Hindered by cold, wet and windy weather at the start of the state's two-week firearm deer hunting season, as well as an abundance of acorns, fewer deer were taken this year, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Though hunters took more than 36,000 deer during the two-week firearm season that ended Dec. 8, there was a nearly 20percent drop in the state's most populous region and a 12 percent drop throughout the rest of the state.

Brian Eyler, deer project leader for the DNR, said last month that officials hoped for a harvest of between 40,000 and 50,000 of the state's minimum estimated population of about 230,000 deer.

Given the nasty weather on the weekend after Thanksgiving — the traditional first weekend of the firearm deer-hunting season — as well as the plentiful acorn crop, Eyler was not surprised by the decrease.

"It's been an off year," Eyler said Friday. "When you have all that food in the woods, [the deer] don't have to move around a lot. The deer are out there, but they seem to be moving more at night."

There were 22,721 antlerless white-tailed deer and 12,329 antlered white-tailed deer taken, as well as 587 antlerless sika deer and 451 antlered sika deer taken. A total of 4,169 deer were harvested on Sundays.

There was a 19 percent decline in Region A, which consists of Garrett, Allegany and western Washington counties. A reported 4,018 deer were harvested, nearly 1,000 fewer than last year. In the RegionA harvest, there were 2,533 antlered deer taken but only 1,485 antlerless deer.

Region B, which comprises the rest of the state, dropped from 36,397 to 32,070deer taken. There were 10,247antlered deer and 21,823 antlerless deer taken.

The harvest by junior hunters also fell off by 13 percent, from 3,035 last year to 2,636 (1,451 antlered and 1,185 antlerless).

"It's not been a big surprise; we've been lagging before," Eyler said. "It's not the end of the world. We'll make up for it down the road."

A two-week season for using muzzleloaders to take deer was scheduled to begin Saturday.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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