Hunting seasons in Delaware are a time-honored tradition, deeply rooted in the state’s history and culture.
These seasons are meticulously planned and regulated by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife to ensure sustainable wildlife populations and to provide hunters with ample opportunities to pursue their passion.
From the pursuit of white-tailed deer in the crisp autumn months to waterfowl hunting along the state’s pristine wetlands, Delaware offers a diverse range of game and hunting experiences. In this post, we will explain the Delaware hunting seasons in detail.
When Does the Hunting Season Begin in Delaware?
Delaware is renowned for its prosperous deer hunting opportunities. The state has consistently seen impressive harvest numbers, with the 2022-2023 season witnessing hunters bagging 16,848 deer.
This marked the 10th consecutive year that Delaware hunters harvested more than 14,000 deer. The state offers a variety of deer hunting methods, including archery, crossbows, muzzleloaders, general firearms/shotgun, and handguns.
Deer Hunting in Delaware
Special seasons are also designated for antlerless deer and youth and non-ambulatory hunts. It’s worth noting that while archery and crossbow hunters can bag antlered bucks during the October antlerless seasons, they are prohibited from doing so in the December antlerless season.
|Archery and Crossbow||Sept. 1 – Jan. 31|
|Muzzleloader||Oct. 6-15 & Jan. 22-28|
|General Firearm/Shotgun||Nov. 10-19 & Jan. 13-21|
|Handgun||Jan. 6 & Jan. 8-12|
|Special Antlerless||Oct. 1, Oct. 16, Oct. 20-23, Oct. 27-30 & Dec. 9-17|
|Youth and Non-ambulatory Hunt||Nov. 4-5|
Turkey Hunting in Delaware
Turkey hunting in Delaware is categorized based on land type: private and public.
While hunters on private lands can hunt throughout the entire season, those with public land hunting permits must adhere to specific season dates determined by their permit type.
The state ensures a structured approach to turkey hunting to maintain a balance in the turkey population and provide hunters with fair opportunities.
|Permit Type||Season Dates|
|Public Land Permit A||Apr. 13-19|
|Public Land Permit B||Apr. 20-26|
|Public Land Permit C||Apr. 27-May 3|
|Public Land Permit D||May 4-11|
Small Game Hunting in Delaware
Delaware offers a rich variety of small game hunting seasons, encompassing species like gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits, groundhogs, ring-necked pheasants, and bobwhite quails.
Each of these species has its own designated season, ensuring that hunters have diverse options throughout the year.
The state’s regulations and seasons aim to provide sustainable hunting opportunities while preserving the natural habitats and populations of these species.
|Gray Squirrel||Sept. 15 – Feb. 3|
|Cottontail Rabbit||Nov. 20 – Feb. 29|
|Groundhogs||July 1 – June 30|
|Ring-necked Pheasant (Male Only)||Nov. 20 – Feb. 3|
|Bobwhite Quail||Nov. 20 – Jan. 6|
Hunting Rules in Delaware:
Hunting in Delaware is not just about the thrill of the chase; it’s about responsible and ethical practices that ensure the conservation of wildlife and their habitats.
The state has established a set of rules and regulations that every hunter must adhere to, ensuring that the sport remains sustainable and safe for all involved.
- Selling, trading, or bartering any game or any parts thereof, except as permitted by law.
- Hunters shipping lawfully taken game must first obtain a notarized affidavit.
- It is illegal to hunt within 100 yards of an occupied structure.
- Dogs are not allowed to run at large at any time, with exceptions for landowners of 20 acres or more who may permit their dogs to run from October 1 through February 28 on their own land.
- All dogs must be licensed and cannot run at large between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
Firearms and Equipment Regulations
- When hunting deer with archery equipment, a hunter must maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from a structure. In New Castle County, north of I-295 and I-95, the distance requirement is 200 yards.
- Broadhead arrows (minimum width of 7/8”) are permitted.
- Shotguns no smaller than 20 gauge are allowed for deer hunting using rifle slug, pumpkin ball, or buckshot. These shotguns must be plugged to hold only 3 shells (in the chamber and magazine combined).
- It is unlawful to carry buckshot, rifle slug, or pumpkin ball except while hunting for deer.
Youth and Training
- All first-time Delaware turkey hunters must successfully complete a Division-approved Turkey training course.
- Hunters aged 13-15 must have completed an approved course in hunter training and possess a Delaware Resident or Non-Resident Junior Hunting License.
Operation Game Theft
Delaware has established the “Operation Game Theft” program to assist in the apprehension and conviction of game law violators. The fund for this program is comprised of all the fines levied for violation of game laws.
Rewards are provided for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in specific categories of wildlife crimes.
Public Hunting Areas in Delaware:
Delaware offers a diverse range of public hunting areas, each with its unique landscape and wildlife. These areas are managed to provide sustainable hunting opportunities while preserving the natural habitats and populations of various species.
Here’s a closer look at some of the prominent public hunting areas in the state.
State Wildlife Areas
Delaware’s State Wildlife Areas are a haven for hunters. These areas are spread across different counties and offer a variety of game. Some of the notable wildlife areas include:
- Augustine Wildlife Area: Located in New Castle County, this area is known for deer, waterfowl, and turkey hunting.
- Eagles Nest Wildlife Area: Another gem in New Castle County, it offers opportunities for deer and waterfowl hunting.
- C&D Canal Conservation Area: This area spans multiple zones and is a hotspot for deer and waterfowl hunting.
- Cedar Swamp Wildlife Area: Located in Zone 3, it’s a popular spot for deer hunting.
State Parks and Forests
Apart from wildlife areas, Delaware’s state parks and forests also offer hunting opportunities. Some of the prominent ones include:
- Killens Pond State Park: Located in Zone 8, it’s open for deer hunting.
- Taber State Forest: Situated in Zone 7, it offers hunting opportunities for deer, small game, and waterfowl.
National Wildlife Refuges
Delaware is home to some beautiful national wildlife refuges that are open to hunting. These include:
- Bombay Hook NWR: Located in Zone 5, it’s open for deer, waterfowl, and turkey hunting.
Rules and Regulations
Each public hunting area has its own set of rules and regulations. For instance, operating any unlicensed motor vehicle is prohibited in these areas.
Additionally, driving off maintained roadways or exceeding 20 MPH on wildlife area roads is not allowed. It’s essential for hunters to familiarize themselves with the specific rules of the area they plan to hunt in.
Guns and Equipment for Hunting Season in Delaware
Hunting in Delaware is a cherished tradition, and with it comes the responsibility of using the right equipment to ensure safety and success.
The state has specific regulations regarding the types of firearms and equipment that can be used during various hunting seasons. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you gear up for the next hunting season in Delaware.
Firearms and Archery Equipment:
- It’s unlawful to have a loaded firearm, or a cocked crossbow, in or on a motorboat while underway, or in, against, or on a motor vehicle or farm machinery.
- Transporting a muzzleloader with a charge in the barrel is prohibited unless the cap or primer is removed, and the gun is enclosed in a case or the striking mechanism is removed.
- Night hunting is restricted to specific animals like frogs, raccoons, and opossum, and only using a handheld light.
- Shotguns: Shotguns no smaller than 20 gauge are permitted for deer hunting using rifle slug, pumpkin ball, or buckshot. These shotguns must be plugged to hold only three shells (in the chamber and magazine combined). It’s unlawful to carry buckshot, rifle slug, or pumpkin ball except while hunting for deer.
- Muzzleloaders: Muzzleloaders no smaller than .42 caliber with a barrel length of at least 20 inches are allowed.
- Handguns: Handguns are limited to revolvers and single-shot pistols with a barrel length of at least 5.75 inches and no longer than 12.5 inches. They should be chambered for straight-wall handgun ammunition in specific calibers.
- Archery: Compound, recurve, longbow, and crossbow using sharpened broadhead arrows (minimum width of 7/8”) are permitted for deer hunting.
- Rifles: Straight-walled pistol-caliber rifles may only be used to harvest deer. There are specific restrictions on allowable cartridges.
- Using a shotgun larger than 10 gauge, a fully automatic loading gun, or a centerfire rifle (with specific exceptions) is prohibited.
- Poison or explosive tip arrows are not allowed.
- Punt or swivel guns or any gun not normally fired from the shoulder are also prohibited.
Hunting Limits in Delaware Counties:
Hunting is a time-honored tradition in Delaware, deeply rooted in the state’s culture and history. As the fall season approaches, hunters eagerly await the opportunity to engage in this age-old practice, whether it’s hunting deer, rabbit, or waterfowl.
The state of Delaware recognizes the importance of hunting and the need to ensure that it is practiced sustainably. To this end, specific hunting limits have been established, varying based on the species and, in some instances, the specific region or county.
These limits are crucial for maintaining healthy wildlife populations and ensuring that hunting can be enjoyed by future generations.
Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Role
The Division of Fish and Wildlife plays a pivotal role in managing hunting in Delaware. They provide numerous opportunities for hunters on approximately 68,000 acres of public lands throughout the state.
These wildlife areas offer diverse hunting opportunities, ensuring that hunters have a variety of options to choose from. The Division is committed to offering the best of what Delaware’s natural resources have to offer.
Seasons & Limits
While the content provides an overview of the hunting opportunities in Delaware, specific details regarding seasons and bag limits for various species like deer and migratory birds are essential for hunters.
These limits are set based on scientific research and are designed to ensure the conservation of wildlife populations.
What season is it in Delaware for hunting?
Delaware offers various hunting seasons throughout the year, including deer, turkey, and small game seasons. The specific season depends on the current date and the type of game. It’s best to check the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife’s official calendar for precise dates.
Is it still hunting season in Delaware?
Hunting seasons in Delaware vary by game and time of year. To determine if it’s currently hunting season, you should refer to the official hunting calendar provided by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Can you hunt in Delaware?
Yes, hunting is permitted in Delaware. However, hunters must adhere to specific regulations, obtain the necessary licenses, and hunt only during designated seasons for each game species.