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Md. deer hunting season begins

November 27, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

"Sorry about your luck."

Those were Bill Calandrelle's words just before he shot a three-point deer Saturday afternoon on the first day of Maryland's two-week firearm deer season.

The deer, which was less than 75 pounds, came up behind Calandrelle and stopped to look at him, the Hagerstown hunter said. He said he apologized to the deer as he shot him in Green Ridge State Forest.

Ed Churchey of Hagertown also attributed getting his deer Saturday to "luck."

Churchey said he spotted and killed a 111-pound, 8-point deer eating near him after having waited from about 4 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Saturday to get one.

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Calandrelle and Churchey were two of more than 250 hunters who went to a checking station in Clear Spring by 4 p.m. Saturday. At times more than 15 hunters were waiting to check in after getting a deer.

"They just kept coming and coming," said Dan Fleming, who was checking in many of the hunters.

Fleming is the owner of Sunrise Handi-Mart on National Pike in Clear Spring. It was the first year the business was serving as a checking station. It replaces the checking station at the Clear Spring Exxon, he said.

The business will be paid 75 cents for each deer checked in, he said. It takes about 45 seconds to check in each hunter.

Many of the hunters were from Pennsylvania, Fleming said. The Pennsylvania season start Monday. The West Virginia season began Tuesday.

Sixty percent of Maryland firearm hunters got a deer last year, and wildlife managers say the odds of success are excellent this season for an estimated 78,000 hunters.

The summer drought had little impact on the statewide herd of 218,000 to 247,000 deer, according to Douglas Hotton, deer project manager with the state Department of Natural Resources.

"Wildlife is pretty tough. We get all excited about these droughts but animals, through millions of years of evolution, have adjusted to the climate we have," he said.

Expanded bag limits introduced last year boosted the firearm deer kill to a record 41,037.

The leading firearm deer harvest counties were Frederick, with 3,703, and Washington, with 3,157.

Last year, the number of antlerless deer taken - largely females - rose by 4 percent, indicating the state's strategy for managing deer population growth is working.

The strategy includes policies to encourage killing of does, which state wildlife managers say is the most efficient means of slowing reproduction.

In parts of central and southern Maryland where abundant deer are a traffic hazard and a gardener's nightmare, the number of antlerless deer taken by all hunters last year rose by nearly 25 percent.

"Maryland's deer hunters are playing a crucial role in deer management by increasing the number of antlerless deer harvested," said Michael Slattery, director of the agency's wildlife division.

The sport also has a positive economic impact, especially in rural areas. The DNR says retail sales of hunting gear, along with hunter purchases of lodging, meals and fuel, total about $40 million.

On the negative side, careless hunters typically cause 30 to 40 accidents each year in Maryland, including a few fatalities.

This year, the Maryland State Police and the Natural Resources Police are teaming up to help reduce the danger in one Eastern Shore hunting destination. State troopers who pull over speeding or aggressive drivers in rural Wicomico County may be accompanied by Natural Resources Police officers who will check for loaded firearms and other hunting violations.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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