CLEAR SPRING -- The waiting game can be maddening. Beyond the ridge, rifle fire punctuates the morning and a deer has either been taken or escaped, its white tail a flag disappearing quickly through the oak and hickory.
In our small part of the world, halfway up a steep ridge in the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area west of Hagerstown, the wind is playing hard from the north-northwest, swirling leaves, rain and light snow.
There is a feeling of anticipation.
From the ridge, there is a good view of three draws and a couple hundred yards of creek bottom. Where the draws lead down to Little Conococheague Creek, there is confluence of streams and seeps and a natural ford well marked by deer tracks.
The ridges run northeast, the draws lead in from the northwest and west, down to the creek from a tract of private land.
The draws and the creek bottom are runways, along which whitetails switch back and forth among the 6,300 acres of the management area.
The seeps and draws had been hunted recently. A bowhunter had set up a tree stand overlooking the ford, his ranges marked off by red ribbons tied to saplings, the undercover cleared to offer an open shot.
Across the narrow valley, another hunter recently had marked his way from a parking area to a commanding spot on the hillside, a trail of yellow ribbons to be followed in the dark.
Beyond the ridge, more rifle fire, and shortly two whitetails moved hurriedly along the creek bottom, a pair of does in an antlered zone.
On this day, good things did not come to those who waited.
Opening day record
The opening day of firearms season for deer in Maryland, a week ago Saturday, produced the second highest kill on record, 15,561 compared to 12,582 last year.
The record for opening day is 17,834, set in 1989 when an early snowfall covered much of the state.
According to Department of Natural Resources statistics, the top six counties were Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Garrett, Kent and Carroll.
NB Projections remain for a total kill between 47,000 and 50,000.
Chemicals in fish
A recent report by the Evironmental Defense Fund and the National Wildlife Federation says that the Environmental Protection Agency has underestimated the effect that chemical contaminants may have on people who eat fish caught in certain waterways.
In most cases, the report says, eating bottom-feeding fish taken from contaminated areas may slightly increase a person's chance of getting cancer.
The regional waters the report cites are:
* Maryland -- Back River, Baltimore Harbor (catfish and eels) and Lake Roland (Carp and crappie). North branch of the Potomac River (catfish, bullheads and sunfish).
* Delaware -- Red Clay Creek, Red Lion Creek (no consumption); Fork Branch, St. John's River, Silver Lake (catfish).
* Pennsylvania -- Allegheny River, Delaware River, Lake Erie, Monongahela River, Ohio River, Schuylkill, Susquehanna River (no consumption of carp, catfish, white perch, American eel, largemouth bass or trout).
* Virginia -- Blackwater River, Nottoway River, north fork Holston River, Jackson River, James River, north fork and south fork Shenandoah River, South River (variable restrictions in all waters).
Good news for hunters
In case you missed it, Proposition 200, a proposal that could have eliminated all hunting, fishing and trapping in Arizona, was defeated in the Nov. 3 election by a margin of 62 to 38 percent.
Sporting clays record
George Digweed of England recently set a world record in sporting clays, breaking 191 of 200 targets during the FITASC World Sporting Championships in Vermont. Digweed was shooting a Beretta 682 Sporting over/under.