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DNR Announces Survey Results on Deer Hunting in Western Maryland

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently contracted with an independent research firm to survey, via telephone, deer hunters and landowners in Western Maryland. The purpose was to gauge support for instituting mandatory antler restrictions for deer hunting in Allegany and Garrett counties, as well as assess awareness of venison donation programs in the region.  

Antler restrictions require an antlered deer, or buck, to have a minimum number of antler points or minimum antler spread to be legal for harvest. The approach offers protection to young bucks by limiting harvest to older, more mature animals. Mandatory antler point restrictions would require hunters on private and public lands to harvest only bucks that meet or exceed the minimum antler restriction.

The survey results found support for antler restrictions from 56 percent of deer hunters living in Garrett County, 65 percent in Allegany County, and 69 percent by those who reside elsewhere in the State but hunt deer in one of the two western counties. There was notably less support for antler restrictions when landowners were surveyed, as only 40 percent in Garrett County and 41 percent in Allegany supported mandatory antler restrictions.

The survey found substantially greater support from hunters and landowners for voluntary quality deer management versus mandatory antler restrictions. Promoting voluntary quality deer management involves an educational effort instructing hunters on how to identify, and thus avoid, harvesting younger bucks. The model also educates hunters about minimizing button buck harvest, harvesting antlerless deer to balance the herd, and addressing deer habitat requirements.

The survey also found that most respondents were familiar with the venison donation programs in the state and would participate in Western Maryland if donation sites were close to their homes or hunting locations.

The Department is working with key stakeholders regarding antler restrictions and will continue that process through the current regulation cycle. Questions about the Survey Report should be directed to DNR Wildlife & Heritage Service at 301-842-0332.

Keep up to date with DNR’s Wildlife & Heritage Service on Facebook and Twitter @MDDNRWildlife.

  • jim hooper

    Antler restriction ls long over due.The state of M.d should take a lesson from Ohio. One buck per license doe tags priced at 15 dollers apiece.All non residents should pay premium for our deer. DNR check out the deer prices in the Midwest .We have a valuable resource lets use it wisely.

  • Joe Aluise

    For the record….I am a landowner in Garrett County and I am 100% for antler restrictions and QDM practices in Western Maryland and think its long overdue!

  • Mike Hall

    antler restriction is a good idea for areas with a large population of deer. however, where i hunt in allegany county, i saw a total of 5 deer while hunting the early muzzleloader and the rifle seasons (hunted a total of 9 days). i strongly prefer the volunteer management over the mandatory management, especially for landowners.

  • Follow the Data. Remain voluntary for the next 3 years on the 3 point rule on all lands Public & Private. Hunters will be able to exercise their own good judgment rather than have it mandated. Forget the spread rule altogether. No buttons during periods when Does are legal. When in doubt don’t shoot, let the little guys grow to be good sized mature bucks. Mature freezer does need to be harvested. This year a doe cannot be taken during late Muzzleloader, WHY! . This needs to be addressed. Bag limits favor bow hunters who have the longest hunting season. Why not extend the late muzzleloader until January 15 and include a doe in the bag limit. Also include Washington Co. in zone A. keep current bag limits for the next 3 years and then take another survey. I’m a private land owner, have hunted deer and upland game for over 62 years. Good Game Management volunteer or mandated is the key to continued good hunting here in Almost Maryland. By the way, you DNR personnel do a good job.

  • Randy Virts

    75% of bucks killed in garrett co. are yearling bucks according to md dnr info for region a … it is time for the state to adopt quality deer management practices

    • Greg Haberkorn

      Even if the State adopts QDM/Point restriction for region A – 75% of our yearling Bucks will still be killed, by poachers, good ol boys filling the freezer and Crop Permits

  • Carl Lee

    Its Time for change. I know that QDMA works. I never received a phone call asking me what I thought about Point Restriction. I am for Point Restriction. We need Change. If you are any kind of a Deer Hunter and your not doing QDMA on you property. You Can Not Be Happy With Your Deer Hunting.

  • Greg Haberkorn

    You can have all the QDM and Point Restriction you want, but if you don’t put a stop to the poaching it will never work around my way, and what about (crop permits) shooting everything that moves.
    A hands on check in station will have to be put back in operation for all Deer (Crop Permits too) for any of this QDM/Point Restriction to work.

  • Ric Snyder

    I don’t think anyone will disagree with the fact that restricting antler size will ultimately increase the overall quality of the buck population. If this is your ultimate goal, then antler size restriction will produce your desired results. But I do think there are drawbacks to this methodology.

    For the first couple of years, there would be a dramatic reduction in the number of bucks harvested. This will result in an overall increase in the deer population. This creates problems in itself. More deer, more crop damage, more traffic accidents, over browsing, etc.

    There are a lot of people in Western Maryland who are seasonal workers. Their jobs are dependent on the weather, tourism, construction and farming. In the winter, these jobs go away and folks depend on hunting to provide protein for their families in the winter. If you take away the probability of their harvesting a buck because of antler size, you take away a much needed food resource when families are out of work. Most hunters here hunt bucks for food not horn size.

    How do you propose to police antler size restrictions? With the current check-in system, that is going to be very difficult. Today you can check-in a deer and call it whatever you want and get a confirmation number. As long as you don’t exceed the season bag limit, you are good to go. I’m sure this happens today. I only suspect it will get worse over time.

    Maybe there are different approaches that could produce the desired results. What about not allowing hunters to harvest bucks for a couple of years and at the same time permitting the taking of two does rather than only one. This would give the buck herd time to increase in numbers and antler size. It would also reduce the deer herd numbers increasing the overall quality of the deer population in Western Maryland. When you have the desired results, institute a restriction on antler size, open up buck hunting and go back to allowing the taking of only one doe per season.

    I don’t profess to be an authority on deer management techniques, just an old hunter with over fifty years experience hunting whitetails.

  • Mark

    Also my family are land owners in Allegany county and was never contacted, we are 100% for antler and QDM which we try to do now, how ever everyone that boarders our ground shoots whatever. Seen a dramatic decrease in the deer population this year as far as bucks go.

  • Crop damage permits need to be dealt with first if you have that big off a problem with deer you should have to open your land to public hunting if you want the permits.a lot of nice bucks are being killed this way and 1 permit is worth 5 or more deer if you are not checked.,

  • Jason McCoy

    I am all for point restrictions. MD is losing insane amounts of revenue annually to residents choosing to hunt PA, OH, IL, etc. I have seen amazing results in PA over the last several years. A healthy herd is a balanced herd. Western MD’s herd is neither. So many PA hunters thought the world was coming to an end when their point restrictions were implemented. Now most are singing it’s praises. I believe a one buck per season limit is also needed. Again, look at OH and PA, among others, as proof. And voluntary restrictions will not work.

    • Greg Haberkorn

      OH. and PA. Have check in stations.

      • Pa. Does not have check stations,however antler restrictions are in my opinion the best thing we ever did. The worst thing was killing the high number of does on public ground. QDM advocates lower doe numbers and it does not work on public ground at least the way Pa. Has tried to do it. You cannot produce fawns with just bucks. Why can’t you have antler restrictions and maintain a healthy number of does. I have been hunting Maryland for 26 years and I applaud your DCNR. For asking hunters what they think. I did recieve a survey call, I have a very high opinion of your western Maryland area and your DCNR officers, they are friendly and courteous.

      • Norman Verbeck

        Pa. doe not have a check station system,however in my opinion antler restrictions were the best thing that we have done to increase the number of older bucks. The worst thing the Pa. game commission did and why I have doubts is the killing of to many doe especially on public ground. If you allow the does to be killed, hunters will kill them.I have hunted Maryland for 26 years as a non-resident and love western Maryland and the people I encounter there., I also have a lot of respect for Maryland DCNR. especially their wildlife officers they are friendly and respectful. Maryland at least surveys their hunters to see what they think. I have been surveyed three or four times from Maryland but never from Pa.

  • joshua footen

    I personally do not favor point restrictions. It should be up to the hunter as to what he wants to kill. If he’s happy with it then why tell him it’s wrong. That being said do I shoot every little buck that walks by. NO! Now am I going to let a 150 spike with ten inch spikes walk by me no. He’s probably never going to be more than that so why not take him out. I do believe herd balance is important though. After working on it for the past several years I’ve seen a near 1 to 1 buck to doe ratio. Now if the state wants to implement antler restrictions on state game lands so be it. But on private property it should be up to the landowner.

  • Ben Dilworth

    I agree with the antler point restrictions for the whole state, I hunt both regions a and b, public and private respectively. I think the spread thing is too hard to judge and would cause a lot of deer to be left laying. I also think there should be a rule to protect the button bucks, let the little deer grow there’s not much meat on them, and plenty big does anyway! Just my opinion.

  • Brian Lease

    If your going to the point restriction do it for all of Maryland..

  • Brian Durst

    Anyone that’s thinks point restrictions would not help does not care about what they are shooting. I believe it would be a great thing to do if people what to see more mature bucks. I am all for point restrictions and what ever else the DNR want to do.

  • Drew Taylor

    The idea of point restrictions is ridiculous for the sole fact that legal deer hunting is not the problem. The problem is NRP not being in the woods, and poaching. There are far too many people taking deer illegally because there is too much time patrolling good old Deep Creek and the State Parks. Also, when you take away the checking stations and go on an “honor system”, people aren’t getting online or calling in kills. The state also should remember that half of the population in Garrett County is living at or below the poverty level, and no matter how hard you try antlers will never feed those families.

  • kay blosse

    Antler restrictions are not the answer. If they really wanted to “grow” large mature whitetails the solution is obivous. The most beneficial option would be to cut the number of antlered deer allowed to be harvested. This isn’t popular, however when done on large tracks of lands success is apparent the second year. Hunters see more bucks and are in general happier with the results. Maryland can run the deer hunting futher I to the ground and catch up to upstate Pennsylvania

  • donnie ashby

    Everyone comeplains theres no quality hunting around garrett county but everyone just wants to complain I personally think the point restriction is a great idea and maybe there should be other steps taken to help the deer population also like cutting down the number of deer a hunter can kill if this would happen for five years everyone would see a difference

  • Rick Perron

    Antler restrictions are LONG OVERDUE in my opinion! Maryland has been missing the boat for years on this provision. The majority of antlered deer harvested in these 2 counties are only 18 months old and should not be happening. We have restrictions of bass, trout and other fish species by size and limits, and there’s no reason why those sound biological practices should not be extended to whitetail deer. Public opinion is very important, but public opinion is not a biological/scientific method of managing whitetail deer. We do not need hunters shooting 2 or 3 18 month old bucks every year, that makes no sense. I’d like to see a one buck limit statewide so we can bring some quality back into our herd rather than just numbers. The goal is not trophy deer, the goal is a stable balanced herd that includes more bucks of the 2-5 year age bracket than what we have now. The vast majority of our bucks are harvested long before they ever fulfill their role in the population and hierarchy of the herd. That is just plain wrong and poor management. Expand the antlerless harvests instead of harvesting bucks and place antler restrictions on all bucks taken. I constantly hear land owners talking about receiving dozens of “crop tags” but yet we can only shoot one doe with a bow and we are done. Then why are land owners getting dozens of tags during august while the bowhunters are limited to one doe? Doesn’t make any sense, and i see many “crop tags” being abused by many who have them.

  • kay blosse

    RICK- antler restrictions are an “easy” fix but when you really look at them they are not good for your deer heard. Anyone who breeds animals will tell you genetics is a large part of a successful program.the issue with antler restrictions as a “judgment guide” Is it still allows the harvesting of 18 month old deer with good genetics, while deer with poor genetics are allowed to continue to breed and pass on inferior genetics. If the goal was really a healthy mature herd. The state would take measures to lesson the total numbers of bucks harvested.

  • Ken Arnold

    I’m a land owner and believe that point restrictions is long overdue and it needs to take effect now . Also there are entirely to many deer being killed. QDMA is a good thing but if not mandatory point restrictions the same people will still kill whatever they see because there is no consequence.

  • Adam Beeman

    Antler restrictions can take our Bucks to the next level. Too many small bucks are being killed before they have the chance to properly mature. I understand people want the meat to eat but when so many small bucks and spikes are being killed we are simply missing out on the true potential of Maryland hunting. Let’s take our sport to the next level with Maryland antler restrictions.

  • Derek Gilpin

    I am all for antler restriction in Maryland it is long over due. According to the Maryland dnr the averaged buck shot is 18 months old if you put a point restriction not only will this increase the deer population but the quality of buck taken. I think QDMA is and excellent idera but you have to make it a law if not the same ppl will continue to shot the same 18 month buck.

  • Jason McCoy

    No they don’t. I check my PA deer in online, just like MD. Have for several years.

  • Greg Haberkorn

    Ken,do you think it will work (QDMA) with the call in check in..
    I don’t!
    All deer including crop permit deer will need to go to a hands on check in station or you will see a major increase in 5 point and 6 point deer being called in!

  • Herb Miller

    I’m a land owner in Garrett County, I own and hunt well over 500 Acres and I saw over 30 bucks( and have them on camera) 6 point or better in the last month, all between 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 in age, I have seen a decrease in giant mature bucks this year, but nothing but an increase in the amount of good healthy young bucks as well as an over population of doe’s. I don’t know where people who think we need restrictions hunt at? but you guys need to become better HUNTERS!