Waterfowl on Maryland’s Eastern Shore
As geese sweep down on a marsh and their wings eclipse the sun, it is a thrilling sight. And the expanses of river, marsh, and fields that make up the bulk of Kent County are an ideal place to spot these waterfowl. It is located right along the Atlantic flyway, and is home to a migratory funnel that siphons 29 species of waterfowl, including geese, ducks, and swans, by the thousands.
These birds fly up to 1,600 miles from their Arctic breeding grounds to Maryland, where they spend the relatively mild winter feeding on underwater grasses, clams, mussels, and fields of corn.
A Tradition Almost Four Hundred Years in the Making
In 1666, an Englishman named George Alsop wrote about his experience in Maryland. The waterfowl were so abundant, he wrote, “there was such an incessant clattering made with their wings on the water where they rose, and such a noise of those flying higher up that it was as if we were all the time surrounded by a whirlwind.”
Now, nearly four centuries later, sportsmen and women throughout the Mid-Atlantic region flock to Kent County to continue the tradition of hunting. With ample game, open fields, forests and marshes to hunt, the local expertise of the area is also unmatched in guiding the hunters to prime hunting grounds.
Guides can provide a full experience in hunting ducks and geese, from grooming the cornfields and placing the decoys to calling in the birds and providing the Labradors to retrieve the game.
Sport and Conservation
The harvest of waterfowl within the Atlantic Flyway, including waterfowl within Chesapeake Bay, are closely regulated through seasons and bag limits as well as hunting tools, gear, blinds, and boats. Seasons and bag limits are set yearly through a lengthy public process at both the Federal and State level. This process has proven highly successful and has been the key to success in species like Canada geese.
Finding the Perfect Spot
Hunting in Kent County isn’t just about ducks and geese. There are other opportunities to pursue upland game birds, like doves, quail, and turkeys, not to mention deer.
The Millington Wildlife Management Area is open for hunting during all established seasons. This 4,000-acre parcel is located in eastern Kent County and consists of hardwood forests with some pine stands, various types of wetlands, fallow managed fields, meadow plantings, and open agricultural fields. Once the home of the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, Millington fulfills multiple roles in managing natural resources. From protecting several endangered species of plants and animals to providing hunting and outdoor recreation to demonstrating wildlife management techniques. Migratory Canada goose and spring turkey hunters must obtain a free Central Region Public Hunting Permit and reservation through the department's Gwynnbrook office (410-356-9272).
The Maryland Park Service oversees the Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area, located along the scenic banks of the Sassafras River and Turner's Creek. Sassafras NRMA provides prime opportunities for hunting White-Tailed Deer during most of the legal hunting seasons. Small game species abound during a limited season and waterfowl hunting from blinds is available via a lottery. Applications and information are available in the Maryland Hunting Guide or by calling the park office at 410-820-1668.
Another of Kent County’s treasured hunting grounds sits on an island at the mouth of the Chester River. Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge boasts 2,285 acres of brackish marsh, natural ponds, upland forest, and grasslands where you can hunt for deer in the fall. Deer hunt brochures and applications are available mid-summer. Please contact the refuge office at 410-639-7056 for details. The refuge also hosts a spring youth turkey hunt.
There are other resources to make your hunting excursion a pleasant and plentiful experience. Molly’s Place in Kennedyville is a full-service sporting goods store with a wide array of hunting supplies, clothing, decoys, game calls, and boots — in short, everything a hunter needs for any kind of hunting expedition. Molly's Restaurant also welcomes hunters to the area with a rich array of farm-fresh cuisine and tasty delicacies.
Overnight amenities range from historic inns and bed-and-breakfasts to moderately priced motels and hotels; all located within a 20-minute drive from any of Kent County’s hunting grounds.
Hunting is a part of the culture throughout Kent County. Decoy carving has transcended from the utilitarian to become an art form in itself. The Betterton Heritage Museum, in the old church at the top of the hill above the beach, has a collection of decoys carved by world-renowned local craftsman, Charles “Speed” Joiner. This is just one of many such exhibits at museums throughout the county.