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Sept. 7 marked the start of deer hunting season and the Environmental Division at NAS Patuxent River is inviting hunters to test their skills on base.

"Our main reason for controlling the deer population is airfield safety," said Jim Swift, natural resources specialist. "We fly state-of-the-art aircraft here and we can't have deer causing them problems. But auto strikes are also a concern, particularly at this time of year."

Hunting at Pax River is open to active-duty or retired military and their family, civilian employees assigned to Pax, Webster Airfield and Naval Recreation Center Solomons and their family, and Reservists. Contractors are restricted to deer hunting. Authorized personnel may also sponsor guests.

Earlier this summer, 26 separate spotlight counts showed an average of three deer per mile, resulting in the harvest objective of 125 deer this season. If the harvest objective is not met, other options are considered.

"We prefer to have the hunters do the work for us," Swift said.

According to Swift, the average deer on base is bigger than in the rest of the county.

"They're healthier, and there's a strong gene pool that produces desirable antler size," he said.

Pax provides 31 different hunting areas with a mix of firearm or archery-only restrictions. Hunters need all applicable state licenses and stamps, and the base requires a station hunting permit which is good for the entire season.

To comply with additional special requirements, hunters need to complete a domestic violence form at the police station in Bldg. 611. That form and the make, model and serial number of their firearm or bow must be brought to the pass office at Gate One or Gate Two for a firearm registration. Additionally, hunters must stop in at the Hunter Check Station in Bldg. 2497 before and after hunting each day.

In the mid 80s to early 90s, the base averaged two deer aircraft strikes per year. Today, that number has fallen to .2 strikes per year.

"That's a 10-fold decrease in deer aircraft strikes," Swift said. "The current management strategy is working."

For more information about hunting at Pax River, visit http://naspaxriver.isportsman.net or call the NAS Patuxent River Natural and Cultural Resources Conservation Branch at 301-342-3670.