Delaware General Hunting Information

Delaware Hunting Regulations: Prohibited Methods of Take

General Restrictions

  • Season and Licensing:

    • Do not hunt out-of-season.
    • Hunting without a license is prohibited.
    • Adhere to daily limits; possession of unlawfully killed game is illegal.
  • Distance Regulations:

    • Hunting must not occur within 100 yards of an occupied structure unless permission is granted by the owner/occupant.
    • Archery deer hunters must maintain a minimum distance of 50 yards from a structure.
    • In New Castle County, north of I-295 and I-95, firearms require a 200-yard distance when hunting.
  • Firearm Usage Near Roads:

    • Discharging firearms within 15 yards of a public road or across a road/right-of-way is unlawful.
  • Property and Wildlife Respect:

    • Do not trespass with firearms, dogs, or traps, or hunt on private property without the owner's permission.
    • Avoid damaging nests, dens, or lairs of wildlife.
    • Artificial illumination of wildlife using vehicle-mounted lights is not allowed.
  • Technology Limitations:

    • Using night vision or infrared devices for hunting is illegal.
    • For waterfowl/migratory bird specifics, refer to Federal Regulations at Federal Migratory Bird Regulations.

Firearms and Archery Equipment

  • Safety in Transportation:

    • No loaded firearms or cocked crossbows in/on moving vehicles or machinery.
    • Transporting a muzzleloader with a barrel charge is illegal unless certain safety measures are taken.
  • Nighttime Hunting and Ammunition:

    • No hunting from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, with exceptions for specific animals.
    • Shotguns above 10 gauge, automatic guns, and centerfire rifles are generally prohibited, except for hunting specific varmints.
    • Certain size shot and shotgun capacity regulations apply, except for snow geese during Conservation Order.
  • Weapon and Ammo Restrictions:

    • Poison, explosive-tip arrows, punt guns, swivel guns, and guns not shoulder-fired are banned.


  • Take Methods:
    • Using traps, snares, pitfalls, drugs, poisons, etc., for the game is unlawful, with exceptions for legally permitted trapping of specified species.
    • No hunting muskrats with dogs, nor taking muskrats/otters other than by trap.


  • Commercialization and Protection of Species:

    • It's illegal to sell/trade/barter game without compliance with the law.
    • Shooting non-game wild birds or possessing live game animals is prohibited.
  • Dog Regulations:

    • Strict control over dog run timing and licensing, with allowances for landowners of significant acreage.
  • Baiting Rule:

    • Using bait for game hunting is forbidden, except for deer hunting on private lands.
  • Specific Prohibitions:

    • Unauthorised release of swine into the wild, charging for killing, or shooting them without a permit is illegal.
    • Antler traps and devices for harvesting shed antlers from deer are prohibited.

Delaware Hunting: Legal Methods for Game Take

Small Game Regulations

  • Squirrel, Rabbit, Pheasant, Quail:
    • Approved weapons: Longbow, shotgun (no larger than No. 2 shot).
    • Shotguns must be modified to only hold a maximum of 3 shells.
    • Additional methods for squirrel only: .17 through .22 caliber rimfire weapons, .17 caliber pellet firearms with rifled barrels, or muzzleloader rifles up to .36 caliber.

Specific Species Methods

  • Snapping Turtles:

    • Acceptable equipment: Gig, trap, net, spear.
  • Frogs:

    • Approved methods: Spear, gig, hook.

Deer Hunting Implements

  • Archery:

    • Permitted equipment: Compound bows, recurve bows, longbows, crossbows.
    • Arrows must have broadheads, with a minimum width of 7/8 inches.
  • Shotguns:

    • Gauge: No smaller than 20 for deer.
    • Ammunition: Rifle slug, pumpkin ball, or buckshot.
    • Modification: Must be plugged to hold only 3 shells.
    • Note: Carrying buckshot, rifle slug, or pumpkin ball is only legal when hunting deer. Likewise, carrying a shot smaller than buckshot while deer hunting is equally unlawful.
  • Muzzleloaders:

    • Caliber: No smaller than .42, minimum barrel length of 20 inches.
  • Handguns for Deer:

    • Type: Revolvers, single-shot pistols.
    • Barrel: Length between 5.75 inches and 12.5 inches.
    • Ammunition: Straight-wall handgun ammo between .357 to .38 caliber (case length min. 1.25 inches, max. 1.82 inches) or .41 to .50 caliber (max case length 1.82 inches).
  • Pistol-Caliber Rifles:

    • Usage: Exclusive to deer harvesting.
    • Requirements: Straight-walled cartridges (see Deer Hunting for restrictions on allowable cartridges).

Miscellaneous Provisions

Bullfrog Sales

  • Bullfrogs may be legally sold.

Deer Motor Vehicle Incidents

  • Deer fatalities due to motor vehicle collisions:
    • Motorists involved can claim the deer.
    • Official tagging required:
      • By State Police, or
      • Division personnel authorized to tag.

Selected Definitions


  • Encompasses activities such as:
    • Chasing
    • Pursuing
    • Killing
    • Trapping
    • Taking
  • Includes attempts to engage in these activities with wildlife.

Direct Supervision

  • Criteria for being considered under direct supervision while hunting:
    • Supervisor must be at least 21 years of age.
    • Supervisor must remain within 30 yards of the person being supervised.
    • Maintaining a direct line of sight is mandatory.
    • Supervisor must be legally permitted to hunt in Delaware.


  • Meaning for possession includes but is not limited to:
    • Items on or near the person.
    • Items on premises.
    • Items within personal belongings.
    • Items within a vehicle.
    • Items under reasonable control of the individual.


  • Definition of "seasons":
    • Authorized periods for lawful hunting of designated wildlife species.
  • Regulations:
    • Hunting outside the designated "season" is illegal.


  • Wildlife refers to:
    • Non-domesticated animal species.
    • Includes animals categorized as "game" or "protected wildlife" by statute.

Antlered Deer

  • Defined as:
    • Deer with at least one antler measuring three inches or more in length.
    • Measurement taken from the base of the antler to the tip, following its curve.

Antlerless Deer

  • Defined as:
    • Deer with either no antlers or with antlers under three inches in length.


  • Inclusive definition covers:
    • Straight limb bows.
    • Reflex bows.
    • Recurve bows.
    • Compound bows.
  • Express exclusions:
    • Crossbows and variations.
    • Mechanical holding and releasing devices.

Reporting Game Law Violations

  • Immediate Action: Call the Division of Fish and Wildlife Operation Game Theft Hotline.
  • Contact Details: Toll-Free 1-800-292-3030, operational 24 hours.
  • Anonymity: Providing your name is not mandatory; receive an OGT Case Number instead.
  • Response: A Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police Officer may be dispatched or contact you.
  • Importance of Prompt Reporting:
    • Quick action is essential for a successful investigation.
    • Delays can seriously impede the potential for an arrest and subsequent conviction.

Public Opinion Engagement

The Division of Fish and Wildlife is committed to delivering top-notch service to all users of wildlife areas, boating access spots, ponds, and marine resources. To enhance operations and address any concerns users may have, the Division is open to public comments or suggestions. Areas open for feedback include but are not limited to, wildlife area operations, wildlife management programs, and regulations, as well as any issues encountered with Division personnel. All feedback is given due consideration.

To submit your thoughts or recommendations, you can either call the Director of Fish and Wildlife at 302-739-9910 or send a written communication addressed to the Director of Fish and Wildlife, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, Delaware 19901. Rest assured, your input will reach the appropriate staff member for review.

Support for Private Landowners in Conservation

Delaware's landscape is predominantly privately owned, with landowners owning over 80% of the state. They play a pivotal role in decision-making related to land development and conservation. As development surges, wildlife habitats, and natural resources are under increasing stress. Landowners' efforts in conservation are vital for maintaining robust ecosystems and healthy wildlife populations for future enjoyment.

To encourage and assist landowners in these initiatives, various incentive programs are provided by state and federal agencies. These programs offer both technical aid and financial support aimed at restoring and enhancing wildlife habitats. Within the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), several programs are designed to involve landowners in conservation activities. Additionally, DNREC collaborates with federal and private entities to perpetuate the conservation of natural resources, contributing to a more sustainable Delaware.

Landowners interested in learning more about these programs, specifically those related to habitat improvements for non-game species and quail, can reach out to Jason Davis at 302-735-3606 for further details.

It should be noted, that hunting on Sundays is considered unlawful, with specific exceptions such as pursuing red foxes in season, operating on commercial shooting preserves, and hunting deer on private or certain public lands. Keep in mind local ordinances might impose stricter regulations than state laws; verifying local rules before hunting in incorporated areas is essential.

Operation Game Theft Program Details

Overview of Operation Game Theft (O.G.T.) Fund

Operation Game Theft (O.G.T.) is a fund initiated by the 130th General Assembly, designed to support the capture and conviction of those violating game laws. This fund gathers its resources from fines collected through game law violations and from donations. The Division of Fish and Wildlife holds the responsibility of identifying the offenses eligible for rewards and determining the reward amounts.

Eligible Offenses and Reward Tiers

Class 1 Offenses

  • Maximum Reward: $1,000.00
  • Offenses Include:
    • Commercialization of Wildlife
    • Killing endangered or threatened species

Class 2 Offenses

  • Maximum Reward: $500.00
  • Offenses Include:
    • Exceeding limits on black ducks, canvasbacks, turkeys, or Canada geese
    • Poisoning wildlife
    • Interstate transportation of illegally taken wildlife
    • Exceeding gross limits of wildlife
    • Illegal hunts or trapping in state game refuges
    • Off-season hunting/trapping
    • Use of oversized killer traps
    • Illegal nighttime hunting

Class 3 Offenses

  • Maximum Reward: $100.00
  • Offenses Include:
    • Hunting with prohibited weapons
    • Hunting from a motor vehicle

Special Incentive: The Delaware Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation offers an additional $100 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of illegal wild turkey hunting in Delaware.

Reward Claim Process

  • Payment Method: Cash payment will be made by the agent receiving the information.
  • Confidentiality: The identity of the informant is kept confidential.

Criteria for Reward Payment

Only information that leads directly to an arrest and conviction of a violator will qualify for a reward. General information does not warrant payment.

Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.