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Bear season lasts barely a day in Md.

October 31, 2004|by BILL ANDERSON

After years of talking, planning, committees and legal wrangling, the first modern day bear hunt in Maryland lasted a total of one day.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources closed the season after just one day when 20 bears were checked in on Monday. At the time of closing, DNR officials said it bears taken on opening day might be checked in on Tuesday, but the total had not changed as of Friday, so it looks like 20 will be the official kill.

DNR officials said allowing the season to proceed a second day would risk taking more bears than the stated management objective of 30 bears. Given the highly charged political climate, it was the right decision. The last thing they needed was a kill that exceeded the stated harvest total.

Officials from the DNR said that the success of the hunt verifies the department's long-time positions on overall size of the bear population in Maryland. They are right, of course. Common sense would point out that the bear population is quite large and stable if a very limited, permit-only hunt can take this many animals in just one day.


As you may recall, the scheduled dates for the bear season were Oct. 25-30, and Dec. 6-11, as needed. The DNR received more than 2,000 applications for the 2004 bear permits, and a total of 200 permits were issued through a random computerized lottery.

There is no word yet on total hunter participation for the first - and only -day of this historic season.

For more information on the black bear in Maryland, go to

November means woodcock

With all of the various outdoors activities currently in season, the one that gets only a little attention is the annual migration of woodcock. Like many gamebirds, the woodcock hunting in our area comes from a few resident birds, and a large influx of migrating birds that pass through the area in the spring and fall.

Woodcock are one of nature's strangest creatures. If you look one up in a reference book, you will find a squat little bird with a long, curved beak, and eyes that seem to sit too far back in their heads. In New England, they are sometimes called timberdoodles or doodles. Most hunters in this area refer to them as woodcock, or simply cock.

West Virginia is famous for its woodcock hunting. The Canaan Valley region is the area in the state that attracts woodcock hunters from around the country for the annual migration. The region in one of the key migration paths as the birds make their way from the northern nesting grounds toward warmer states such as Louisiana, which is a prime wintering area.

When looking for woodcock in the Canaan Valley and the higher elevation areas in Western Maryland, one key type of cover are stands of hawthorn trees. Hawthorns grow in huge fields in the Canaan region and offer the most consistent habitat for finding birds. Some of the better covers are being grazed by cattle.

Woodcock prefer to feed in areas with moist soil and relatively open ground. They feed by using their beak to probe the ground for earthworms.

Another favorite type of woodcock cover is an alder thicket. Stands of alders also feature lots of open ground under their branches and they are found in the moist soil conditions that woodcock need as they hunt for worms. One very good area to look for birds are the fringe areas near beaver ponds, which very often are ringed by alders and similar vegetation that does well in a wet soil environment.

Maryland's woodcock season is Nov. 5-26 and Jan. 15-22, 2005. The daily bag limit is three birds per day.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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