Hunting seasons for squirrel and ruffed grouse opened this week, and Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Director Mike Slattery said hunters can expect to find good numbers of both species.
"An abundant acorn crop in 1998 led to increased squirrel populations across Maryland in 1999, while favorable nesting conditions this summer for grouse resulted in a good hatch," Slattery said. "Dry summer conditions also improved the survival of young birds, leading to an increase in the grouse population."
The combination of a good hatch and improved survival, he said, could lead to "one of the best hunting seasons in recent years" for grouse.
The seasons for both species close Jan. 31.
Ruffed grouse are found only in more mountainous areas of Western Maryland, while squirrels can be found on virtually any woodlot with oak or hickory trees, the nuts of which are a primary food source.
DNR's annual mast survey in Western Maryland rated the acorn crop as average in Garrett and Washington counties and poor in Frederick and Allegany counties.
Hickory nut and walnut production was found to be moderate, while apples rated moderate to heavy.
According to DNR, despite the drought, food supplies for wildlife will be adequate through fall and winter.
Since 1996, Maryland has been part of the Appalachian Cooperative Grouse Research Project with Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The objectives of the project are to determine survival rates of grouse in the southern Appalachians and learn more about its preferred habitat.
Phase 1 of the study was recently completed, and preliminary results indicate grouse chick survival has been low during the first three years of the study.
Wildlife managers said it is possible good hatch years like 1999 are carrying grouse populations through several years of poor reproduction.
Phase 2 of the study will include closing some hunting areas in other states to determine the effects of late-season hunting.
Bay sheepshead record
Tom Horan of Clarksville set the state record for sheepshead caught in the Chesapeake Bay with a 24-inch, 6.37-pounder taken aboard the Gracie Gayle out of Scheible's Fishing Center in Ridge, St. Mary's County. The fish was caught at the Southwest Middle Grounds.
The fishing report
Upper Chesapeake Bay: Waters finally are clearing, and rockfish action is picking up -- especially for anglers in the Susquehanna Flats area. The Charlestown Pier, Red Point, Rocky Point and the deep edges off Turkey Point all have been producing good catches. In the Elk, Northeast and Bohemia rivers, catfishing also has been good.
Middle Chesapeake Bay: Breaking fish -- mostly 1- to 3-pound blues and 16- to 22-inch rockfish -- are becoming more active, especially in low light hours when the tide is moving. Eastern Bay, the lower Choptank and the South and Severn rivers are good choices for rockfish in shallow water in low light hours, and chummers have been doing well for rock at Hacketts, Thomas Point Light, The Hill, The Diamonds and the Gas Docks.
Lower Chesapeake Bay: Point No Point and the Southwest Middle Grounds continue to turn up good catches of rockfish mixed with bluefish. Shallow water anglers are experiencing increasing catches of rockfish in the tidal guts and small tributaries feeding Tangier Sound and in the Honga and Nanticoke rivers.
Ocean City: The run of red drum continues in the surf at Assateague and North Ocean City, along with small to medium rockfish, kingfish and snapper blues. Flounder bite has picked up in the back bays, and bluefish, rockfish, sea trout and flounder are being caught at the Route 50 bridge and the inlet piers.
Pub Date: 10/07/99