GOLDEN HILL--FIRST, THERE is not an iota of truth to rumors that the Department of Natural Resources is considering a special deer season to make up for the weather-related disappointing kill hereabouts in Dorchester County, and elsewhere in the state during the recent modern firearms season.
Wildlife managers consider there is no need for a tail-ender shoot following a gun season that took about 32,000 deer, a season that was only a couple thousand below the all-time record of 1989 -- with much of the difference in Garrett, Allegany and Dorchester counties where understandably the rumors are most prevalent.
As for another rumor making the rounds: Yes, Torrey C. Brown will stay on as DNR secretary. That decision was made yesterday, and remaining with him will be Don MacLauchlan, who heads DNR parks and wildlife programs. Unfounded were previous rumors both were on the way out following the election. Gov. William Donald Schaefer has made a wise decision.
And now for one more rumor. Contrary to what many think, sika deer are not behind every tree down here in lower Dorchester County. Moreover, wherever they roam they are elusive, timid, smart and cautious.
I hunted opening day of the muzzleloader season with outfitter Brad Dysinger of Cambridge, who specializes in sikas by gun and bow, and saw only one in the drizzle that fell until afternoon. Like whitetails, sikas lay low in the thick stuff when the weather is windy or wet.
If it hadn't been for some waterfowl hunters in a blind on the nearby shore of the Honga River, I wouldn't have seen any.
The waterfowlers fired a big volley that prompted the deer to break from a marshy thicket about 90 yards from me. It bolted off parallel to my elevated stand, never coming any closer, and always partially hidden in thick brambles and bushes.
In its heavy winter coat, it was black as bear, and almost as fat. In the early morning light I couldn't determine whether or not it had antlers, but it certainly moved fast -- as fast as a mountain whitetail.
I'd estimate close to 65 pounds, which is nice for a sika. A 75-pounder attracts gawkers. These Japanese imports don't grow big, but they have a big following, among them Dysinger, who'd take a sika over a whitetail any day. Size be darned.
Matter of fact, Dysinger has arranged it so his phone number is 228-SIKA. When I stopped by Gootee's Marina in midday for a snack, I met another sika fancier, Greg Burton. He is active on the Dorchester County Deer Committee, which seeks to have the sika bag limit reduced from two to one -- in recent years it has been as high as three.
Burton, like many down this way, fears sikas are being overshot. "If we don't cut back, we're going to lose our biggest drawing card," he griped.
Burton considers sikas the best game on four feet, appreciates them so much that the license tags on his pickup read SIKA6PT, but he missed that mark by a point.
He was checking in a 5-pointer of close to 60 pounds, and I'll bet John Dietrich, better known hereabouts as Yohan, has lost some sleep over that kill -- sleep he gained by missing the hunt.
Yohan overslept, so Burton took Yohan's favorite lucky and fancy walking staff made by Yohan's wife Jenny and headed for the stand his partner was to have occupied. At 7:24, the buck meandered by Burton who took it at 18 yards with his .50-caliber Hawkens rifle.
From that stand Burton got a 6-pointer previously, and Yohan got two spikes. "Snooze and you lose," chimed in a bystander.
Dysinger has lost count of the sikas he has taken in the five years since he moved here from Ohio, but I'll bet he hasn't missed many. He has been an All-American trap shooter since 1976, and has fired a half-million registered cartridges in competition.
He spends late summer, fall and winter guiding parties and maintaining about 60 stands on 2,000 acres he leases not far from his clubhouse. The rest of the year he's on the trap circuit making the better part of his living.
As a pro for Beretta he came to Maryland, tried hunting one day, and promptly settled down. "You can't get sikas anywhere else," he said.