- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

ESPN is telling us to mark our calendars for Sept.8, when Deion Sanders begins his stint as host of “The New American Sportsman” series. Deion says he’s out to prove the best challenges in sports are in the outdoors. I say the best challenge concerning this show is whether Deion can convince a zillion country boys to tune in.

Apparently, ESPN didn’t bother to ask the people most likely to watch the show what they thought of Deion being the host of a hunting/fishing show. ESPN’s executives — most of whom wouldn’t know the AFLAC duck from a wild mallard — figured Deion’s name recognition would bring in the viewers. That remains to be seen.

Thus far, the comments from some of my fishing and hunting pals hasn’t been positive. Most remember Deion as a superbly gifted athlete with a big, opinionated mouth — a man who, in some instances, could back up his braggadocio but in the case of his brief stay with the Washington Redskins failed miserably. As a die-hard Redskins fan, you must understand I don’t forgive and forget easily.

Deion’s qualifications concerning playing the host of an outdoors show include statements like “I love to fish. I’ve been fishing since I was a kid.”

Well, I love to build bluebird houses, but I don’t think anybody is ready to hire me to replace Bob Vila and host his do-it-yourself home fix-it show.

So if it’s an athlete you need to draw viewers, pick one who knows of what he speaks. Get in touch with retired Hall of Fame Redskins receiver Charley Taylor. Taylor loves to fish and hunt, knows what he’s doing and is as pleasant a person as a TV outdoors show fan could hope to meet. The same goes for any number of other former NFL stars, pro golfers and baseball players. The great Brooks Robinson is one who hunts and fishes and who has spent time in front of a camera. How about Terry Bradshaw, who is quite the angler and is good on TV?

Don’t touch the bears — In light of recent bear sightings and bear interactions with residents, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges state residents to leave bears alone when sighted.

These days, juvenile and adult bears are increasingly seen, particularly in western Maryland but also as close to Washington as Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. This year a bear was even spotted in Harford County near the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay. The bears most likely are searching for suitable habitat to take up permanent residence and may be seen for a short period of time by residents, usually in the summer months.

Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia share a growing regional black bear population. As this population grows, sightings in highly populated areas may become more frequent. The DNR’s position on bears near suburban environments is to allow the bears time to locate suitable habitat. They may be sighted numerous times by the public while moving through but will travel to more remote areas within weeks. The DNR says it will not relocate such bears unless they become a threat to human safety.

If you see a black bear in or around your neighborhood make sure there is no food available to attract and keep one there. Trash cans should be secured, birdfeeders emptied and pet food kept indoors.

To report a black bear sighting in an urban area or to receive more information regarding black bears, residents can visit www.dnr.state.md.us or call the DNR’s Annapolis number, 410/260-8540.

Area rifle team makes history — The Arlington Optimist-Acorns Combined Junior Rifle Club recently made target shooting history by sweeping the three-position smallbore team events at the U.S. National Rifle and Pistol Championships in Camp Perry, Ohio. The team fired a score of 2,206 with 50 center shots in one match and 2,189 with 50 center shots in the second match out of a possible 2,400 points.

Strong winds made the 50-yard competition with smallbore target rifles a particular challenge. An NRA spokesman noted at the awards ceremony that no other junior rifle team in the 100-year history of these matches had swept the team events. The club bested 47 other teams (including adult teams) from across the nation. The team included captain Brian Watson, 18; Kristina Fehlings, 18; Tom Knight, 17; Emily Houston, 15; alternate Daniel Peterson, 19; and coach Floyd Houston.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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