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Outdoors notebook: Step into the new year with a first-day hike

Guided walks in Maryland are part of national program

From Sun staff reports

5:04 AM EST, December 21, 2013

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Looking to get the new year off on the right foot?

Maryland state parks are offering 24 guided walks on New Year's Day as part of the third-annual national First Day Hike program presented by America's State Parks and the American Hiking Society.

Visitors can choose from among a variety of 1- to 2-mile trips through natural areas, led by park rangers and volunteers. Some hikes include additional activities such as campfires, s'mores, crafts, costume contests and storytelling.

For a complete list of First Day Hikes in Maryland, including locations, difficulty, length and specific starting times, go to dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/firstdayhikes.asp.

Participants are encouraged to log their First Day Hike adventures on social media with #firstdayhikes.

Deer hunting survey

A survey found support for antler restrictions from 56 percent of deer hunters living in Garrett County, 65 percent in Allegany County and 69 percent by those who reside elsewhere in the state but hunt deer in one of the two western counties.

Among landowners, only 40 percent in Garrett County and 41 percent in Allegany supported mandatory antler restrictions.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources recently contracted with an independent research firm to conduct the survey.

Antler restrictions require an antlered deer, or buck, to have a minimum number of antler points or minimum antler spread to be legal for harvest. The approach offers protection to young bucks by limiting harvest to older, more mature animals. Mandatory antler point restrictions would require hunters on private and public lands to harvest only bucks that meet or exceed the minimum antler restriction.

Stamp designs sought

Wildlife and waterfowl artists are invited to submit their original artwork for the 18th annual Black Bear Conservation and the 40th annual Migratory Game Bird stamp design contests that run through April 18.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will judge the entries April 27 in conjunction with the 44th Annual Ward Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City.

For contest rules and entry forms, go to dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife or contact Patricia Handy at phandy@dnr.state.md.us or 410-260-8537.

Clean Marina contest

The Maryland DNR is calling on marina customers, staff, marine contractors and the general public to help it choose the Clean Marina of the Year.

Now in its third year, the annual contest recognizes Maryland clean marinas that excel in their efforts to run a clean facility. Nominations will be grouped into four categories based on marina size and services provided. Submissions are being accepted through Jan. 3.

For contest rules, go to dnr.state.md.us/boating/cleanmarina/pdfs/cleanmarina_contest.pdf.