- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Think about it for a moment. Even as animal rights groups are loudly protesting Maryland's new and restrictive Sunday hunting law, you must remember that the people who worship at the altar of animals are against hunting any old time, not just Sundays. Ignore the Bambi worshippers.

And who else is against hunting on Sundays? Various religions who respond to the bell on the Lord's Day. Can't blame them for being against Sunday hunting; it might further reduce already thinning congregations.

As far as this old Lutheran is concerned, an argument for being allowed to hunt on Sunday was made because of people's work schedules. If you toil at a desk or in a factory Monday through Friday and Sunday hunting isn't permitted (as it has been in Maryland for seemingly always), that gives a recreational hunter only one day a week to pursue his or her avocation. Hardly sounds fair, does it?

Golfers, anglers, boaters and swimmers to name some are not in the least restricted by Sunday laws, although we'll bet a bushel of steamed crabs against a paltry nickel that the churches in our country are very much against us doing anything on Sunday mornings except sitting in a pew and listening to a sermon.

So Maryland's new Sunday hunting law permits deer hunting on private lands, in selected rural counties, on the first Sunday of bow and firearm deer season. As hunting advocate Bob Kane puts it, "Hardly the big deal being made of it." The state also will allow shooting preserve hunting on Sundays, but that already is legal in most other states. Incidentally, Sunday hunting is allowed in western states, and no one is complaining.

The entire Sunday thing is much ado about nothing.

What might turn into a big deal, however, is Maryland's intent to rid itself of a number of mute swans, a European critter that originally graced a few of the ponds on big-bucks estates.

The mute swan is so named because it is silent most of the time. It doesn't emit the "google-google" calls of the whistling swan (a k a tundra swan), or trumpets like, well, the rare trumpeter swan. The anti-hunters already are complaining about Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. authorizing a plan set forth by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to get rid of some of the wild, mute swans.

Said Ehrlich: "It has been my intention from the start of this administration to guide policy decisions based on science. The overwhelming evidence shows that mute swans contribute to the deterioration of the [Chesapeake] Bay by consuming vital submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Failure to act now would be simply irresponsible."

Bay grasses are an important part of the Chesapeake's ecosystem. Not only do bay grasses improve water quality, they provide food and shelter for waterfowl, fish and shellfish. For example, research has shown that the density of juvenile blue crabs is 30 times greater in grass beds than in unvegetated areas of the Bay.

DNR Secretary C. Ronald Franks said, "Mute swans are a non-native species that are disrupting the overall restoration of the Bay. The current population of 3,600 birds is eating 10.5 million pounds of SAV each year."

Scientists believe that the current population, which contains many sub-adult swans who will begin to breed at the age of 3, is on the verge of a population explosion that, if left unchecked, could reach 20,000 birds by 2010.

How to recognize a mute swan: It is a large, long-necked, white bird that has a distinctive black knob at the base of its orange bill. If a shoreline walker or a boater comes too close to a mute swan, it will react aggressively, especially if a nesting site is nearby. This aggressive behavior is far more pronounced than that found in native swan species.

Hey, guv, how about also taking a look at the gazillions of cormorants in the state?

A children's fishing day Youngsters under 16 will have a chance to catch trout and panfish Saturday during the Potomac-Patuxent Trout Unlimited chapter Kid's Fishing Day. All you need do is be at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Silver Spring between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. It's free, but the young anglers are asked to bring a rod and reel, small hooks and bobbers. Bait will be provided. The park lake will have been stocked with trout just for this event, while sunfish of various types have been residents in the lake all along.

The members of the Trout Unlimited chapter will help bait the hooks, offer advice on fishing techniques, even demonstrate fly casting. However, they say that small children should be under the supervision of an adult. The park is located in the White Oak area, off Jackson Road just east of New Hampshire Avenue.

Call 301/652-3848 for more information and to indicate the number of children coming from each family. The event is held in collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Parks and Planning and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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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