Lawmakers to consider hunting bill

February 04, 2002

Lawmakers to consider hunting bill



Washington County hunters, long frustrated by the state's rules and regulations, are pinning their hopes on legislation before the Maryland General Assembly this year.

No, it's not the bill that would allow limited bear hunting in Maryland for the first time in more than 50 years.

And it's not another high-profile bill that would give deer hunters eight extra days, including up to three Sundays, to hunt with firearms.


It's a third bill soon to be filed by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, which attempts to take such decisions out of the political arena.

"Hunting in Maryland is under threat. It's at risk," said Steve Palmer, president of the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.

It's being regulated by the Department of Natural Resources, which gets its direction from the governor.

Glendening has banned bear hunting even though wildlife experts have recommended a limited season.

Palmer also points to last year's deer hunt, which saw fewer kills even though the weather was good for hunters.

Taylor, who also sponsored the deer and bear hunting bills, is working on legislation that would set up an independent Wildlife and Inland Fisheries Commission.

The commission would oversee all hunting and sport fishing.

Palmer said he believes the change would allow decisions to be made based on science rather than emotion.

Palmer's group does not support the bill that allows Sunday hunting.

"Our energies need to be spent preserving the six days we have now," he said.

His group also doesn't support the bear hunting bill because that decision shouldn't be up to lawmakers.

"Legislators have no business legislating wildlife management. They are not biologists. They're out of their element," he said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he supports the idea of an independent game commission.

"Take the politics out of it," he said.

Most local lawmakers say they favor a bear hunt to address a nuisance problem in Garrett and Allegany counties.

"It's not going to be long before bear are going to be migrating into our area," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Most also support a longer deer hunting season to thin the growing herd.

But local lawmakers are split on the idea of Sunday hunting.

While they agree that the season should be extended, most question the need for Sunday hunting.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, was the only local lawmaker who said he will definitely support Sunday hunting.

"To me it makes sense. It's not every Sunday," he said.

Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said they were inclined to allow Sunday hunting.

But Munson, Shank and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, all said they have concerns about allowing deer to be shot on Sundays.

The proposed legislation would merely allow Sunday hunting, not require it.

And it would affect only rural counties.

Still, Sunday hunting is opposed by people who use the woods for hiking, horseback riding and bird watching.

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