As part of the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, both Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge provide a critical habitat for migrating birds, threatened and endangered species and other native species along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, both locations offer incredible hunting experiences as part of carefully managed conservation efforts within the refuge. Hunters across the country visit Blackwater to enjoy the challenge of hunting the “marsh ghost,” as one of the only places in the world to hunt wild sika, an introduced species of elk native to Japan.
Seasonal hunting opportunities along the Chesapeake Bay
National Wildlife Refuges serve a distinct purpose unlike that of many other U.S. public lands - wildlife conservation and management. This mission drives everything, from the reason each refuge is established to the recreation opportunities offered and resource management tools used. The sanctioned hunting of authorized game species is one tool used to manage wildlife populations and their habitat, ensuring a diversity of species such as birds and plants. These carefully managed hunts maintain wildlife populations at a level compatible with the environment, provide recreational opportunities, and permit the use of a valuable, renewable resource.
In addition to annual permitted hunting opportunities for deer, turkey and waterfowl on select areas of Blackwater NWR, the refuge also offers wildlife viewing, photography, hiking and biking to enjoy the over 250 species of birds such as bald eagles and picturesque landscapes of marsh and forest. Anglers will enjoy fishing for trophy snakeheads, and families can enjoy special events such as guided birding and an eagle festival every March!
Just a bit further north on the Chesapeake Bay is Eastern Neck NWR where hunters participate in annual fall deer hunts and a spring mentored youth turkey hunt. Beyond hunting, try your hand at fishing, kayak the Bay, or visit the refuge in late November through March to see the magnificent tundra swans.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland (Photo Courtesy: Courtney Nicoles)
For hunters interested in the challenge of hunting the marsh for sika, visit Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge for archery, muzzleloader, or shotgun season. A special one-day limited hunt is available for both muzzleloader and shotgun on a first-come basis. There are two dedicated disabled hunt units, as well as youth hunt opportunities for both white-tailed deer and sika deer. The refuge also offers waterfowl hunting in the fall, and turkey during spring.
Visitors can tour the Wildlife Drive to view bald eagles and waterfowl, hike over five miles of trails, and enjoy the Visitor Center. Next door is the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, and downtown Cambridge offers excellent seafood dining options.
As of August 2019, Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge will offer advanced reservations for permits to hunt white-tailed deer. The refuge offers archery, muzzleloader, and shotgun hunts as well as special disabled and youth hunt permits. While in the area, stop in Rock Hall on your way in or out for delicious, local seafood.
Both National Wildlife Refuges offer a limited number of permits for advanced reservation during the open hunt season and close on the last day of the open hunt at 3:00 p.m. ET.