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Deer hunters face fewer restrictions

October 14, 2002

andrews@herald-mail.com

Tri-State wildlife officials hope less restrictive hunting regulations will help thin rapidly growing deer populations.

In West Virginia, hunters in the Eastern Panhandle and some other counties will be permitted to kill three antlerless deer this season instead of two, said Paul Johansen, the assistant chief in charge of game management for the state's Division of Natural Resources.

Also, the antlerless deer season will run concurrently with the two-week buck season, overlapping more than it did before, he said.

Hunting is considered an important way to manage the deer population, so Maryland has extended its seasons and "liberalized" its regulations, said Heather Lynch, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Natural Resources.

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Some changes involve Washington County, which is divided into regions.

In the eastern section of the county, which is grouped with Carroll County and part of Frederick County, the bag limit for each deer season - bow, firearm and muzzleloader - has been increased from two to three. As before, no more than one of the deer may be antlered.

The antlerless October muzzleloader season has been expanded from two days to three.

In the western section of Washington County, which is grouped with Allegany and Garrett counties, the Division of Natural Resources has added two days on which antlerless deer may be shot on private land during the October muzzleloader season.

Pennsylvania has also altered its deer seasons, in particular imposing tougher restrictions on shooting bucks.

In a report at its Web site, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said its guidelines over the last 70 years have encouraged too much buck hunting at the expense of doe hunting, leading to a great imbalance.

Franklin and Fulton are among the counties in which bucks now must have at least three points on one side before they can be hunted, said Jerry Feaser, the Game Commission's press secretary.

Before, bucks needed to have a spike at least 3 inches long or an antler with at least two points.

"By increasing the number of points required to be legal, we will protect a significant percentage of younger bucks by allowing them to live longer," Gary Alt, supervisor of the Game Commission Deer Management Section, says at the commission's Web site. "This should increase enormously the number of bucks living at least one more year, and, in the long term, hunters will likely see more and larger bucks than they have ever seen before."

Feaser said the Game Commission is trying to balance the buck and deer ratio, improve the quality of the herds and lower the deer population in crowded areas.

"In some areas, deer are literally eating themselves out of house and home," creating a "browse line" where there is no vegetation left for them to reach, he said.

Johansen, of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said the overpopulation problem is clear in the Eastern Panhandle.

The Division of Natural Resources measures deer population by the number of bucks killed per square mile. Johansen said the target ratio is 2.5 in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, but the ratio last year was 3.48 in Berkeley and 3.29 in Jefferson.

In Morgan County, the target last year was 3.5, but the ratio was 5.19.

The higher kill rates show "there's more deer than we'd like to see," Johansen said.

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