For most of the state of Maryland, firearm deer season reopens Jan. 8-10. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Eyler Deer Project Leader of the state Department of Natural Resources. Eyler has a ties to the Eastern Shore and has an affinity for the hunting in this part of Maryland.
Pencek: It has been referred to as an “extension” of firearm season. Why does Maryland do this?
Eyler: We actually started this over 10 years ago. It adds a recreational opportunity for hunters. It also gives us a way to better manage deer. We’ve been struggling with too many deer in parts of the state. Hunting is our most effective tool. It gives hunters another opportunity to get a deer and helps us control the population.
The good thing about this season, come January we see a lot of antlerless harvest, female and doe. It helps us with the population. There is a higher percentage of antlerless deer taken. It’s a win-win from our standpoint. I really wouldn’t call it an extension since we’ve been doing it for so long.
Pencek: How does the Eastern Shore compare to the other parts of the state?
Eyler: I would rate the Eastern Shore from a deer population as moderately high. The western part of the state; Garrett, Allegany, and western Washington counties, we have a good handle on the deer population. A lot of hunters will tell us we have too few deer in those parts. In the middle part of the state, the urban and suburban, especially that corridor between Baltimore and Washington still way too many. That’s a struggle to manage.
The Eastern Shore and southern Maryland on the Western Shore have a lot of access for hunters, but still a lot of private land. We still get a lot of complaints from farmers particularly about crop damage and that there is just too many deer. On the other hand, we hear from a lot of hunters that we have reduced deer numbers on the Eastern Shore and there is not as many as there once was. I still think we have plenty of deer on the Shore but not as bad as other areas in the state.
Pencek: How long have you been with the DNR?
Eyler: I have been with the DNR for 13 years. I got my masters for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. As part of that I did a project on white tail deer in Dorchester County.
Pencek: That sounds to me as if the outdoors have a been a big part of your life for a longtime.
Eyler: Most definitely. I grew up a hunter. I went to Penn State and got my undergrad in Wildlife and Fishery Science. I got into that program because of my interest in the outdoors and hunting. Early on I got into deer projects as an undergrad.
Unfortunately, I don’t hunt as much as I used to do.
Pencek: What is your opinion of the outdoor scene on the Eastern Shore compared to other areas you have experienced?
Eyler: From a hunting perspective, little old Maryland has some of the best deer hunting in the country. I’m not just saying that because I work for DNR. Deer quality, if you want to call it that, is largely dictated by habitat. Part of that is soil type. Around the Chesapeake Bay we have coastal plain soils and they are some of the best soils of the country for big deer and a lot of deer. When you mix that with all of the prime agriculture land, corn and soybeans particularly, we have some of the best deer in the country.
We don’t get the recognition of some of the bigger states. People talk about going out west to hunt in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, etc. We really have some good deer hunting in Maryland. We had a top 25 in the world class buck that was taken about 10 years ago. Our state produces a lot of nice deer.