Hunting in Maryland, for many of us sportsmen is something special. Most of us cannot wait until September 15th each year, and hate when January 31st comes around. We spend hours upon hours in a tree, blind, or stalking through the woods trying to get an opportunity to harvest a deer. Some are after meat for the winter and the following summer, others are after a trophy buck, and then some of us fall under both categories. Most hunters go through what many call seasons or stages (similar information is taught in hunter safety). My idea of the stages are as follows: the first is the harvest stage where you are just out to harvest a deer, either because you have not before, or are just looking for meat. The second stage is the trophy stage, this is the stage where you sit in the woods and watch doe and small bucks alike walk by waiting on that one trophy that may or may not ever show up. Finally, the third and final stage is the sportsman stage. This stage is where you are after the right animal for you whether for a trophy buck or a mature doe to fill your freezers. I have gone through the stages and in the last 7 or so years I have been in the sportsman stage.
The sportsman stage is generally where I take doe’s unless the buck is something that I feel either should not be in the gene pool, or is a trophy. This is also based on the amount of meat in my freezer at the current time and where I am hunting.
Bow hunting in Maryland has people of all these stages out in the woods each day during the bow season trying to meet their goal. As I meet different people in different stages, with different ideas and tactics, I learn something new about a location, product or style of hunting each time.
Like all good things, there is some bad as well. I find myself hunting on public land more often than not, as I only have one piece of private land to hunt currently. While on public lands, I have witnessed, heard stories of, and seen the aftereffects of people who do wrong. The people that do wrong gives Maryland bow hunters that try very hard to do right, a bad name and really hurts the image of bow hunting in general.
The wrong things that I see most is either people hunting illegally, on either private land that they do not have permission for, or hunting on public land that is not open to hunting. This opens up land owners that are not willing to allow honest hunters permission to hunt on their land because someone else wanted to cheat. Then, you have hunters who hunt on public land that is not open to hunting whom are more or less just taking away from the honest hunter’s chances and if they are caught gives hunting a bad name in the press. The next thing that I see is people either shooting deer just for the antlers and leaving the bodies, or dumping the carcass after field butchering. All I can say is either way you look at it, doing this is wrong. Most of the time hikers or others exploring nature find this and it again, gives hunting a bad name and could be dangerous. That said, if you are shooting a deer just for the antlers and leave the carcass, this is illegal and you could pay a hefty price for this if you are caught and lose your license. The final thing I see that is against Maryland’s public hunting rules is the use of permanent treestands (ladder stand or lock-on stands). Most all public lands only allow you to use climbing treestands and you must take them out of the woods with you when you leave each day. Many private land owners feel the same way because using other types of stands can be dangerous, damaging to the trees, or could lead to vandalism or theft. Public lands mostly are worried about tree damage and safety concerns.
All of these bad things give a great sport a bad name. The positive aspects like being the major factor in reducing the deer population in central Maryland impacts things such as, habitat for other animals, car accidents involving deer, quality of our forests, and many more.
We, as Maryland sportsmen need to think about what the sport really means and what our actions could do to either help or hurt the sport. We also have to remember as we teach friends, family, and others how to enjoy the sport; it is our obligation to show them the correct and legal way to participate in hunting.
Each Time you enter the woods, think ethically and responsibly. Only take an animal if you intend to use it, in your efforts make sure you are doing everything safely and legally. Remember to respect the land in which you are hunting by taking care of the habitat and removing any trash. Finally, remember, if you do not act responsibly and you get caught, you could be risking your hunting rights, the animal you harvested, your bow or firearm, your vehicle, money, and if none of those are bad enough you could risk going to jail.
So hunt often, but hunt safely, legally, and responsibly.