"First Shot" Mentored Hunt Program

Are you 18 or over and interested in learning to hunt?  

"First Shot" is designed to help adults who don't have anyone to help them get started.  We will pair you with experienced mentors to learn before and after your hunt, from scouting and biology to field dressing and cooking; this is more than just a hunt! You will be required to participate in an orientation workshop where you will learn about the species biology, hunting techniques, processing and cooking, and safety before participating in the hunt with your mentor.   

How and when can you apply?  

A spring turkey program is offered in April, with applications opening in March, as well as a fall deer program in October with applications opening in August. Application links will be posted here during the open period.

About the Program

The First Shot mentored hunt program is a partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and National Wild Turkey Federation and is designed to help adults who want to hunt but don’t have a network to help them start or reactivate. Between 2018 and 2021, over 148 mentored hunts for deer and turkey have been provided to new or lapsed hunters in a structured, supportive program to help them learn and gain confidence to hunt on their own on the refuge and neighboring lands. Over 50 mentors volunteer their time to help mentees have positive and empowering experiences in the outdoors, with over 80% of the mentees continuing or planning to continue to hunt after the program.

"First Shot 2.0" Program

This program is limited to previous participants of the First Shot Mentored Deer Hunt. The goal is to provide a “next step” for these new hunters that learned the basics of deer hunting under the guidance of their mentor, to increase their comfort and competency in a more controlled environment. The First Shot 2.0 program allows participants to hunt on their own, with the option of inviting another hunter, in the mentored hunt areas on Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. 

Application Guidelines:

  1. Limited to First Shot deer hunt participants from the previous 4 years (deer hunts in October 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022).  Hunters will need to have the appropriate Maryland hunting license (apprentice license-holders must hunt with a licensed hunter).
  2. Eligible participants will be chosen randomly. You can specify your preferred hunt dates and units, and you will be assigned to your preferred area if it is available at the time of selection. Maps and descriptions of the mentored hunt units can be found below. Only 1 mentee (and, if applicable, their sub-permittee) will be assigned per unit.
  3. If selected, you will be emailed a permit, valid for those dates and units only. Hunters are required to possess a printed and signed hard copy of the executed permit at all times.
  4. Hunters may elect to bring 1 sub-permittee that can hunt either with you or anywhere within your assigned unit if desired. The sub-permittee must also have a printed, signed permit in their possession at all times.
  5. Participants are required to follow all refuge regulations and relevant state regulations.
  6. Hunters may choose to hunt any First Shot treestands or blinds that are in place from the October hunt (locations provided on maps) or personal treestands/blinds/ground locations may be used anywhere within the unit. All personal stands and blinds must be removed after your hunt.
  7. Parking is only permitted in the designated parking areas on the map. No vehicles are permitted beyond the parking areas for these hunts. Bicycles and carts are allowed on trails as outlined in refuge regulations.


Hunt Dates*

First Shot 2.0 has ended for the 2022-23 deer season. Dates for future hunts will be posted here.

*On all hunt days, shotguns, rifles with straight-walled cartridges, muzzleloaders, and archery equipment are legal. See BNWR deer hunt regulations. 

First Shot Hunt Units Table

Description of First Shot hunt units at Blackwater NWR.

First Shot Hunt Units Overview Map

All units used for First Shot hunt on Blackwater NWR.

First Shot Hunt Unit M Map

Unit M map for First Shot hunt on Blackwater NWR.

First Shot Hunt Unit S Map

Unit S map for First Shot hunt on Blackwater NWR.

First Shot Hunt Unit T Map

Unit T map for First Shot hunt on Blackwater NWR.

First Shot Hunt Unit X Map

Unit X map for First Shot hunt on Blackwater NWR.