The state contacted every resident in the 21032 ZIP code by automated phone call, he said, and told anyone with questions to contact him.

"I expected a deluge of calls," he says. He got about 40.

About 10 of those, Heilmeier said, were from residents who wondered how the system would work. One or two were from people who oppose hunting for any reason. The rest, he said, were from hunters eager to learn how to use the place.

Deer population has risen markedly over the past decade, he told many callers, in part because the animals have adapted so successfully to the proximity of humans. Wildlife managers want to control the numbers, in part, because overcrowding can lead to deforestation and disease.

Hunting also offers recreational opportunities, he added, and given the proliferation of new forms of equipment, provides a significant boost to local economies.

To the callers who wanted information on proximity and safety, Heilmeier said that like similar facilities elsewhere in the state, CWMA would establish well-marked 150-yard safety zones at the property's boundaries. The orange warning signs are in evidence.

"We haven't had any follow-up calls or complaints," he said as he stepped over a rain-slicked log.

The regulated system at the CWMA has kept the process orderly, he said. Hunters must acquire a seasonal license to use the site — they can do so online — and must call DNR in advance to make daily reservations.

Because parking is limited, and because the county and state have only been able to provide one access point thus far, the limit has been 10 daily reservations, a number Heilmeier said should increase in coming years as the partners add parking lots and entryways. The season ends Jan. 31.

Adam Smith, an Anne Arundel park ranger who supervises deer projects, said that as of early this week, 162 hunters have made 382 reservations so far, taking seven deer. That's a decent number, Smith said, as officials expected hunters to kill no more than a dozen or so for the first year.

Heilmeier agreed.

"Hunters work hard at what they do, but these deer are just so alert," he said. "It's a harder sport than you might think."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

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