Duck Hunting Marylands Eastern ShorePosted on: September 17, 2020 FHMD
Duck Hunting on Maryland’s Eastern Shore
As geese sweep down on a marsh, their calls can be deafening as their wings eclipse the sky. There is no doubt that it is a thrilling sight. The expanses of river, marsh, and fields that make up the bulk of Kent County are right along the Atlantic flyway, 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.
Wayne Gatling is one of the many professional guides in Kent County. “I was born and raised in Rock Hall,” says the outdoorsman. “I started guiding when I was 19; this is what I’ve done my entire life.”
Gatling’s regular clients come from all over the East Coast. He provides the 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. “We even have a picking operation in town,” he says. “They pick them and when they’re done, it looks like a Christmas turkey.”
Guides can be some of the best and most dedicated conservationists. “We manage our properties so they’re not overshot,” Gatling explains.
Sport and Conservation
The harvest of Chesapeake waterfowl is closely managed by strict bag limits and restrictions on hunting tools, gear, blinds, and boats. Some species in Maryland, like swans, have been removed from the harvest altogether. Others, like Canada geese, have had long-term protective moratoriums over the years, but are closely supervised by federal and state agencies that monitor the bird populations and dictate the number that can be taken annually.
The strict management of these precious natural resources has worked overall and had an extremely positive curve.
Finding the Perfect Spot
Hunting in Kent County isn’t just about ducks and geese. There are plenty of opportunities to pursue upland game birds, like doves, quail, and turkeys, not to mention deer. In fact, Kent County is one of the few counties that offer Sunday deer hunting for the entire season (Sept. 13 – Jan. 30 – Archery); most Sundays (Nov. 28 – Jan. 10 – firearms); and (Dec. 20 & 27 – Muzzleloader)
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 several 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 plenty of other resources to make a 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 any 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-breakfast 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.
Ready to hunt? Here are some resources to help you plan your next hunting excursion in Kent County:
Accommodations and visitor information:
Information on hunting, seasons and regulations:
For first-time hunters:
Public land accessible for hunting:
Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge:
Guides and outfitters:
Hunting equipment and sporting goods:
Great Chesapeake Bay Loop and area attractions:
For information on lodging options, hunting guides and outfitters, outdoor retailers, and shooting ranges, visit the Plan Your Trip section on our website.
Fall is beautiful in Maryland and our 18 scenic byways are an ideal source of inspiration to create a pre- or post- hunt family getaway. Let Maryland’s Open Roads take the guesswork out of creating a complete road trip by offering suggested routes, restaurants, and points of interest.” https://www.visitmaryland.org/open-road/open-road-itineraries