A year ago, this would have been illegal: Mark Eakin, a federal oceanographer and avid deer hunter, sat in a portable tree stand with his bow at the ready, overlooking a small creek and two Rockville back yards on a cold January morning. As the camo-clad Eakin peered down, the weekday routine rolled down the street behind him, school buses, trash trucks and commuters heading toward Wootton Parkway.
"The worst is when people are out here with their leaf blowers," Eakin said. "You don't see a lot of deer then."
But Eakin, who has bagged eight deer since bow season began in September, isn't complaining about the suburban conditions. In fact, he's one of several hunters, game officials and residents to hail Montgomery County's surprising emergence as something of a deer-hunting haven.
Behind Montgomery's new openness to hunting, officials said, is public frustration with the whitetail population boom. Crumpled fenders, ruined gardens and the risk of Lyme disease have made residents much more receptive to hunters.
"They've gone from 'How dare you propose shooting the deer' to 'When are you coming to my neighborhood?' " said Rob Gibbs, head of Montgomery's Deer Management Working Group.