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.