DNR hits target with its decision to cut back deer limits


ANNAPOLIS -- Good. In one word that's this writer's response to the Department of Natural Resources proposals to cut back on deer bag limits on the lower Eastern Shore.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy stalking and dining on whitetails and sikas as much as anyone, but paving the way for a hunter to take 20 deer or so in a season is a bit much.

Moreover, it's cannon fodder for the anti-hunter movement, not to mention too many deer for any hunter, even one who hunts by bow, muzzleloader and modern firearms. Things have been getting out of hand, which in great part can be blamed on the lower Shore's Sen. Fred Malkus (D-District 37), whose legislation mandated a two-deer limit of both sikas and whitetails in Dorchester County.

Until now this has been interpreted by DNR as meaning such liberal bags for all three seasons. Now it will be administered according to what might be termed a revised interpretation by the senator. Good guides and many hunters have been long complaining about excessive kills in Dorchester, so popular among metropolitan deer chasers.

In the past couple of seasons there have been indications that we have been taking too many deer there, both whitetails and sikas. But, among timber interests and farmers, there is sentiment that the marauding herds remain excessive. Until now, DNR wildlife managers have considered their hands tied, but after talks with many in the county -- including Malkus -- they are cutting back.

All of which indicates the March 21 hearing at Cambridge should be a lively affair. In the hearing schedule it is listed as going from 7 to 10 p.m., probably because it would drag on forever otherwise. Other hearing notices have no shutdown time listed.

Under DNR proposals, bonus stamps would be needed to take extra deer in all counties, though in Dorchester none would be needed for a second deer in the modern firearms shoot. It would be required, however, in the bow and muzzleloader seasons.

The Dorchester County bag limit for deer would be two sikas and two whitetails in the regular gun season; one of each by bow and muzzleloader. A bonus stamp would gain front end loaders and bowmen a second deer there.

In other lower Shore counties, there will be no differential for sikas. It will be hunter's choice -- a sika or whitetail. Currently, the bags are considered separate in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties.

Also proposed is a Jan. 24-25 season for deer in Worcester County with a bag of one deer of either sex, this to control an expanding herd. Incidentally, Josh Sandt, who heads DNR's deer program, said such seasons might eventually be necessary in other areas of the state.

Another deer proposal would allow the use of muzzleloader handguns -- if they are of single shot of not less than .40-caliber with a 6-inch minimum barrel length using not less than 40 grains of powder. They would be acceptable in all counties.

On the wild turkey front, it is proposed that the zone concept in Western Maryland be dropped in fall hunting and replaced by a five-day season (Nov. 5-9) in western Washington and all of ZTC Allegany and Garrett counties.

The spring turkey shoot next year would be April 18 to May 16, though the department will consider -- by request -- a new routine that calls for the season to open on the third Monday in April and end 29 days later.

No bear season is mentioned, but the department is finalizing a bruin management plan that could bring a highly regulated shoot in 1993.

DNR PUBLIC HEARINGS ON HUNTING SCHEDULES * March 18: South Hagerstown High School (7 p.m.).

* March 19: Southampton Middle School in Bel Air (7 p.m.).

* March 21: Eastern Shore State Hospital Center (administration building) in Cambridge (7 p.m.).

* March 22: Tawes State Office Building (DNR conference room) in Annapolis (7 p.m.).

* Written comments will be accepted until March 29. Write Don MacLauchlan, DNR, Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis, Md. 21401. For more information, call 974-3195.

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