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 www.dnrec.delaware.gov/delhunt 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. 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 on the deer tag utilized on the animal harvested. 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.
SUNDAY DEER HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES
Delaware law changed in 2018 legalizing Sunday deer hunting for all deer seasons established by the Department beginning with the 2018/2019 hunting season. 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 on Deer Seasons. 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.
After harvesting a deer, an appropriate tag must be attached to the animal before it is field dressed or moved from the place of kill. Hunters must also record the harvest date, in ink, before attaching the tag to the deer. Hunters worried about the tag falling off of the deer may laminate the tags prior to heading afield, stuff the tag down inside the ear canal prior to attaching it to the ear, or place the tags inside a plastic bag.
Resident Licensed Hunters
Delaware hunting licenses come with 4 antlerless deer tags. Quality buck tags are available for $20 and come with a free Hunter choice tag. 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. Revenue will be used to fund the phone-in deer registration system and to further improve Delaware’s deer management program.
Licensed Exempt Hunters
License exempt hunters will be allowed 4 antlerless deer and 1 Hunter’s Choice deer tag at no charge. For a Quality Buck Tag, license exempt hunters will have to purchase the Quality Buck Tag for $20 using their annual mandatory License Exempt Number (LEN).
Persons not required to purchase a hunting license in Delaware must make their own deer tags which include the hunter’s name, license exempt number, address, and reason for not having a valid Delaware hunting license or print a template of the deer tags when obtaining the LEN online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/delhunt. The deer tags, along with identification and License Exempt Number must be carried while hunting.
Exempt hunters are only allowed 2 antlered bucks during any license year by all methods and seasons combined. 1 free Hunter’s Choice Tag and 1 purchased Quality Buck Tag.
Non-Resident Deer Tags
Non-resident hunting licenses will come with 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. An antlered deer tag may only be used on a deer with one or more antlers measuring 3 inches or more.
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.
Method of Take
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 5, 2020, 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 than 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.
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 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.
No person shall use a compound, recurve, or longbow with a pull weight less than 35 pounds.
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 and 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.
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 on that person’s head, chest, and back a total of not less than 400 square inches of hunter orange material. 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) or shotgun 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. Bill Jones, Division biologist and official measurer for Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young and the Longhunter Society, can be contacted at (302) 284-4795 for more information. Antlers cannot be scored until at least 60 days have passed since the deer was harvested.
Delaware Sportsmen Against Hunger Program
In addition to the contracted private deer processors, the Division of Fish and Wildlife maintains walk-in coolers where hunters can drop off deer for donation to the Sportsmen Against Hunger (SAH) Program. 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. IMPORTANT: The cooler located at the Woodland Beach Wildlife Area, east of Smyrna is no longer available and has been moved to the Little Creek Wildlife Area, east of Dover. For more information about walk-in cooler locations, including the status of the cooler currently located at the Aquatic Resource Education Center, 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 Bill Jones at (302) 284-4795.
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 on Youth Hunting Information.
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 Hunting & Trapping.
Selling Deer Parts Or Deer Meat
Title 7 § 787 (d) of the Delaware Code states that “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.
What to do if you harvest one
Tag the deer with the appropriate tag from your license as you would if you harvested a white-tailed deer and register the deer as described on Deer Seasons of this guide. In addition to registering the sika deer via the phone/internet registration system please call the Division of Fish and 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.
WHITE-TAILED DEER RESEARCH RESULTS
For information and results concerning the comprehensive white-tailed deer fawn survival research project that was recently completed by the Division of Fish & Wildlife, in collaboration with the University of Delaware, please see What’s Really Killing Delaware’s Fawns?.