Michael A. Sawyers
I’ll never forget the run-up to Maryland’s first early muzzleloader deer season in 1994.
A public meeting was held at the Mount Savage Fire Hall by the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service.
The idea of allowing hunters to take firearms into the state’s woodlands in October to harvest deer was controversial indeed, especially among the bowhunting community.
Chartered buses carrying angry bowhunters from Carroll County and the Eastern Shore and other parts of Maryland somehow found out how to get to Mount Savage.
The place was packed. Smoking was allowed and it wasn’t long until it was difficult to see and breathe.
The agency person in charge of the meeting spoke first. Apparently he had been to some kind of meeting-running school. He told those in attendance that a verbal contract was going to be made among everyone, assuring courtesy and allowing everyone to be heard.
Well, that lasted about a minute and 13 seconds.
Some ole boy from somewhere down the way stood up, told the moderator where he could place the verbal contract, said he had come a long way and he was going to talk for as long as he wanted.
He didn’t like the idea of an early muzzleloader season, even if it was for only three days.
Until that first hunt, archers had always had the only first crack at bucks before the rifle/shotgun season opened. They didn’t take kindly to losing that status.
Archers still have the first crack, but not the only one. The early muzzleloader season takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Then it will be bowhunters-only once more until Nov. 30 when the boom season opens.
I have had only moderate buck success during the early black powder hunts. In 2003 I took a decent 7-point and in 2008 a nice 6-point. I am pleased, though, that before in-line muzzleloaders came on board I used a Hawken-style rifle to tag a few smaller bucks.
Some hunters tell me the short and early muzzleloader season is their favorite hunt of the year.
Usually the weather is moderate or even warm. Thus, the frigid winds of December don’t figure into the equation. I understand that reasoning quite well, thank you.
I tend to hunt the early season with archery tactics more than with rifle tactics, even though the new muzzleloaders allow for long distance accuracy.
As I do with a bow, I tuck into little nooks and crannies of the woods hoping to intercept a buck as it goes about its daily routine.
That’s the trouble. Daily deer routines in October can often amount to little movement unless it is induced.
Bowhunters know it as the October lull, the time between the dispersal of bachelor buck groups and the serious business of procreation, including fighting and frolicking.
In October 2012, muzzleloader hunters in Allegany County tagged 336 bucks and 172 antlerless deer for a total of 508.
In the highlands of Garrett County, the numbers were 323 bucks and 230 antlerless for a total of 553.
Out here in Almost Maryland, what the wildlife agency calls Deer Hunting Region A, we are allowed to take one deer during this short season. If you hunt on public land, such as the Green Ridge State Forest, that deer is required to be antlered.
If you hunt on Uncle Joe’s farm or your neighbor’s woodlands, you can whack either a buck or a doe, but just one animal.
Keep your powder dry.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.