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Maryland bear hunt in 2015 a success

Bill Shaw of Sykesville was able to harvest his first ever black bear when at the end of the day a bear approached his tree stand to within 50 yards.
Bill Shaw of Sykesville was able to harvest his first ever black bear when at the end of the day a bear approached his tree stand to within 50 yards. (Andrew Aughenbaugh photo)

This was the 11th black bear season in Maryland, which began in 2004 with a harvest quota set at 30 bears and 200 permits issued.

That year there was 2,272 applicants. During the 2015 Maryland bear season that ran from Oct. 26-29 there was no quota set and 500 permits issued drawn via a lottery system out of the 4,307 applicants. Because of the subpermitee system with the 500 permits, 1,173 hunters were able to bear hunt in Maryland this year. The bear hunting program in Maryland has been a huge success in its 11 years.

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The four-day season this year resulted in 95 bears being harvested in Garrett and Allegany counties. The largest was a 520-pound black bear killed in Garrett County near the juncture of Glendale Road and Route 495. Hunters killed 80 bears in Garrett County and 15 in Allegany County. The average weight of the harvested bears was 166 pounds.

Sixty one percent of the bears were harvested on private land. This means that almost 40 percent of the bears killed were taken on public lands, a much higher percentage than whitetail deer. This translates into a very high success rate for those hunters, who after years of trying to draw a permit finally get their chance to bear hunt in Maryland, but do not have access to private land to hunt.

Over the last few seasons there has been a growing problem with hunters using illegal means in an attempt to better their odds at harvesting a bear. While baiting deer in Maryland is a legal means to hunt, providing sweets to the bears is not legal. As the sun rose on Oct. 26 marking the beginning of the black bear season in Maryland, Natural Resources officers were already busy charging several hunters with illegal hunting citations. More hunters were charged with hunting bear with the aid of bait as the season continued.

This issue of baiting is a complex one. In some parts of the country and in Canada, hunting black bears over large steel drums filled with goodies designed to draw bears to the hunt site is the normal method of hunting. Placing 50 pounds of corn in a big pile and waiting for a deer to come eat is a legal means to hunt in the state of Maryland on private property. Here in Maryland hunters are not permitted to set bait out for bears but are allowed to do so for deer. Baiting of any sort is not legal on state owned property in the state of Maryland.

This issue gets even more difficult for the hunter who shares a hunting property with a group of friends or with a club. From my experience, even on our large 3,000-acre tract of club property, I found it difficult to find a place to hunt bears that was not "too close" to a another club member's corn pile set out for deer hunting.

The first bear of the 2015 season was shot by Robert Wiltison in the Swanton area of Garrett County just a few minutes before 8 the first morning of the hunt. Meanwhile I was getting reports from Bill Shaw of a large bear he saw while on stand but unable to get a shot.

Bill Shaw of Sykesville was able to harvest his first ever black bear later the first day when at the end of the day a bear approached his tree stand to within 50 yards. Bill tells a great story about getting down from his stand to recover the bear, then when he heard the bear growl, turned and quickly returned to his tree stand. Bill had been applying for the hunt from the beginning and after 11 years he finally drew his tag. Bill had seen a much larger bear than the 150 bruin he harvested at first light on the opening morning, but was unable to get a clean shot as the bear walked through his hunting area.

Dale Stonesifer, also of Carroll County, shot his Garrett County black bear around the Swallow Falls area on the first day of the season. He took the 105 pound bear with a 125 yard shot from his 7mm mag. Dale had been applying for his permit for the last eight years.

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