General Hunting Information
Prohibited Methods of Take - it is Unlawful to:
- Hunt out-of-season, without a license, take more than the daily limit, or possess unlawfully killed game.
- Hunt within 100 yards of an occupied structure (unless hunter is the owner or occupant, or has permission from the owner or occupant) or drop shot on buildings or people. When hunting deer with archery equipment, a hunter must be at least 50 yards from a structure. In New Castle County, north of I-295 and I-95 the distance is 200 yards when hunting with a firearm.
- Discharge any firearm from or within 15 yards of public road or shoot across a public road or right-of-way.
- Trespass with gun or dog or trap on private property without prior permission of the landowner whether or not the land is “posted.”
- Damage any nest, den, or lair of game animals or birds.
- Use an artificial light to illuminate wildlife from a motor vehicle for the purpose of hunting or observation.
- Use night vision or infrared devices while hunting.
- For specifics on waterfowl and other migratory birds, see Federal Regulations at https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-50/chapter-I/subchapter-B/part-20.
Firearms and Archery Equipment
- 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.
- Transport a muzzleloader with a charge in the barrel unless the cap or primer is removed and the gun is enclosed in a case or the striking mechanism is removed.
- Hunt at night (1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise) except that frogs, raccoons and opossum may be hunted at night using a handheld light.
- Take game using a shotgun larger than 10 gauge, a fully automatic loading gun (machine gun), or use a centerfire rifle, except groundhogs, foxes and coyotes may be hunted with a centerfire rifle.
- Use a shot larger than No. 2, except when hunting deer. Waterfowl hunters may use non-toxic shot up to size T.
- Use a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells in total except for snow geese during the Conservation Order.
- Use poison or explosive tip arrows.
- Use a punt or swivel gun or any gun not normally fired from the shoulder.
- Use a trap, snare, pitfall, deadfall, cage, net, pen, baited hook, baited field, drug, poison, chemical or explosive to take game, except that muskrats, mink, otter, raccoons, opossum, rabbits , groundhogs, red foxes, coyotes and beavers may be trapped as permitted by law.
- Hunt muskrats with a dog.
- Shoot or take muskrats or otters except by trap.
- Sell, trade, or barter any game or any parts thereof, except as permitted by law. Hunters shipping lawfully taken game shall first obtain a notarized affidavit stating the game was lawfully killed, and include the name of the sender and the number of animals enclosed.
- Shoot hawks, owls, or other wild birds, except lawfully hunted game birds, house sparrows or starlings.
- Possess live protected game animals.
- Obtain live rabbits from out-of-state without a health certificate.
- Permit dogs to run at large at any time. (Except landowners of 20 acres or more may permit their dogs to run from October 1 through February 28 on their own land.)
- Allow dogs to run at large between the hours of sunset and sunrise by any person on any day. All dogs must be licensed.
- Use bait to hunt game, except bait may be used to hunt deer on privately-owned lands.
- It shall be unlawful to release swine (pigs) into the wild, charge a fee for the purpose of killing swine, or shoot swine without first obtaining a permit from the Division.
- It shall be unlawful to use antler traps, or any device intended to remove or collect shed antlers from deer.
Legal Methods of Take:
Squirrel, Rabbit, Pheasant, Quail: Longbow or shotgun using no larger than No. 2 shot. Shotguns must be plugged to hold only 3 shells (in chamber and magazine combined). Additionally, squirrels only may be hunted with .17 through .22 caliber rimfire or pellet firearm with a rifled barrel or a muzzleloader rifle of not larger than .36 caliber firing a round projectile.
Snapping Turtles: May be taken with gig, trap, net or spear.
Frogs: May be taken with spear, gig, or hook.
Deer: Compound, recurve, longbow, and Crossbow using sharpened broadhead arrows (min. width 7/8”).
Shotgun no smaller than 20 gauge for deer hunting using rifle slug, pumpkin ball or buckshot and must be plugged to hold only 3 shells (in chamber and magazine combined). It is unlawful to carry buckshot, rifle slug or pumpkin ball except while hunting for deer, and conversely, it is also unlawful to carry shot smaller than buckshot while deer hunting.
Muzzleloader no smaller than .42 caliber with a barrel length of at least 20 inches.
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 and chambered for and using 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.
Straight-walled pistol-caliber rifles may only be used to harvest deer. For more information on these firearms, as well as restrictions on allowable cartridges, see Deer Hunting.
Bullfrogs may be sold.
Deer killed by motor vehicle may be retained by the motorist killing the deer upon official tagging by the State Police or Division personnel.
Hunt: “Hunt” shall mean to chase, pursue, kill, trap, take, or attempt to chase, pursue, kill, trap, or take any form of wildlife.
Possession: “Possession” in addition to its ordinary meaning includes the location in or about the defendant’s person, premises, belongings, vehicle or otherwise within his reasonable control.
Seasons: “Seasons” shall be that period of time during which designated species of wildlife may be lawfully hunted pursuant to the regulations of the Department. It shall be unlawful to hunt those species of wildlife for which a “season” is designated at any time other than during that “season.”
Wildlife: “Wildlife” shall be any animal species not commonly under the domestication of man and including but not limited to those animals defined by statute as “game” or “protected wildlife.”
“Antlered Deer” shall mean any deer with one or more antlers three inches long or longer, measured from the base of the antler where it joins the skull to the tip of the antler following any curve of the antler.
“Antlerless Deer” shall mean any deer that has no antlers or antlers less than three inches in length.
Longbow: “Longbow” shall mean a straight limb, reflex, recurve or compound bow. All crossbows or variations thereof and mechanical holding and releasing devices are expressly excluded from the definition.
What Do I Do to Report Game Law Violations?
Contact the Division of Fish and Wildlife Operation Game Theft Hotline Toll-Free at 1-800-292-3030 anytime, 24 hours a day. You will be given an OGT Case Number. You do not need to give your name at this time. From this phone call, a Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police Officer will be dispatched or will return your call. Wildlife offenses need to be investigated immediately by an officer if there is to be a chance of making an arrest. The longer the delay in getting information to the agent, the smaller the chances of obtaining an arrest and conviction.
It is the desire of the Division of Fish and Wildlife to continue to provide the highest level of service to the public using our wildlife areas, boating access areas, ponds, and marine resources. The management of the Division of Fish and Wildlife invites comments or suggestions on the operation of our wildlife areas, wildlife management programs, wildlife laws and regulations, or any problems encountered with Division employees. To voice a comment or offer a suggestion, you may contact the office of the Director of Fish and Wildlife at 302-739-9910 or write to the Director of Fish and Wildlife at 89 Kings Highway, Dover, Delaware 19901. Your comments or suggestions will be forwarded to the proper individual for consideration.
Private Landowner Assistance
Delaware landowners hold over 80% of the land in Delaware, making them powerful decision-makers when it comes to land development and conservation. As land development increases, so does the pressure on wildlife habitat, species, and natural resources. Conservation efforts made by landowners are necessary to ensure healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations that future generations are entitled to enjoy. To support landowners in this effort, many state and federal agencies offer incentive programs with technical and financial assistance available to restore or enhance wildlife habitat. There are several programs available within DNREC that aim to engage landowners in conservation efforts. DNREC also partners with federal and private organizations to achieve the same goal of conserving natural resources for a more livable Delaware.
For more information regarding these programs and habitat improvements for non-game species and quail, contact Jason Davis at 302-735-3606.
It is unlawful to hunt on Sunday, except to chase red fox in season, on commercial shooting preserves, and to hunt deer on private land and designated publicly-owned lands.
Local ordinances may be more restrictive than state laws. Check before hunting within incorporated areas.