- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

No one adequately has explained to me why the game department at the Maryland DNR is known as the Wildlife and Heritage Service — what’s with the Heritage? — but wait until you read what kind of hunting seasons it proposed for the next two years. You might do a double-take.

For starters, the early season for resident Canada geese offers two options. One is to have a hunt in all of August and half of September that would permit electronic calls, unplugged shotguns and shooting from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. A daily limit of eight geese would be legal, and even that could be expanded. Small wonder the state is overrun with these prolific birds.

Another option is the shooting of resident geese during August only if it’s done on private lands. Either way, as any waterfowler knows, the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns used to be a sure way to empty your checkbook for all the fines you would have to pay if you got caught. But you can rest assured the new proposal won’t be in effect when the migrant geese arrive.

Mourning dove season might be changed from the first day of September to the first Saturday in September.

Wild turkey hunters could see a prohibition of electronic or motorized decoys but could be allowed to use handguns during the fall season. Look also for a restriction of shot sizes in the fall to the same sizes permitted in the spring (none larger than No.4 shot and none smaller than No. 6 loads).

Then, in a silly politically correct change of language, the hunting of fur-bearers now will be referred to as “harvesting.” These eggheads don’t know that you harvest corn and potatoes, not animals. And what’s wrong with the word “hunt?” Lord, give me strength.

As concerns the bear hunting season, the proposal now is to include all of Allegany County. That’s in direct response to complaints from Allegany residents who say they’re seeing as many bears in their backyards as anybody does in Garrett County.

What bothers me is that the Wildlife and Heritage people keep referring to “hunted” areas and “hunting” parties for bear. Why wasn’t that changed to “harvesting?”

Deer hunting seasons will pretty much stay the same, but the harvesters in Annapolis say they will monitor deer populations closely because the buck population harvests indicate a slowly declining number of deer in some counties.

Stay tuned. There will be more coming from the Harvest Department at the DNR.

Chesapeake access guide available — If you’re looking for a public access guide to the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries, there now is a new full-color map/guide that includes more than 650 public access sites in the Bay area and provides information on boating, fishing, wildlife viewing, beach use, parking and other opportunities. The guide was developed by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s public access workgroup, made up of representatives from the District, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the federal government.

Free copies of the guide are available from natural resource offices in each of the participating areas. To obtain a copy in Maryland, visit any of the Department of Natural Resources regional service centers, welcome centers, State Park visitor centers or contact DNR’s Greenways and Water Trails program at 410/260-8771.

Wonder where the rockfish are? — The secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced a modification to the catch limit for February’s commercial striped bass fishery. As of Thursday, the individual catch limit of 500 pounds a day was rescinded and replaced with a total weekly catch limit of 2,500 pounds for each license holder. The Chesapeake Bay striped bass gill net season ends Feb. 28 and reopens Dec. 1.

Imagine that. And the state of Florida, which has a much better all-around fishery, doesn’t allow gill netting. I guess Maryland believes it has more fish to spare.

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

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