The Maryland Big Game Stamps – Part One

As I sit here in my home, sheltered in place for the 5th consecutive week, I have become acutely aware of just how fortunate I am to have a hobby like stamp collecting to help serve as a diversion – both now and in the months and years ahead.

If we allow it, our hobbies have an uncommon ability to provide nourishment for our souls. They can be genuinely therapeutic. In a time when so many things may seem uncertain and out of our control, we can choose to spend more time with our collections. We can appreciate the beauty and history of the artifacts, organize them in any way we wish – and then reorganize them in a different way.

Now, we can also choose to spend more time talking on the phone, texting or emailing with fellow collectors (Zoom, anyone?) – as so many of us are in the same boat, with extra time on our hands – and choose to spend more time enjoying and researching our various interests online.

A few weeks ago, when I was trying to decide on which series to post about next, I wanted to pick something that would be of service to my fellow collectors; something special, something that would provide for a long, wonderful diversion or escape – something that included truly delicious philatelic eye candy.

Truth be told, I had been waiting to share this particular series of posts for a time further in the future. Perhaps when the website is more completely built-out and it is generating a lot more traffic – when I believed they would provide enjoyment for a greater number of people.

Then something occurred to me a week or so ago. As I observed the world around us changing so rapidly and the effect it was having on all of our lives, I realized – there may never be a better time than the present.



Prior to the arrival of immigrants from Europe in the early 16th century, what we now know as the State of Maryland was inhabited by numerous Native American tribes – primarily Algonquin, Iroquois and Sioux.

White-tailed deer were quite abundant throughout each of what would eventually become the state’s 23 counties and year-round subsistence hunting by Native Americans, mountain lions and wolves kept the deer population in a state of equilibrium (see Figure 1).



Figure 1. Maryland white-tailed buck.



Early immigrants chose to settle in choice locations along the many rivers and tributaries that flowed into the Chesapeake Bay. They created a successful plantation economy primarily focussed around the cultivation of tobacco. They fished extensively on the ubiquitous waterways and also hunted for various birds and animals on land to provide food for themselves and their families.

As one of the Thirteen British Colonies, Maryland obtained its charter from King Charles I in 1632. The original colony prospered and the predominantly white population dramatically increased. Starting in 1664, the white population was augmented by an ever-increasing number of black slaves. The expanding human footprint resulted in extensive deforestation and destruction of deer habitat.

Subsistence deer hunting was eventually overshadowed by unregulated market hunting. In addition to selling the venison to colonists, professional hunters profited from a lucrative market for animal hides in the European leather industry. The native deer population was heavily impacted.


First Deer Protective Game Law Passed

Realizing the importance of white-tailed deer as a natural resource, in 1729 the Maryland General Assembly (or state legislature) passed the first game law intended to mitigate the human impact on the deer population – no deer hunting was allowed to take place between January 15 and July 31 of each year (during the fawning season).

However, the deer population continued to decrease sharply over time and it has been reported that the General Assembly had to take the drastic step of prohibiting all deer hunting from 1773 to 1776 (Bartles and Hanyok, 1996).

On the eve of the American Revolution in 1775, the human population in Maryland numbered around 150,000. While the majority were white, the number included tens of thousands of enslaved Africans who worked the ubiquitous tobacco plantations and only a few hundred remaining Native Americans (see Figure 2).



Figure 2. The Maryland Colony, circa 1775. Map shown courtesy of the National Geographic Society.



Immediately following the American victory in the Revolutionary War, a fairly consistent open season for white-tailed deer was established in Maryland during September and October of each year (some counties periodically opened as early as August).

On April 28, 1788, Maryland became the 7th state to join the union. Over the next 70 years, the state’s population exploded and numbered over 687,000 at the start of the Civil War in 1860. As the human population expanded outward (away from the shores of the Chesapeake in all directions), the white-tailed deer population decreased in direct correlation. By the 1890s, white-tailed deer could only be found in remote areas of a few counties in the western part of the state and their natural predators, the mountain lions and wolves – had all but disappeared.



Maryland Game Wardens Appointed

According to A Century of Service, an article written by former Maryland game wardens Greg Bartles and Paul Hanyok in 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case in 1896 which conveyed to the individual states the right to protect wildlife on both public and private property. Subsequent to this, Chapter 293 of the Maryland General Assembly Acts of 1896 authorized Governor Lloyd Lowndes to appoint the first state game warden. He selected Robert H. Gilbert of Baltimore.

The state game warden was a salaried position ($500.00) and unsalaried deputy game wardens were appointed to help provide “more vigorous enforcement of the game and fish laws of the state.” The deputy wardens were compensated out of a portion of the fines collected. A portion of the fines also went to the state game warden and another portion to the State Game Protection Fund.

Historically, counties in Maryland set their own game rules and regulations, including fines, independent of each other. As one would expect, these often varied widely from county to county. Individual counties also printed and issued their own hunting licenses, which were required only of non county residents prior to 1904. Starting in 1904, some counties began requiring residents to also purchase licenses (see Figures 3, 4 and 5). More uniform bag Limits were established for the taking of game in 1910, with 20 of the 23 counties in agreement. In all counties with the exception of Calvert, Cecil and Dorchester, the fine for having each extra deer in possession was $100.00.



Figure 3. 1910-11 County of Baltimore Non Resident Hunting License – fee is $5.25.


Figure 4. 1916-17 County of Baltimore Resident Hunting License – fee is $1.20.


Figure 5. 1916-17 County of Washington Resident Hunting License.



Starting in 1914, some counties began to require matching badges or tags to be worn on the hunter’s outer garment. This forerunner to the “back tag” was intended to make it easier and quicker for wardens to check if the hunter possessed a current license. The 1916-17 tag issued by Allegany County was in the form of a celluloid-covered pin-back badge or “button”.  As the design included the Maryland coat of arms – it is believed to be the first pictorial hunting license button issued in the United States (see Figure 6).



Figure 6. Allegany Co., Maryland Hunters License button, circa 1916-17.  Photo courtesy of Will Csaplar.



In 1916, a three-member State Conservation Commission was appointed and they oversaw the pre-existing Shellfish Commission, State Fish Commission and the State Game Department. It was up to the State Conservation Commission to appoint the State Game Warden and on June 1, 1916, they selected Edwin Lee LeCompte. He served in this capacity for nearly 30 years, retiring in 1945.

The State Conservation Commission believed that in order to provide optimal game management, game laws needed to be completely uniform throughout the state. At the Commission’s behest, state-wide game laws, to include bag limits, were established by the General Assembly. At this time all inconsistent county laws were repealed. The state-wide limit for deer was one per season.

According to Paul Hanyok, “When State Game Warden E. Lee LeCompte was appointed in 1916 by the newly created Conservation Commission, one of his first goals was to gain state control over the issuance of all hunting and fishing licenses.” This became a reality on April 10, 1918, when the Governor approved the State Hunter’s License Bill.

As of June 1, 1918, “all persons desiring to hunt, pursue or kill in any manner any game in the State were required to have in possession a hunter’s license that was issued him by the State of Maryland. State-Wide Resident, Resident County and Non Resident Hunting licenses were printed and issued (see Figure 7).



Figure 7. 1918-19 Resident Washington County Hunting License.



LeCompte and the three members of the Conservation Commission estimated the state licensing requirement would raise about $35,000.00 in fees the first year. The actual revenue derived from 1918-19 hunting license sales was $$61,770.43 and the program was deemed a great success.



Modern Wildlife Management

Prior to 1916-1918, Maryland game management officials largely depended on limited enforcement of nonuniform county game laws for wildlife management. Within a few short years, the Maryland wildlife management picture was seriously upgraded. After 1918, there were both uniform statewide game laws and state issued hunting licenses to provide a substantial source of funding for wildlife conservation and management projects on an annual basis.

Hunting license revenue made it possible to commence hiring salaried district deputy game wardens in 1918. In 1919 the Game Department was able to purchase 290 acres in Baltimore County and established Maryland’s first wildlife refuge. Now, with the annual license revenue, game propagation could be the new focus and, combined with better law enforcement supervised by a larger number of salaried wardens, the age of modern game management would prove to be a game changer for the state’s white-tailed deer population.

Starting in the early 1900s, state wildlife biologists worked with private organizations to re-establish white-tailed dear throughout the state. Some native deer were captured in the western counties of Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington and redistributed throughout the state; some deer were obtained from other states and released in Maryland; some deer naturally crossed into Maryland from neighboring Pennsylvania and a large number were relocated from both a state game preserve and also the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.

In Garrett County, the western-most county in Maryland, native deer were supplemented by white-tailed deer imported from neighboring Virginia to the Meadow Mountain Game Refuge. As the refuge population multiplied, surplus deer were relocated to other counties across the state.

Establishing a network of wildlife refuges with which to protect, breed and, in the case of deer, redistribute to other areas of the state that needed bolstering – became a top priority for the State Conservation Department that was established in 1922 (renamed the Conservation Commission in 1935) and the new State Game and Inland Fish Commission that was created in 1939.

A short article in the Midland Journal on July 14, 1933 stated “The State Game [Conservation] Department has acquired 1,000 acres for a game refuge [for deer] in Harford County – bringing the total refuge acreage in Maryland to 37,346 – according to Mr. E. Lee LeCompte, game Warden.’

…”Deer, carefully protected by game laws for a number of years, are propagating rapidly, and there is a possibility that the Legislature at the next session may be asked to alter the laws. At present deer can be hunted in only three counties: Garrett, Allegany and Washington” (see Figure 8).



Figure 8. New State Game Preserve for deer opened in Harford County.



The Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) is a military installation that was established in 1917, shortly after the U.S. entered WWI (see Figure 9). Historically, it has been used to test military supplies, equipment and weapons. In the 1930s, the base obtained a small herd of white-tailed deer from a Pennsylvania game farm to provide recreational hunting for military personnel and their wives.



Figure 9. A page from Will and Abby Csaplar’s National exhibit showing a 1955-56 federal waterfowl stamp used on an an APG Hunting License.



The APG herd rapidly multiplied and during WWII their excessive numbers interrupted active military operations on the base. At this time, state wildlife biologists began capturing deer on the base and rereleasing them throughout various counties in Maryland. By 1960, over 2,000 white-tailed deer had been relocated in this way alone.

In 1937, Maryland (along with all states) started receiving additional revenue allocated as a result of the Pittman-Robertson Act, a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition that was earmarked for state wildlife conservation efforts. The landmark legislation was named for it’s cosponsors, Senator Key Pittman of Nevada and Representative Willis Robertson of Virginia. An avid hunter, Pittman hunted in nearby Maryland while serving in Washington, D.C. (see Figures 10 and 11).



Figure 10. Senator Key Pittman of Nevada.



Figure 11. Last page in the pre-stamp license chapter of Will Csaplar’s international exhibit, featuring a 1931-32 Maryland hunting license used by Key Pittman shortly before introducing his bill to Congress. Note: The exhibit was accepted to be shown at London 2020 – which has now been postponed to February 2022.



For a detailed discussion of this program, click here. According to Bartles and Hanyok, with this additional source of funding, Maryland was able to “purchase and develop new wildlife areas and enhance wildlife restoration efforts statewide”.

As white-tailed deer were reestablished throughout the state, more and more counties were opened for deer hunting. The state-wide deer harvest topped 1,000 in 1951 and 1,549 deer were harvested from 17 of the 23 Maryland counties in 1954. By 1960 the number of deer being harvested from virtually every county in the state topped 5,000 – a remarkable success story for Maryland game management!



Big Game Hunting Stamps Required

Starting with the 1960-61 seasons, Maryland began requiring deer hunters to purchase big game hunting stamps. From 1960-61 through 1967-68, two different big game stamps were issued each year – one ($2.00 fee) for hunting deer with firearms and a separate one ($3.00 fee) for hunting deer with a bow and arrow (see Figures 12-18). Note the special early bow and arrow season highlighted in Figure 17.



Figure 12. 1960 Maryland Hunter’s Guide, cover page.


Figure 13. 1960 Maryland game laws for deer hunting – Special Firearm Deer Stamp Required.


Figure 14. 1960 Maryland game laws for deer hunting – hunters applying for an antlerless deer permit permit must have a special deer stamp.


Figure 15. Special deer stamp requirement, enlarged.


Figure 16. 1960-61 Maryland game seasons and bag limits.


Figure 17. 1960-61 Maryland special early bow and arrow season, enlarged.


Figure 18. 1960-61 Maryland regular deer seasons and bag limits.



Before we get into the stamps, themselves, I would like to provide some additional background information.



A Survey of the Philatelic Literature

The first to report on the Maryland Big Game Stamps was the State Revenue Newsletter in February of 1961 (see Figures 19 and 20). At this point David C. Strock of Seattle, Washington had taken over publication duties for the SRN from Elbert Hubbard (see Ken Pruess Remembered  – Part Two). Strock was an avid collector of all state revenues, including fish and game stamps and purchased new issues directly from the state agencies.

Strock reported that two different stamps were issued: a “$2.00 black and red [stamp], rouletted 9 (for firearms only)” and a “$3.00 brown and green, perforated 12 (for archers only).”



Figure 19. February, 1961 issue of the State Revenue Newsletter, cover page.


Figure 20. February, 1961 issue of the SRN, page reporting Maryland Big Game Hunting Stamps had been issued.



The next to report was Joseph J. Janousek in the April 1961 issue of The American Revenuer (see Figures 21 and 22). Although by this point Janousek’s regular column on fish and game stamps had ended, he stated “Several states have issued new series of game and hunting stamps since the completion of my listing that was published in The American Revenuer over a period of two years. As I wish to keep this listing up to date I will attempt, from time to time, to inform you of new series…”

Janousek also reported two different stamps were issued: “Maryland – 1960-61 Big Game Stamp[s] $2.00 (firearms only)  $3.00 (archers only).



Figure 21. April, 1961 issue of The American Revenuer, cover page.


Figure 22. April, 1961 issue of The American Revenuer, page reporting Maryland Big Game Hunting Stamps were issued.



In Applegate’s Catalog of State and Territorial Game and Fishing License Stamps, published in 1963, Frank Applegate listed several additional stamps (see Figure 23). Unfortunately, the listings are a bit messy and kind of difficult to read. In the case of my copy, this is further exacerbated by handwritten notes made by E.L. Vanderford subsequent to publication.

However, Applegate was the first to report that in 1960-61 there were not only two separate stamps, one each for firearms and archers as reported by both Strock and Janousek – but added that for each of these there were two different printings. The first printing for the each stamp was perforated 12.5 [Vanderford’s notes] and the second printing was rouletted 9.5 [Vanderford’s notes].

Applegate further informed collectors that the first printing (perforated) for firearms numbered 60,000 stamps and the second printing (rouletted) numbered 13,000; while the first printing (perforated) for archers numbered 8,000 stamps and the second (rouletted) numbered 2,000.

One deduction that can be made with this new information is that by the time Strock purchased his firearms stamp from the license section, the first printing had been exhausted and they were selling stamps from the second printing – as he reported in the SRN that the firearms stamps were rouletted (see Figure 20).



Figure 23. The Maryland Big Game Stamps section from Applegate’s Catalog, Published in 1963.



In addition to those from 1960-61 Applegate listed big game stamps stamps from 1961-62, 1962-63 and 1963-64. He provide descriptions for the stamps from two of these years, 1961-62 and 1963-64.

For 1961-62, he stated the stamps were “[The] Same in all respects as 1960-61 except for color and date.”

$2.00 violet and black  Perf. 12.5 clear [all] around

3.00 orange and black  Perf. 12.5 clear [all] around


For 1963-64, he stated new artwork was used: “Buck deer facing the camera.”

$2.00 black on light yellow

3.00 black and brown



Vanderford’s Listings in the SRN

Starting with the September 1967 issue of the SRN, E.L. Vanderford was named as an Assistant Editor (Fish & Game) and the first of his game listings appeared. Ken Pruess had convinced Van to update Joseph Janousek’s fish and game listings that previously appeared in the American Revenuer (see Ken Pruess Remembered  – Part Two).

In the January, 1969 issue of the SRN, Vanderford presented his Maryland Big Game Stamp listings (see Figures 24-28). Van’s listings were clear, comprehensive and accurate. He listed the stamps for Archers and Firearms in two separate sections, each preceded by the same introduction:

“First issued for 1960-61 season. All issues 1960-61 through 1966-67 are from panes of 10 (2 x 5) with perforated or rouletted selvage on four sides. Overall stamp sizes approximately 54 x 45mm. Discontinued after [the] 1967-68 season and superseded by [a] $5.50 Deer and Turkey stamp for either Firearms or Bow and Arrow hunting.”

Vanderford’s listings revealed that new artwork was used starting with the 1965-66 issues and continuing through the end of the series (1967-68): ” New design, standing buck whitetailed deer” (see Figure 26).



Figure 24. January, 1969 issue of the State Revenue Newsletter, cover page.


Figure 25. January, 1969 issue of the State Revenue Newsletter, page 6 with Van’s Maryland Big Game Stamps for Archers listings.


Figure 26. January, 1969 issue of the State Revenue Newsletter, page 7 with Van’s Maryland Big Game Stamps for Archers listings (continued) and an introduction for his Firearms listings.


Figure 27. January, 1969 issue of the State Revenue Newsletter, page 8 with Van’s Maryland Big Game Stamps for  Firearms listings.


Figure 28. January, 1969 issue of the State Revenue Newsletter, page 9 with Van’s listing for the 1968-69 Deer and Turkey Stamp. This new series superseded the individual Big Game Stamps for Archers and Firearms.



These listings in the SRN would provide the basis for the Maryland Big Game Stamps section in Vanderford’s Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps, published by Ken Pruess and the State Revenue Society in 1973.

Van’s handbook served as the Bible for a rapidly growing niche hobby in the 1970s – the collecting of state and local fish and game stamps. As someone who had previously confined their collecting interests to U.S. postage stamps – regular issues, commemoratives, airmails, etc. and, of course, federal duck stamps – I know that The Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps really opened my eyes at the time and then continued to serve as a source of inspiration for years to come.

The oversized, bi-colored Maryland Big Game Stamps have always been favorites of collectors and hunters – and deservedly so. I remember (like it was yesterday) getting quite excited just looking at the black and white xerox copies shown above, many years ago. Starting in the next post (Part Two), I look forward to sharing HD full color scans with you – as we shelter in place together in 2020.



Continue to Part Two


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