Underrated Locations for Northeast Public Land Deer Hunting
When you think of really excellent deer hunting, there’s a good chance that the Northeast and New England area doesn’t immediately come to mind. But that’s not entirely fair. Sure, there’s much more private land than public hunting lands and there sure are a lot of people (i.e., competition) as compared to out west. But that doesn’t mean you should write it all off. In fact, there are still some great opportunities for you if you know where to go. With that said, here are some of the best locations for public land deer hunting throughout the Northeast U.S.
Challenges/Opportunities with Hunting Deer in New England
As mentioned, there are some associated challenges when it comes to public land deer hunting in the Northeast. First of all, there’s just not as much public hunting land set aside in this region. Most areas are under private ownership. That can also be an advantage for you if you spend time befriending landowners and getting access to private hunting land, as the trophy potential on some private parcels adjacent to heavily pressured public lands can be phenomenal. But that’s not what this article’s about.
Another aspect that’s tough to overcome is how pressured the public lands can be. If there’s a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or similar public land within 30 minutes of a major urban area, a lot of other people are likely eyeing it too. While you can’t always completely overcome this, there are methods to deal with it. Try hunting midweek when most people are working, rather than the weekend when everyone else goes. Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the quietest days on most public land hunts. Or you can try to get access to special archery hunts, which further limits the pool of other hunters that can hunt there.
Best Public Land Deer Hunting
With all that said, here are some of the greatest locations in the northeast to scratch your public land deer hunting itch.
- West Virginia – this state has some challenging terrain to conquer, but the payoff in deer hunting locations is high. Four counties (Mingo, Logan, Wyoming, and McDowell) in particular along its southwest border have been designated as archery-only hunting zones since 1979. These West Virginia bow only counties have dramatically improved the deer herd and trophy potential in those decades as well – plenty of Pope and Young bucks are harvested here each year. Public lands open to hunting in these counties include Laurel Lake WMA, R.D. Bailey Lake WMA, Tug Fork WMA, Anawalt Lake WMA, and Panther State Forest.
- Maryland – this state might slip your mind when it comes to deer hunting, but there are a lot of public hunting lands that are worth your while. The Green Ridge State Forest, Susquehanna State Park, and Gunpowder Falls State Park all offer good deer hunting opportunities. There are also dozens of large WMAs, including Dan’s Mountain WMA, Indiana Springs WMA, Prettyboy Watershed WMA, and Liberty Watershed WMA, several of which are also archery-only.
- Maine – although this state might be a bit far north for you if coming from some of the major urban centers in New England, it also offers some fun and rugged deer hunting opportunities. There are dozens of WMAs scattered across the state that you can choose from, but the deer herd and harvests have increased the last few years in the southern and central regions. Within this area, sizeable WMAs with upland forest habitats and old field features include Gene Letourneau (Frye Mountain) WMA, Vernon S. Walker (Newfield) WMA, Gawler WMA, and Chesterville WMA.
- Pennsylvania – although the hunting pressure can be high in this state, there’s also a lot of public land for deer hunting. The Pennsylvania Game Commission owns and manages millions of acres of state game lands, in addition to state parks and state forests. In the north-central part of the state, several state forests converge to form hundreds of thousands of acres of hunting ground.
- New York – outside of its thriving urban cities, New York State actually offers numerous WMAs, state forests, state parks, and forest preserves. According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, there are over 780,000 acres of state forests and more than 197,000 acres of WMAs.
Although you might have to work a little harder for some of these public land deer hunting spots in the Northeast, the reward can definitely be worth it.