- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

For hunters in the states that surround the nation’s capital, it’s mostly good news as they await the arrival of the various big and small game seasons that normally are accompanied by a good frost.

I still can’t get used to hunting mourning doves and squirrels - two game species that can be bagged now - while sweating in a late summer sun.

As always, the white-tailed deer tops the list for most Virginia and Maryland hunters, and if you’re drawn to Pennsylvania you already know the Keystone State has more deer hunters enter woods and fields on opening day than most countries have soldiers: around 1 million.

There appears to be no let-up in the numbers of available deer. Although some stabilization of the herds has occurred in Western Maryland, the rest of the state and all of Virginia is pretty much experiencing a veritable deer population explosion. Some animal rights proponents believe deer can be fed birth-control substances, mixed into food, along local highways where deer are seen.

Somebody please ask these dreamers what should be done about the many thousands of inaccessible white-tails that are back in the deep woods, swamps and mountains. The majority of those ruminants never see a highway.

During the last season, 253,678 deer were shot by hunters in Virginia. Among the top 10 counties, nearby Loudoun and Fauquier ranked fourth and fifth. For the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, visit www.dgif.virginia.gov and you’ll find information on public hunting lands and all the necessary regulations.

In the case of Maryland, a record 100,437 deer were bagged. Compare that to hunters not even coming close to 10,000 back in the late 1950s and you can understand what we mean by population explosion. Newcomers should go to www.dnr.maryland.gov/ wildlife to glean all the necessary regulations.

Hunters in both states also will find good numbers of gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits and steadily climbing numbers of wild turkeys and black bears. Grouse, quail, pheasant and woodcock hunters already know these bird species are not in the greatest supply. Much of that can be blamed on loss of habitat, but some wildlife numbers also go through population cycles.

Among waterfowl hunters, good news comes by way of an increase in the number of canvasback ducks and steady flights of mallard and black ducks, with good wood-duck hunting also expected. However, lesser numbers of pintail and redhead ducks are seen.

Canada geese are just holding steady. In the Atlantic Flyway, reproduction was not as good as hoped for, so for migratory Canadas (not to be confused with resident geese), the daily limit stays at two a day.

If you have access to Eastern Shore fields that are visited by snow geese, load up on ammo. The shooting rules and bag limits have been greatly relaxed and local as well as federal officials are hoping hunters of “light” geese take advantage of this. These birds are slowly emptying the food supplies in their coastal environs.

Birth control anybody?

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/ sports.

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