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A tradition of hunting

Some say check-in rules will hurt the sport

Some say check-in rules will hurt the sport

March 30, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Though several of those employed at deer checking stations say they don't believe the state's new automated game registration will put their businesses in the red, many fear the loss of tradition and the erosion of hunting values.

Representatives from five of the seven checking stations in Washington County said they had been awaiting the state's Monday announcement that, starting in September, deer and turkey hunters must call a toll-free number or use the Department of Natural Resources Web site to record their kills.

As a result, hunters will no longer use checking stations, a 74-year tradition.

Michael McCarthy, manager of Dugan's Sporting Goods in Hancock, said he believes the state's decision will take away part of the tradition of hunting, which he said is a vital element to the experience and the staying power of the activity.

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"It takes the whole initial learning experience completely out of it from when you were a child," McCarthy said. "The next generation won't know what checking in a deer or proper management is even about."

McCarthy said having hunters go directly from the woods to their homes will reduce the camaraderie among the sportsmen.

Charles "Chuck" Morrow, an employee at Murray's Sports Center in Williamsport, said most businesses did not operate the stations with the intention of making a lot of money from them.

"We liked having them come in, to hear their stories, stuff like that," Morrow said.

Both said they do not believe the new system using the telephone or Internet, which they said they view as basically an honor system, is a sound deer management strategy.

"People will figure, once they shoot the deer, as long as they get it home, they don't have to worry about checking it in," McCarthy said. "DNR won't really have proper information on how many have been killed. There's no management there."

Gary Himes, owner of Himes' Store near Knoxville, joked that DNR is going to start getting more tall tales and exaggerations than accurate information.

"Everyone thinks their deer weighs more than it does," Himes said. "If it really weighs 100 pounds, it'll come in at 135 pounds."

Himes said he does not believe the $50,000 DNR says will be saved as a result of the change is enough to rationalize the drastic change.

"It's a lot of money, but not to the state of Maryland ... $50,000 to the state of Maryland is like $10 to us," Himes said.

Timothy Stahl, owner of Keystone Sporting Goods in northern Hagerstown, said he sees the change as a positive one.

"It saves the DNR money, it saves the hunters time. It'll hurt me because I won't have the traffic flow from people checking the deer, but overall, it's better for the hunters," Stahl said.

Stahl said the loss of business on such things as soda or food sales will not be enough to seriously hurt the businesses.

He said the owners of businesses that used to serve as deer and turkey weighing stations will have to seek other ways, such as hunting-related contests, to lure customers during the hunting season.

"There's ways to compensate for it. It's up to me to get creative with it," Stahl said.

Dan Ivanescu of Clear Spring Domestic & Imports Auto, said he found out about the change a month ago and was not overly upset.

"Ya know, what are you going to do? You can't do nothing about it," Ivanescu said. "We all knew it was coming."

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