- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

HAGERSTOWN, Md. Sunday deer hunting, prohibited in Maryland since Colonial times, has gained a powerful backer in House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.
The Allegany County Democrat says a bill to permit hunting on at least one Sunday during the firearm deer season is among his top priorities in the next General Assembly session.
Such a measure would make Maryland the 45th state to allow Sunday deer hunting on public land. It also would encourage hunters to spend more time and money in the rural areas where game abounds.
"I'm thinking about the economic benefit of people traveling for a full weekend," Mr. Taylor said.
Opponents say the measure would erode people's freedom to hike, bike or ride horses in the woods without fear of being shot. LuAnne Levens, president of the Maryland Horse Council, wasn't swayed by Mr. Taylor's assurances the bill would apply to just one or two Sundays a year.
"It starts with one day and then it escalates," she said. "We are against any period, zip, nada Sunday hunting."
The Maryland Farm Bureau also is opposed, mostly for religious reasons.
"The fellowship of Christian farmers regularly opposes any hunting activity on Sunday," spokeswoman Valerie Connelly said.
Even hunters are divided on the issue. The statewide Maryland Sportsmen's Association supports the idea. It wants Sunday hunting permitted not just for the two-week firearm deer season, but during other game seasons that stretch from October to mid-May, President Timothy Lambert said.
"We would like to at least have the ability to prove that hunting on Sunday will be no different from hunting the other six days of the week," said Mr. Lambert, an Elkton electrician.
But in Washington County, which led the state in deer kills this past firearm season, the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs isn't interested in Sunday hunting, President Steven Palmer said.
Mr. Palmer, a Keedysville gunsmith who also chairs the Maryland Coalition for Responsible Wildlife Management, said he doesn't want to antagonize farmers, hikers and others who might support other regulatory reforms his group favors.
"We need their vote at the ballot box, so why should we be pushing for something they're adamantly opposed to?" Mr. Palmer said.
The interest groups are lining up much as they did in 1999, when the General Assembly last considered, and rejected, Sunday hunting. One difference is Mr. Taylor, who also plans to introduce a bill creating a black bear hunting season in Allegany and Garrett counties.
The speaker said there is "no connection whatsoever" between his pro-hunting stance and the ire he aroused among gun ownership advocates by supporting Gov. Parris N. Glendening's gun-safety bill in 2000. The National Rifle Association said in October 2000 it would probably work to replace Mr. Taylor if it couldn't work with him.
Mr. Palmer said the hard feelings have been somewhat soothed: "He made a bad decision, and I think we recognize that."
West Virginia was the last state to approve Sunday hunting, with a measure adopted in 2001. New Jersey legislators have been discussing Sunday hunting to help control the state's rapidly growing deer population. Maryland has deer population problems, too.
Maryland already allows some Sunday hunting of birds on private game preserves, and Sunday fishing has never been an issue.
The state Department of Natural Resources has not taken a position on Sunday deer hunting, spokesman Chuck Porcari said.
"We're studying the speaker's proposal and will give it all due consideration," he said.


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