Over the years, the State of Delaware has embarked on creating a very responsible and eco-friendly environment for all hunting activities. As a result of this, wildlife areas and hunting zones have thrived tremendously across all three counties in this First State. The submissions below contain indispensable information that will let you take full advantage of Delaware’s rich hunting and wildlife areas.
Prospective hunters can visit Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) website to view all the latest changes pertaining to hunting dates and seasons. Equally, you can scan through the latest DNREC’s Hunting and Trapping Guide.
Acquiring a Hunting License in Delaware
Any person engaged in hunting, pursuing, acquiring or killing of any game animal in the State of Delaware must have a valid hunting license (see exemptions below).
Hunting license in Delaware can be categorized into two: Delaware Resident Hunting License and Delaware non-resident Hunting License.
Resident Hunting License
- All persons between the ages of 13 to 64 whose place of domicile is Delaware can have a resident license. Such persons must have maintained a predominant physical presence in Delaware for at least 183 days.
- Residency status can be proved by supplying the following: a valid Delaware driver’s license, or Social Security number, or a Delaware State Identification card, or voter’s registration, or vehicle registration, or tax returns forms.
The State of Delaware considers active-duty personnel of the military stationed in Delaware as residents.
Any persons other than the above are regarded as nonresidents.
Nonresident Hunting License in Delaware
- Nonresidents are people who have not legally resided in Delaware for more than one year prior to applying for the license or permit. These hunters qualify for a non-resident hunting license.
- It means that nonresidents age 13 or older are mandated to have a non-resident hunting license.
To hunt specific game animals in Delaware, additional licenses and permits may apply.
Note: Upon the request of a wildlife officer or other law enforcement officer, hunters must produce their hunting license, or hunting gear, or vehicles for inspection. In the ability to do so, or refusal to do so, will attract disciplinary sanctions. Hunters could have their licenses suspended or revoked, or be liable to fines or other state punishments.
Hunting License Exemptions in Delaware
If a person falls under any one of the following categories, he or she may hunt or trap without a hunting license:
- Residents and nonresidents of 13 years and younger who have resided in the state for a year or more. At all time, they must be in the company of a licensed person.
- Residents of 65 years and older who have resided in the state for a year or more.
- Active members of the U.S. military (stationed in Delaware) and honorably discharged U.S. military personnel. To view military license applications, please visit this link.
- Landowners and their immediate family members who intend hunting or trapping on the land they own or reside in. The land must be at least 20 acres.
All of the above-exempted hunters must apply and acquire a free License Exempt Number (LEN). The hunters cannot obtain more than one LEN annually.
Eligibility Requirements for a Delaware Hunting License
Resident and nonresident applicants must have either a previous Delaware Hunting license or a Hunter Education Certification (IHEA-USA approved) in order to be suitable for a Delaware Hunting License.
Persons without any of the above must enroll in a hunter education certification course.
Getting Hunting License via a Hunter Education Card
If you were born after January 1, 1967, you must enroll and pass the Delaware Hunter Education course before you can be eligible to apply for a Delaware Hunting License.
Persons interested in the traditional classroom format can enroll at several locations throughout the state. Participants will be put through a host of modules such as ethical safety programs, firearm and equipment handling techniques, and marksmanship. As of the writing of this article, all traditional classroom courses are free. Because the course schedules and programs are subject to variations and cancellation, hunters are advised to visit this link.
There is no tuition and exam fee for these courses. A fee is only paid for certification after completion.
Note: Persons under the age of 10 years cannot enroll in the Delaware Hunter Education course. And if your ward is under the age of 12, he or she must be accompanied by an adult 21 or older to the course.
Due to the live firing sessions (that is, muzzleloader, handgun, and precision firearms), a liability release document is required of persons 18 or older. For students under 18 years, parents or guardians must sign their release document.
Delaware takes completed Hunter Education Certifications from all states or provinces in the U.S. that follow IHEA-USA (the International Hunter Education Association) requirements. By the same token, all U.S. states and provinces that have obligatory hunter education requirements must accept the Delaware Hunter Education Certificate.
For more details about Education certifications in Delaware, please click on this link.
How to get a Delaware Hunting License
After securing the Hunter Education Certificate, hunters can proceed to apply for a hunting license. The following are the three means of purchasing a Delaware Hunting license:
The first mode entails registering and making the purchase online via Delaware’s online automated system. The system gives you access to conduct a variety of transactions such as purchasing and printing of hunting and fishing licenses, wildlife area lottery permits, stamps and tags. Also, users can obtain their vehicle conservation access pass from this system. Online purchases can be made using credit cards on Discovery, MasterCard, and Visa. The following licenses can be bought only through mail-in applications, and as such are not available on the automated system for now:
- Head boat/Charter boat license,
- Trapping license,
- Military Delaware Resident License,
- Military non-resident license, and
- Delaware Resident Disable Veteran License.
Click on this link to view extra details pertaining to the online automated system.
The second option requires the applicant to mail the completed application to:
Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife
89 Kings Hwy.
Dover DE 19901
Attention: Craig Rhoads
The third option entails buying the licenses, stamps, and the Delaware Conservation Pass at the licensing desk of DNREC:
Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
Richardson & Robbins Building
89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901.
The final option is to apply for a license at any licensed agent in Delaware. Hunters can search for the various sales outlets by clicking on this link.
Note: In all three options, a valid driver’s license or a Delaware State ID number are the pieces of identification documents that must be presented when buying a Hunting License. For youth or minors, a Birth Certificate, Passport or School ID Card is enough as identification.
All Delaware Hunting Licenses are valid from July 1 through to the last day of June annually.
**It must be noted that all license sales are often final. **
How much is a Delaware Hunting License/permit?
The Resident and nonresident Hunting Licenses in Delaware attract different fees and application requirements. With regard to specific game species, hunters must buy additional permits and tags in order to hunt those species.
For more information about the fee of these licenses and permit and their respective categories, please visit this link.
Other notable Hunting Licenses and Stamps in Delaware
The following are some notable hunting licenses in the State of Delaware:
- A youth hunting license is given to residents and nonresident persons under 13 years old. They must obtain a License Exempt Number. They must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter 18 years or older. However, during youth turkey, waterfowl and deer hunting times the adult must be 21 years or older.
- Senior Hunting License are given to Delaware residents 65 years or older
- Disability Licenses are given to people with a physical disability. They come in the form of a Disabled hunter Certification Card.
- Federal Waterfowl Stamp and Duck Stamp are required of all hunters age 16 and older. This stamp allows hunters to hunt tundra, ducks, geese, swan, and merganser. These stamps can be bought from any local U.S. Postal Office and/or local authorized agent. The stamp must be in the possession of the hunter at all times while hunting those species. Both residents and non-residents require the Federal Waterfowl Stamp
- The military and veteran license is issued to active-duty members of the military stationed in Delaware. Also, honorable discharged (within the first 12 months) U.S. military personnel can apply for a free Delaware license. They can do this once.
Resident veterans that have 60% or more service-related injury get a free Delaware Disabled Veterans Hunting License. Those eligible for the Military hunting License can process them at the DNREC’s offices.
Places to Hunt in Delaware
Delaware has a number of wildlife areas and management zones that abounds with an array of game animals such as pheasant, turkey, deer, and waterfowl.
Public hunting Locations
There are about 60 wildlife areas scattered across New Castle County Wildlife Areas, Sussex County Wildlife Areas and Kent County Wildlife Areas in Delaware. Collectively, they make about 90,000 acres of land. Some notable ones are as follows:
New Castle County Wildlife Area
This area has about 14 wildlife areas. The usual animals that can be found in this area include deer, turkey, waterfowl and small game animals. Examples of such areas are Eagles Nest Wildlife Area, Augustine Wildlife Area, Cedar Swamp Wildlife Area, Black Bird State Forest, and Brandwine Creek State Park. In Augustine Wildlife Area, deer and Waterfowl can be hunted only through daily lottery. Visit this link to view area map and regulations related to the New Castle County Wildlife Area. The blackbird State forest has about 5,000 acres of land with 40 miles of trails. It comprises deer and turkey hunting opportunities. The Cedar Swamp comprises about 6,000 acres for deer and turkey hunting.
Sussex Wildlife Management Area
This area has 22 major wildlife sub-areas. Examples are Assawoman Wildlife Area and the Midlands Wildlife Area, Prime Hook Wildlife Area, Redden State Forest, and Cape Henlopen State Park. The Redden State Forest has about 10,000 acres of land that inhabits deer mainly. It is a very timbered area.
Kent County Wildlife Area
In total, there are 24 wildlife areas in Kent County. Some of these areas are Little Creek, Blackiston, Woodland Beach, Killens Pond State Park, and Taber State Forest. The Taber Area has about 1,500 acres of land that is famous for deer and turkey hunting. The Woodland Beach can boast of about 6,500 acres of land popular for waterfowl hunting. It also has goose and ducks.
Private Lands and programs
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), in partnership with some privately owned landowners, work vigorously to meet the diverse needs of hunters and trappers in Delaware. Private landowner assistance and collaboration are essential because about 80% of the land in Delaware is in private hands.
In all of these public-private partnerships, hunters must get official permission from these private landowners before venturing into their properties. Hunters must properly stay abreast with the property’s ground rules and regulations.
General Hunting Regulations in Delaware
Here are some absolutely crucial and must-know hunting regulations in Delaware:
- Drones or remotely operated unmanned aircraft is prohibited.
- Hunting shall be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
- It is very much illegal to discharge any firearm or archery device from outside into a public hunting area.
- All hunters must wear a fluorescent orange above their waist when hunting.
- The use of a radio-controlled device is completely prohibited
- Hunting within 100 yards of an occupied building or arrangement is forbidden. For deer hunting, it is 50 yards.
- It is illegal to use artificial light, especially from a motor vehicle, for hunting.
- Night vision and infrared devices are not allowed
- For specifics on waterfowl and other migratory birds, see Federal Regulations
- Hunters cannot have a loaded firearm or crossbow in or on a motorboat or motor vehicle.
- Shotguns larger than 10 gauge is forbidden
- Possession of live protected game animal is forbidden.
- Dogs are not permitted to run at large, except on privately owned lands (20 acres or more).
Note: The above regulations were selected from the DNREC’s Hunting and Trapping Guide. Readers are advised to read that document carefully in order to avoid infringing any Delaware laws.
Hunting Seasons in Delaware
The hunting seasons in Delaware can vary from year to year depending on the type of game and species. Below are the various hunting seasons for turkey, deer, waterfowl, and small game:
Deer Hunting Seasons
The seasons here are Archery, Crossbow, Shotgun, Special Antlerless, Handgun, Muzzleloader, and Youth/Non-Ambulatory Disabled. For example, the Archery and Crossbow seasons run from fall to mid-winter. For more information related to Deer seasons and bag limits, please visit this link. The muzzleloader season runs from mid-fall to the end of winter. The shotgun season runs from end of fall to mid-winter. To view the pistol-Caliber rifles allowed for deer hunting in Delaware, please click on this link.
Small Game Seasons
There are five main seasons for small game animals in Delaware. They are the Gray Squirrel, Cottontail Rabbit, Groundhogs, Ring-necked pheasant (male only) and Bobwhite quail. The Gray Squirrel season spans from the beginning of fall to the end of winter. The Cottontail Rabbit and Ring-necked pheasant seasons are from mid-fall to the end of winter. There is no bag limit for Groundhogs. The bag limit for gray squirrel and bobwhite quail are 6. Hunters can have 4 bags for cottontail rabbit. For more information, please visit this link.
Wild Turkey Seasons
The turkey season in Delaware often spans from mid-spring to the end of spring. The bag limit for turkey is one per year. Shotguns, muzzleloaders, and crossbow are the typical firearms used here. There is also a one-day Youth-Turkey Season that often occurs in mid-spring.
Bullfrog and Snapping Turtle Seasons
There are three seasons here: Bullfrog, Snapping Turtle and Diamondback Terrapin Seasons. Bullfrogs are often available from the end of spring to the beginning of fall. In summer, hunters can revel in Snapping turtle. Finally, the Diamondback Terrapin season occurs in fall. More details can be found at this link.
Migratory Gamebird Seasons
The game birds available in Delaware are ducks, crow, woodcock, Canada goose, sea ducks, brant, snipe, King/Clapper rail, Mourning dove, snow goose, ducks, merganser and coots. All these game birds are often hunted from fall to early winter. Hunters can visit this link to obtain all the information related to the specific season dates of the above game animals.
Youth Hunting Seasons
The major seasons here are: Youth Deer Archery, Youth Deer Muzzleloader, Youth Waterfowl, Youth Pheasant and Youth turkey seasons. Deer Archery, Deer Muzzleloader, Waterfowl, and Pheasant occur from the beginning of fall all the way through to the mid of fall. Persons between the ages of 10 and 15 can hunt during the Youth Turkey Season. They must always be in the company of a licensed adult 21 years or older.
All the above Youth seasons often require a Delaware Junior hunting license.
Ambulatory Disabled Hunting Seasons
Hunters here require a Disabled Hunting license. There are two main seasons here: Special Deer Season and the Ambulatory Hunter Turkey Seasons. These persons require assistance to be in their company. The hunters don’t need to be licensed. However, they are also forbidden from carrying firearms during the hung.
Note: Hunters are prohibited from hunting out-of-season, exceeding the daily limit, or unlawfully killing of a game.
Hunting Guides and Outfitters in the State of Delaware
Hunting guides and outfitters in Delaware play an important role in helping hunters embark on a very pleasing hunting expedition. These guides offer a great amount of technical expertise such as equipment handling, sales, lodging and access to private lands. Here is a list of some famous hunting guides and outfitters in Delaware:
- Owen Station Shooting Preserve
- A & A Outdoors
- DelBay Guide Service**
- Marshtown Preserve**
- Delmarva Outdoor Outfitters
** Outfitters that offer lodging and accommodation facilities.
Accommodation for Hunters in Delaware
We have compiled a list of possible accommodation and hotel facilities hunters can stay in so as to have a very fruitful hunting expedition. Here are some selected hotels that can accommodate hunters in the State of Delaware:
Registering and reporting killed game in Delaware
With respect to the hunted game animal or kill, it must be registered within 24 hours of harvest. Hunters can click on this link to register their deer. The HIP number needed to register the game animal can be obtained from the link. Alternatively, hunters can obtain it by calling the toll free number 1-855-DEL-HUNT (1-855-335-4868).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. I intend accompanying my 14-year old cousin to hunt waterfowl. Do I need a waterfowl stamp?
A. Yes. Without a State and Federal waterfowl Stamp, you cannot accompany a youth hunter. You must have in your possession a valid Delaware Hunting License, and you must be at least 21 years of age.
Q. I am 66 years old. What type of license would I be eligible for?
A. Delaware residents above 65 are eligible to apply for a free License Exempt Number (LEN). This allows you to hunt or trap without a license. You cannot obtain more than one LEN annually.
Q. I intend trapping some furbearers in Delaware. What do I need to do?
A. First of all, you will need a Delaware trapping License. In order to purchase a Delaware trapping license, trappers born after January 1, 1978, must enroll in a trapper education course. Click on this link to enroll in a free online trapper education course.
Trapper license cannot be bought online or licensed agents. It is only through the DNREC’s offices. Download the Trappers License form from page 9 of the DNREC’s Hunting and Trapping Guide.
Although Delaware is the second smallest state in the U.S., it is very much capable of providing the highest level of hunting experience for both residents and non-residents of Delaware. Therefore, it’s only a matter of time before Delaware becomes the first state in every hunter’s top places to visit.