The 2014–15 season includes several new and expanded opportunities for Maryland sportsmen and women. Included among those opportunities are several Maryland firsts – including a statewide winter turkey hunting season. The season will run for a brief three days but is intended to fill a gap for many hunters who are looking for a change of pace from the long deer season or a departure from other traditional winter hunting pursuits.
Also new is Maryland’s version of QDM — or Quality Deer Management. More aptly titled “QDM Lite,” hunters killing a third antlered deer, or buck, will have to be certain that one of those bucks has at least three points to a side. Hunters will still have the opportunity to shoot any buck they choose for their other two deer so the impact will be minimal for most deer hunters. However, we expect this change to stimulate thinking among hunters about the value of a healthy deer herd that is in balance with our native ecosystem and non-hunting human population.
These are just two of the important changes borne of a deliberate decision-making process that took place over nearly two years. This process starts with a scientific review of our existing data, an internal discussion of possible new opportunities and a lengthy external dialogue with a variety of stakeholders including farmers, animal rights supporters, non-hunters, lawmakers and of course hunters and trappers. The process also includes weeks of open and transparent two-way dialogue with the general public and ultimately concludes with a final review by our Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission, or WAC.
The WAC is authorized in law and includes up to nine members appointed by the Governor who serve to advise the Department of Natural Resources on issues related to wildlife conservation and management. The all-volunteer commission includes representatives who consider themselves bowhunters, firearms deer hunters, waterfowl hunters, small game hunters, farmers, fox-chasers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, anti-hunters, birders, conservationists, managers, academics and everyday wildlife enthusiasts. The role of WAC is invaluable to the Department, yet they rarely receive any recognition for their commitment and volunteerism — so I offer this public thank you to the current members and the many who have served the WAC over the past several decades.
Finally, an important reminder. For the past two years we have engaged a new recruitment and retention effort to ensure the future of the hunting and trapping fraternity. We are proud of our successes with many junior programs, outdoor woman clinics and other opportunities designed to recruit and retain sportsmen and women. However, we cannot sustain this effort alone. The experience of enjoying Maryland’s great outdoors is an awesome one and it is always better when shared with others. Please take the time to share the experience with someone new this season.
On behalf of the Wildlife and Heritage Service team, I wish you a safe and successful season afield and thank you in advance for your continued commitment to ensuring the future of wildlife conservation and hunting in Maryland.
Paul A. Peditto,
Director of the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.