- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

Now that Thanksgiving Day is gone and year-end holidays are quickly approaching, want to be thankful for something in addition to living in this blessed land? Thank the heavens that the fellow who designed the Maryland hunting license and the hunting regulations "booklet" didn't also configure the dimensions of the cell phone. Had he been chosen, you would need a wheelbarrow to carry it around.
During a recent out-of-state hunting trip, several of the guests at a lodge asked how folks on the East Coast conducted wildlife business. The conversation eventually got around to hunting licenses, and I whipped out Maryland's version, which is big enough to serve as Christmas gift wrapping for, say, a box of cigars.
The fellows in the lodge howled with derisive laughter, simultaneously pulling out their home states' hunting licenses all of which were the size of drivers permits. In fact, some of them were nearl y identical copies, hard lamination and all.
"What's your fishing license look like, a road map? " asked a fellow from Texas. "Har, har, har." (He was partially right, but I didn't have the nerve to tell him.)
Why is it that the smaller a state is, the bigger it wants to be viewed by much larger neighbors?
Maryland is the perfect example. Diminutive in square acreage, it apparently has an Alaska-sized opinion of itself.
Virginia issues a hunting and fishing license that is the same size as a driver's permit. So do Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi all states that upscale Marylanders tend to look down on as being backwoods.
Not only that, should an out-of-stater want to hunt in Virginia and hasn't enough time to stop at a shop that sells the permits, the transaction can be done by telephone. You dial a number, provide basic information, a credit card number, and you'll be given a tracking number that you write on a slip of paper or the dashboard of your car whatever floats your boat. Off you go, hunting. If a game warden stops you, give him the number and he'll verify it on a portable state computer. A few days later, a hard copy of the license is mailed to you.
In Maryland, there's no such convenience. However, if the game cops stop you to check your license, you pull out a folded mass of paper from your wallet feeling instant relief on your backside the moment that big wad doesn't press against it and unravel it. Then, if you shoot a couple of cottontail rabbits or pheasants (if you can find some), the game could be wrapped in the license. See? That oversized thing does serve a purpose.
And don't even ask about the size of the hunting booklet the word booklet being ill-advised here. There should be no "let" at the end of the word book.
Not long ago, Maryland hunting regulations were published in a hand-sized format so a body could stick it into a jacket pocket for easy reference afield. Then along came Mr. I Want Everything Bigger at the Department of Natural Resources and redesigned the thing to resemble Sports Illustrated (without the pictures).
A reader left a phone message a few weeks back that asked, "How am I gonna stick that goshawful thing into my pocket? Somebody ought to slap the guy who dreamed up this ridiculous size."
Enough said. Don't rile the people in Annapolis. If they become upset, next year's hunting license might require a backpack to transport it into the woods. And the regulations book? Watch out, Yellow Pages. You could be in for some serious competition.
Words to ponder
In the essay, "The Irreducibility of Hunting, " Dr. Lee Foote, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Alberta, believes in taking his students into the woods to show them how nature really functions. Foote says, "There is no such thing as a non-consumer. To most people geographically or generationally isolated from eating wild-killed meat, hunting must seem barbaric, heartless and uncivilized. When uncivilized becomes a pejorative, it speaks volumes about how far cultures have drifted from a natural way of living."
Foote believes his lifestyle is on the verge of a renaissance to rival the fly fishing boom. "All it's going to take is one good movie by Robert Redford, and we'll see yuppies heading into the woods in their SUVs to bag a deer, " he says.
No brain surgeon he One of our e-mailers forwarded a recent statement made by a Maryland State Police corporal named Moroney who told the Capital Gazette newspaper that "the only natural predator of the deer is the motor vehicle. " Guess Moroney has never heard of the millions of American deer hunters.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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