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Stores miss hunters on first day of deer season

November 27, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Hunters in Washington County entered the first day of firearms deer season Saturday with mixed feelings about the state's new game-checking rules.

The state this year ended the 74-year practice of requiring hunters to register their deer at game-checking stations, instead asking hunters to register online or by phone.

After registering, hunters receive a confirmation number, which is required before the deer can be taken to a butcher or taxidermist.

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said the new system will save taxpayers money. The Associated Press reported in March that annual registration of the nearly 90,000 deer and turkeys killed cost the DNR $150,000.

Earlier this month, the DNR said deer seasons contribute more than $150 million to the state economy. More than half of all deer hunted are killed during firearms season, and Washington County had the state's most kills last year - 6,375 - according to DNR.

"It isn't really the state's money, it's the hunter's money that's being spent," said Doug Mongan, sales manager at Keystone Sporting Goods in Hagerstown. "It's a shame that they don't even get a say in how it's being spent."

Deer season usually meant a boost in revenue for local sporting goods stores that served as game-checking stations. The stores received 75 cents for each deer brought in, Mongan said. Hundreds of hunters also were likely to make purchases while registering their deer.

The first day of firearms season usually brought 250 to 300 people into Murray's Sporting Goods in Williamsport, owner Jack Murray said.

But this year, five hunters came through his shop on opening day. Most of them came because they had questions about the new system, he said.

"It took customers away from us," he said. "(The state) says it is a good thing but I don't agree with that, but then again I'm just a small part of the picture."

Mongan said the new system put less pressure on hunters to register deer and could promote illegal hunting.

"If you have the capabilities of cutting up a deer yourself, you could just shoot it, cut it up and put it in your freezer if you know you don't have to make that trip to a game-checking station," Mongan said.

Though unethical deer hunters had that option before the new system was put in place, Mongan said hunters now had fewer incentives to register deer.

"That deer ain't got to see nobody," Mongan said.

Hunters used to meet up and show off their deer at check-in stations.

"We liked to have people come in so we could take pictures and put them on our bulletin board," Mongan said.

Much of that camaraderie was lost with the new system, said Calvin Staubs, a hunter from Hagerstown. He said he called in to register a buck he killed Saturday morning.

"I don't like it because I don't think they're going to get a true reading," he said. "I killed a buck today. I could cut it myself if I wanted."

Butcher Bob Holsinger Sr., owner of Holsinger's Meat Market in Maugansville, said his shop hasn't seen a decline in the number of deer brought in.

"I didn't think it would make any difference," Holsinger said of the new system. "I think it's working quite well."

He said about 250 hunters brought deer to his shop Saturday, about the same amount as last year.

"We did 3,000 deer last season and I have the feeling we're going to be right on par with that this year," Holsinger said.

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