Sunday Deer Hunting Regulations
Deer hunting on Sundays is permitted for established deer seasons on private properties, subject to the landowner's consent, as well as on explicitly specified public lands. The schedule, which includes all statewide Sunday hunting dates for deer, is referenced in an accompanying table. To acquire detailed information regarding the designated statewide Sunday deer hunting dates and the public lands that are approved for such activity, individuals can visit the official Sunday deer hunting webpage at DNREC's Sunday Deer Hunting section or contact the Wildlife Section office directly at 302-739-9912.
It's important to note that Sunday hunting in Delaware is exclusively legal for deer within the confines of private land with the landowner's permission, designated public lands, on a licensed commercial shooting preserve, or for red fox chasing during the appropriate season without any intention of capture or kill. Hunting any species other than deer under different circumstances on Sundays is strictly prohibited by law.
Revised Procedure for Deer Harvest Reporting
The system of using physical tags for deer harvest has been replaced with a Deer Harvest Report Card system. Every licensed hunter eligible to hunt deer will receive this card, which displays all available "tags" corresponding to their eligibility and purchases. Upon taking a deer, the hunter must immediately complete the relevant portion of their Deer Harvest Report Card. This involves punching the section and noting the date. An example is provided for clarity.
After harvesting a deer, and before its movement or field dressing, the hunter should punch the appropriate "tag" on the card and jot down the harvest date. Post-registration of the deer, which must occur within 24 hours after the harvest, the deer registration number should be noted on the Report Card in permanent ink. Hunters are reminded to keep their Deer Harvest Report Cards intact without removing any "tags".
While hunting, hunters must carry both their Deer Harvest Report Card and their Delaware Hunting License or LEN card. Should additional tags be purchased, an updated Report Card reflecting all tags, both old and new, will be issued. This updated card is to be kept on the person during the hunt, rendering previous cards obsolete.
If, for any reason, a deer is no longer in the immediate possession of the hunter, a Deer Carcass Tag is necessary. For more information on obtaining and using Deer Carcass Tags, hunters should refer to that specific section.
Deer Carcass Tagging Instructions
While tags are no longer required to be attached to a harvested deer at the kill site, hunters must complete the relevant section of the Deer Harvest Report Card immediately. The necessity for a physical Deer Carcass Tag arises only when the harvested deer is not within the immediate possession of the hunter. At this juncture, the hunter must attach a Deer Carcass Tag to the deer.
Deer Carcass Tags can be procured from multiple sources: they are included in the center of the paper hunting guide, accessible within a hunter's Digital DNREC account at Digital DNREC, downloadable from the Fish & Wildlife website at DNREC Fish & Wildlife Hunting, or hunters may opt to create their own. If hunters choose the latter, the tag they make must clearly state the hunter's name, license number, date of harvest, and the deer's registration number after completion of registration.
Scenarios in which a deer is considered out of the hunter's immediate possession include when it is left at a processor, or taxidermist, donated at one of the Division's Delaware Hunters Against Hunger coolers, or if left hanging in an area while the hunter departs. The rule of thumb here is simple: if a Natural Resource Police Officer comes across a deer without its hunter present to provide details, that deer must possess an appropriately filled Deer Carcass Tag. Hunters in need of clarification or facing any inquiries can reach out for assistance by calling 302-735-3600.
Delaware's Deer Tag System for Resident Licensed Hunters
Delaware hunting licenses automatically include a Deer Harvest Report Card equipped with 4 tags specifically for antlerless deer. For those interested in targeting larger bucks, a Quality Buck Tag is offered for $20, which also provides a complimentary Hunter’s Choice Tag. Upon purchase, these tags are added to the Hunter's Deer Harvest Report Card.
The Hunter’s Choice Tag is versatile, allowing for the harvest of either an antlerless deer or an antlered deer. The Quality Buck Tag, however, is restricted for use on an antlered deer, stipulating a minimum outside antler spread of 15 inches.
A restriction is in place limiting the harvest of antlered bucks to two for the entirety of all hunting seasons combined, achievable through the use of both the Hunter’s Choice Tag and the Quality Buck Tag combined. Any further deer harvested must be antlerless. Should hunters wish to take additional antlerless deer, extra antlerless deer tags are available at $20 per tag.
The introduction of this deer tag system is a strategic measure aimed at encouraging the culling of antlerless deer and fostering the growth of quality buck specimens within the state's deer population.
Non-Resident Deer Tag Options and Requirements
Non-resident hunters in Delaware receive a Deer Harvest Report Card with their hunting license, which includes 4 tags exclusively for antlerless deer. Non-residents have the option to purchase an Antlered Deer Tag or a Quality Buck Tag, each priced at $50. They are restricted to buying just one of each type of these tags.
Once a non-resident hunter procures these additional tags, they are integrated into the individual's Deer Harvest Report Card. The standard Antlered Deer Tag grants the hunter the right to harvest a deer possessing at least one antler measuring a minimum of 3 inches in length. The Quality Buck Tag, while it does come at the same price point, carries different criteria and is intended for the selective harvest of larger bucks, fostering better quality and management of the deer population.
Deer Harvest Regulations for License-Exempt Hunters
Individuals in Delaware who are exempt from purchasing a hunting license must obtain a License Exempt Number (LEN) along with a complimentary Deer Harvest Report Card. It is important to note that license-exempt hunters are no longer permitted to craft their deer tags but can find information regarding the LEN in the Licensing & Permits section.
The Deer Harvest Report Card provided to license-exempt hunters includes 4 tags designated for antlerless deer and an additional Hunter’s Choice tag at no cost. This enables them to take one antlered or antlerless deer of their choosing. Moreover, these hunters have the option to acquire a Quality Buck Tag at the price of $20 for residents or $50 for non-residents.
Upon the purchase of a Quality Buck Tag, it is automatically appended to their Deer Harvest Report Card. It's crucial to remember that across all methods and seasons, the total allowed harvest of antlered bucks for license-exempt hunters is capped at two per licensing year—aided by the free Hunter's Choice Tag and if selected, the Quality Buck Tag they have procured.
Criteria for Utilizing Quality Buck Tags
Quality Buck Tags are designated exclusively for the harvest of antlered deer presenting an outside antler spread of 15 inches or wider. This specific measurement criterion allows hunters to identify a Quality Buck based on the antler spread, which should at a minimum match or exceed the ear tip distance. The ear-tip measurement serves as a practical field reference, representing the distance between the tips of a deer's ears when extended outward in an alert stance. Hunters can visualize and estimate this 15-inch span to determine whether a Quality Buck Tag is applicable for a deer they aim to harvest.
Mandatory Deer Registration Process
Upon the successful harvest of a deer, hunters are required to register the animal within 24 hours. Before proceeding with registration, all hunters must refrain from cutting the meat or removing any parts of the deer, other than the internal organs. The registration can be completed online at Digital DNREC or phonically through the toll-free number, 1-855-DEL-HUNT (1-855-335-4868).
The registration entails a series of prompts that must be answered via computer or telephone. Hunters need to remember that when registering an antlered deer, they will need to provide specific details about the antler spread—whether it is "15 inches or greater" or "less than 15 inches"—measured across the outside of the main beams at the widest point. The correct measurement path for the antler spread is perpendicular to the skull's center line and parallel to the top of the skull plate; an illustrative example is provided for guidance. Furthermore, hunters should only count antler points that are 1 inch or longer; broken points shorter than 1 inch or points naturally less than 1 inch should not be included in the count.
Upon completion of the automated questionnaire, hunters will receive a deer harvest registration number, which serves as confirmation that the deer has been registered. This number must be recorded in permanent ink on the Deer Harvest Report Card.
For any issues encountered with the automated checking system, assistance can be sought by calling 302-735-3600. Hunters who plan to use external services such as a butcher shop or taxidermist for their deer must provide the registration number to these establishments to verify that the deer has been properly registered.
Handgun Specifications and Regulations for Deer Hunting
Deer hunting with handguns in Delaware is subject to specific legal requirements regarding the type of handgun and ammunition used. Only revolvers and single-shot pistols that have a barrel length within the range of 5.75 inches to 12.5 inches are permissible. The caliber of the handgun ammunition must be from .357 to .38 with a cartridge case length not shorter than 1.25 inches and not exceeding 1.82 inches, or from .41 caliber up to .50 caliber with the same maximum case length.
Minors under 18 years old who hunt with handguns must do so under the direct supervision of an adult aged 21 or older. Handguns must be carried openly, either on a sling or in a holster, and concealed carry while hunting is not allowed.
Deer hunting with a handgun is permitted on privately owned lands located to the south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and on several designated state-owned lands; hunters should refer to specific area maps for detailed information on these locations.
Handgun deer hunting is legal during the January Handgun Deer Season, as well as during the November and January General Firearm Deer Seasons, also known as Shotgun Seasons. It should be noted that Sunday, January 7, 2024, is an exception when handgun deer hunting is not allowed due to state regulations.
Regulations for Using Straight-Walled Pistol-Caliber Rifles in Deer Hunting
Straight-walled pistol-caliber rifles are authorized for deer hunting in Delaware with strict guidelines. Only straight-wall cartridges that are also suitable for use in handguns may be utilized. The cartridges must fall within specific caliber and case length parameters: .357 to .38 caliber with a case length not shorter than 1.25 inches and not exceeding 1.82 inches, or .41 to .50 caliber with the same maximum case length of 1.82 inches. It's important to note that the case length measurement does not include the bullet.
While hunting deer, these rifles may not contain more than three cartridges combined in the chamber and magazine. Various sighting systems are allowed, including open, metallic/mechanical, optical, and telescopic sights. Such rifles are restricted for use in deer hunting exclusively to the south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
Rifle usage is confined to the November and January General Firearm Deer Seasons (colloquially known as Shotgun Seasons) and the January Handgun Deer Season. They are not permissible for the Special Antlerless Deer Seasons or for hunting any other species, with the singular exception of groundhogs.
Permitted Use of Sharps Rifles in Deer Hunting
For deer hunting during shotgun deer seasons, Delaware permits the use of single-shot antique or authentic reproduction black powder Sharps rifles. The calibers allowed for these rifles range from .45 to .60, and they must be loaded with paper-patched bullets. This regulation caters to hunters with a preference for traditional or historical firearms, enabling them to participate in deer seasons while adhering to the specific caliber and ammunition requirements for Sharps rifles.
Crossbow Regulations for Hunting
In Delaware, hunters opting to use crossbows must comply with specific equipment standards. All crossbows must have a draw weight of at least 125 pounds and must have been manufactured after the year 1980. Additionally, these crossbows are required to be fitted with a mechanical safety feature. Scopes may be attached to crossbows for enhanced accuracy.
Hunters must transport their crossbows lawfully; crossbows should not be in a cocked position while being transported in, on, or by any vehicle. This regulation ensures both the safety of the hunters and the general public, and it upholds responsible hunting practices within the state.
Minimum Draw Weight for Vertical Bows
When hunting with vertical bows in Delaware, such as compound, recurve, or longbows, the state mandates that these bows have a minimum pull weight of 35 pounds. This requirement ensures that the bows have sufficient force to ethically and effectively harvest game.
Baiting Regulations for Deer Hunting
In Delaware, baiting is legally permissible exclusively on privately owned lands for deer hunting. Hunters may distribute and hunt overbait in these areas.
Protocol for Harvesting Tagged Deer
The University of Delaware in partnership with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife has overseen the tagging of deer to study their ecology and hunter harvests. Deer involved in this study have been marked with numbered ear tags, and a subset equipped with radio transmitter collars.
Hunters encountering these tagged deer should consider them identical to untagged deer concerning legal harvest criteria. Should a hunter legally take a marked deer, they are obliged to report the event by calling the number indicated on the deer's metal ear tag, which is 302-831-4621. This allows researchers to obtain valuable data on the tagged deer population. The reporting hunter will be contacted for additional details. Given the busy period during firearms season, hunters are encouraged to reach out again if they do not receive timely communication after their initial report.
Mandatory Hunter Orange Safety Requirements
During Delaware's firearm deer seasons, and for hunting any wildlife other than migratory game birds, hunters are mandated to wear hunter orange. This safety regulation requires at least 400 square inches of hunter orange to be visibly worn on the head, chest, and back combined. Additionally, small game hunters in State Wildlife Areas must comply with the hunter orange regulation at all times, regardless of the game being pursued.
When using ground blinds for deer hunting during firearms season, hunters fully concealed within the blind must place at least 400 square inches of hunter-orange material within 10 feet of the blind's exterior. This material should be positioned a minimum of 3 feet above the ground to ensure visibility to other hunters, thereby reducing the risk of hunting-related accidents.
Delaware State Deer Records Submission Process
The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife maintains a state records list of top hunter-harvested deer, based on the net Boone and Crockett scoring system. Rankings and records are accessible on their website at DNREC Fish & Wildlife Hunting. Whitetail deer harvested within the state that meet or exceed the Pope and Young criteria for bow kills (125 typical, 155 non-typical), Longhunter Society criteria for muzzleloader kills (130 typical, 160 non-typical), as well as handgun and shotgun/straight-walled pistol-caliber rifle harvests (130 typical, 160 non-typical for handguns, 140 typical and 160 non-typical for shotgun and rifles), are eligible for state record consideration.
Deer antlers are qualified for official scoring only after a mandatory drying period of 60 days post-harvest. Hunters looking to have their deer scored should contact the Division at 302-735-3600 to arrange an appointment. Alternatively, if a deer is scored by an official measurer affiliated with the recognized scoring organizations and achieves the necessary score, a copy of the score sheet may be submitted directly to the Division for inclusion in the Delaware record books. For further details or to inquire about the deer scoring and records, hunters are invited to reach out to the Division at the same contact number provided.
Participating in the Delaware Hunters Against Hunger Program
The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife supports the Delaware Hunters Against Hunger Program (DHAH), an initiative where hunters can contribute deer to help feed those in need. This program is operational within Delaware, and hunters are welcome to donate deer that have been legally harvested within the state; deer taken outside Delaware’s borders are not eligible for this program.
DHAH provides several walk-in cooler locations across the state for easy donation drop-offs. In Sussex County, hunters can find these facilities at the Assawoman Wildlife Area, Milford’s Mosquito Control Office, Redden State Forest headquarters, Gumboro Community Center, and Trap Pond State Park. Kent County offers donation sites at Little Creek Wildlife Area and the Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area, while in New Castle County, the Augustine Wildlife Area is available.
For complete details on cooler locations, participating private deer processors, or instructions for private processors interested in joining the program, hunters, and processors should visit Delaware Hunters Against Hunger or contact the Division directly at 302-739-9912. The initiative emphasizes the broader community benefits of hunting and facilitates the generous practice of sharing the harvest to aid fellow Delawareans.
Youth and Non-Ambulatory Deer Hunt Dates and Regulations
On November 4 and 5, 2023, there will be a special deer hunting opportunity in Delaware for youth aged 10 to 15, as well as for non-ambulatory individuals reliant on wheelchairs for mobility. Youth hunters must hunt under the direct supervision of an adult who is at least 21 years old. Hunters aged 13 to 15 are required to have completed a Hunter Education Course, hold the certification card, and purchase a Delaware junior hunting license.
The established bag limits and hunting regulations remain in effect during this event. The adult supervisors must be legally eligible to hunt in Delaware, either through possession of a valid hunting license or via exemption; however, they may not carry a firearm during this youth and non-ambulatory hunt.
Youth participating in the hunt are expected to be sufficiently capable in size and strength to handle a firearm safely. All harvested deer must be registered as per Delaware's standard game reporting rules.
This special hunt is open both on private lands and public lands statewide. In State Wildlife Areas where stand allocation is managed through a lottery system, the drawing will take place 1.5 hours before the legal shooting time, therefore participants should plan to arrive at least 1.5 hours early for sign-up. Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge will also cater to this hunt on a first-come, first-served basis at specific locations; interested parties should contact the refuge to learn more about the sign-up process.
Additional information regarding youth hunting, guidelines, and resources can be found under the Youth Hunting section or Youth Hunting Information on the relevant Delaware hunting website.
Deer Hunting Regulations: Hours, Public Lands, and Prohibitions on Sales
Deer Hunting Hours
In Delaware, the legal hunting hours for deer extend from 1/2 hour before sunrise up until 1/2 hour after sunset. Hunters must adhere to these times to ensure compliance with state regulations.
Deer Hunting on Public Lands
Hunters seeking details on deer hunting within public lands can refer to the "Public Lands Hunting & Trapping" section for all pertinent rules, stand allocation processes, and site-specific regulations.
Selling Deer Parts or Meat
In accordance with Delaware law, it is unlawful to conduct any transaction involving the purchase or sale of deer meat or deer parts—with the sole exception of legally obtained deer hides. This prohibition includes having the intent to sell, as well as the transport, shipment, or possession for sale purposes, at any time.
Taxidermists and deer processors may only levy charges for the services they provide directly to their clients. Selling taxidermy items or deer meat remains illegal in the state. Moreover, the attempt to recoup processing fees through the sale of unclaimed items or meat from individuals who fail to collect their legally owned deer parts is also forbidden.
Harvesting and Identifying Sika Deer in Delaware
What To Do If You Harvest a Sika Deer
If you successfully harvest a Sika deer, you should follow the same registration procedures as you would for a white-tailed deer using the phone/internet registration systems. However, it is important to also notify the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 302-735-3600. The Division's biologists are gathering additional data on Sika deer harvests, so your cooperation in reporting such an event is crucial for their research purposes.
Sika Deer Habitats
Sika deer, originating from regions in Asia such as China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, were introduced to Maryland in 1916 and have since expanded their range into Delaware. These deer are typically found inhabiting marshes, swamps, woodlands, and even agricultural fields. Although Delaware's current Sika deer population is minimal, the Division allows their harvest alongside white-tailed deer hunting activities to maintain control over the nonnative species.
Sika Deer Appearance
Sika deer are identifiable by their stature, standing approximately 2.5 feet at the shoulder with a weight ranging from 50 to 100 pounds. Their coats are dark brown to black, often with discernible white spots aligned in parallel rows on their backs, along with a characteristic white rump. Male Sika deer, referred to as stags, are generally larger than females (hinds) and sport antlers, in addition to a dark, shaggy mane on their neck.
FAQs about Sika Deer
Competition with White-Tailed Deer: Research from Maryland suggests that Sika and white-tailed deer can coexist at low to moderate population densities without direct competition, yet more studies are needed to fully understand this dynamic.
Breeding with White-Tailed Deer: Sika deer and white-tailed deer do not interbreed due to being distinct species with different breeding seasons—Sika deer in mid to late October and white-tailed deer in mid-November.
Relation to White-Tailed Deer: While Sika and white-tailed deer belong to the same family, Cervidae, they are from different genera—Cervus for Sika deer and Odocoileus for white-tailed deer. Sika deer share a closer genetic relationship with Rocky Mountain elk than with white-tailed deer.