Burton on the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 26

June 27 - July 3, 2002

Current Issue

Everyone Loves a Parade

Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Burton on the Bay
Chesapeake Outdoors
Not Just for Kids
Eight Days a Week
What's Playing Where
Curtain Call
Music Notes
Sky Watch
Bay Classifieds
Behind Bay Weekly
Advertising Info
Distribution spots
Contact us

Let ’Em Hunt

Thank you, Gov. Glendening, for vetoing the Sunday hunting legislation.
— Mary P. Marsh, Arnold

Now that got my attention. Those words comprised the first sentence, why the entire first paragraph, of a recent letter to the editor of this publication. What piqued my curiosity most: If the Maryland Conservation Council was what its name implies, it must be cognizant of the other people-wildlife conflicts posed by an overabundance of whitetail deer. So why was it gloating that the governor had vetoed a bill that would have afforded hunters an additional day to cull some of the excess?

Bothersome also was a critique of deer management in Maryland suggesting we are not getting serious in using science-based deer herd management. Methinks our deer program is among the best; its problems arise mostly because people who complain about marauding whitetails don’t want hunters to hunt them. What other effective and economically affordable control alternatives are there?

That’s why I wondered why the Maryland Conservation Council was against one day of deer hunting on the Sabbath. Sunday hunting was proposed because legislators — including Speaker of the House Cass Taylor — figured an extra day of hunting would add to the harvest of pesky deer.

To me, Ms. Marsh’s letter sounds more like anti-hunter sentiment than boosting conservation/environmental concerns.

The Problem
Deer, you see, are eating themselves out of house and home. Their appetites are ruining habitat for other birds and animals. They are a nuisance to many homeowners; they eat the crops of farmers. And they annually cost Maryland motorists hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in vehicle repairs — that on top of many injuries, and even deaths, among those whose vehicles strike deer or crash as they try to avoid them.

Personally, I’m not much interested in hunting on Sundays, but because I’m not, I have no objections to other hunters doing so. After all, isn’t that what this country is all about?

The Contention
What raised my hackles are the following two paragraphs I noted not only in this newspaper but also in the Evening Capital and the Maryland Gazette. What do we have here, a serial writer?

Mary P. Marsh wrote:
Most important, the Sunday hunting legislation [House Bill 9] placed Maryland citizens at risk on the one Sunday during deer [modern firearms only] hunting season that frequently [always] coincides with the Thanksgiving weekend.

Hikers, invasive plant removal crews, birders, equestrians and bicyclists would have been prevented from enjoying Maryland’s rural area during that time. From lodging to meals to side-trip antiquing, travelers would have been inhibited from visiting our rural areas during the four-day holiday. Many legislators realized this and exempted their counties from the legislation.

Whew! I’m a hunter, but I never realized I posed such a danger — or that I intimidated others to such a degree. Jack Lewnes of Port Republic subsequently followed with a letter published in this sheet defending the rights of hunters to go afield on the Sabbath, and he made some good points. But I must add mine to the list.

Safety First
First and foremost, I dare say that a non-hunting recreational user of the forests, fields and marshes has more danger of being injured, killed or of suffering property damage from deer not harvested on a Sunday’s hunting (only one Sunday would have been opened) than that person would have faced from hunters had the legislation not been vetoed.

Since I arrived to cover the outdoors for the Sun in 1956, I’ve not heard of one incident in which a non-hunter in Maryland was killed or even injured by a hunter. Also, reliable statistics prove hunting is one of the safest of all sports.

In addition, the record indicates that Maryland hunting accidents involve only hunters injuring or killing themselves or other hunters. Non-hunters have never been the victim.

Methinks a hunter on a ground deer-stand is more vulnerable to an equestrian’s runaway horse than said equestrian is to a stray shot or being mistaken for game. Maryland hunters have a fine safety record — and to state otherwise is blatant heresy.

Might I also ask, considering the safety record of Maryland hunters, why would one think they would pose more of a danger on a Sunday than in the six days of the week they are allowed to hunt?

Alone in the Field
Another question I have is where are all these birdwatchers, equestrians, backpackers, primitive campers, hikers and others who supposedly use the hunting grounds — and wouldn’t if Sunday hunting was allowed?

In 67 years of hunting, I have never come upon a horseback rider, birdwatcher, picnicker or invasive plant removal crew on the hunting grounds.

I can count the number of hikers, primitive non-hunter campers and backpackers I’ve encountered with the fingers on my two hands, not counting my thumbs — and I’ve spent many a Sunday afield scouting (but not hunting) for game in Maryland — as I have hunting in other states where Sunday hunting is legal. It’s legal in all but seven states, by my latest count.

Hunting on a Sunday is no big deal seeing that only seven counties would have been allowed to do so under the bill as amended. They would have been in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland and Dorchester County on the lower Eastern Shore. Sixteen counties were dropped via amendments from the original legislation.

Room Enough for Both?
Remember in Aesop’s Fables, the story about the camel that stuck his head in the Arab’s tent because his nose was cold, then pleaded to get his whole body inside? Then what did he do? He told the Arab to leave: There’s not enough room for both of us.

That’s what we have here. The non-hunter recreationists started using our wildlife management and other public lands (many paid for by outdoorsmen) years ago for non-hunting pursuits. And we had no objections. We welcomed them.

Now, like the fabled camel, they tell us ‘Go away, we don’t feel safe in the woods when you are hunting.’ There’s something wrong here.

Methinks, the whole issue involves not seven counties hunting deer with modern firearms on the first Sunday after the opening of the season, but instead anti-hunters who don’t want us to hunt at all. They keep chipping away at all hunting opportunity, even when targeted to the removal of destructive overpopulations of whitetails.

Admittedly, hunters are in the minority. Society is changing and many don’t hunt anymore. They prefer to buy their meat from the market. But there are some who still prefer wholesome, healthy, low-fat wildlife. Others hunt as a means to put food on the table, food they couldn’t otherwise afford. Still others hunt for a healthy recreational pursuit.

To deny them one Sunday — and only in seven counties and only for deer — does not seem to have much justification. That’s the way it looks from here.

Enough said …

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly