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A successful deer drive produced this public land buck for Steve Kennedy of Thurmont during the Maryland early muzzleloader deer hunting season.

A successful deer drive produced this public land buck for Steve Kennedy of Thurmont during the Maryland early muzzleloader deer hunting season.
Each fall, tens of thousands of deer hunters descend upon Maryland’s forests and fields on a quest for venison. Maryland’s liberal deer seasons and bag limits provide ample opportunity for deer hunters to harvest a number of deer in each of its three deer seasons. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported that a total of 81,729 were harvested during the 2020-21 hunting season. The complete deer season runs for a total of five months from early September to the end of January and includes archery, muzzleloading and firearms seasons.
Frederick County is the destination location in Maryland for deer hunters. Once again, Frederick County topped all other counties with 7,342 deer reported harvested by hunters during the 2020-21 hunting season. Carroll County followed with 6,202 deer, and Baltimore County was third with 5,356. Garrett and Washington counties rounded out the top five with 4,904 and 4,712 deer, respectively.
Frederick County is comprised of two deer hunting zones that determine what firearms may be legally used to hunt deer. The zones were established at the request of Frederick County officials and in cooperation with the Maryland Farm Bureau.
The shotgun zone (Zone 2) prohibits the use of bottleneck cartridge, breech-loading rifles for deer hunting, limiting hunters to using shotguns, straight-walled cartridge rifles, handguns, muzzleloaders or archery equipment during the deer firearm seasons.
Hunters in Zone 1 may use bottleneck cartridge rifles and any weapons that are legal in Zone 2 during the designated firearms seasons. Be sure to check maps and boundary descriptions carefully if you hunt near the city of Frederick.
Frederick County is the largest Maryland county geographically with a total 667 square miles and does include over 16,000 acres of public hunting grounds. It is interesting to note that hunters on private land in Frederick County harvested 95 percent of the deer. Only 348 deer were harvested last season on public lands in Frederick County, and that number has been steadily dropping over the last five years.
As a deer hunter who hunts public lands exclusively, I have observed the declining numbers of deer on Frederick County public lands firsthand. Public lands receive more hunting pressure on average than private lands. Heavy hunting pressure combined with liberal bag limits have had a pronounced impact on the deer population on the public hunting lands in Frederick County.
I would like to see the deer bag limit reduced on public lands in Frederick County. Game managers remark that Frederick County has too many deer. When you look at the county as a whole, that is true. Yet, when you consider the downward deer population trend on public hunting lands, the numbers speak for themselves.
Generally, hunters prefer to hunt on private land because private land offers many advantages. Having the opportunity to hunt an area where the deer remain undisturbed by other hunters is certainly a plus. A private landowner has the legal authority to keep all others out and provide exclusive hunting rights to their family and friends. Access to private hunting grounds is a valuable privilege that should never be taken for granted.
Hunters play an important role in keeping Maryland’s deer population in check. Unfortunately, the locations where the deer populations are the highest, land open to hunting is either restricted or limited. As housings developments around urban areas extend into traditional deer range, the deer population only increases. Deer adapt readily in suburban areas, increasing deer nuisance issues and vehicle strikes.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 11,184 deer were estimated to have been killed by motor vehicles in 2018 in Maryland alone. Animal-vehicle collisions increase in October and November, as fall is deer mating season. Frederick County ranked in the top 10 counties in the nation with the highest frequency of animal strikes in the month of November between 2006 and 2018, as reported in October 2020 by AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Maryland citizens depend on the Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists to manage the deer population. The issue of too many deer in some areas, while maintaining healthy populations on public lands, is an issue of adjusting and enforcing regulations.
The Maryland DNR welcomes the public’s opinions. Consider contacting the Maryland DNR at customerservice.dnr@maryland.gov or by calling 1-877-620-8367.
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