ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the opening of the two-week firearms hunting season for sika and white-tailed deer, commencing Saturday, Nov. 25, and concluding on Saturday, Dec. 9. This period marks a significant time for deer hunters in the state, providing an essential window for managing the deer population.
Karina Stonesifer, the Wildlife and Heritage Service Director, highlighted the importance of this season, stating, “The two-week firearms season is the most popular season with deer hunters.” She emphasized its role in deer population management and its traditional significance, noting its value in introducing new hunters to the practice.
The season notably includes Sunday hunting in all Maryland counties except three, offering extended weekend hunting opportunities. This aspect is crucial in facilitating broader participation and effective population management.
A notable change has been introduced for the 2023-24 hunting season. Hunters aiming to pursue sika deer must purchase a sika hunting stamp, available online through COMPASS, at licensing agents, or by contacting DNR Licensing and Registration Services.
Regulations and bag limits for the firearm season are detailed in the 2023-2024 Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping. These include an antler-point restriction, whereby hunters can harvest one antlered white-tailed deer that doesn’t meet the three-point antler requirement per the yearly bag limit. Any additional antlered deer must adhere to this restriction. However, junior hunters and apprentice license holders aged 16 or younger are exempt from this rule.
The DNR also draws attention to the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area, which has expanded to include Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, and Washington counties. Restrictions are in place regarding transporting carcasses or specific deer parts out of these areas, with exceptions. While chronic wasting disease is not known to transmit to humans naturally, hunters are advised to avoid consuming meat from sick animals and certain deer parts, typically removed during butchering.
Safety measures during the firearms season are emphasized, requiring hunters and their companions to wear daylight fluorescent orange or pink. This includes caps, vests, jackets, or outer garments with specific fluorescent criteria. The department also stresses the importance of tree stand safety, recommending using a full-body safety harness and a prusik knot for secure tethering.
In line with encouraging community involvement and support, the DNR urges hunters to consider donating deer taken in Maryland. A state tax credit incentivizes such donations, and hunters are advised to check with their deer processor for local or state programs facilitating this initiative.
The two-week firearms hunting season represents not just a tradition among Maryland’s hunting community but also a critical component in the state’s wildlife management strategy.