Preliminary counts from check-in stations across the state indicate that the opening day of firearms season for deer in Maryland produced a take of 12,798, a drop-off of 21 percent from last year.
"On Saturday, the weather was bad in Western Maryland, but as you came east, the day got a little better," said Doug Hotton, Deer Project Manager for the Department of Natural Resources. "But the decrease in the kill is reflected in all 23 counties. In no county was there an increase in the harvest."
Last year's count from opening day of the two-week firearms season was 16,140, and hunters closed the season with a state record 39,406.
Hotton said counts on opening day have fluctuated through the years and since the inception of the two-week season in 1992 the importance of opening day seems to have diminished.
"Since we went to the two-week season, the hunting pressure is spread out more," said Hotton, "and hunters might not feel as compelled to get out that first Saturday or that first Monday.
"As a result, the percentage of the total kill [taken on opening day] has dropped."
But opening day still is a barometer of sorts for the season.
In 1993, for example, hunters killed 12,055 deer on the first day of the season and finished with a total of 34,251.
In 1992, hunters took 15,491 on that first Saturday and completed the season with 35,133, the state record until last year.
"I think hunting pressure will be up this weekend," Hotton said.
The early forecast for this weekend includes a chance of snow in the west and rain in the eastern portions of the state.
Early season updates
While the counts from the first day of the firearms season were off across the state, results from the first four weeks of the bow season for deer show an increased harvest in 18 counties.
According to DNR statistics, bow hunters checked in 4,613 deer, an increase of 5 percent over the same period last year.
The three-day early muzzleloader season in October produced a take of 3,940, 14 percent less than last year (4,589).
The unofficial count from the one-day youth firearms hunt for deer is 1,355, an increase of 32 percent over the first youth hunt held last year.
Fall turkey season
The six-day season for wild turkey this fall in the western counties of the state was off 39 percent from last year, with a total of 350 birds checked in.
"Despite good hunting weather during all but one day of the season, the harvest was down substantially from recent years," said John R. Griffin, secretary of the DNR.
The lower take of birds was expected by wildlife managers because of rainy and cool conditions during late spring and early summer, which limited turkey reproduction in the state.
Allegany County hunters checked in 165 birds, followed by Garrett (146) and Washington (39).
Pub Date: 12/06/96