Early Muzzleloader Deer Season Opens In October

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife & Heritage Service today reminded hunters of the early three-day segments of Maryland’s muzzleloader deer season to open in upcoming weeks. The first segment occurs Oct. 16-18. The second, the white-tailed deer antlerless-only segment, occurs the following week, Oct. 23-25, in Deer Management Regions B, C, and D.

The 2002-2003 early segments of the muzzleloader deer season produced a harvest of 15,188 deer (6,945 antlered and 8,243 antlerless). Last hunting season, 60,700 Maryland residents and 7,300 nonresidents purchased muzzleloader stamps, which authorize hunters to hunt deer with a muzzleloading firearm.

In Deer Management Region A, muzzleloader hunters may take one white-tailed deer Oct. 16-18. This deer may be antlered or antlerless when taken on private lands, but muzzleloader hunters may take only antlered deer during this same segment on those lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Region A. Hunters should refer to page 11 of DNR’s guide Hunting and Trapping in Maryland 2003-2004 for a listing of eligible DNR lands.

In Region B, muzzleloader hunters may take two white-tailed deer during the October muzzleloader segments, but only one of these deer may be antlered.

In Region C, muzzleloader hunters may take two deer during the Oct. 16-18 segment, but only one may be antlered. During the Oct. 23-25 segment in Region C, unlimited antlerless deer may be taken with muzzleloaders.

In Region D, muzzleloader hunters may take a total of three deer during the October muzzleloader segments, but only one may be antlered. No more than two deer may be taken during the Oct. 16-18 segment.

Sika deer muzzleloader deer season is open in Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties during the Oct. 16-18 segment; hunters may take one antlered or antlerless sika deer. Antlered sika deer are defined as any sika deer with at least one antler visible above the hairline. Sika deer muzzleloader season is closed Oct. 23-25.

Telescopic sights and sabots are permissible for muzzleloader deer hunting. Muzzleloading rifles must be at least .40 caliber and must be loaded with at least 60 grains of black powder or an equivalent amount of black-powder substitute.

Bow hunters are reminded that bow season for deer is closed during the Oct. 16-18 segment of the muzzleloader season. Bow hunters may hunt with a bow on these days, but they must check any deer taken against the muzzleloader bag limit. Also, bow hunters must possess a muzzleloader stamp when bow hunting Oct. 16-18. Bow season remains open Oct. 23-25, and bow hunters must check any deer taken against the bow bag limit.

Hunters checking deer in Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, and Cecil Counties on Oct. 16 may be asked to provide DNR with a brain sample from their deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance. DNR will examine 50 deer from each county. These counties are at highest risk for CWD because of captive cervids in Maryland and adjacent Pennsylvania. Five of these counties were sampled last year, but no CWD-positive animals were found. No CWD was found in any eastern coast states that sampled deer for CWD in 2002. Maryland hunters will be notified by late winter if their deer tested positive for CWD.

Muzzleloader deer hunting is one component of DNR’s deer-management program. Areas with deer-hunting programs contain fewer deer and more diverse wildlife species than non-hunted areas do. Deer browse on woodland plants, such as understory shrubs, wild flowers, vines, and forbs (herbs other than grass). Therefore, forests with deer numbers more in balance with the habitat contain a greater diversity of plants. This forest type contributes to the health of the Chesapeake Bay by absorbing nutrients before they reach the Bay’s tributaries.

For more information on Maryland deer hunting regulations, consult DNR’s Hunting and Trapping in Maryland 2003-2004. This guide is issued when a hunter purchases a 2003-2004 Maryland hunting license. It is available at all DNR Service Centers and can be found on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.md.us/huntersguide