- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2007

As the weather cools and various hunting seasons beckon, it should come as no great revelation to hunters in the District and suburban areas that the whitetailed deer will be in great supply. Heaven knows we see enough of them standing along the roadsides as we drive to our jobs in the mornings.

The District’s hunters will have to visit neighboring Maryland or Virginia because there is no hunting in the capital city, but the archers and gun users in the jurisdictions that surround the District should have plenty of opportunities as they try to fill their freezers with venison.

As usual, Virginia receives excellent marks even when compared to larger game-rich states. The Old Dominion always delivers the goods for deer and turkey hunters, but Maryland — small as it is — has a big, healthy deer herd that affords the hunters in virtually every one of its counties a chance for a deer without driving far from home.

Virginians killed 223,198 deer in 2006 and the first days of 2007, with Fauquier, Bedford and Loudoun counties leading the way. Marylanders also did well, shooting 91,930 whitetails and 1,779 sika deer, with Washington, Baltimore and Frederick counties the top three. The numbers include bow, muzzleloader and modern firearms seasons.

During the early parts of upcoming hunting seasons, both states will provide a good supply of squirrels but not the greatest numbers of ruffed grouse if you happen to travel to the mountains. There also isn’t a great deal of quail hunting, but Virginia’s Piedmont shows a fair number and Maryland Eastern Shore farms appear to be undergoing a very slow recovery of bobwhite quail coveys.

The ringnecked pheasants in either state are more of a pleasant memory of days gone by than current reality. Pheasant numbers in the traditional lime-rich farmlands of northern and central Maryland as well as central Virginia have plummeted. Pennsylvania maintains vigorous rearing and stocking programs, but that is not true of the states that surround Washington.

If my own Southern Maryland neighborhood is any indication, there’ll be plenty of cottontail rabbits this fall and winter, along with good visits by mallard, black and wood ducks, plus wonderfully welcome increases in the canvasback population.

Goose hunters in both states are hoping for strong flights of migrating Canada and snow geese. Scuttlebutt has it that the number of the big Canadas is up. Snow geese, of course, will continue to ravage local fields, marshes and seaside grasses. The snow geese are in such great supply that bag limits and seasons are increasing almost every year. There simply are too many of them to provide enough food for all.

Bear hunting in Virginia can be productive, but in Maryland it is still marginal and confined to two western counties.

As an aside, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has confirmed that epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is causing mortality in deer in an expanded area of southwestern Pennsylvania. Several hundred deer have been found dead in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene and Washington counties. The deaths were consistent with EHD. In Maryland and Virginia, wildlife officials continue to caution deer hunters about chronic wasting disease (CWD). Last found in a small area of West Virginia, all hunters are cautioned to always field dress, skin and butcher their deer while wearing rubber gloves.

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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