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


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.

Hunting at Blackwater

Unless otherwise stated in the refuge regulations for each hunt, Blackwater NWR follows State of Maryland hunting rules and regulations. In addition to the proper Maryland hunting license(s), those hunting at Blackwater NWR must obtain a refuge hunting permit that is issued through our contractor, Recreation.gov. Hunters are responsible for reviewing and abiding by all regulations established by the State of Maryland and the refuge.

Turkey Hunt

The 2024 Turkey Hunt Lottery application period has ended. Released inventory (unclaimed hunt slots), as well as youth and disabled hunt slots, opened on March 22 on Recreation.gov. As of March 30, only a few permits remain available for youth and disabled hunters.

The 2024 Blackwater NWR turkey hunt brochure can be found below, which includes information, regulations, and the hunt map. A table of important dates is also posted below.

Deer Hunt

The 2023-24 deer hunt has ended. If you would like to view the 2023-24 deer hunt information, please visit our Library Page. Please note that this information is for reference only, as some regulations and dates will change for the 2024-25 season.

Hunting information for the upcoming deer season is typically posted on this web page in June, and applications will be available in early July. Please note that you must apply for the deer hunt via an online application system located at 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 Deer Permits". Instructions on the website will guide you through the application process.

Hunters are required to possess an electronic or printed copy of a valid Maryland hunting license and all required stamps, an original valid government-issued photo identification (no copies or photos), and a valid hunting permit issued by Recreation.gov electronically or on their person at all times during refuge hunting and scouting days.

Waterfowl Hunt

The 2023-24 waterfowl hunt has ended. If you would like to view the 2023-24 waterfowl hunt information, please visit our Library Page. Please note that this information is for reference only, as some regulations and dates will change for the 2024-25 season.

Waterfowl hunting maps of each site and pictures of access points can also 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
Turkey Hunt Regulations and Map 2024

Regulations, application instructions, and the hunt unit map specific to Blackwater NWR for the 2024 spring turkey hunt. Please note that, unless otherwise stated, hunters must abide by all Maryland hunting regulations.

Turkey Hunt 2024 Important Dates

Table of important dates for the 2024 turkey hunt at Blackwater NWR.

Use of E-Bikes for Hunting on Blackwater NWR

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.