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Outdoors

Numbers seldom lie; do the math

Numbers seldom lie; do the math

June 11, 2006|by BILL ANDERSON

Over the past week or so, I have spent a lot of time going over the deer harvest figures from Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and some other states in our region of the country.

When looking at this type of issue all you have are the numbers. The numbers are what the numbers are - they seldom lie. When you look at deer harvest for the firearms season in Maryland and West Virginia, you get two completely different pictures. The numbers are obvious, but what they mean will be widely debated over the coming months.

Looking first at Maryland, I see a state with a relatively stable deer herd. This despite the fact that it has basically made the bag limits so high in the eastern portion of the state that no one is filling all of the tags they are given. This past season my Maryland nonresident license allowed for up to 36 deer - 12 bow tags, 12 tags for muzzleloader season and 12 for general firearms season.

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The kill totals for the past five years in Maryland look like this: 2001 - 40,038 deer; 2002 - 51,290; 2003 - 48,988; 2004 - 44,266; 2005 - 44,941. The numbers show some variance that I would expect given varied weather conditions and other factors from season to season.

But the key is that the trend is fairly stable, and shows a deer herd that is being managed to at least check the growth of the overall herd. The number of deer in most counties seems to be fairly consistent for five years.

Now compare to West Virginia. Once again looking at the kill total for the general firearms season: 2001 - 99,375; 2002 - 96,555; 2003 - 73,128; 2004 - 63,873; 2005 - 56,347.

One does not have to be a math major to see that this trend is completely different than the trend in Maryland. The kill total has dropped from almost 100,000 in 2001 to approximately 56,000 in 2005. Something is seriously out of sync here. It's not weather or mast production. It is a deer herd that is significantly smaller that it was five years ago. The numbers are what the numbers are.

The next issue is the approach the West Virginia DNR plans for the near term and long term. There is a pure science part of this picture - managing the natural resource, etc. There is also a political and economic aspect.

Deer hunting is a major revenue producer in West Virginia. I have heard from more that a few nonresident hunters who do not plan to hunt West Virginia in the near future.

Some West Virginia residents are probably applauding this, but ask your elected reps if they agree. Or the folks that run the restaurants, motels or country stores that cater to deer hunters. It's a big business and right now the product is not too appealing to many out-of-state hunters.

It will be interesting to watch this play out.




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

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