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Deer Hunting

Hunting Regulations Icon Delaware Hunting

SUNDAY DEER HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES

Sunday deer hunting for established deer seasons is legal on private land at the discretion of the landowner and on designated publicly-owned lands. Deer seasons to include all statewide Sunday deer hunting dates are indicated within the table above. More information on statewide Sunday deer hunting dates and public lands open to Sunday deer hunting is available at the Sunday deer hunting website: http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Pages/Sunday-deer-hunting.aspx or by calling the Wildlife Section office 302-739-9912.

It is unlawful to hunt any species on Sunday except deer on private land and designated publicly-owned lands, or if hunting on a commercial shooting preserve, or to chase (no harvest) red fox in season.

Deer HARVEST REPORT CARDS AND TAGS


Deer Harvest Report Cards

Hunters will no longer receive tags that must be attached to a deer before the animal is moved from the place of kill. Instead, all hunters legally allowed to hunt deer, will receive a Deer Harvest Report Card which will show all of the “tags” available to the hunter based on what they are eligible for and/or have purchased.

Both the Deer Harvest Report Card and Delaware Hunting License or LEN card must be in a hunter’s possession while a hunter is hunting deer. If a hunter purchases additional tags, they will receive an updated Deer Harvest Report Card that will reflect their original tags as well as the new tag(s). Additionally, if a hunter had already harvested deer and recorded their harvest information on their card the harvest information will automatically be printed on the newly issued card. The most recently issued Deer Harvest Report Card is the version that the hunter must keep in their possession moving forward and all previously issued cards will no longer be valid.

Upon successfully harvesting a deer, and before the animal is moved from the place of kill or field dressed, the hunter must complete the appropriate section of their Deer Harvest Report Card that represents the type of deer they harvested. This section must be punched and the date of harvest must be recorded. See example to the left. Once the deer is registered (no more than 24 hours following harvest) the deer registration number is to be recorded in permanent ink on the card. IMPORTANT: Hunters shall not remove the “tags” from their Deer Harvest Report Card for any reason, including being attached to a deer and the card should be kept as a complete document.

If a harvested deer is no longer in a hunter’s immediate possession, a Deer Carcass Tag must be affixed to the deer. See the Deer Carcass Tags section on this page for more information.

Deer Carcass Tags

Hunters that successfully harvest a deer are no longer required to attach a tag to their deer at the place of kill before the deer is moved, however they must complete the appropriate section on the Deer Harvest Report Card. See Deer Harvest Report Card section on this page for more information. The only time a physical tag is required to be affixed to a deer is if the deer is no longer in the hunter’s immediate possession, at which time the successful hunter must affix a Deer Carcass Tag. These tags can be found in the middle of the paper version of this guide, within your Digital DNREC account, at https://de.gov/fw or a hunter may make their own Deer Carcass Tags provided they include the hunters’ name, license number, harvest date and deer registration number once the deer has been registered.

Examples of what constitutes a deer leaving a hunter’s immediate possession include dropping it off at a deer processor or taxidermist, donating it at one of the Division’s maintained Sportsmen Against Hunger Coolers, or hanging the deer to cool and the hunter leaving the area to go somewhere else. A good rule of thumb, if a Natural Resource Police Officer encountered a hunter’s deer and the hunter wasn’t available to talk with the Officer, than the deer needs to have a Deer Carcass Tag affixed to the animal. For questions, please call (302) 735-3600.

Resident Licensed Hunters

Delaware hunting licenses come with a Deer Harvest Report Card that contains 4 antlerless deer tags. Quality Buck Tags are available for $20 and come with a free Hunter’s Choice Tag and will be included on a hunter’s Deer Harvest Report Card if purchased. The Hunter’s Choice Tag can be used on an antlerless or antlered deer. The Quality Buck Tag can only be used on an antlered deer with a minimum outside spread of 15”. Hunters will only be allowed to harvest a maximum of 2 antlered bucks (all seasons combined) by using the Hunter’s Choice Tag and the Quality Buck Tag. All other deer taken must be antlerless. Additional antlerless deer tags are available for $20 each.

This deer tag system has been implemented to encourage hunters to harvest antlerless deer and to promote quality bucks.

Non-Resident Deer Tags

Non-resident hunting licenses will come with a Deer Harvest Report Card that contains 4 antlerless deer tags. The cost of an Antlered Deer Tag and a Quality Buck Tag will be $50 each for non-resident hunters. Hunters may purchase only one of each tag. If purchased, these “tags” will be added to the hunter’s Deer Harvest Report Card. An antlered deer tag may only be used on a deer with one or more antlers measuring 3 inches or more.

Licensed Exempt Hunters

License exempt hunters will receive a Deer Harvest Report Card that contains 4 antlerless deer “tags” and 1 Hunter’s Choice deer “tag” at no charge. License exempt hunters may purchase a Quality Buck Tag using their annual mandatory License Exempt Number (LEN). The cost of a Quality Buck Tag is $20 for resident or $50 for non-resident license exempt hunters. If purchased, this tag will automatically be added to their Deer Harvest Report Card.

Persons not required to purchase a hunting license in Delaware must obtain a LEN and associated Deer Harvest Report Card. License exempt hunters may no longer make their own deer tags. For more information about LENs, please refer to Licensing & Permits.

License exempt hunters are only allowed two antlered bucks during any license year by all methods and seasons combined. One free Hunter’s Choice Tag and one purchased Quality Buck Tag.

Quality Buck Tags

Quality Buck Tags may only be used on an antlered deer with an outside antler spread of at least 15 inches. The distance between the tips of a deer’s ears when both ears are held straight out from the head in the “alert” position is approximately 15 inches so a deer in which this tag would be applicable would generally need to have antlers that are at least as wide as the space between his ear tips.

Automated Deer Checking

All successful deer hunters must register their deer within 24 hours of harvest. Prior to registering a deer, hunters may not cut the meat or remove any part of the deer except the internal organs (known as the viscera). Hunters can register their deer by visiting https://de.gov/DigitalDNREC or by calling the toll free number 1-855-DEL-HUNT (1-855-335-4868). Hunters will answer a series of questions by using the computer or telephone. THIS YEAR: Hunters that harvest an antlered deer will be asked to report the antler spread and number of points. A ruler can be found on Wildlife Management Zones. Spread will be reported as “15 inches or greater” or “less than 15 inches” as measured across the outside of the mainbeams (antler spread) at their widest point; this measurement’s path must be perpendicular to the center line of the skull and parallel to the top of the skull plate. See picture to the right for example where to measure. When reporting the number of points, hunters shall report the number of points that are equal to or greater than one inch in length. If a point is broken off and less than one inch or a point is shorter than one inch than it should NOT be counted. At the end of the questions, hunters will be given a deer harvest registration number. This number will serve as proof the animal was checked and should be kept for your records and written in ink in the appropriate section on a hunter’s Deer Harvest Report Card. If you have problems with this system call (302) 735-3600. Hunters that take their deer to a butcher shop or taxidermist will need to supply their registration number to the shop owner as proof the deer was registered.

Method of Take

Handgun Hunting

Handguns legal for deer hunting 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 that use straight-wall handgun ammunition in .357 to .38 caliber with a cartridge case length of no less than 1.25 inches and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches, or in .41 caliber to a maximum of .50 caliber and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches. When hunting with a handgun, youth under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older.

The handgun must be carried openly on a sling or in a holster and not concealed. Handgun hunting for deer in only permissible on privately owned lands situated south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and on many state-owned lands. Consult area maps for more details.

In addition to the January Handgun Deer Season, it is legal to hunt deer with a handgun during the November and January Shotgun Deer Seasons. During these shotgun seasons, the handgun can be carried in place of a shotgun, but a handgun and a shotgun cannot both be carried at the same time. Hunting deer with a handgun is not legal on Sunday, January 3, 2021, based on state law.

STRAIGHT-WALLED PISTOL-CALIBER RIFLE

Rifles chambered for straight-wall ammunition legal for deer hunting must be manually operated, consisting of: lever action, bolt action, pump action, single shot, and revolver rifles. Only straight-wall cartridges usable in handguns may be used that are of .357 to 38 caliber with a case length no less than 1.25 inches and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches, or .41 caliber to maximum of .50 caliber and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches. Case length excludes the bullet portion of the cartridge. Additionally, if there is not a commercially produced handgun available that is chambered for ammunition that meets the caliber and cartridge case length criteria then a rifle chambered for that same ammunition is not permissible for use. These rifles cannot be loaded with more than three cartridges in the chamber and magazine combined when hunting deer. Open, metallic/mechanical, optical and telescopic sights may be used.

These rifles cannot be used for deer hunting north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Throughout the rest of the state, these rifles may only be used for deer hunting in place of a shotgun or handgun during the November and January Shotgun Deer Seasons or in place of a handgun during the January Handgun Deer Season. Furthermore, these rifles are not a legal method of take for any other species (except groundhogs), including red fox and coyotes.

Sharps Rifle

Hunters may use a single shot antique or authentic reproduction black powder Sharps rifle of .45 to .60 caliber using paper patched bullets for hunting deer during any shotgun deer season.

Crossbows

Crossbows used must have a minimum pull weight of 125 pounds, be manufactured after 1980, and have a mechanical safety, and may be equipped with a scope. Crossbows shall not be transported in or on a vehicle while in the cocked position.

Vertical Bows

No person shall use a compound, recurve, or longbow with a pull weight less than 35 pounds.

Baiting

It is lawful to distribute and hunt over bait while hunting deer on privately owned lands only.

White-tailed Deer Research

Harvesting Tagged Deer

Over the past few years, the University of Delaware in collaboration with the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife, captured and tagged deer in Delaware. All deer received numbered ear tags, and some received radio transmitter collars. Both of which allowed us to collect data on deer ecology and hunter harvests. Hunters should treat deer with collars and ear tags as any other deer. If a marked deer is legal for harvest, then it may be harvested. If a hunter harvests a marked deer, they are asked to call the phone number listed on the metal ear tag (302-831-4621), so information concerning the harvested deer can be collected. Someone will contact them for further information as soon as possible. Since many of these deer are reported during the hectic firearms season, please feel free to contact us again if you have not been contacted within a few days of previously calling.

Hunter Orange

During a time when it is lawful to take a deer with a firearm, any person hunting any wildlife except migratory game birds in this state shall display hunter orange on that person’s head, chest, and back totaling no less than 400 square inches combined. If a hunter utilizes a ground blind to hunt deer during a time when it is lawful to take deer with a firearm and the hunter is completely concealed within a blind, then 400 square inches of hunter orange material shall be placed within 10 feet outside of the blind and at least 3 feet off of the ground.

State Deer Records

The Division maintains records of the top hunter taken deer based on net Boone & Crockett scores on its website at www.fw.delaware.gov/Hunting/Pages/DeerRecords.aspx. Any whitetails meeting Pope & Young minimums for bow kills (125 typical, 155 non-typical), Longhunter Society minimums for muzzleloader kills (130 typical, 160 non-typical), handgun (130 typical, 160 non-typical) and shotgun and straight-walled pistol-caliber rifles kills of 140 typical and better and 160 non-typical and better are eligible for entry. The Division is interested in Delaware whitetails taken in any year. Due to a retirement by the Division’s scorer for this program, the Division is unable to measure deer for acceptance into the program until further notice. However, if a hunter has their deer scored by an official measurer of one of the previously mentioned organizations and it surpasses our minimum score requirements, a copy of the score sheet can be submitted to the Division and your entry will be added to Delaware’s records book. For more information, please call (302) 735-3600. Antlers cannot be scored until at least 60 days have passed since the deer was harvested.

Delaware
Sportsmen Against Hunger Program

ADVISORY: Availability of the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program may be impacted by COVID-19. Hunters are advised to monitor the Division’s website, http://de.gov/sah, for information on the availability of coolers as well as participating deer processors. Some, or all, locations described below may not be available to accept donated deer. However, the Division will be working hard to try and make this important program available without any impacts.

In addition to the contracted private deer processors, the Division of Fish & Wildlife maintains walk-in coolers where hunters can drop off deer for donation to the Sportsmen Against Hunger (SAH) Program. Only deer legally harvested in Delaware are eligible to be donated through this program. Deer harvested out of state will not be accepted. These locations include in Sussex County: the Assawoman Wildlife Area near Bethany Beach, the Mosquito Control Office in Milford, the headquarters office at Redden State Forest near Georgetown, the Gumboro Community Center in Millsboro and Trap Pond State Park near Laurel; In Kent County: the Little Creek Wildlife Area main tract, east of Dover and the Main office on the Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area near Viola; and in New Castle County: the Augustine Wildlife Area, in Port Penn. For more information about walk-in cooler locations and participating deer processors, visit the SAH website http://de.gov/sah. If you own and operate a private deer processing facility and would like more information about potentially becoming involved with the SAH program, please contact the Division at (302) 739-9912.

Youth/Non-Ambulatory Disabled Deer Hunt, November 7 and 8, 2020

Any youth from 10 years through 15 years and individuals that are non-ambulatory disabled may hunt. Young hunters must be accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older. Hunters 13-15 years of age must have completed a Hunter Education Course and possess a certification card and must also purchase a Delaware junior hunting license.

The normal bag limits and regulations apply.

Adult companions must be licensed to hunt in Delaware (or exempt) but may not possess a firearm during the hunt.

Young hunters must be of sufficient size and physical strength to safely handle a firearm.

All deer taken must be registered.

Open statewide on private and public lands. On State Wildlife Areas and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge that require a stand allocation drawing, the lottery drawing will be held 1.5 hours before legal shooting time. Hunters should arrive at least 1.5 hours before legal shooting time to sign up.

For more information on youth hunting, see the Youth Hunting section.

DEER HUNTING HOURS

1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset.

Deer Hunting on Public Lands

For information on deer hunting on public lands, see Public Lands.

Selling Deer Parts Or Deer Meat

No person shall purchase, sell or expose for sale, or transport, ship or possess with the intent to sell, any deer or any part of such deer, except for the hides of lawfully killed deer, at any time.

Therefore, taxidermists and deer butchers may only charge for a service and may only charge those to whom they are providing the service. It is illegal to sell deer taxidermy items and deer meat in Delaware. This includes the “recouping” of processing fees for items or meat not picked up by the legal owner.

Sika Deer

What to do if you harvest one

Follow the same steps as you would if you harvested a white-tailed deer and register the deer as described above. In addition to registering the sika deer via the phone/internet registration system please call the Division of Fish & Wildlife at (302) 735-3600 so that Division biologists can collect additional harvest information.

Where are they found?

Sika deer inhabit marshes, swamps, and associated woodlands and agricultural fields. Sika Deer are a small elk introduced from Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan) by private citizens into Maryland in 1916. Recently, their range has expanded and some individuals have been found in Delaware. As a result, the Division will allow Delaware hunters to harvest sika deer while hunting for white-tailed deer. The sika deer population in Delaware is still very small and the Division would like to keep it that way. Sika deer are not native to the State, so following the Division’s goal of not promoting nonnative species they may be harvested.

What do they look like?

They are 2.5 feet high at the shoulder, weigh 50-100 pounds and the sika deer coat is dark brown to black. Some even have faint white parallel spots on their back. They also have a white rump. Males (stags) are larger than females (hinds) and have antlers. Males also have a dark shaggy mane running down their neck.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will sika deer compete with white-tailed deer?

A: Research conducted in Maryland indicates that white-tailed deer and sika deer can coexist and it does not appear that they don’t usually directly compete with each other when sika deer populations are at low to modertate densitites. However, more research is needed to confirm this relationship.

Q: Will sika deer breed with white-tailed deer?

A: No, sika deer will not breed with a white-tailed deer as they are a separate species. Additionally, the breeding season for sika deer occurs in mid to late October, while the breeding season for white-tailed deer occurs in mid-November.

Q: Are sika deer related to white-tailed deer?

A: Sort of, both sika deer and white-tailed deer are members of the deer family (Cervidae), but are of a different genus Cervus (sika deer) and Odocoileus (white-tailed deer). Sika deer are actually more closely related to Rocky Mountain elk than they are to white-tailed deer.