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Don't drop game check-ins

March 31, 2005

To save an estimated $50,000, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is dumping the 74-year-old system that requires deer and turkey hunters to bring their kills to approved checking stations.

To save an amount that is a drop in the bucket in terms of the state budget, we believe the DNR is risking a number of problems. State lawmakers should not allow it.

DNR officials say they're changing from the traditional check-in system to one in which hunters call a toll-free number or use the Internet because harvest levels have grown to more than 85,000 animals each year.

In addition, DNR officials say, more hunters each year complain that when they kill a deer near dusk - when all hunting must stop - it's tough to get to an approved checking station in time.

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It's also difficult, they said, to recruit stores for check-in stations in more urban areas, which they say inconveniences those who take game there.

Here are some of the potential problems we see. If someone kills a deer illegally after dark by spotlighting it, then calls it in the next morning, how will the DNR know anything is wrong?

Suppose someone kills a buck out of season, or uses a firearm during bow season? With no one looking at the animal, who will know that someone has broken the law?

Just as important, if there are diseased animals in the forest, it might be difficult for the average hunter to recognize signs of that, while an experienced check-in official might pick up on it immediately.

Most hunters are honest, and we would like to believe that most are knowledgeable, but we believe the present system works well and also brings some additional business to stores that serve as check-in stations.

Hunters pay license fees for such services and shouldn't have to forego them just to save DNR agents trouble and thestate a tiny little bit of money. State lawmakers should make sure this is one tradition that isn't eliminated.

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