If your goal is to put venison in the freezer, any of these three public lands will offer you a great chance of seeing and harvesting a deer this season. (August 2009)
: Dan Neuland and his son, Nathaniel, from Thurmont, Maryland, with a bow kill from an October state park hunt in Maryland.
Photo courtesy of Dan Neuland.
In this day and age finding a place to hunt is tough to say the least. Often public lands are crowded and the deer are under intense hunting pressure making them tough to hunt. We did some research for readers on public lands in both Delaware and Maryland and came up with some very promising opportunities for this season. The great news is that most of these hunting opportunities are open all season long, and there are plenty of deer available to boot.
In Maryland, the far western portion of the state is mountainous and challenging for hunters. Weather in the western mountainous region can be trying as well. Deer numbers on public lands in these areas are stable, and pressure on public land is intense at times. However, in the southern and coastal regions of the state, the land is more urbanized and deer populations are dense, requiring some hunter assistance to thin the deer herd. We found one WMA that gets little pressure and has a liberal bag limit.
Maryland Marine Properties
Maryland Marine Properties is one of the Free State's best-kept secrets. The 1,130-acre jewel is located adjacent to the Pocomoke River near the Chesapeake Bay and is loaded with game, including deer. We spoke with Wildlife Technician Buck Jarusek about the deer-hunting opportunities there for hunters. Jarusek shared some detailed information about the WMA with us.
"The WMA is composed of a mix of upland hardwoods and marsh riverside habitat with pine thickets interspersed. The hardwoods include oak and wild cherry. We also practice land management for dove and quail, which of course benefits turkeys and deer. Some of our fields that we plant each year include corn, sunflowers and wheat."
Jarusek says that all of the hunts at Maryland Marine Properties are open to the public and are not draw hunts at this time. Last year's season dates were as follows: Archery -- Sept. 15-Oct. 15, Oct. 20-Nov. 28, Dec. 15-19, Jan. 5-8 and Jan. 12-31. During these dates, hunters could harvest deer of either sex.
Muzzleloader hunters took to the fields Oct. 16-18 (either sex), 20-25 (antlerless only), and Dec. 20-Jan. 3 (either sex). Firearms hunters (shotguns and rifles) had the woods from Nov. 29-Dec. 13 and Jan. 9-10. Either-sex harvest was permitted. Season bag limits are two bucks and 10 does.
Jarusek also stated that there are good numbers of deer all over Maryland Marine Properties, but hunters should focus on the edges of the habitats, such as the uplands and thickets or the marsh and the pine thickets. The older age-classes of bucks tend to hide out in the marsh, where there is good cover and even less hunting pressure. The Phragmites dominate the landscape there and hunters don't care to venture into the marsh to hunt that often. A hunter who finds a stand site tree near an exit from the marsh has a good chance to take a big buck. Deer are common all over the WMA.
Keep in mind that the weather is warm in the early part of the season and the mosquitoes are relentless. Wear bug-proof clothing and rubber boots if you are going to venture near the marsh. Jarusek also suggested hunters call (877) 620-8367 ext. 8540 for up-to-date season dates, as they were not available at press time.
Delaware has a number of WMAs open to the general public. Some are open to hunting without a draw or lottery; some are more restricted. Because Delaware is a coastal state, biting insects are common and hunters would do well to keep this in mind as they plan early-season hunts.
We spoke to Joe Rogerson, Game Mammal Biologist with Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, to get the scoop on the hunting at our two featured public lands. Rogerson gave us two public lands to feature and some tips to go with the hunting opportunities in Delaware.
Rogerson first pointed out that hunters have a unique opportunity in Delaware to harvest a buck in velvet if they take advantage of the early start date to the archery seasons. Another note that hunters should make is concerning firearms regulations.
Rifles are not permitted in Delaware for deer hunting at any time. Hunters may use muzzleloaders to include inline and smokeless, and shotguns with slugs or buckshot.
Redden State Forest
Redden State Forest is divided into 17 huntable tracts for a total of 9,500 acres, which makes it the largest in the state. This public land follows the state regulations and season dates.
Deer hunters will find that opportunities on Redden State Forest are similar or the same as the state hunting seasons. Archery hunters may hunt from Sept. 1 through Jan. 31. Keep in mind that during gun seasons, blaze orange must be worn. October muzzleloader season is slated from Oct. 9-17 this year.
Delaware breaks down antlerless days by the month. October's antlerless days are Oct. 2-3, 19, 23, 24, 26, 30-31. Youth day is Nov. 7. The November shotgun season is Nov. 13-21. December antlerless days run from the 12th to the 19th of the month. Handgun hunters may hunt from Jan. 2 through 9 and shotgun hunters get the woods January 16-23. Muzzleloader hunters finish out the season on Jan. 25-30.
Hunters visiting Redden State Forest will find that the tracts vary in habitat and terrain. The best bet is to visit the tracts first online at http://dda.delaware.gov/forestry/maps.shtml and then in person to see for yourself what the view from the ground looks like. Some tracts have been recently timbered and offer good cutover cover and browse for deer, while others are hardwood. And other tracts are pure pine stands.
Rogerson stated that hunters that are willing to hike farthest from the road are more likely to encounter older deer and more mature bucks. Hunting pressure is reduced in these areas as well, making the chance of seeing deer better. Larger bucks are also known to frequent the cutovers that are thick. Such areas often deter hunters.
"Hunters should also focus on the areas that were logged five to 10 years ago. Most hunters feel these thickets are too dense to penetrate, but the hunter that is willing to crawl through the brush should be able to find mature deer," Rogerson shared.
Cedar Swamp Wildlife Areas
The tracts of Cedar Swamp Wildlife Areas consist of 5,515 acres of public land, much of which
is marshland. There is quite a bit of agriculture habitat at Cedar Swamp WMA as well, and that is a key food source for deer. Hunters will find some small hardwood lots scattered among the swamps and agricultural lands.
There are four tracts -- Bell, South, North and The Rocks -- available to deer hunters. Information and maps of the tracts can be viewed at www.fw.delaware.gov/Hunting/Pages/HuntingMaps.aspx.
Most of the season dates are in line with the state deer-hunting dates, but some variations do exist depending on the tract and management needs. Hunters should visit the Web site to ensure the date they want to hunt is open.
Cedar Swamp Wildlife Area is different from Reddon State Forest in that the firearms hunts are draw or lottery hunts for peak days during November shotgun, December antlerless and January shotgun seasons. These drawings are done pre-season; other firearms hunts are done by a daily drawing.
Archery hunters must sign in at the check station during archery season. Hunters are also required to stay within their zone during archery season or in their established stand during the firearms hunt.
We asked Rogerson where a hunter with dreams of a quality buck should hunt. He promptly suggested the marshland. The walking and hunting conditions are tough there, and the flies and mosquitoes are terrible, but the bucks grow large because few hunters want to venture into these areas and stay long enough to harvest a decent buck. Another tip to keep in mind is the tide. On abnormally high tides because of winds or a full or new moon, deer are pushed out of the swamp into the woods.
Hunters should also keep in mind that Cedar Swamp Wildlife Area is part of the quality deer management program. All bucks must have at least 15 inches of outside spread in order to be harvested. Exceptions are granted for youth 16 and younger and seniors 65 and older.
If harvesting a deer is one of your goals this fall and you need a place to hunt, consider one of these public lands in Delaware or Maryland to make that dream come true. While you are planning your hunt, consider taking a friend or youth with you and the odds of success will increase and memories will be made.