WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says bigger bag limits for deer hunters in most of the state are helping reduce crop damage.

Game manager Peter Jayne told the Carroll County Times Friday that fewer farmers are applying for permits to kill crop-damaging deer.

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He credits longer hunting seasons and looser bag limits that encourage hunters to kill more deer, especially does, in areas east of Allegany County. Some of the changes date to 1998.

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Jayne says deer numbers have fallen since hunting rules were relaxed. He says the statewide deer population was estimated at 225,000 last fall. That compares with an estimated 300,000 deer in Maryland in 2002.

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