Delaware, being surrounded by dune-backed beaches, has in its capital of Dover the First State Heritage Park. Don’t let the small size of Delaware ‘fool’ you.
Apart from being crowded by excellent parks, boutiques and restaurants, the state offers tremendous prospects for hunting. The Department of Fish and Wildlife controls 19 public forest areas.
Besides providing shelter to a vast range of species, the forest lands of Delaware bestow opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational opportunities.
You can go on a pleasing hunting trip with your family in the beautiful forests of Delaware. All that you need to do is to abide by the hunting rules and regulations, and there you are! Shine up your rifles and get ready!
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1. Hunting Seasons
The primary causes for setting up separate hunting seasons for different animals are mainly breeding, age or gender distribution, recreational and economic concerns.
If the animal population is large, moderators will time it to give hunters a greater advantage to hunt. If the population is dwindling, they will set the dates to give the animals a greater survival advantage.
The Delaware Department of Fish and Wildlife has distinctly segregated the hunting seasons into- big game hunting season and small game hunting season.
1.1 Big Game
Big game animals in Delaware mainly comprise white-tailed deer and red foxes. For different types of shooters, the deer season has been separately defined.
- Archery and Crossbow hunters may bag antlered bucks through the October antlerless seasons. They may not do so during the December antlerless season.
- Youth and Disability deer hunting season commences from November 7 to 8.
- Delaware has legalized deer hunting with a handgun during shotgun seasons (November 13 to 22 and January 16 to 24) as well as handgun season (January 2 and January 4 to 9), though hunters can only implement one take method during the hunt.
Depending on the methods used, hunting red foxes in Delaware has two distinct seasons. If you want to hunt using the chase method, the season is longer and begins on October 1, whereas if you want to go for the harvest method, the season commences from early November.
Red fox hunting is not permitted by the chase method during the deer seasons that occur between October and November.
1.2 Small Game
Small game animals in Delaware comprise a vast range of animals, namely, Gray Squirrel, Cottontail Rabbit, Coyotes, Groundhogs, Ring-necked pheasant (male only), Bobwhite Quail and so on.
- Gray Squirrel hunting season commences from September 15 and ends on February 6.
- Cottontail Rabbit can be hunted from November 23 to February 27.
- Groundhogs hunting season is between July 1 and June 30.
- Ring-necked pheasant (male) can be hunted from November 23 to February 6.
- Bobwhite Quail season starts from November 23 to January 2.
- Coyotes are available for hunting during the entire autumn season.
- The regular season for duck hunting in Delaware begins from October until early November and then starting again in late November.
- The snow geese hunting season begins from October 1 and runs until the end of January.
- Delaware has segregated its turkey hunting seasons by private and public land permits. Hunters on private lands are able to hunt throughout the entire season, while hunters with public land hunting permits must adhere to additional season dates based by permit.
2. What Species to Hunt in Delaware?
The “Small Wonder” state of Delaware has outstanding prospects for deer hunting. Diversity of small game animals is a significant lineament of Delaware.
Although the state offers mainly deer and red foxes among the big game animals, the forests of Delaware are an absolute paradise for the hunters because of the availability of a variety of small game animals.
2.1 White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer is found in abundance in Delaware. Delaware is the only state with ‘deer’ in its very name and is divided into 18 Deer Management Zones, and within each zone enormous hunting opportunities are available.
In the winter season of 2005, Delaware conducted its first statewide aerial infrared deer population survey with the revelation in the aftermath that, as with many other states, Delaware too has areas in which the white-tailed deer’s population exceeds the state’s carrying capacity.
With an aim of maintaining the deer population healthy and to ensure that it acts as a viable source of recreation among the masses, the state has mentioned a detailed account of the hunting regulations in the official website of Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the hunter needs to abide by the norms of hunting.
2.2 Red Foxes
Most people bear the wrong information that only red foxes are found in Delaware. In the wooded areas of Delaware, gray foxes are also found in abundance. Red foxes are generally reddish in color but they can also have coats that are a shade of grey.
Owing to the high population of red fox, it is relatively easy to spot it and catch a glimpse of red fox in Delaware. However, if you aspire to have a glimpse of gray fox, you need to enter deep into the wooded areas of the forest since the gray foxes are quite shy and secretive and you will be deemed as being lucky if you manage to spot it.
As in case of other game animals, for red fox too, there are certain norms, license and bag limits which are mentioned the State’s official website and needs to be strictly followed by the hunters.
Coyotes in Delaware can mostly be found around sunrise and sunset. They resemble to collie dogs. Adult coyotes weigh around 20 to 45 pounds and have erect pointed ears, a slender muzzle and a long bushy tale. They have brownish coats with cream-colored belly.
Coyotes include in their diet, almost anything that seems edible to them! In areas where they are prone to being hunted or trapped, they become extremely wary of human beings. If you want to have a closer look at them, it is suggested that you should binoculars.
Never try to lure them by putting food, for there is a risk of getting attacked by the coyotes. You must not tempt them, since they are unpredictable and caution is the most vital watchword when you are in their vicinity.
2.4 Ring-necked pheasant (Male only)
Ring-necked pheasants are well-known game birds and are 89 cm in length, with a long brown streaked black tail (accounting for almost 50 cm of the total length). Most of them can fly only up to a short distance. But if they are startled, they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed.
Hunters frequently encountered wild ring-necked pheasants through the 1980s, but they are a bit scarce nowadays. However, you ought not to lose hope, you can spot many pheasants if you are lucky enough! All you need to do is to abide by the hunting norms as mentioned in the official website of Delaware.
2.5 Raccoon and Opossum
Raccoon is a medium-sized mammal, having a body length of 40 to 70 cm and its grayish coat mostly consists of dense fur which protects it against cold weather.
Opossums are also known as ‘living fossils’ and are small to medium-sized marsupials that grow to the size of a house cat. If threatened, opossums will growl deeply, raising their pitch as the threat becomes more urgent.
Racoon and Opossums may be hunted with compound, recurve, longbow, shotgun, or 22 caliber rimfire pistol. The hunting season runs from September 1 to October 31. Harvesting raccoons and opossums is prohibited during the November shotgun season.
2.6 Bobwhite Quail
The name “bobwhite” derives from its characteristic whistling call. Bobwhite quail can range from 24 to 28 cm in length and has a rounded shape. The bill is short, curved and brown-black in color.
The hunting season starts from November 23 to January 2 and the bag limit is 6 per day.
2.7 Cottontail Rabbits
Cottontail rabbits live in nests called forms and are more distantly related to the European and other rabbits, and more distantly still to the hares. Rabbits may be hunted with shotguns, compound, recurve and longbows.
Rabbit hunters must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange material displayed on head, chest and back when hunting during any deer firearms season. The hunting season begins from late November until the end of the year.
2.8 Duck and Geese
Ducks and geese are available in plenty in Delaware and are highly demanded because of their meat. The daily bag limit for ducks is six, except for coots and mergansers, which have a limit of 15 and five, respectively.
There are different seasons for geese in Delaware. Migratory Canada geese, including white-fronted geese, have a brief season in late November and a longer season that begins in mid-December.
The bag limit is 2 geese, and possession limit is 6. Snow geese hunting season begins October 1 and runs until the end of January, with a bag limit of 25 and no possession limit.
3. Where can you hunt?
3.1 Public Lands
Hunters can hunt to a large extent in the vast public lands of Delaware. Waterfowl hunters have a variety of opportunities to hunt on public lands in Delaware including marsh blinds, goose pits and upland fields. The areas enumerated below are by permit only through daily lottery:
- Augustine WA
- Little Creek WA
- Cedar Swamp WA
- Portions of Ted Harvey CA
Deer hunters have a variety of opportunities to hunt on public lands in Delaware. The below mentioned areas have firearm deer hunting by permit only issued through a daily lottery:
- White Clay Creek State Park
- Blackbird State Forest
- Assawoman WA (portions of)
- Little Creek WA
Deer hunting at Delaware Seashore State Parks is by permit only and hunters ought to contact the park authorities for further details.
Small game hunters can hunt in the following public lands by permit issued only through a daily lottery:
- Cedar Swamp WA
- Woodland Beach WA
- Little Creek WA
- Assawoman WA
3.2 Private Lands
Being the home to 400 species of animals, Delaware is a biologically rich state with hardwood forests and coastal marshes. Over 80% of the available habitat in Delaware occurs on private lands.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife has systematically organized its staff and officials to concentrate more on assisting the private landowners to enhance and restore their precious habitat.
However, in Delaware, you are not permitted to hunt without the landowner’s permission, whether the property is posted or not.
A pilot program launched by the Delaware Department of Agriculture, which regulates the state’s forest land, has planned to propose privately leasing more than 800 acres of public lands.
There are enormous hunting opportunities in the private lands for the hunters in search of a game.
4. License Requirements
For hunting any type of game in Delaware, all that you require first is a hunting license. Every resident of this state who were born after January 1, 1967 needs to have a license for hunting, trapping or shooting.
You may also be required to have the Hunter Education Certificate in order to lawfully purchase a license or permit to hunt. Firstly, you need to complete the Delaware hunter education certification requirements.
Then, select the correct license type and you can buy the license through the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife website or a Delaware-approved retailer.
4.1 Types of Delaware Hunting Licenses
4.1.1 Delaware Resident
A resident implies who has been a constant inhabitant of Delaware for at least 1 year, which also includes active-duty military members stationed in Delaware. It is mandatory for all residents between the ages of 13 to 64 to have a resident hunting license.
The non-residents of Delaware who are 13 years old or above are required to have a non-resident hunting license.
4.1.3 Youth Hunting License
Delaware residents and non-residents may hunt without a license, if they are under the age of 13. They must procure a License Exempt Number (LEN), and they must be followed by a licensed person.
4.1.4 Senior Hunting License
Delaware residents who are of age 65 or older need not have a hunting license.
4.1.5 Disability License
Disabled hunter certification card must be obtained by hunters with disabilities, since the card permits them to enjoy the facilities and opportunities offered by Delaware.
4.1.6 Military and Veteran License
Resident veterans of Delaware can apply for the free Delaware Resident Military One Time Hunting License, within the first 12 months of being honorably discharged.
They must have served for 90 or more days on active military duty. Resident veterans with 60% or more service-connected disability can avail the free Delaware Disabled Veterans Hunting License.
5. Hunter Education
The Delaware Hunter Education Program was introduced in 1970 with an aim to put safe, ethical and educated hunters in the field of hunting. Since the inception of the course, it has persisted in maintaining the state’s custom of fair chase hunting by educating and evolving responsible and knowledgeable hunters.
5.1 Traditional Hunter Education Course
Safe gun handling, wildlife management, marksmanship techniques, safety and survival are taught via traditional live course. You need to sign up for the course given live at one of the classroom locations throughout the state.
A liability release signed by students 18 or older is required for teaching live firing of shotguns, which will be imparted by trained instructors. All students must have protective shooting glasses and hearing protection.
All live courses are free of charge and held in the late summer and fall. Classes are available throughout the year at Ommeladen Hunter/ Trapper Education Center, for which students need to register themselves.
5.2 Online Hunter Education Course
Students aspiring to receive online hunter education need to use the Digital DNREC Hunter Education System and sign up for hunter education courses, print their certificates and handle their profile.
Digital DNREC is an interactive online platform for hunters, anglers, trappers and signing up is for courses is extremely easy and fast. You can also peruse the Digital DNREC Hunter Education System User’s Guide for further details.
6. Rules and Regulations
6.1 Distance Regulations
In Delaware, unless the hunter is the owner or occupant, or has permission from the owner; it is illegal to hunt within 100 yards of an occupied structure.
While hunting deer with archery equipment, a hunter must be at least 50 yards away from a building. It is unlawful to discharge any firearm within 15 yards of public road or shoot across a public road or right-of-way.
6.2 Legal Hunting Hours
Though there is not any officially proclaimed legal hunting hours in Delaware, a hunter needs to follow the rule of starting at 30 minutes before sunrise and stopping 30 minutes after sunset.
6.3 Hunter Orange Requirements
“Hunter Orange” implies a daylight fluorescent orange hue with wave length up to 605 nanometers and illumination factor of not less than 40%. Hunter orange is compulsory during firearm shooting of white-tailed deer.
6.4 Bag Limit
The bag limit in Delaware depends upon the type of game animal that the hunter wishes to hunt. For deer, the bag limit is 4 while for the small game animals like geese, the daily bag limit is 15. The tag permits or bag limits for each game is mentioned in the state’s official website.
6.5 Can You Hunt At Night?
In Delaware, hunting at night is illegal for all non-nocturnal species. It is unlawful to hunt at night (30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise) except that frogs, raccoons and opossums may be hunted at night using a handheld light.
You are not permitted to use any type of artificial light unless you are using them to dispatch an already wounded animal. You cannot use night vision and infrared devices while hunting.
7. Bowhunting Regulations
In Delaware, there are certain bowhunting regulations for deer hunting which a hunter needs to take into account:
- Crossbows are legal during all the deer hunting seasons.
- Crossbows may be equipped with a scope.
- To transport a crossbow on or within any vehicle while the crossbow is in the cocked position is illegal.
- Deer may be hunted with crossbows provided hunter orange is displayed when it is also lawful to hunt deer with a gun.
7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements
- The longbow or crossbow and sharpened broadhead arrows must have minimum arrowhead width of 7/8 of an inch.
- Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.
- A minimum draw weight for longbows must be established.
- The maximum pull weight for crossbows and scopes on crossbows must be allowed.
8. Game Calls
Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to tempt the animals to the trap. There are two types of game call: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the help of wood or plastic and are cost-friendly.
Electronic game calls are, however, not always considered legal. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to take any non-game bird or non-game mammal except coyotes, raccoons or opossums.
Delaware offers exciting hunting opportunities and a hunter will never let go of his golden opportunity to go hunting in the state, at least once in their lifetime. In order to get an enjoyable and safe experience, one needs to sincerely follow all the hunting norms in Delaware.
For further information about the hunting seasons, please do visit the official website of Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife: https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/.
- Hunting in Delaware
- Delaware Hunting Seasons
- Delaware Hunting Regulations
- General Hunting Information
- Deer Hunting in Delaware
- Hunting Regulations
- Delaware Hunting License
- Official Delaware Hunter Safety Course Online
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