Cumberland Times-News

Outdoors

November 16, 2013

Three good points

Here is something you will never hear me say.

“I have enough light to shoot that 10-point buck, but there isn’t enough light to get it on camera, so I won’t pull the trigger.”

And, here is another thing you will never hear me say.

“That 8-point buck with a 16-inch antler spread is nice, but I’ll pass because he will really be a hog in two more years.”

If you want to hear that kind of stuff, watch the hunting shows on television. There’s a lot of that going around.

Speaking of big bucks, 2014 will be a year that the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service sets hunting regulations for the next two seasons: 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

The one I want to watch closely will deal with antler restrictions in Garrett County. Let’s see if we can recap and project.

The Quality Deer Management Association’s chapter in Garrett County is going about restricting the kill of small bucks in the right way.

Those folks are asking landowners to voluntarily hold the buck kill to animals with at least three points on one side of the antlers. And, landowners controlling thousands of acres have gotten on board, according to QDMA spokesman A.J. Fleming.

However, when the 2013 General Assembly session opened in Annapolis back in January, Delegate Wendell Beitzel introduced a bill that would take that rule and apply it to all of Garrett County.

Beitzel later withdrew the bill after the wildlife agency revealed that the number of surviving fawns had dwindled in Garrett. Biologists said, too, that when hunters are restricted to killing smaller bucks, the doe harvest usually increases.

I know Beitzel is staying in touch with WHS, asking them to consider Garrett County antler restrictions during the upcoming regulation process.

That, of course, puts some pressure on the agency, because Beitzel can always reintroduce his bill.

And, because legislators who live some distance from Almost Maryland could not care less about an antler restriction bill in the Mississippi River drainage, it would very likely pass.

Once codified, another legislative act would be required to remove it.

That would prohibit a landowner who doesn’t give a hoot about antlers from shooting a 4-point on his own land.

That’s political wildlife management, not biological wildlife management.

The same people who believe I am opposed to fly fishing for trout, believe I am opposed to antler restrictions.

Wrong. I simply think both activities should be hunter/fisher/landowner decisions, not state laws.

Elsewhere on this page, you will see that the buck harvest numbers in Garrett County for bowhunting in September and October have decreased from a year ago. So has the buck kill for the three-day early muzzleloader hunt.

When you limit the buck kill via voluntary antler restrictions, you’ll have that.

We’ll have to wait until Brian Eyler and the other WHS deer biologists crunch the numbers to see if the majority of the bucks killed in Garrett so far this year have three or more antler points on one side.

But the doe kill so far is down in Garrett as well.

All of this points out what we already knew. Wildlife management is not an exact science.

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

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