Cumberland Times-News

March 1, 2014

Almost Maryland welcomes you back

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— If you are a hunter in Almost Maryland, circle Thursday on your calendar so you don’t forget to attend the 7 p.m. hearing at Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg that deals with proposed hunting regulations for the next two years.

This is a good opportunity for those of us in Garrett and Allegany counties to go face to face with biologists of the Wildlife & Heritage Service to let them know what we think about the proposals.

Let’s take advantage of this chance. I say that because this is the first time in years that the meeting will be conducted in our backyard.

In 2008 the meeting was in Cumberland. But in 2010 and again in 2012 it took place in Hagerstown. That’s a pretty good drive to the Hub City in the evening on a winter weekday for somebody who lives in Oakland. Frostburg is doable.

It looks as if the high-profile proposal for our neck of the woods — deer hunting Region A — would tweak the number of does we can kill.

Real quickly, here is the idea. We would be able to take only two does instead of three. The two does must come during what we have come to call separate weapon seasons. I don’t particularly like that term. I prefer separate technique seasons.

Statewide, hunters would still be able to take three bucks, one each during bow, muzzleloader and modern firearms hunts. However, if you do bag three bucks, one of them must have at least three antler points on one side.

If you kill just two bucks or only one buck, the animals need only one antler of at least three inches to be legal, at least as far as the state is concerned.

This is an interesting proposal, but I don’t think it will have a significant impact on the herd one way or the other. It’s kind of like business as usual with a different name, you know, the way janitors became maintenance engineers.

Look, so few people kill three bucks that the antler-point requirement won’t have to kick in. For one thing, not everybody hunts all three ways (bow, muzzleloader, modern rifle) so they won’t be killing three antlered animals.

Ditto for does. Relatively few hunters were bagging three antlerless deer anyway.

Brian Eyler, the state’s deer project leader, said that during the the past two Region A deer seasons 1 percent of the hunters (about 70 people) killed three bucks. “Likewise, about 1 percent — again 70 — killed three antlerless deer,” Eyler said.

Were those numbers to persist into the next season, that means only 70 hunters would have to take a buck with three points or more on one side. It also means that 70 antlerless deer would not be killed.

Across 2.5 counties, that isn’t a significant factor.

I know that those who favor antler-point restrictions see the proposal as a foot in the regulatory door. I think of it more as a toenail in the door.

The bottom line is that many, perhaps even most, private hunting areas have instituted antler-point restrictions. I have believed for some time that we are in a de facto quality deer management mode without actually signing on the dotted line.

A good thing about the proposal is that public and private lands in Region A will finally have the same bag limits. In the recent past, a hunter could take three does from private lands. The guy hunting public lands such as a state forest or a wildlife management area was limited to two does.

However, WHS will continue to have fewer days for hunting does with muzzleloaders or centerfire rifles on the public lands.

Pete Jayne of WHS tells me that Thursday’s meeting will be the sort at which several discussions are conducted at the same once. People who are interested in bears go to one table. Those who are concerned about deer go to another. Furbearers? Yet another location within the Mountain Ridge cafeteria.

I don’t know what you do if you are interested in a variety of animals and the regulations that govern them. Maybe you can talk Sybil into coming to the meeting with you.

In any event, it will behoove us here in Almost Maryland to show up and show interest. The Maryland Fisheries Service has abandoned meetings in the hinterlands where they go face to face with cross-eyed, banjo-playing mountain folk who have ramp breath and who may be concerned about new regulations. The fishy people use the Internet instead, asking for cyber comments. There is less banjo music inside the beltway.

I’d hate to see the wildlife agency take that approach. It’s important, I believe, for biologists and administrators to be real people, the kind that smile or frown and shake hands and listen, even if the message isn’t totally polite or eloquently phrased.

Here is the way I look at it. Someone who makes the effort to attend a regulation meeting is a law-abiding citizen who cares about natural resources.

Poachers don’t give a hoot about regulations.

To see a complete version of the regulation proposals, go to www.dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife.

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