Woman dressed warmly in camouflage and standing in marsh reeds aims a shotgun into the air

Hunting

If you hear what sounds like an elk bugle coming from the marshes of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, you aren't imagining things. The shrill bugle is coming from a sika, a small Asian elk species that thrives at this refuge. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge offers fantastic hunting for sika and white-tailed deer during archery, muzzleloader and shotgun seasons. A refuge permit is required and can easily be obtained via the Recreation.gov website. Hunters have many options and can choose to hunt more than 12 weeks of archery from September through January, up to 10 days of muzzleloader, and up to eight days of shotgun. In addition, the refuge offers a special two-day youth hunt for hunters 16 and under. More than 16,000 acres are open to hunting across the refuge’s 20-plus hunt units, including two units that are designated for hunters with permanent disabilities. Parking is distributed throughout the refuge, and hunters access their units on foot. The refuge also offers boat-accessible waterfowl hunting October through January in both inland and Chesapeake Bay waters. Finally, turkey hunters can apply for a lottery for the refuge’s spring turkey hunt, which takes place in April and May, including a special day for youth hunters.

Learn about the "First Shot" mentored hunt program here!

Hunting and Fishing Plan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a final hunting and fishing plan for Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex in Maryland, which includes Blackwater and Eastern Neck NWRs. A draft plan was issued earlier this spring; during the 97-day public comment period, 24 comment letters were received. We are grateful to those who provided comments, which helped in developing the final plan.   

A summary of all substantive comments, and our responses, can be found in Appendix E (Finding of No Significant Impact). No significant changes have been made between the draft and final versions of the Hunting and Fishing Plan. As part of next year’s proposed rule, Blackwater and Eastern Neck NWRs will propose a non-lead requirement, which will take effect on September 1, 2026. The Environmental Assessment analyzes the impacts of lead ammunition and tackle; based on the breadth of comments received on the plan to require non-lead ammunition and tackle by 2026, the Service intends to complete additional analysis and provide another opportunity to comment during next year’s annual rulemaking. 

Other changes that are now in effect include the use of straight wall cartridges during shotgun hunts this fall, the incidental take of coyotes, and an early teal season in 2023.  

We may begin to implement the Hunting and Fishing Plan for Chesapeake Marshlands NWR Complex upon publication of the final 2022-2023 Station-Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations in the Federal Register. The final plan can be viewed here.

Turkey Hunt

The 2022 Spring Turkey Hunt has ended. You can still view the 2022 turkey hunt regulations on our Library page, but keep in mind that some regulations may change next year.

Deer Hunt

The 2022-23 deer hunt regulations and table of dates are posted below (PDF files).

Please note that the deer hunt has transitioned to an online application system located at recreation.gov. Applications will no longer be mailed. Hunters apply directly on the website or by calling the recreation.gov customer service number, 877-444-6777. Once you access the website, you will need to create an account and search for "Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Deer Permits". Instructions on the website will guide you through the application process.

Hunters are required to have a signed permit in hand when hunting or scouting on the refuge.

Questions? Please see our FAQs page below!

Waterfowl Hunt

The 2022-23 waterfowl hunt regulations are posted below (PDF file). The regulations contain instructions and dates for reserving waterfowl hunt units through recreation.gov. Hunters apply directly on the website or by calling the recreation.gov customer service number, 877-444-6777. Once you access the website, you will need to create an account and search for "Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Waterfowl Permits". Instructions on the website will guide you through the application process.

Note that Barren Island hunt units are not available this year due to dredging in the area.

Hunters are required to have a signed permit in hand when hunting or scouting on the refuge.

Waterfowl hunting maps and pictures of access points can be found on our Library Page.

Wayfinding Map for Smartphones

Wayfinding maps for Blackwater’s hunt units are now available using the AVENZA MAPS smartphone app. This free app uses your phone’s GPS to find your location, and works without a signal from your carrier. It is available for Apple and Android devices. Learn how to install the Avenza app here. After installing the app on your phone, download the Blackwater Avenza Hunt Unit Map below to use with the app while hunting on the refuge. Please note that any boundary markings you find on the ground trump boundary lines on the hunt unit map. 

Related Documents
Deer Hunt FAQs

Frequently asked questions about hunting at Blackwater NWR.

Deer Hunt Regulations 2022-23

Deer hunting regulations specific to Blackwater NWR for the 2022-23 hunting season.

Deer Hunt Date Table 2022-23

Table of deer hunt dates for Blackwater NWR for the 2022-23 hunting season.

Deer Hunt Map 2022-23

Map of deer hunting areas on Blackwater NWR for the 2022-23 season.

Deer Hunt - Area Q2 Map and Instructions

Instructions for deer hunting in Area Q2, which is designated for disabled hunters only.

Deer Hunt - Area U1 Map

Map of Area U1, which is designated for disabled hunters only.

Deer Hunt - Use of E-Bikes for Hunting

Additional information about e-bike use for hunting on Blackwater NWR.

Blackwater Avenza Deer Hunt Unit Map

Geospatial map that can be downloaded and used for wayfinding with the Avenza Maps smartphone app.

Waterfowl Hunt Regulations 2022-23

Waterfowl hunting regulations and application instructions specific to Blackwater NWR for the 2022-23 season.