A recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey showed that fewer than 5 percent of Americans, 16 years of age and older, actually hunt. This is alarming because it is less than half of what it was 50 years ago and is not showing any signs of reversing direction on its own.
Over half of the current hunters in the United States are over 45 years old, with 38 percent of those being over 55 years old. Many hunters hang up their boots as they begin to age, which leaves a major deficit.
Conservation agencies depend on money generated from license fees and excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to manage wildlife, all wildlife, not just game species.
Hunters spend approximately $26 billion dollars a year, with a large portion of that being distributed to state wildlife agencies. A decline in hunters means a decline in dollars from hunters, which leads to a decline in funding. All of which spells trouble for hunting and other conservation and management activities.
The female population is grossly under-represented with only 10 percent of all hunters being women. Ninety-seven percent of all hunters are Caucasian and the majority have a median household income of $40,000-$100,000. So, a massive portion of our population is untapped.
New programs are being developed to introduce people from all walks of life to hunting as a means of gathering food and, ultimately, a lifestyle. We are surrounded by sustainable local food sources that many folks do not think about; wild game is the ultimate field-to-table food source.
In an effort to counteract the decline, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has organized a couple of upcoming recruitment programs. Details are available on the DNR website. A quick way to find it is through an Internet search with keywords: Maryland DNR mentored hunt program.
Registration is now available for the DNR’s First Shot Mentored Deer Hunt. The application deadline is September 11. The program introduces first-time adult hunters (18 and older) that do not otherwise have the skill set or knowledge to hunt deer on their own and would like to learn and hunt with skilled veteran hunters. Space is limited and participants will be selected via random lottery. Selected applicants must attend an orientation on October 20. The hunt takes place October 25-26 in Dorchester County. No experience is necessary to participate in the event, including Hunter Education or a current hunting license, and there is no cost to participate. If you have any questions about this event, contact Christopher Markin at firstname.lastname@example.org
The DNR will also host a stocked pheasant hunt for junior license holders, apprentice license holders, and lapsed hunters on November 23-24 at Wild Wings in Garrett County. The application deadline is October. 18. This is a mentored hunting opportunity, and space is limited to 14 hunters each day. Lapsed hunters are defined as those who have held a Maryland hunting license in the past, but not in three of the past five years. A random lottery drawing will take place to fill all available slots and applicants will be notified whether they have been selected or not. All successful applicants will receive a packet of information including the area where they can hunt, maps, and anything else that might be helpful. Mentors, dogs, guns, ammunition, and lunch will be provided the day of the event.
Additional stocked pheasant hunts will also be held at locations across Maryland on November 23-24. Questions should be directed to Nancy Doran at 301-777-2136 or at email@example.com
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Chesapeake Forest lottery
Hunt clubs interested in obtaining a hunting lease agreement on Chesapeake Forest Lands can now enter a lottery for individual non-leased tracts in Dorchester, Wicomico, and Worcester counties. The DNR will accept online entries until August 27.
A random automated on-line drawing for available forest tracts in the lease program will be held on Thursday, August 28, at 2 p.m. The Maryland Forest Service will contact the winners by phone or e-mail within two business days of the drawing. If a winning tract is declined, it will be awarded to another lottery participant. The deadline for payment and the required paperwork will be on Thursday, September 12 at 4 p.m.
The department advises entrants to visit the forest tracts before making a selection, as some have limited access. Hunt clubs are expected to help maintain access roads, gates, and signs along the leased property.
Rules and guidelines for the lottery are as follows:
• A participating hunt club must be a legal entity.
• Only hunt club members at least 18 years of age can participate in the lottery.
• A hunt club must have at least two members licensed to hunt in Maryland with one person designated as the club president.
• Each member may fill out a lottery form. Only one submission per person will be placed in the lottery.
• Each entrant can choose up to four tracts for the hunting lottery.
Complete information is available on the DNR website.
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Striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay can be found holding in relatively shallow water of 20 feet or less near Swan, Love, and Podickory points and Bay Bridge structure. The rockfish are holding in these areas due to extreme oxygen deficits in deeper waters; meanwhile, the extreme surface temperatures are taking a toll on released fish.
Jigging is a viable option wherever striped bass can be found suspended along channel edges, humps, or other structure. The action tends to be best in the early morning or late evening. Skirted jigs with soft plastics will work and placing your favorite scent on them can often make a difference.
Fishing for white perch at shallower hard-bottomed areas has been a good diversion for upper bay anglers. Lumps off Tolchester, Belvidere Shoals, and similar knolls are worth checking out with a depth finder to find schools of perch. The mouth of the Magothy, the west side of the Bay Bridge, and out in front of the Sandy Point State Park beach have also been holding white perch as well as large numbers of spot. Small pieces of bloodworm on a two-hook bottom rig will get you some action.
Some Spanish mackerel and bluefish have arrived in the mid-Chesapeake. Trolling with small spoons behind number one planers will catch them. Spoons in gold, silver, and chartreuse stripes have been popular, tied to long leaders of mono or fluorocarbon from 12 feet to 18 feet. Some anglers are also using inline weights to vary their trolling spreads.
Recreational crabbing is improving as more and larger crabs enter the fishery. The tidal rivers of the middle and lower bay regions offer the best chance of success.
On the freshwater scene, largemouth bass are feeding mostly at night during this hot weather but can be caught early in the morning as they linger in the shallower areas where they have been feeding. On the flip side, by late evening or dusk, they can be found moving towards those shallower areas.
On the Atlantic Coast, surf fishing is mostly centered on catching kingfish and small bluefish with a mix of spot, croaker, and flounder. Due to the summer heat, the best fishing for kingfish has been in the mornings and evenings, with pieces of bloodworms or Fishbites the favored baits. The bluefish are being caught on finger mullet or cut spot.
In the channels near the Ocean City inlet, flounder fishing has been very good. The largest flounder are being caught on white Gulp baits, live spot, or live menhaden.
Near shore areas such as Little Gull, Fenwick, and Great Gull shoals are holding some smoker-sized king mackerel along with cobia, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish.
Anglers trolling near the 30 Fathom Lumps have been catching chicken dolphinfish, Atlantic bonito, and Bluefin tuna. Fishing for white marlin has been good at the canyons along with a mix of gaffer dolphinfish, wahoo, and blue marlin. Yellowfin, a few bluefin, and the occasional bigeye tuna are also being caught along with one very large swordfish (437 lbs.).
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Duck blind know-it-all
The caterpillar of the Red-spotted Purple butterfly mimics a bird dropping.