Public Land Opportunities for Bear HuntersPosted on: July 24, 2018 By: Maryland DNR
Bear activity is increasing throughout western Maryland as the black bear population continues to expand eastward. With its rural landscape and vast forested land, western Maryland holds some prime bear habitat, much of which is found on public lands open for hunting.
A Guide to Planning a Black Bear Hunt in Maryland
There are a limited number of bear hunting permits available each year in Maryland and they are awarded through a lottery drawing. The 2018 Maryland Black Bear Lottery will be open to receive applications Monday, July 16 through Friday, August 31. The 2018 bear season will be open for five days: October 22-26, 2018. Hunters will be able to apply through Maryland Department of Natural Resources COMPASS, in person at a Maryland Department of Natural Resources Regional Service Center or at any one of more than 250 Sport Hunting and Fishing License Agents statewide. Each applicant must pay a $15 nonrefundable application fee and may only enter once. Applicants must comply with Hunter Education and Safety Course requirements. The random lottery drawing will be held on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. Your permit will be valid anywhere in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties.
As with any hunting trip, one of the first hurdles to overcome is determining where you are going to hunt. A bear hunting permit will allow the hunter to hunt on either public or private land. Hunters must first obtain written permission from the property owner prior to hunting on private land. Once the department has notified you that you have been selected in the lottery, it is time to choose a hunting area and begin scouting. Private property owners are often the best source of information while scouting for a place to hunt. That’s because they can often clue you in to daily or periodic movements of bears, locations of natural food sources and cover, and additional important information about the lay of the land. Thorough scouting of your hunting area will greatly increase your chances of attaching your field tag to a bear.
Bear Travel Zones
Bears are traveling animals and the population in Maryland is best described as regional. Tagged animals from Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia have all been recovered in Maryland. Likewise, Maryland bears have turned up in neighboring states as well. The home range of a bear varies depending on a variety of factors, but generally speaking bears in Maryland will occupy a home range of between 13 and 50 square miles and may travel many miles in one day. Like humans, bears prefer to travel paths of least resistance. Within a tract of forest, a bear is more likely to travel a trail or dirt road than to bushwhack cross-country. Therefore, a trail linking a water hole to protective cover or a food source, such as a cornfield or an oak tree grove, would be an ideal location to place a hunting stand. River and stream corridors are also favored, especially in open areas, since they are often banked with trees, shrubs and other cover.
Black Bear Hunting Permit
- A Black Bear Hunting Permit is required to hunt black bear in the state as outlined in the printed regulations in the Maryland Guide to Hunting & Trapping. A bear hunting permit is only available through the Maryland Black Bear Lottery process as follows:
- The 2018 Maryland Black Bear Lottery will be open to receive applications Monday, July 16 through Friday, August 31.
- Hunters will be able to apply through Maryland Department of Natural Resources COMPASS online, in person at any Maryland Department of Natural Resources Regional Service Center or at any one of more than 250 Sport Hunting and Fishing License Agents statewide.
- Each applicant must pay a $15 nonrefundable application fee and may only enter once.
- Applicants must comply with the Hunter Education and Safety Course requirements.
- The random lottery drawing will be held on Tuesday, September 4, 2018.
- DNR will issue a limited number of Bear Hunting Permits that will be valid anywhere in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties.
- Each successful applicant (permittee) may designate up to two sub-permittees who will be allowed to participate in every aspect of the hunt.
Public Land Where You Can Hunt Bear
Billmeyer-Belle Grove Wildlife Management Area
Billmeyer-Belle Grove Wildlife Management Area is over 1,100 acres in size and situated within the ridge and valley physiographic province near the Pennsylvania state border. Characterized by steep slopes and deep hollows, elevations range from 800 feet in the hollow along Terrapin Run, to a high of 1,200 feet along the ridge tops. The property is dominated by mixed oak forest with a few patches of conifers and about 25 acres of fields and small wildlife openings. The Belle Grove tract offers a disabled hunter access road.
Dan’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area
Dan’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area boasts over 9,500 acres of public hunting opportunities located within prime bear habitat. Heavily forested with oak trees as the dominant species, Dan’s Mountain is flanked on its west side by small communities along the George’s Creek watershed, and on its east side by communities of the Potomac Valley. Bear sightings and complaints are common in these areas. Though rugged in places, Dan’s Mountain is quite accessible with over five miles of public access roads. A primitive camping area is located on the eastern side of the management area.
Green Ridge State Forest
Green Ridge is the second largest of Maryland’s state forests consisting of a 46,500-acre oak-hickory forest. It is located in eastern Allegany County, approximately eight miles east of Flintstone off Interstate 68 at Exit 64. Town Hill, Green Ridge and Polish Mountains vary in elevation from 475 feet at the Potomac River to 2,039 feet on Town Hill. The habitats range from riverine to mountainous, and camping opportunities are many throughout Green Ridge State Forest. For more information, call the Green Ridge State Forest headquarters at 301-478-3124.
Rocky Gap State Park
Rocky Gap State Park has approximately 1,450 acres open to bear hunting. The mountainous terrain can be rugged and includes a mile-long gorge, which is the drainage corridor of Lake Habeeb. Rocky Gap State Park contains excellent bear habitat including a hemlock forest dense with rhododendron and mountain laurel. For more information, call 301-722-1480.
Warrior Mountain Wildlife Management Area
At over 4,800 acres, Warrior Mountain Wildlife Management Area offers the ridge and stream valley topography typical of Western Maryland. At the top of Warrior Mountain, a power line clearing overlooks a fabulous view of the surrounding terrain. Oak-hickory forests, overgrown apple orchards and a primitive camping area are features of Warrior Mountain.
For more information about any of the Wildlife Management Areas in Allegany County, call 301-478-2525.
Cunningham Falls State Park
Cunningham Falls State Park contains 4,400 acres located in the Catoctin Mountains in northern Frederick County. The excellent wildlife habitat there is used by black bears all year long. Campsites and camper cabins are available for rent through October. For more information, call 301-271-7574.
Frederick City Watershed Cooperative Wildlife Management Area
Frederick City Watershed Cooperative Wildlife Management Area contains over 7,000 acres of forestland in western Frederick County. This mountainous section of Frederick County provides some of the best bear habitat in the area and is popular with grouse and deer hunters. Numerous spring-fed ponds in the area provide water for all manner of wildlife, large and small.
For more information, contact 301-842-2702.
Deep Creek Lake State Park
Deep Creek Lake State Park has 1,200-acres of public hunting lands. The rugged terrain, mature forests, upland bogs and dense cover offer excellent bear hunting opportunities. Hunting is permitted in the park’s backcountry areas, and the managed hunting areas are posted. For more information, call 301-387-5563.
Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area
Dominated by mixed hardwood forest in various age classes, this 1,863-acre tract is located in southwestern Garrett County. Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area protects two red spruce bogs, a unique type of wetland habitat. More than 18,000 years old, these are among the oldest peat bogs in eastern North America, complete with wild cranberries and a host of rare and endangered plants. Many trails and old roads provide user access to the area.
Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area
Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area is located in Central Garrett County. This 258-acre tract encompasses the majority of the Cunningham Swamp, a rich marsh with exceptional habitat for wetland and bog related species. There are open fields and upland forest habitats within the boundaries of the management area as well. There is exceptional cover here for everything from ruffed grouse and American woodcock to black bears and white-tailed deer.
Potomac-Garrett State Forest
Boasting the headwaters of the Potomac River, this 9,915-acre forest tract, found in southeastern Garrett County off Route 135, is characterized by rugged mountain terrain with mixed oak and hemlock forest. This forest features the highest point in Maryland – Backbone Mountain — with an elevation of 3,200 feet. Information about this area may be found by calling 301-334-2038.
Savage River State Forest
Savage River State Forest, at over 54,000 acres, is the largest property in the state forest system and preserves a strategic watershed in Garrett County. Many roads are open to vehicles, and several hiking trails offer enormous access to this giant tract of property. The forest is classified as a mixed hardwood forest and more than 11,000 acres of it have been designated as wildlands. For information about Savage River State Forest, contact the forest office at 301-895-5759.
Youghiogheny Wild and Scenic River
This area along the Youghiogheny River, also known as the Youghiogheny Natural Environmental Area (NEA), is located in western Garrett County and contains 1,200 acres of property that may be hunted. The terrain can be rugged and access points are limited, but there is excellent bear habitat along this river corridor. For more information about accessing this area, please call Deep Creek Lake State Park at 301-387-5563.
For more information about Garrett County Wildlife Management Areas, please call 301-334-4255.
Greenbrier State Park
Greenbrier State Park is located in eastern Washington County and has a 500-acre designated hunting area. There is a variety of wildlife habitats available for bears to use and an abundance of mature trees that may produce the natural foods bears are seeking in October. For more information, call 301-791-4767.
Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area
Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area is a 6,400-acre tract in Washington County near the town of Clear Spring. Approximately 90% of the site is dominated by forest consisting of oaks and other hardwoods, with some steep and rugged terrain. The forest sections of this management area are surrounded by large tracts of agricultural land.
Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area
Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area is a 3,100-acre tract of mixed oak forest with scattered stands of Virginia Pines, and it’s rich with mountain scenery and wildlife. The property has rolling to steep topography with elevations ranging from 500 to 1,500 feet, and it’s bisected by Sideling Hill Creek which serves as the border dividing Washington and Allegany counties. Several parking areas scattered throughout Sideling Hill along with many old logging roads open to foot traffic allow for abundant access to this large tract of property.
South Mountain State Park
South Mountain State Park has two forested tracts of ideal bear habitat open for hunting. The Black Rock Hunting Lands are located east of Smithsburg, while the Lamb’s Knoll Hunting Lands are located southeast of Boonsboro along the Frederick County border. Both properties may be accessed on foot via the Appalachian Trail; however, the trail corridor is a non-hunting area, as is adjacent National Park Service property. For information regarding the specifics of these hunting areas, contact the park at 301-791-4767.
Woodmont Natural Resource Management Area
Woodmont Natural Resource Management Area, located in western Washington County, offers 2,000 acres of hunting land open to the public. This popular hunting destination is comprised of open meadows, thick succession areas and old growth timbers which provide habitat for numerous game species including black bear, white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, gray squirrel, eastern fox squirrel and ruffed grouse. For more information, call 301-842-2155.
For more information about Washington County Wildlife Management Areas, call 301-842-2702.
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Photos Courtesy of Maryland Department of Natural Resources Flickr account.