- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — A 74-year-old deer-hunting tradition in Maryland has ended with the Department of Natural Resources’ announcement of an automated process for registering game.

Starting in September, deer and turkey hunters must call a toll-free number or click on a DNR Web site (www.dnr.state.md.us) to record their kills instead of taking the game to a cooperating retail establishment, known as a checking station, to be registered, the agency says.

The change will save state taxpayers at least $50,000 a year, DNR deer biologist Brian Eyler said yesterday. But it doesn’t sit well with some of the more than 100 businesses statewide that have served as checking stations for years.

Station operators were paid $1 per deer and $1.25 per turkey.

“This will impact my business strongly,” said Jeff McCray, owner of National Pike Sunoco in Flintstone, a game-checking station in Allegany County since 1996.

“Once the hunters come in, they buy food, drinks, gas. We won’t have much of that any more, and neither will the state have the sales tax that comes with it,” Mr. McCray told the Cumberland Times-News.

At Rich’s Grocery in Barton, which has been checking in game for 12 years, Matt Williams predicted that his sales will decline. Often, hunters registering their kills at the Allegany County store “will check in the deer then turn around and buy a bag of jerky cure to make venison,” he said.

“Or another box of shells,” said Mr. Williams’ mother, Joyce.

The automated system cannot be used to register black bears, Mr. Eyler said. This fall, like last year, successful bear hunters will have to register their kills at state-run checking stations, so DNR technicians can collect biological material, he said.

Checking-station operators received a letter dated March 10 from Paul A. Peditto, director of the DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service, announcing the change.

He said the annual registration of 90,000 deer and hundreds of turkeys costs the agency about $150,000.

Mr. Peditto said the lack of checking stations in some counties has forced some hunters to drive long distances to register game.

“It has been increasingly difficult to find suitable locations and vendors interested in becoming checking stations,” he said.

As consolation, the DNR is offering merchants an opportunity to participate in a Junior Hunter Game Certification Program, Mr. Eyler said.

Participants will get DNR certificates to distribute to successful young hunters, and their businesses will be advertised along with the program in the annual hunting and trapping guide, he said.

In February, the DNR announced an automated process for buying hunting and fishing licenses. The licenses continue to be available from participating retailers as well, Mr. Eyler said.

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