September 18, 2023

Howard County Deer Management Information

Howard County’s Recreation and Parks, Bureau Chief of Parks, Bryan Moody attended the Dorsey’s Search (Village) Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday, September 13.  He mentioned various documents which he has shared with the Village.  Links can be found below as well as additional information discussed at the meeting.  All information is provided to the Village from the Howard County Recreation and Parks department.

Definitions on various deer harvesting programs:

The narratives below provide some additional information that has previously changed and could be subject to change again, but bold, italicized headings are accurate summaries of these programs.

Sharpshooting:  County staff harvesting deer with a firearm on closed county parkland on scheduled nights:   Sharpshooting operations consist of only HCDRP staff closing and securing a county-owned parkland for nighttime deer management activities only on predetermined and posted dates.  Staff are stationed at points of entry while sharpshooting teams are stationed at predetermined and prepped locations within the site.  A sharpshooting team consists of a qualified shooter and a spotter using a rifle with suppressed sound to harvest deer.  Regulations require shooting teams to be at least 150 yards away from the nearest occupied structure; however, shooting teams establish shooting lanes aiming downward into natural backstops, such as hills, and are often much farther away than 150 yards.  Shooting teams and security teams are in constant radio communication with each other and operational management staff throughout each event.  All harvested deer are delivered to a contracted processor for donation at the end of each event.  This program has been run by HCDRP under MDNR permits safely since 2004.  Any deer entering the designated shooing lane is eligible for harvest.  This program has a higher staffing need and expense than managed hunts while also have greater physical restrictions due to safety setback requirements associated with firearm use.

Managed Hunts:  Private hunters harvesting deer with firearms and bows under management by county staff on closed county parkland on scheduled mornings:     Manage hunting operations consist of HCDRP staff actively overseeing scheduled morning hunts by registered, pre-qualified hunters on county-owned parkland.  Like sharpshooting, managed hunts only occur on predetermined and posted dates with parks being closed until noon typically.  Staff are on-site to check-in hunters, coordinate the placement of hunters at the site, begin and end hunting, document hunters’ deer, check-out hunters, and control site access.  Hunters may use firearms or bows with their tree stand placement on-site relative to occupied structures and other hunters being appropriate for what the hunter is using: 150 yards for a firearm, 50 yards for a bow.  Hunters can take unlimited antlerless deer and must take one or more antlerless deer for every antlered deer harvested during a hunt.  Hunters are required to complete and maintain various state and county hunting qualifications as well as participate in annual county interviews, registration, and training prior to participation.  Hunters have typically selected by lottery from a large pool of eligible applicants.  This program has been run by HCDRP under MDNR permits safely since 1998.  This program typically has a lower staffing need and expense than sharpshooting, depending on the extent of firearm use.  This program now has the potential to be expanded to sites that previously didn’t permit bow hunting until the shooting setback for archery from an elevated position was recently reduced from 150 yards to 50 yards.  Public notification and engagement will be required prior to this program being implemented in an area of parkland for the first time as a result of this regulatory change.

Open Hunts:  Approved private hunters harvesting deer with bows on predetermined open county parkland areas during daylight throughout a season:   Open hunting proposed for this season was modelled on similar programs in Montgomery County, at the Baltimore City reservoirs, and on MDNR lands.  The areas proposed for piloting this program this spring were inappropriate and the program has been cancelled.  Open hunts would have consisted on archery hunters visiting predetermined and prepped open hunting zones within county parkland during a multi-month season, meaning the parks and open space aren’t closed nor is access controlled by county staff.  Hunters go through a similar qualification and application process as participants in the managed hunt program.  Hunters sign-in and out of a county log station when hunting, but no county staff are actively managing hunting activities.  Safety zone signage was installed within each hunting zone to notify hunters of the 50-yard setback boundaries.  This would have been the first year of this program, as the regulations were changed as a result of the 2023 legislative change in setback requirements.  Hunters can take unlimited antlerless deer and must take at least one antlerless deer before harvesting an additional antlered deer.  This program would have a lower county staff need and expense than managed hunts.  This program would also offer greater flexibility for qualified and approved hunters to hunt the site with the expected result being greater deer management.  Having said that, the county needs to reconsider site suitability for this program and improve its public engagement efforts before attempting to reimplement this program elsewhere in the future.

Letter to residents that abut County property (please feel free to share):   HCDRP Revised Managed Deer Hunt Schedule 2023

Howard County Deer Density Study 2022 – 2023

Howard County Deer Management Program 2022 – 2023 Seasonal Report

The Howard County’s Recreation and Parks intends to present their 2024-2025 deer management plans during the April 2024 Recreation and Parks Advisory Board meeting for feedback.  The Village was not given a date for the meeting.  Hopefully we will be notified of the meeting date.

If you have any questions, please contact Bryan Moody, Bureau Chief of Parks.  Phone number 410-313-1081 or by email at