Two days after hundreds of thousands of turkeys were consumed at dinner tables across the state, white-tailed and sika deers are now in the crosshairs for hunters looking to feast on venison. The state's two-week deer firearm season is scheduled to begin Saturday and run through Dec. 8.
Brian Eyler, deer project leader for the Maryland Department of Natural of Resources, said Friday that an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 of the state's deer population will likely be harvested during the two-week hunt, including up to 15,000 on Saturday.
"It's just the most popular hunting season in the state, it's the season that a majority of hunters participate in, " he said.
Eyler encourages hunters to use the state's new licensing system, where hunters use their DNRid number when they call to check in the deers they've killed. He also urges hunters to wear flourescent orange bibs while hunting.
The deer population throughout the state has stabilized in the past five years despite the challenges still faced by management programs in Maryland's more human populated areas such as Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties.
"The urban-suburban counties are a little tough, [deer] hunting is our big management tool, it's our main tool in the toolbox," said Eyler, who has worked in deer management for the DNR for the past decade. "In those urban-suburban areas, you just can't hunt, even with archery equipment, it's just tough. It's definitely harder to control the population. All those management programs help, it all helps."
He is quick to add that "we're a lot better off than we were five or 10 years ago, but we still have a lot of deer."
Eyler said that the change started to occur when the focus was shifted toward loosening the reins on the bag limits for antlerless, or female, deers.
According to DNR regulations, licensed hunters are allowed to bag one antlered white-tailed deer throughout the state, and either one antlerless deer on one of the last two days of the hunt in Region A or on the last day on public land in that region.
In Region B, licensed hunters are allowed to bag up to 10 antlerless white-tailed deer.
Hunters are also allowed to take two sika deer, with no more than one being antlered. A bonus antlered white-tailed deer may be taken in Region B during the weapon season of the hunter's choice — archery, muzzleloader or firearm. A hunter must take two antlerless white-tailed deer during any season in Region B and purchase a Bonus Antlered Deer Stamp before taking a second antlered deer.
"That's how you control population," Eyler said. "You can always harvest as many males as you want but there will always be another male there to do the breeding. We have seriously liberalized antlerless female harvest."
A complete guide to bag limits, season dates, deer registration procedures and regulations are on the DNR website at dnr.maryland.gov/huntersguide as well as in the 2012-13 Maryland Guide to Hunting & Trapping.
DNR officials want to ensure hunter safety by urging hunters to inspect all treestands before using them and wear full-body safety harness while climbing in and out of the stands. Officials recommend strongly that hunters use a sliding knot (or prussic knot) in order to tether themselves to the tree when they leave the ground to go up in the stand.
A tree stand safety test as well as tree stand tips and a safety video are also available on the DNR Website.
We want to hear about your hunting exploits. If you bag a deer and want to tell us about it, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include size of the deer, where you bagged it, how it occurred and your contact information. We'll run some of the best stories in next Sunday's Baltimore Sun.