Dear Deer: Sundays May Not Be a Day of Rest for You After All. Love, Your Hunters

Maryland lawmakers are trying to balance the need to cull the state's deer population with the wishes of trail riders to have the woods to themselves on Sundays.

Lawmakers are trying to balance the need to cull the state's deer population with the wishes of trail riders to have the woods to themselves on Sundays. File|Patch
Lawmakers are trying to balance the need to cull the state's deer population with the wishes of trail riders to have the woods to themselves on Sundays. File|Patch

Is Sunday meant for riding and fox hunts, or deer hunting? Supporters of the pastimes are at odds over proposed legislation that could change how the Anne Arundel countryside is used.

Sundays have become a prime day for riding and fox hunts in the county since deer hunting is banned that day. But a bill being debated in the Maryland General Assembly could get rid of the so-called “safe Sundays” to allow deer hunting to control an increasing whitetail deer population.

House Bill 197, introduced by Del. Bob Costa, R-Deale, would ask the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to determine the best way to cull the expanding deer herd, blamed for crop damage and car accidents, reports the Capital Gazette.

Anne Arundel’s General Assembly delegation put a hold on the bill on Friday, the paper said, likely so it can be amended to reduce the number of Sunday hunting days from about 15 to a handful.

Leaders of the county and state horse industry are fighting HB 197 to preserve what they call “safe Sundays,” the newspaper says.

“People know Sundays are safe for trail riding, fox hunting and other recreational uses in the woods,” Maryland Horse Council board member Steuart Pittman, who trains horses at his family’s Dodon Farm in Davidsonville, told the Capital Gazette.

If granted the power, the Department of Natural Resources will probably approve Sunday hunting, says the newspaper. The agency backs the bill, saying a Sunday hunt would meet requests for more hunting and provide a cost-effective way to manage the deer population.

“We can’t look for a solution to manage deer and do away with (this) option,” Paul Peditto, director of DNR’s wildlife service, told the newspaper. ‘‘This is the ultimate tool … there is no other magic bullet.”

>>Read the full Capital Gazette story on "Safe Sundays" at: http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/government/maryland-s-sunday-deer-hunting-proposal-could-conflict...

Robin Anderson February 01, 2014 at 07:33 AM
Could they just allow more doe hunting instead? It's obviously the bigger problem. The same way we need to preserve the female crab to keep UP the crab population, if we cull a few female deer it should keep DOWN the deer population.
Peggy Anne February 01, 2014 at 10:57 AM
Sundays are for peace. Killing animals is not peaceful. Neutering is the answer. What if we cull a few humans to keep down the rampant growth in the old suburbs ? Maybe an "Egg Away" spray is in the works at the lab down the street. I would be happy to spray it in super markets, trains, etc. People are the problem. We think we are better than other animals. I read the news headlines, and find that to be not quite true.
Robin Anderson February 01, 2014 at 11:21 AM
Is there birth control for deer?
TomP February 01, 2014 at 08:52 PM
Why not do something intelligent and allow deer hunting until noon on Sundays? Trail riders, foxhunters, bird watchers, hikers, bikers, and all of the rest of us that use our state parks for recreation would gladly accept access after noon. We recognize the clear need to control and reduce the deer population, but leaving state land for the exclusive use of deer hunters is hardly the answer.
elaine whitmore February 02, 2014 at 08:32 AM
Peggy Anne: Amen! My sentiments exactly. PEOPLE ARE PROBLEMS. My house only observes peace for Mother Nature and all of her beautiful critters, as for humans...
TomP February 02, 2014 at 01:35 PM
The animal lover sentiment is certainly an easy answer, but it really does not address the problem. In fact, there are far more deer in the region now than ever before. They can and will run out of adequate "browse" to support their needs. Starving deer are not pretty and this is occurring in some states not very far from Maryland. We need to hunt deer to reduce this population, but the relentless expansion of the season to the detriment of all other users of the state owned resources is simply unfair.
Kirk Mantay February 03, 2014 at 12:11 AM
First things first - if you oppose Sunday hunting on your farm, then inform your hunters that you won't allow Sunday hunting. It would be your right to do so. If you can, convince your neighbors likewise. It is their right to do so. The "safety" angle is a ruse. In 10 years of Sunday hunting in Anne Arundel County, and throughout Maryland, not a single incident of a horse or horse/rider incident with a Sunday hunter has been reported. Why? Good landowner coordination, respectful hunters, and riders who take the time to learn property boundaries. Riders and hunters share public and private land on Sundays in 44 other states without any statistical increase in risk for those reasons. It's impossible to understand why I can fire an assault rifle all day long on Sunday in this county, but I can't shoot one arrow from a bow at a deer, hundreds of yards from any other person, road, or building. How is that less safe than assault rifle target practice? "Wildlife day of rest" is an outdated concept dismissed by biologists over 50 years ago. A deer does not have a day of rest from being spooked by fox hounds, by horses, by mountain bikers, by coyotes, by disease or by hunger. Deer do not have a "day of rest" from people firing machine guns all day long - which is legal on Sundays, or those who are scouting the woods for future deer hunts - legal on Sundays. Deer do not have a "day of rest" from being hit by Volvos. There is no "day of rest" for any species not in human captivity/ownership. The earth is a tough place to survive, and keeping 5% of citizens out of the woods on one day doesn't make it much easier. Many in the horse community want more deer reduction on their private for-profit farms, without Sunday hunting. The options they propose are sharpshooters (to be paid for by you, the taxpayer), and managed hunts (to be managed by state employees that must be hired and paid by you, the taxpayer). Not only are bow hunters free, but typically they pay landowners for the pleasure. Hunters and all other outdoor users safely share Sundays afield in 98% of this country's acreage. 10 years of Sunday hunting in Maryland shows the same. Anyone has the right to be afraid of what may one day happen under awful, illegal, or unfortunate circumstances. But don't tell me that I can't pursue an otherwise safe, legal activity on my own land one day per week because you are afraid to have it occur on your land. That's not fair.
Kirk Mantay February 03, 2014 at 12:19 AM
TomP - that's an interesting compromise (hunting before noon, none afterwards). A local nature center that I support has bowhunters on site only until 9am on any given day, which is when the center opens. The hunters (I'm not one) find this to be an equitable compromise. To your comment though - there are *NO* bills pending (or any that would ever move through Annapolis) that would allow Sunday hunting on PUBLIC property. While I'd argue that it's statistically safe, I (a definite Sunday hunting proponent) would find it hard to believe that there's a significant "public need" for Sunday hunting on public lands in AA County.
Kirk Mantay February 03, 2014 at 12:22 AM
Another concept that's been proposed by the horse community has been "raising the bag limit." Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your view, AA County has an "unlimited" tag limit for antlerless (young and/or female) deer. A licensed hunter can kill literally endless numbers of young deer or does. The math on increasing "unlimited" hasn't been presented to me yet....
Jim Brown March 03, 2014 at 01:58 PM
There is some misinformation in this article. The law attempting to be passed would only apply to private land not public. If there is an issue with a landowner that has given permission to both riders and hunters, then that has to be taken up with the landowner. The government should not have the right to dictate to landowners what legal activities are permissible on their property just because a few horse riders aren't happy.
TomP March 03, 2014 at 04:46 PM
Jim, believe me, no foxhunter in the state of Maryland has any desire to restrict the rights of a private landowner. The difficulty seems to be that we regularly pass bills allowing hunting on private land, then we pass a bill allowing hunting on public land. First it is just county A that is affected, then it is county B and C. I think some of us have had enough of the submission of the state to the rather narrow wishes of the deer hunters.
Jim Brown March 03, 2014 at 08:00 PM
Tom, to test my understanding. You are against this bill, which deals specifically with private landowners, b/c it may or may not lead to other public opportunities. That is incredibly selfish. Also, you have access to public lands year round. Hunting is only allowed September through January. Again, you sound extremely selfish.
TomP March 03, 2014 at 08:38 PM
Jim, are you a deer hunter or simply a "concerned citizen"?
Jim Brown March 03, 2014 at 08:57 PM
Tom, what difference does that make?
TomP March 03, 2014 at 09:51 PM
Well, gee, when you state that my position is perhaps "incredibly" selfish when in fact, if firearms are in use in the forest that I might be walking through armed with nothing but a pair of binoculars, and when you state that "hunting is only allowed for five months of the year which just happen to be the same five months that other users of the resource would like to have access, and then you accuse me of perhaps being "extremely selfish", I have to wonder what dog you have in the fight. If you wish not to identify your interests, that's fine, but let's be up front. Personally, I am a birdwatcher, hiker, and a foxhunter. The explicit danger of the extended firearms season is a significant concern to me. That is the difference it makes.
Jim Brown March 04, 2014 at 08:14 AM
Tom, If you're walking thru a forest that has hunters on it then you would be trespassing, as this bill deals strictly with private land. 44 other states in this country allow Sunday hunting. There are absolutely zero incidents of hunters injuring or killing bird watchers, hikers or anyone else that is using the woods. I'm pretty sure Maryland does not have some unique circumstances from these other states that would necessitate special regulations to disallow a landowner from using his property any way he sees fit. I understand your concern but believe me, you are no less safe on Sunday or any other day of the week for that matter.
Robin Anderson March 04, 2014 at 08:22 AM
Jim, where do you get this information that there are "zero incidents of hunters injuring or killing" other people? "According to the International Hunter Education Association, approximately 1,000 people in the US and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters every year, and just under a hundred of those accidents are fatalities. Most victims are hunters, but non-hunters are also sometimes killed or injured. Although some other forms of recreation cause more fatalities, hunting is one of the few activities that endangers the entire community, and not just the willing participants." These fatalities and injuries wouldn't be any less so on a Sunday. Perhaps more so, because more people are out in the woods for recreation on a Sunday because it's not a school day or a work day. On a Sunday, on public lands, in foot or riding my horse, I feel uncomfortable when I see the signs in trees stating "hunting zone" and "no hunting" that are separated only by a dirt path. Just like a heated arguement on a thread, bullet may not know when to stop. And should I trust blindly that the hunter will know which side of the zone he's in? By the way, I don't think that wanting to keep Sundays gun free year round is selfish.
Jim Brown March 04, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Robin, cutting and pasting a blurb off the internet from an animal rights website is hardly what I would call unbiased information. That fact is that in the state of Maryland there have been zero reports of someone killed by a hunter. You are 60 times more likely to be injured in a motor vehicle accident than in a hunting related accident. Does that mean your are going to stop driving as well? Out of all recreational activities only billiards and camping rank higher in safety than hunting. Also, I see your are referring to safety issues regarding public land. This bill deals specifically with private land. There are many other counties in Maryland which do allow Sunday hunting. Please point out any accidental shootings that have occurred in any of those counties.
TomP March 04, 2014 at 09:35 AM
Jim, of course "the fact is" that when gun hunting is ongoing in the area, hikers, birdwatchers and horse riders simply stay out. Hard to be shot when you aren't there. And as for the trespass issue you raised earlier, the groups that I am associated with do have permission from private landowners to be on their land. Why would you assume otherwise?
Jim Brown March 04, 2014 at 09:55 AM
Do the landowners you have permission with also allow hunting to occur simultaneously? And for as far as avoiding being in the woods for fear of being shot, There are numerous public land parks where hunting and other recreational activities occur simultaneously. Have there been any reports of someone being shot? Of course not, so why would private land be any different? I just don't know where all this fear is coming from. You stand a far greater chance of killing yourself from falling off your horse than being shot by a hunter.
Robin Anderson March 04, 2014 at 10:52 AM
Jim, You are correct that the website I quoted does appear to be an animal rights activist site, but their link quotes valid sources that give details of injuries and deaths that can be looked up. Or you can google these three words: hunter mistaken shot. This will give you a choice of results from news stations around the US. I asked you where you got your information stating that there are absolutely zero injuries? What is your source? And the reason for my concern is this: I have a standing permission from several private land owners to take a walk in their woods(on foot or by horseback), but those same landowners also allow hunting on weekdays. If Sunday hunting is allowed, it will be nearly impossible for hunters, nature lovers, and landowners to easily plan out a Sunday afternoon without a bit of work. Some of the PUBLIC places we hike with my aging mother or trail ride is beside PRIVATE land. Stray bullets happen, not every hunter has perfect aim or sense of direction. Property line confusions happen(just ask the property owners adjoining Rosaryville State Park, where the park mislabeled their lines). Private land and public lands will both be affected by these decisions. If hunting season were extended by several weeks but Sundays left free, wouldn't that be better for all?
Jim Brown March 04, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Robin, If you have any issue with your landowners then I would suggest you take it up with them. Perhaps something could be worked out where hunting would not be allowed on Sunday. It's their property and they get to decide who and when they grant access. But to try push legislation on the millions of other landowners because of your situation is selfish. I won't get into how the length of the hunting season is determined. That would take up pages. But one thing I can assure you, if a bill came out to extend it, there would be just as much if not more pushback from horse riders then this bill which equates to a handful of Sundays.
Robin Anderson March 04, 2014 at 12:53 PM
Jim, I have DNR police that hunt on my private property. I give them permission, but they still have to check with me the night before they hunt just to confirm that it's still okay to come onto my land before sunrise with their guns. This is an arrangement we have. Not all property owners are as hands on as I am about this. I am sure that as a rider, I will have to check to see if I'll need to make new arrangements with the properties I have open ended permission for Sundays year round. I am still concerned about the invisible line between properties that won't stop a Sunday bullet. I don't know why you are so hard set to include a handful of Sundays. If it's only a handful, why do you care?


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