- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Even under less than ideal weather conditions, the preliminary count for the two-week Maryland firearms season (Nov.29-Dec.13) indicates that the 2003 deer harvest is up slightly from last year.

Rifle- and shotgun slug-using deer hunters took an estimated 42,166 deer compared to 41,469 during the same two week period in 2002, an increase of 1.7percent. The final deer numbers will tell more after the close of all seasons, including muzzleloader and archery hunts, which are still under way.

During the Maryland firearm season, each hunter spends about five days pursuing whitetailed and sika deer. Protests of the Fund for Animals and the PETA people notwithstanding, deer hunting remains the most efficient and effective method of balancing the deer population with its environment and human neighbors.

The Department of Natural Resources says deer hunting in Maryland generates an estimated $156million in local and state revenue. Deer hunters purchase hunting equipment, supplies, gasoline, lodging and meals. Many hunters pay private landowners for the privilege of hunting through leases. Hunting licenses, stamps and excise taxes on hunting equipment fund nearly the entire Wildlife and Heritage Service budget in Maryland.

Some counties saw a bit of a drop in deer kills, most likely caused by poor weather conditions. Allegany County hunters, for example, shot 3,513 deer; last year they got 3,801. But Baltimore County had an increase, from 1,513 to 1,800.

The biggest surprise occurred in nearby Calvert County, where last year only 664 deer were shot with modern firearms. This year 1,391 hunters got venison, a 109.5 percent increase. Charles County, only a hop from the Capital Beltway, accounted for 1,539 deer, an increase of 6.3 percent.

Harford, Frederick and Garrett County all were down, but with a count of 1,161, Montgomery County hunters got one more deer than last year. Prince George’s was way down with only 370 kills, a drop of 52.4 percent. Blame that on increasing housing developments, not just bad weather. St. Mary’s County was up. Its hunters shot 1,417 deer, quite an increase over the 1,053 last year.

Finally, don’t forget that Marylanders can use their muzzleloaders now. This special late season hunt closes Jan.3.

The Virginia deer kill totals won’t be available until after Jan.3, with hunters still busy east of the Blue Ridge.

More about that deer book — Reader Harry Crow writes, “I searched bookfinder.com for the Venison Book and found many [used] copies from $4 to $8, but Amazon.com has it new for $4.95.” Here’s a tip of the hat and a thank you. We recently mentioned the Venison Book in a column. It’s small but filled with information about hunting deer, cutting meat, and cooking venison.

And what about this crab plan? — In regards to our complaints about Maryland’s quasi-welfare plan for watermen who haven’t done well because of low crab numbers, reader Jim Bell says, “The [1985-1990] ban on rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay did wonders; a ban on harvesting crabs would do the same since they should recover nicely if left alone for a year or two. To compensate the commercial crabbers, pay them like we pay farmers not to grow crops. My suggestion for this is to take the average of the past [several] years profits, as documented in Schedule C of their IRS statements — the only exception may be to offset some of their boat/equipment depreciation to make it equitable. Naturally, if the crabber has ‘underestimated’ his income, he can either confess to the IRS or get compensated what he has declared. This program can’t cost the federal government nearly as much as the farm bill and it will certainly get the crabs back in abundance.”

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

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