- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

As every Virginia hunter knows, the opening day of deer season for users of modern firearms is the third Monday in November. Hardly anyone in the state is old enough to recall a time when it was different. However, starting this year Virginia hunters will be going after their venison on Saturday, Nov. 13 — or as the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says, the Saturday before the third Monday in November.

There’ll also be a different game tag and process to check big game. Not only that, the regular season bag limit for deer hunters east of the Blue Ridge Mountains will be increased from four to six, while in the counties west of the Blue Ridge the limit will be five. The reason for that is the continually increasing statewide deer herd and the game managers’ desire to control those numbers. I suppose most auto insurance companies also pray that the hunters will be ever more successful, judging by the thousands of deer-meets-car damage claims they must pay throughout the year.

Incidentally, during the 2002 season, 213,023 whitetailed deer were checked in by Virginia’s hunters, with 215,872 shot in 2001. The majority of deer is taken east of the Blue Ridge.

Hunters in the Old Dominion also will be happy to hear that the season for cottontail rabbits will be extended two weeks into February 2004. The past year’s rabbit hunt had to come to a halt at sunset, Jan. 31.

Pennsylvanian wins bear stamp contest — A Pennsylvania artist took the top prize for the 2003 Maryland Black Bear Conservation Stamp design contest. The contest began in 1996 and is authorized by the General Assembly. It annually selects a design that will appear on T-shirts, hats, and prints.

The artist, Steve Oliver, is a resident of Brookhaven. Stamps may be purchased for a minimum contribution of $5 and are available on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Web site, www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/bbcp/index.html, or through any of the DNR Service Centers located throughout Maryland, or by calling 800/873-3763.

New fishing survey — Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries agency and the resource agencies of 10 other Atlantic coastal states have announced the launch of the For-Hire Survey, a standardized data collection system designed to improve harvest and biological information from charter boats and party/headboats, providing fishery managers with more credible data for responsible management of Atlantic fish stocks.

The For-Hire Survey consists of telephone samplings of 10 percent of for-hire captains for fishing effort data, such as number of trips and passengers taken in a given week, as well as in-person interviews with for-hire patrons at docksides to gain catch data, and statistical validation to correct for reporting errors. Fish catch interviews have been under way since 1981. They are part of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS), but the new effort methodology and validation began June 9 to complete the For-Hire Survey.

Aquatic vegetation brochure — The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has a color brochure on submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). It describes the importance of SAVs and how fishermen and boaters can help protect it. SAVs provide food and shelter for many fish species and their prey and they stabilize bottom sediments, as well as cycling oxygen and nutrients.

To request a brochure, call Carrie Selberg, ASMFC Habitat Specialist, 202/289-6400.

Politically correct wildlife — Can you remember when a certain species of wild swan from the Canadian north was known as the whistling swan? It suited everybody just fine until somebody, somewhere, decided to rename the majestic white birds. Now they’re known as tundra swans.

Add also a diving duck species that every waterfowler on the continent knew as old squaw. Virginia outdoors writer Jack Randolph says the old moniker apparently offended somebody, so now the Fish and Wildife Service has renamed it the long-tailed duck. This is not a joke. Out with the old squaw, in with long-tailed duck.

Hoo, boy!

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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