- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

As concerns Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening's decision to shut down the use of firearms in four counties for 30 days because he wants to assist police as they look for a murdering sniper, it's not difficult to come up with hunters' comments.

The executive order from Annapolis came at last week's start of the muzzleloader deer hunting season, and a Maryland blackpowder rifle shooter who simply signed his name "Mark" sent the following e-mail: "Please encourage that idiot Glendening to add another blackpowder season if they are going to cancel this [one]," he wrote, then added, "That sniper is ruining the rights of legitimate gunowners. Is it legal for Glendening to do what he did?"

Reader Greg Bradburn wrote, "I was livid when I heard that piece of news. I don't understand how hunting in rural areas, far from areas the 'sniper' chooses for his perpetration of crime, would interfere with the police investigation. Everybody living in a rural area is used to hearing shots during hunting season. I can't believe that they would be reporting these shots. I also agree that it's strange that the governor would exempt [shooting] ranges from this ban, especially outdoor ranges inside city limits. The first thing I did when I heard of this ban was call the Prince George's Trap and Skeet Club to see if they were affected. While I'm pleased they were not shut down, I am still perplexed by it."

Bradburn also asked, "Has there been much of an outcry from the hunting community? I know that hunters in general are not activists and prefer to simply be left alone. I would hope though, that they would organize to protest this action. The hunting community, if they were to join together, would be a formidable lobby. They spend more money than most Fortune 500 companies."

That's what is so puzzling, Mr. Bradburn.

A fellow by the name of Steve Huettner, of the Maryland Sportsmen's Association, told reporter H.J. Brier (The Washington Times, Metro section, Oct. 17), "It's unfortunate. We don't like to see [hunting] opportunities taken away, but the overwhelming majority have been very supportive."

Mr. Huettner claims to have a membership of 15,000, but none of the hunters we've spoken to belong to his group and not one supports his "It's unfortunate, but " position.

In fact, in Southern Maryland, where I hunt deer, the move by Glendening is roundly booed and many of them want to know who this Huettner fellow is who purports to speak for Maryland's hunters. More than one also wants to know how the state will address the high cost of hunting property leases that now can't be used in Montgomery, Howard, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. The state already has decided that in the four aforementioned counties there will be no refunds of hunting license fees even if the only lands that can be hunted are located in the four counties.

One Southern Marylander, a veterinarian who is an avid hunter, said, "This is just one more step by Glendening to get his anti-gun foot into the door. He'd like to issue such executive orders all the time to stop our shooting sports and his lieutenant governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, is in lock-step with him. Shame on all of us if their anti-gun, anti-hunting policies are allowed to continue."

Meanwhile, the Department of Natural Resources wants everybody in the affected counties to know that bow hunting is not prohibited. It's only the discharge of firearms that is against the law for the time being. Of course, it's OK if you run a licensed shooting range, but not if you're an individual who wants to shoot a squirrel, or tamp down the powder and ball of a muzzleloader to try and get a deer. The DNR also is looking at the possibility of DNR extending or modifying hunting seasons to compensate for any impact this ban may have on recreation and/or wildlife management.

Just be reminded that in the four counties where firearms are now verboten, if you decide to hunt with bow and arrow you must wear fluorescent orange. If you shoot a deer it can be checked in and will be counted toward the bow season bag limit.

The legal discharge of firearms is allowed in all other Maryland counties, but if it occurs in the off-limits-to-firearms counties you could face a $1,000 fine and/or six months in the pokey. What troubles me is that the police will probably catch an errant hunter, but it's not having a whole lot of success with the so-called sniper.

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

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