Delaware, the second smallest state in the USA, may not be vast in size, but it offers ample hunting opportunities for avid hunters. Among the various game and wildlife available, deer hunting stands out as the most popular. Delaware even holds an all-time record for the most deer taken in any US state deer hunting season. To ensure a safe and sustainable hunting experience, Delaware has well-regulated hunting laws overseen by the state Fish and Wildlife division. This article will provide an overview of Delaware’s hunting regulations, seasons, and licensing requirements for both residents and non-residents.
Delaware Hunting Regulations:
Delaware’s hunting regulations are in place to protect both the hunters and the wildlife. Some important general regulations include:
1. Delaware Sunday Hunting:
- Sunday hunting is generally not allowed in Delaware. However, exceptions are made for commercial red fox shooting during the fox season. Some legislation also permits deer hunting on Sundays during deer seasons, but it’s essential to confirm this with the wildlife division first.
2. Hunting License Requirements:
- It is unlawful to hunt in Delaware without a valid state license. Hunters must adhere to bag limits and possess only games taken lawfully.
3. Hunting Distance Regulations:
- It is illegal to hunt within 100 yards of an occupied building in Delaware, except for bow and arrow deer hunting, where the required distance is 50 yards. Some counties may require a 200-yard distance for those hunting with firearms.
4. Prohibition on Artificial Light:
- Using artificial light in wildlife for hunting games is strictly prohibited, including light from vehicles.
5. Night Vision and Infrared Devices:
- The use of devices that allow night vision or infrared vision during hunting is not allowed in Delaware.
These regulations are crucial to maintaining the safety and integrity of the hunting experience in Delaware. Hunters should always stay informed about any updates or changes to the regulations.
Firearms and Archery Regulations:
Delaware has specific regulations concerning the use of firearms and archery equipment during hunting. Some key regulations include:
1. Transporting Firearms in Vehicles:
- Hunters are not allowed to possess a loaded firearm or cocked crossbow in or on a motor vehicle while hunting in Delaware.
2. Hunting at Night:
- Hunting at night is strictly prohibited, with the night period defined as 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes prior to sunrise. There are exceptions for hunting specific games like opossums, frigs, and raccoons using a handheld light source.
3. Prohibited Firearms:
- Hunting games with a shotgun that has more than 10 gauges, an automatic firearm that shoots more than once upon pulling the trigger, or a centerfire rifle is strictly prohibited. However, exceptions are made for hunting predators like foxes and coyotes with a centerfire rifle.
4. Shotgun Shell Limits:
- Using a shotgun that contains more than three shells for hunting in Delaware is prohibited, except for snow geese hunting, which has an exception.
5. Prohibition on Poisoned or Explosive Arrows:
- Taking games and wildlife in Delaware with arrows coated with poisons or arrows with explosive tips is not allowed.
6. Rules on Swivel Firearms and Punts:
- Making use of a swivel firearm or a punt that cannot be discharged from the shoulder is prohibited during hunting.
Furbearer Hunting Regulations:
Hunting furbearers in Delaware has specific regulations aimed at ensuring humane and responsible practices. Some notable regulations include:
1. Prohibition on Certain Hunting Methods:
- The use of bait, pen, trap, cage, deadfall, chemical, poison, pitfall, and drug for the taking of games in Delaware is strictly prohibited. However, exceptions are made for specific wildlife and games like raccoons, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, etc.
2. Muskrat Hunting with Dogs:
- It is unlawful to hunt or take muskrats with a dog in Delaware. However, an exception is made for muskrat trapping.
Other Delaware Hunting Regulations:
Aside from the aforementioned regulations, Delaware also has other essential hunting laws and restrictions, including:
1. Prohibition on Selling or Trading Wildlife:
- It is unlawful to sell or trade wildlife and games or parts of their bodies, except with proper permission from the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.
2. Restrictions on Hunting Wild Birds:
- Shooting wild birds like owls and hawks is strictly prohibited. Delaware only approves permitted bird game hunting in the state, such as sparrows and starlings.
3. Possession of Live Wildlife:
- It is unlawful to have live wildlife and game animals in your possession without proper authorization.
4. Importing Rabbits into Delaware:
- Bringing live rabbits into Delaware from other states requires a health certificate.
5. Rules for Hunting Dogs on Private Land:
- Hunting dogs are not allowed to run at large in Delaware, except for specific periods on private land and only if they are registered.
6. Prohibition on Hunting with Baits:
- Hunting games with baits is not allowed in Delaware, with an exception for deer hunting on privately owned lands.
7. Hunting Swine with Proper License:
- Releasing swine animals into the wild, charging for hunting swine, or shooting at swine without the required license from the state hunting division is strictly prohibited.
8. Prohibition on Obtaining Deer Antlers with Traps:
- Hunters are not allowed to obtain deer antlers with traps or any equipment that removes antlers from the game.
9. Open Carry Rules During Hunting:
- Hunters can open carry during hunting in Delaware with either a handgun or a shotgun, but not during bow hunting.
These regulations are essential for ensuring ethical and sustainable hunting practices in Delaware. It is the responsibility of hunters to be familiar with these laws and adhere to them.
Delaware Hunting License Permits and Tags:
To hunt legally in Delaware, hunters must obtain the appropriate hunting license based on their residency status. Delaware offers various types of resident and non-resident licenses, permits, and tags. Here are some of the available options:
1. Resident Licenses Permits and Tags:
- Residents Adult Hunting License: Available for residents aged 16 to 64 years old at a cost of $39.50.
- Resident Junior Hunting License: For teenage residents aged 13 to 15 who want to hunt in the state, costing $5.
- Resident Guide Hunting License: Available for residents aged 18 and above who want to act as hunting guides, priced at $159.50.
- Resident Trapping License: Required for trapping games in the state for residents aged 13 to 64, costing $10.
- Residents Fur Dealer License: Necessary for residents engaging in commercial fur and pelt business, except for muskrat furs and pelts, costing $50.
- Residents Waterfowl Stamp: Required for residents aged 16 to 65 years old to hunt waterfowls, priced at $15.
- Delaware WMA Waterfowl and Deer Stand Permit: Allows residents to hunt waterfowls and deer in Wildlife areas of the state, costing $20.
- Resident Hunter’s Choice and Quality Buck Tag: Available for resident hunters at a cost of $20.
- Antlerless Deer Tags: Permits antlerless deer hunting in Delaware, priced at $20.
2. Non-resident Licenses, Permits, and Tags:
- Non-residents Adult Hunting License: For out-of-state hunters aged 16 years or older, costing $199.50.
- Non-Residents Junior Hunting License: Available for non-residents aged 13 to 15, priced at $50.
- Non-Resident Guide Hunting License: For non-residents who want to act as guides in the state, aged 18 years or older, priced at $475.
- Delaware Wildlife Area Waterfowl Blind and Deer Stand Permit: Allows non-residents to hunt waterfowls and deer in Wildlife management areas, costing $20.
- Non-Resident Trapping License: Required for non-residents who wish to trap games in Delaware, costing $75.
- Non-Resident Fur Dealer License: Annual license for non-residents venturing into commercial fur and pelt business in Delaware, except for muskrat furs and pelts, costing $475.
- Non-Residents Waterfowl Stamp: Allows non-residents aged 16 years or older to hunt waterfowls in the state, priced at $15.
- Non-Residents 3 Days Hunting License: A three-day non-resident license allowing hunting of small game species and waterfowls, costing $75.
- Non-Residents Antlered Deer Tag: For non-residents capturing antlered deer in Delaware, priced at $50.
- Non-Residents Additional Antlerless Deer Tag: Permits non-residents to hunt antlerless deer in Delaware, costing $20.
Hunters should carefully select the appropriate licenses, permits, and tags based on their residency status and hunting preferences.
Delaware Fishing Licenses, Tags, and Permits:
In addition to hunting licenses, Delaware offers fishing licenses, tags, and permits for residents and non-residents interested in fishing within the state. Here are some fishing options available:
1. Delaware General Fishing License:
- The most common fishing license available for residents and non-residents, costing $8.50 for residents and $20 for non-residents.
2. 7 Days Tourists Fishing License:
- Specifically for non-residents visiting Delaware, available for one week and priced at $12.50.
3. Boat Fishing License:
- Available for residents and non-residents and categorized by boat size: $40 for boats under 20ft and $50 for boats over 20ft.
4. Head Boat Fishing License:
- Allows fishing from a head boat at a cost of $300 for residents and $600 for non-residents.
5. Charter Boat Fishing License:
- Enables fishing from a chartered boat, costing $150 for residents and $300 for non-residents.
6. Guide Fishing License:
- Allows the holder to act as a fishing guide during fishing sessions, priced at $100 for residents and $300 for non-residents.
7. Young Angler Trout Stamp:
- Available for teenagers aged 12 to 15 years old to fish for trout, priced at $2.10 for residents and $6.20 for non-residents.
8. Adult Trout Stamp:
- Allows adults aged 16 to 64 years old to fish for trout, costing $4.80 for residents and $6.20 for non-residents.
It’s essential for anglers to obtain the appropriate fishing license and adhere to the regulations while enjoying fishing in Delaware’s waters.
Delaware Hunting Season 2023/2024:
Hunting seasons in Delaware are well-defined and vary for different wildlife. Some hunting seasons for various wildlife in Delaware during the 2023/2024 season include:
1. Delaware Deer Hunting Seasons:
- Archery and Crossbow Season: From 1st September to 31st January.
- Muzzleloader Season: From 9th October to 18th October and 25th January to 31st January.
- Shotgun Season: From 13th November to 22nd November and 16th January to 24th January.
- Handgun Season: On 2nd January and 4th January to 9th January.
- Antlerless Season: From 2nd October to 4th October, 19th October, 23rd October to 26th October, 31st October, and 12th December to 20th December.
- Youth and Disability Hunting Season: From 7th November to 8th November.
During the October deer antlerless hunting, hunters using bow and arrow or crossbows may take antlerless bucks. However, this practice is not allowed during the December antlerless season.
Hunters can make use of handguns in both the shotgun deer hunting season and the handgun season. However, hunters can only choose one firearm during the hunting season, opting for either a shotgun or a handgun. The use of shotguns and handguns together is prohibited.
2. Delaware Turkey Hunting Season:
- Public Land Permit A Season: From 10th April to 16th April.
- Public Land Permit B Season: From 17th April to 23rd April.
- Public Land Permit C Season: From 24th April to 30th April.
- Public Land Permit D Season: From 1st May to 8th May.
Turkey hunting season in Delaware is divided between public and private land hunting permits. Private land hunters can hunt turkeys throughout the turkey season, while public land hunters must follow specific dates for turkey hunting.
3. Delaware Small Game Hunting Season:
- Gray Squirrel Hunting Season: From 15th September to 6th February.
- Cottontail Rabbit Hunting Season: From 23rd November to 27th February.
- Groundhogs Hunting Season: From 1st July to 30th June.
- Pheasant Hunting Season: From 23rd November to 6th February.
- Quail Hunting Season: From 23rd November to 6th February.
Hunting seasons, bag limits, and hunting licenses may vary from one region of the state to another in Delaware.
Delaware Wildlife Games and Fish:
Delaware offers a diverse range of wildlife for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to explore and enjoy. Some of the notable games and wildlife in Delaware include:
1. Delaware Deer Hunting:
- Deer hunting in Delaware is highly revered, with deer being one of the most abundant game animals in the state. Hunters hold a special fondness for deer hunting, making it a popular activity in the state. In the 2015/16 deer hunting season, Delaware witnessed a record harvest of 14,681 deer, standing as the all-time record in any US state’s deer hunting season.
2. Delaware Turkey Hunting:
- Turkey hunting in Delaware has been gaining popularity over the years. Turkeys are highly valued game animals in the state and can be found in various parts of Delaware. The estimated turkey population in Delaware stands at about 4,000.
3. Delaware Crow Hunting:
- Crow hunting in Delaware is often used by hunters to refine their wing-shooting skills. Crows are known for their intelligence, excellent eyesight, and elusiveness, making them challenging targets for hunters.
4. Delaware Waterfowl Hunting:
- Waterfowl hunting is prevalent in Delaware due to the presence of various water bodies throughout the state. Waterfowls are also commonly found in agricultural lands, where they forage for food, and these areas serve as popular hunting grounds. Some common waterfowl species hunted in Delaware include ducks and geese.
5. Delaware Fox Hunting:
- Red foxes are the most common fox species in Delaware. Hunting foxes can be challenging as they are alert and keenly aware of their surroundings. Foxes can be hunted using various methods, including handguns, muzzle-loading firearms, shotguns, centerfire rifles, longbows, and crossbows.
6. Delaware Coyotes Hunting:
- Coyotes are another predator that is common in Delaware. Similar to foxes, they can be elusive and difficult to hunt. Hunting coyotes is permitted using handguns, muzzle-loading firearms, shotguns, centerfire rifles, longbows, and crossbows.
7. Delaware Dove Hunting:
- Dove hunting is a popular shooting sport in Delaware. Doves are evenly distributed across the state, providing accessible opportunities for hunters.
8. Delaware Beaver Hunting:
- Beavers can be hunted in Delaware using shotguns, recurve bows, and compound bows.
9. Delaware Cottontail Rabbit Hunting:
- Cottontail Rabbit Hunting in Delaware allows the use of shotguns, recurve bows, and longbows. Hunters are also required to adhere to the dress code for firearm hunting seasons.
10. Delaware Groundhog Hunting:
- Groundhogs in Delaware do not require licenses, permits, or tags to hunt. They are considered unprotected game species, and hunters can use firearms and archery equipment to hunt them.
11. Delaware Quail Hunting:
- The bobwhite quail is the species of quail available for hunting in Delaware. Hunting quail is limited to shotguns and longbows.
Delaware offers a rich diversity of games and wildlife, providing ample opportunities for hunters to enjoy their passion for hunting.
Delaware Wildlife Management Areas:
Delaware has several Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) that offer excellent opportunities for hunting and outdoor recreation. Some of the notable WMAs in Delaware include:
- Augustine Wildlife Area
- Cedar Swamp Wildlife Area
- Woodland Beach Wildlife Area
- Kelley Island (part of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge)
- Little Creek Wildlife Area
- Ted Harvey Conservation Area
- Assawoman Wildlife Area
- White Clay Creek State Park
- Blackbird State Forest
- Woodland Beach Wildlife Area (except the Lighthouse Island tract)
- Portions of Little Creek Wildlife Area
- Portions of Ted Harvey Conservation Area
- Prime Hook Wildlife Area and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (lotteries run through the National Wildlife Refuge lottery system)
These Wildlife Management Areas are essential for wildlife conservation and offer hunters a variety of habitats and game species to pursue.
Delaware Hunting Land for Sale and Lease:
For those interested in owning or leasing hunting land in Delaware, there are various opportunities available. Some examples of hunting lands for sale in Delaware include:
- Felton, DE 19962. Kent County, 77.6 acres.
- Harrington, DE 19952. Kent County, 142 acres.
- Swamp Rd, Frankford, DE, 19945. Sussex County, 63.15 acres.
- 2 Mile Road, Harrington, DE, 19952. Kent County, 215.56 acres.
- 13989 Century Farm Road, Greenwood, DE, 19950. Sussex County, 293 acres.
Hunting land ownership or lease provides hunters with opportunities to establish their hunting base and enjoy the abundance of wildlife that Delaware has to offer.
Delaware may be the second smallest state in the USA, but it boasts ample hunting opportunities for hunters of all skill levels. With well-regulated hunting laws and a diverse range of games and wildlife, Delaware offers a rewarding hunting experience. Whether it’s deer hunting, turkey hunting, waterfowl hunting, or small game hunting, hunters in Delaware can explore a variety of terrains and habitats to indulge in their passion for hunting. However, it’s essential for hunters to understand and abide by the hunting regulations to ensure ethical and sustainable hunting practices. As the hunting seasons approach, hunters can acquire the necessary licenses and permits to enjoy the great outdoors and the thrill of the hunt in the beautiful state of Delaware.
Can out-of-state hunters hunt in Delaware without a license?
No, out-of-state hunters must obtain a non-resident hunting license to hunt legally in Delaware.
What is the cost of a resident adult hunting license in Delaware?
The cost of a resident adult hunting license in Delaware is $39.50.
Can residents hunt turkeys throughout the turkey season on private lands?
Yes, residents can hunt turkeys throughout the turkey season on private lands. However, on public lands, hunters must follow specific dates for turkey hunting.
What was the all-time record for deer harvested in Delaware’s deer hunting season?
The all-time record for deer harvested in Delaware’s deer hunting season was 14,681 in the 2015/16 season.
Are hunters allowed to use artificial light for hunting in Delaware?
No, using artificial light for hunting games and wildlife is strictly prohibited in Delaware.