SUNDAY HUNTING AND WHITE-TAILED DEER MANAGEMENT
Maryland Horse Council (MHC) members have supported Maryland’s longstanding ban on Sunday hunting for many years. According to the public opinion survey conducted by DNR for the 2009 – 2018 White-Tailed Deer Plan, a majority of landowners and the general public also oppose Sunday hunting. This position is shared by most outdoor recreation groups.
In recent years Maryland Horse Council has worked alongside Maryland Farm Bureau to increase the deer harvest and thereby reduce crop damage, including losses of hay and pasture that are grown for horses. As part of this effort, we supported introduction of a pilot “market hunting” program to take place on farms with crop damage permits. DNR and hunters opposed this effort, arguing that the deer population had declined in recent years and that the program would reduce numbers further.
The legislative practice of “local courtesy” has led lawmakers to support Sunday hunting bills that emerge from county delegations with little public review. The result is a patchwork of Sunday hunting laws that are difficult to enforce and impossible for citizens to remember.
A Statewide Compromise: Senate Bill 1061
Maryland Horse Council convened a group of landowners, hunters, and outdoor recreation users last summer to create a uniform Sunday hunting program during the deer firearms season without closing off land to other users for whole weekends. The result is Senate Bill 1061, introduced this week by Senator Joan Carter Conway, Chair of Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs.
SB 1061 allows DNR to authorize Sunday hunting during the deer firearms season in all Maryland counties until 10:30 am but not after. It replaces the existing Sunday deer hunting laws. If passed the bill does the following:
- Hunters get more time in the field. Today we have a combined 74 Sundays when the county laws are aggregated. This proposal allows 207 Sunday mornings aggregated across counties.
- Hunters are in the field when they want to be. The average deer hunter stays out for a half day. This bill requires that shooting end at 10:30, allowing hunters to track, field dress, and remove deer after that time. Few hunters choose to hunt on Sunday afternoons, due either to the logistics of deer processing on Sunday evenings, or the lure of Sunday football.
- Riders and other outdoor recreation users will have a time in every county each weekend when they know that the woods and countryside are safe. Clubs, groups, and individuals in counties where all-weekend hunting passed in recent years will have some weekend access restored and be able to resume their activities.
Please support SB 1061. Please DO NOT support any new local Sunday hunting bills in this session. A uniform statewide compromise is in the best interest of hunters, landowners, law enforcement, and the public. Allow the debate on that compromise to move forward.