Anti-hunting groups continue attempts to limit or eliminate bear hunts nationwide, but hunters in Maryland got their first opportunity in 51 years to hunt selected areas during a controlled program that allowed for the taking of 30 bears starting on Oct. 25.
After many efforts by opposition groups,the hunt started -- and stopped -- on Oct. 25. The fair-chase hunt, which did not allow for the use of baits or dogs, resulted in 20 smaller bears taken on that first day.
Paul Peditto, director of Maryland's Wildlife and Heritage Service, upon advice from Maryland Department of Natural Resources black bear project leader Harry Spiker, canceled the second hunt day for fear of exceeding the 30-bear goal limit.
Kristen Leppert with Fund for Animals positioned herself at the Mount Nebo check station so that she could videotape the hunters as they brought in bears for state inspection.
"I came to bear witness to the carnage of trophy hunting," Leppert said.
While some larger bears were among the 20 recorded, some in Maryland believe they did not harvest enough of the "nuisance bears" that have been damaging crops and resident property in western areas of the state. Peditto, however, called the hunt "an unqualified success."
Plans have begun for a bear hunt in 2005.
New York State's bear season opens in the Allegany Region of Western New York on Dec. 29, which is opening day of rifle season in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's bear season opens Monday, the first day of shotgun hunting season in New York.
Keystone State hunters only have an open bear season from sunrise Monday until sunset on Wednesday. Hunters in Empire State areas have until Dec. 5 in the Adirondack Region and until Dec. 14 in the Allegany and Catskills regions.
Alaskan dream trip
When South Buffalonian Joe Cole was about to turn 60 last February, his wife, Rebecca, surprised him with a hunting trip to Alaska.
The big hunt included the couple and son Tyler, 17 at the time. While Joe went hunting, Rebecca and Tyler went fishing for halibut out of Homer Spit into Cook Inlet.
"Tyler and I came home with 30 pounds of fish each," Rebecca said. Joe went out on Kenai Peninsula plains in search of caribou.
"It was so warm while we were there during the first week of September that the bigger caribou were still up in the mountains," Joe said.
But he managed to find a respectable bull in velvet and brought home a rack for mounting and about 100 pounds of meat.
The fishing and hunting took up just four of the 10 days there. More time was spent taking in "the beauty and culture of Alaska," Rebecca wrote. They toured the countryside for the remaining six days and already have plans in place for a 2006 trip.
Future Fisherman Foundation has begun a program to grant physical education instructors up to $5,000 for equipment, curriculum materials and other resources needed to teach ethical attitudes about the outdoors, engaging children in fishing and boating.
The program meets PE lifetime skills mandates. Grant application forms can be found on the Web site: www.futurefisherman.org or from grants coordinator Jeff Bloem at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First day feast
A continuing University of Missouri study finds what most turkey and deer hunters accept as fact: Turkey and deer harvesting successes are greatest on the first day of open season.
Chong He and Dongehu Sun, statistics professors at UM, developed a model showing best success on the first day of turkey season and a "decreasing trend for the rest of the first week."
He and Sun also found that skilled and experienced turkey hunters waited until later in the season, after other hunters had quit, to bag their second bird. They are now working on a model for deer hunting success rates.