To be perfectly honest, I can't say I was really complaining about the unseasonably warm weather we experienced this firearms deer season.
During both trips to Garrett County, I found myself hunting in jeans and a sweatshirt often hanging around camp in nothing more than jeans and a T-shirt. Now that's just plain crazy. Normally during this time in Garrett County, we are experiencing temperatures well below freezing and more often than not, we are hunting in the snow.
The deer, I think, would have enjoyed the warm weather had it not been for the increased number of hunters. Even with their heavy winter coat, they had to find the 50- to 60-degree weather much more pleasant than the normally 10- to 20-degree wintery norm. However, the warmer temperatures did seem to bring with it more hunters in the Western Maryland woods where I hunt.
Any hunter who says he would rather sit up in a tree motionless in 10 degrees over 55 degrees is not being totally truthful.
With that said, I was a little surprised when MDDNR released the whitetail deer harvest numbers for this year's firearms deer season. In Region A (Garrett, Allegany, and part of Washington County) hunters reported taking 3,965 white-tailed deer during the firearms season. This is a 4 percent drop from the previous season. Twice as many bucks were killed in Region A over does, with 2,643 antlered and 1,322 antler-less deer harvested.
Region B (the remaining part of the state) saw a decrease of eight percent from last year during the same two week firearms season with a total of 27,425 white-tailed deer killed. Over twice the number (18,719) of does where harvested compared to the 8,706 bucks harvested in Region B.
Here in Carroll County, 713 antlered and 1,384 antler-less white-tailed deer were taken during the two-week firearms season. The 2,097 total harvest for Carroll County rank third in the state. Neighboring Frederick County reported the largest harvest with a total of 3,036 deer killed. Washington County came in second with 2,250 total deer killed.
Time to Start Waterfowl Hunting
Except for a few days deer hunting with the muzzleloader, deer season ends for me following firearms season. My attention turns to ducks and geese. However with this continued warm winter, waterfowl hunters are left looking toward empty skies.
Last week I joined a few club members on a goose hunt in Baltimore County. Historically, we rarely go home without at least a few geese to show for our efforts, however last Saturday, even with the short lived colder weather, we saw very few geese and went home without firing a shot.
According to a migration report posted on Dec. 18 on the Ducks Unlimited website, the birds are still up north. A recent flyover in Delaware reported seeing some black ducks and gadwalls along the coastal marshes of the Delaware Bay, but not the big numbers of migratory birds we waterfowl hunters are hoping to find. The report stated seeing 40,000 to 50,000 snow geese in Delaware, where as in a good year 100,000 snows should be in Delaware this week.
Talking with Bill Crim of M&A Outfitters, a local waterfowl operation, we discussed the lack of Canada Geese hanging out here on the west side of the Chesapeake. While there are the normal local birds hanging around the farm ponds, the big numbers of transient birds that make their way down from the colder regions of the Atlantic flyway are still up north enjoying the warm weather.
An additional Migration report from Dec. 10 on the Ducks site, stated that prolonged freezing temperatures and snow cover in Canada and northern states are required to move the waterfowl into our region.
DU regional biologist Jacob McPherson stated, ""I just pulled up the early December snow cover maps for this year and last year. A year ago at this time basically all of Ontario and Quebec were covered in snow, and the snow line extended into central Pennsylvania," McPherson says. "One year later, the snow line is hundreds of miles north of the St. Lawrence River. Huge areas of Ontario and most of the Great Lakes region are wide open."
On a recent muzzleloader deer hunt, I saw a few wood ducks hanging out on a small creek. Instead of loading the greenhead decoys and heading to the Potomac for my next duck hunt, I'll be hiking with two wood duck decoys tossed over my shoulder.
Maryland duck season's last split opened Dec. 15 and goes until Jan. 30, 2016. Canada goose season also opened Dec. 15. The Atlantic population zone season ends on Feb. 3, 2016 while the Resident zone remains open until March 9.
The waterfowl hunter who goes out and scouts hard will be able to find a few birds to hunt, but as long as this warm weather continues, the waterfowl hunting is looking a little lack luster for sure.