Five Saturdays each fall, the Army\'s Blossom Point Research Facility in southern Maryland opens its gates to the public to help manage the white-tail deer population on the 1,600-acre range and to offer youth and adults the opportunity to hunt. This fall, 36 deer were harvested at the Facility during a Junior Hunt Oct. 16 and a Women's Hunt Nov. 6 managed by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources before the hunting season opened Nov. 27, and then during three regular hunt days during the season Nov. 27, Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 which were managed by the Adelphi Laboratory Center headquartered just north of the Washington, D.C. beltway. "The purpose of the hunts is to keep the deer population to a sustainable level of 20 per square mile so that the environment can continue to support them," said Julia Long, ALC Directorate of Public Works conservation specialist, who has managed the hunts for the past three years. "For Blossom Point, that sustainable number is roughly 50-70 deer." The hunting program at BPRF began in 1993 with the first Junior Hunt in the nation, through a partnership with DNR. "Eventually the Junior Hunt program we started at Blossom Point spread to all 50 states," said Jack Kaiser, BPRF manager, who co-authored an Outdoor Life article titled "Give Them a First Shot" that initiated the partnership with Maryland officials. In 1994 the Facility was opened for public hunting every day of the 13-day deer season, a program managed by Army staff members who worked around the Facility's testing schedule. The pre-hunting season Junior Hunt and the daily hunting season availability continued nearly every year until 2005, and along the way an annual pre-season Women's Hunt was added as part of Maryland's "Becoming and Outdoor Woman" program. Like the Junior Hunt, the Women's Hunt was managed by DNR and hosted at BPRF. To support the hunts, 45 hunting stands were built at Blossom Point throughout the years, two of which are handicapped accessible. Due to the resources needed to support daily hunting, the program at BPRF became limited in 2005 to five days - the two pre-season DNR days for the Junior Hunt and Women's Hunt and three regular hunt days managed by the Army. The cost to hunters is low - no charge for the Junior Hunt, $45 for the Women's Hunt (which also includes a mandatory day-long pre-hunt workshop) and $20 for the regulars hunts. Anyone can submit an application, and names are matched with dates based on a lottery system. "Our hunts are considerably cheaper than other locations considering the labor that goes into each one," said Long, who is one of nine ALC conservation officers qualified to work the hunts. Long spends approximately 27 hours preparing for each hunt to coordinate with DNR officials, collect fees, select lottery participants, assign stands and schedule the five or six other conservation officers to assist on hunting days. On Saturday Dec. 4, Long and five other officers from the DPW and BPRF staff including Ernie LiCalzi, Charlie Downs, George Underwood, Rob Rippeon and Jeff Hamon met up at 4 a.m. to discuss the logistics for the day. At 5 a.m. the hunters began to arrive to register and receive an orientation and safety briefing before being driven out to their assigned deer stands. The staff then spent the day assisting the hunters by gathering and transporting harvested animals to the processing area, helping to track possible wounded deer and retrieving hunters who needed to come in for a break or who were finished for the day. The hunt ended at dusk and by the time the hunters left and the processing area was cleaned up, it was 7 p.m. Hunters came from a variety of Maryland counties and nearby states. Jeff Linderman, a Waldorf, Md. resident, has been hunting at Blossom Point for the past eight years. This year he brought his 16-year old niece Laura with him, who lives in nearby La Plata, Md. Cary Windsor, who works at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Division and is a frequent customer at Blossom Point, had his first Facility hunting experience. Four members of the Ranoull Family from Westminter, Md., participated in the Dec. 4 hunt. Joann started with the Women's Hunt the past seven years and then got her husband Alan and son Chris, who were already hunters, involved in the regular hunt. She recruited her daughter-in-law Nicole this year for both the Women's Hunt and the regular hunt. Chris took down the first deer of the day, a 120-pound 8-point buck. "I really enjoy the yearly hunts here," said Joann. "They handle it so nicely ... you can come here and hunt safely." She didn't get anything Dec. 4, but did shoot an 8-point buck during the Women's Hunt this year. Four deer were harvested throughout the day. An additional five deer were taken Dec. 11, bringing the total this year to 36. That's more than the 26 deer that were harvested in 2008 and in 2009 but still keeps the herd within sustainable limits, according to Long. It also provides a bit more venison this year for community hunters. " I believe we are the only Army base in Maryland open to the general public for hunting, said Kaiser. "At other locations, hunters have to be affiliated with the Department of Defense or a family member or guest of an authorized participant. This is a perfect blend of wildlife management and community relations."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16