A number of hunting regulation changes are being considered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service as a result of receiving more than 1,000 comments at stakeholder meetings, public hearings and online forums.
The changes, which would go into effect this fall for two years, have been endorsed by the Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission.
The proposals include extending the archery season for white-tailed and sika deer, as well as the fox hunting season, and reopening the river otter season in Allegany and Garrett counties. They also would change the bag limits for white-tailed deer plus alter the regulations for transporting their carcasses and bow-hunting equipment.
"We are very pleased with the level of thoughtful input we received during all aspects of the public comment period," said Pete Jayne, the DNR's associate director for game management. "It's always productive for us to hear from so many passionate supporters of Maryland's rich wildlife resources. While most comments were from hunters and trappers, we also heard from a diverse group of nonhunters, hikers, bikers, farmers and landowners."
According to the changes being proposed, the archery season for white-tailed deer would begin on the Friday after Labor Day, about a week earlier than normal. The hunting season for red and gray foxes would be extended by two weeks in both fox management zones for shooting only. Trapping seasons would remain unchanged.
Under the new proposal, there would be a statewide bag limit created for antlered deer, or buck. It would reduce the overall buck bag limit to three per year (down from nine), or one per weapon season (bow season, muzzleloader season and firearm season).
Hunters in Region B would have the option to take one additional bonus buck (for a total of four) during the weapon season of their choice after purchasing a Bonus Antlered Deer stamp and taking two antlerless deer in Region B during any deer hunting season.
The proposal would also expand the current unlimited antlerless bag limit for bow season in the Suburban Archery Zone to all of Deer Management Region B. This change would simplify regulations and remove the need for the Suburban Archery Zone.
Existing regulations that limit the transport of deer carcasses and deer parts outside the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Management Area in eastern Allegany County would be modified to allow hunters to transport deer leg quarters out of the CWD Management Area and to take deer to approved taxidermists.
It would make the transport "more convenient" for hunters without increasing the risk of spreading the disease to other portions of the state.
Hunters would be able to transport an unloaded but cocked crossbow in or on a vehicle. In the past, crossbows had to be uncocked before being transported in a vehicle.
The river otter season would be reopened for the first time in Allegany and Garrett counties since it was closed in the mid-1990s, with a season limit of one.
Also, bowhunters going after deer in the bear-hunting zone would have to meet the regulation of orange requirements while the bear season is open.
The Wildlife Advisory Commission also supported a recommendation from DNR to withdraw the proposal requiring legal antlered sika deer to have at least one branched antler. Hunters may still practice voluntary restraint when selecting antlered sika deer for harvest.
The proposed regulations are sent to a committee of the General Assembly, which then could file the proposals with the Maryland Register for public comment. If the comments are favorable, the proposal then gets sent to back to the Register for formal declaration. The process typically takes between 60 and 90 days.