks had to attend a short class on the day before the opening of bear season. At first it was conducted at Beall High School in Frostburg, and then in Mountain Ridge High School when that facility replaced Beall.
I attended two Bear Schools and thoroughly enjoyed them. Not only did I learn things about bears and bear hunting, but it was fun to mingle with other hunters who were giddy about being afield the following day. It was sort of like a wedding rehearsal party.
Hunters will still receive a very informative bear hunting booklet.
This year, the landowner subpermittee option has been done away with.
Now, a hunter who draws a permit will be allowed to name two other people to hunt along with him or her. Of
for the course, that group may harvest only one bear.
In the past, a permittee could name one hunter and one landowner who could hunt. The landowner could hunt only on his land. A landowner may still be named, of course, but now the landowner could hunt in other locations as well.
Another change ... a permittee and the subpermittees no longer have to maintain visual contact. However, the regulations continue to state that subpermittees may hunt only on days that the permit holder is hunting.
Spiker called the elimination of the visual requirement regulation a common sense move.
“We survey the bear hunters each year and removal of that requirement was the most common request,” Spiker said.
“Hunters are so connected now with cell phones and twoway radios that there is no need to stay within sight of each other.”
Spiker said he grew up hunting before those forms of communication existed.
“If my dad and I were a couple hundred yards apart, he knew when I shot and I knew when he shot,” he said.
Spiker said Maryland Natural Resources Police officials approved removal of the visual requirement.
“Everybody knows when their buddy shoots,” he said.
Hunters will now be able to legally do a drive for bears, having one hunter walk through some thick habitat where he can’t be seen, hoping to move a bear to his partners.
“And hunters can now cover both sides of a ridge without being in sight of each other,” Spiker pointed out.
During the 10 hunts that have taken place beginning in 2004, the wildlife agency set a harvest quota. Hunters had to check in via phone each night to determine how many bears had been killed and if the hunt was still open the next day.
Now, the hunt will be for four days. However many bears are killed during those four days will be however many bears are killed during those four days.