- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries passed several regulations that are immediately effective and represent a sharp departure over decades-old practices.

In a move that makes good sense but is not often copied in other states, Virginia’s hunters now can use unplugged shotguns legally for hunting nonmigratory game. Heretofore, shotguns usually contained a magazine plug that allowed the firing of only three shells. Now, if their smoothbore can hold five shot shells (or more), hunters can legally go after deer, bear, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, grouse, quail, bobcat, coyote, fox, raccoon, opossum, groundhog and skunk.

This is a big change from the printed regulations hunters might have received earlier this year.

I remember hunting deer one year in Virginia, wanting to use a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with five rifled slugs because of the dense cover brush. I learned then it was illegal to do so and had to plug the shotgun to keep only three shells in it. As of Friday, that is no longer necessary.

However, if it’s migratory game hunters want, their shotgun must continue to be plugged to a three-shell capacity. Hunters can’t have more than that in the gun. This is in large part because of federal regulations that prohibit hunting of migratory waterfowl with guns that hold more than three shells. So please be careful when shooting doves, all ducks, all geese (including resident Canada geese), tundra swans, rail, snipe, woodcock, gallinules, moorhens and crows. Be certain the gun is plugged for these wildlife species.

Another important change involves rabbit season, which starts Saturday. The original hunting season as listed by the state (and also in The Washington Times hunting chart Sept. 23) said rabbit season would run through Feb. 14. Now the board decided it can continue through the last legal hunting day in February, which would be Feb. 29 next year.

Other than the change in the rabbit season, all the remaining game seasons will go on as shown in the official state hunting booklet or in our chart.

Learn about winter stripers — Put aside a few evening hours Nov. 5, when the Southern Maryland Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association has charter captain “Walleye” Pete Dahlberg of the Four Seasons Guide Service give an illustrated talk about winter fishing at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay (bridge-tunnel area).

It’s all about ocean-run striped bass that enter the bay to fatten up and how to cash in on their feeding frenzy. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Hughesville American Legion Hall. Information: Phil Angle, 301/246-4925.

What are the odds? — Natural Resources Police are looking into a hunting accident that happened in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The preliminary investigation shows that Craig T. Summerfield, 34, of Aberdeen was preparing to go hunting when his muzzleloader rifle discharged. The projectile traveled 130 yards and struck William C. Skipper, 48, of Trappe, in the arm.

Skipper had been sitting on the steps of a lodge located on the property next to Summerfield’s. The wounded man was taken to a Salisbury hospital and is expected to recover.

The NRP continues to investigate this incident.

Snap the winning photo — The National Wildlife Refuge Association is having its annual digital photo contest showcasing America’s national wildlife refuges. Submissions must be made by Dec. 15, and winners will be announced in March 2008.

In our area, Chincoteague NWR and Blackwater NWR are just two places to shoot, although there are more than 540 such refuges in the United States. For photo contest details, visit www.refugenet.org, then click on “2008 Refuge Photo Contest.”

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

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