August 30, 2022
Note: This article on deer hunting appeared in the August East issue of Game & Fish magazine. The September edition is already on sale throughout the country. Click here for subscribe
The warm, fuzzy feeling of hunting season is just around the corner, and if you have yet to tag a whitetail in velvet, Maryland can help you change that.
The Old Line State archery hunting season begins in early September and offers one of the best opportunities in the East to shoot a velvet deer.
This whitetail sleeper state can offer deer hunting much like you might find in the Midwest.
From the rolling hills in the western part of the state to the thickly forested wetlands of the eastern seaboard, Maryland offers plenty of public land opportunities to cash in on a dollar. With the right plan, “warm and fuzzy” could describe the feeling of getting your hands on an early-season Maryland rack next month.
MYRTLE GROVE MMA
4,460 acres | Charles County | Requires free public hunting permit
The detail: Charles County, in the southernmost part of Maryland, offers hunters the opportunity to hunt some really big whitetails. It’s where Billy Crutchfield shot a buck with his shotgun in 2006 that scored 268 1/8, an almost unheard-of score for an East Coast buck. When it comes to public land in Charles County, the Myrtle Grove WMA can be a productive option if you’re willing to put in the work.
Myrtle Grove WMA is tucked away in west central Charles County and is nearly surrounded by the Potomac River. This is beneficial in many ways, as the river keeps deer localized and reduces hunting pressure from non-residents from the west and south.
hunting strategy: The secret to Myrtle Grove WMA is to venture off the main trails. Hunters can often be seen hunting off the beaten path, but going deeper into the management area can really provide isolated hunting opportunities. Although the area is full of oak trees, they won’t do you much good early in the season, so look for areas that have open canopies. Additionally, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers maps showing early succession areas as well as designated parking locations that should be used. These early successional areas have a large amount of young woody browsing, grasses, and a high density of native browsing that deer prefer at this time of year. If you can do it, a preseason scouting trip will go a long way toward increasing your chances of filling a tag.
Accommodation and feeding: Nearby Smallwood State Park has RV and tent cabins and campgrounds with electrical hookups that can be reserved. If camping isn’t your thing, the city of Waldorf has several hotels, with options for all budgets. Be sure to check out Crafty Crab at Waldorf, a fun seafood restaurant with lots of TVs, music, drinks, and of course, crabs.
LIBERTY CWMA RESERVOIR
9,200 acres | Baltimore and Carroll Counties | Archery only; requires free public hunting permityou
The detail: Liberty Reservoir is one of the main sources of water for the city of Baltimore and straddles Baltimore and Carroll counties, not far from the Pennsylvania-Maryland line. Liberty Reservoir CWMA is a favorite with local hikers, bikers, fishermen and, of course, hunters. Because it’s relatively close to the Mason-Dixon line, you’ll find several Pennsylvania and other non-resident plates here when hunting season rolls around.
The reservoir itself has some quality fishing and offers very specific Hybrid Striped Bass. There are several parking spots around the property and trails that give hunters the ability to access most of the inside areas. Each year, a handful of quality, mature bucks are pulled from Liberty, and many hunters fill the tags here to fill their freezers with venison.
Hunting strategy: Liberty, as well as the nearby Pretty Boy and Loch Raven reservoirs, can become very populated with deer hunters given their proximity to the state border. That said, most hunters get complacent here, hunting in the same spot year after year, hunt after hunt. Being new to the area can be very beneficial as you can avoid common areas and find more secluded hot spots.
The key is to arrive early and stay all day. I am not one to hunt in the mornings early in the season; My most successful hunts come from scouting in the morning and hunting at night. If you head into the woods with a headlamp, pack a lunch, and stand your ground, you’ll have a chance of surprising a deer. The deer here are used to foot traffic, and as hunters leave and return, they quickly get used to it. Going deep and not going out when others do can give you a good opportunity.
If you don’t have access to a canoe or boat, explore the banks of the reservoir on foot. Keep in mind that it’s illegal to hunt within 50 feet of the high tide line, but exploring the lake during the middle of the day in September can help you find a thirsty deer that will give away your location. I like to play in the wind, curl up in a bit of shade, and just glass the benches all day until I find a deer that might give me a chance to formulate a plan of attack. In my opinion, this is your best bet for hanging a tag on a velvet dollar at Liberty Reservoir in early September.
Accommodation and feeding: I used to live in a town called Marriottsville, right next to Patapsco Valley State Park (another good public place, by the way), and my favorite local was a restaurant called the Woodstock Inn. There was always live music and good food and drink. There are plenty of hotels and rental houses in the area, but if you’re looking for a place to camp, check out Ramblin’ Pines Campground. If you manage to tag a whitetail at Liberty Reservoir, I recommend taking it to M&G Wild Game Processing in Westminster and having them make bologna, jerky, and hot pepper sticks for it. You will not regret.
747 acres | Dorchester County | Access permit required from LeCompte WMA office
The detail: You don’t need 10,000 acres to be successful on public land, just the right acres. LeCompte WMA is a hidden gem of less than 1,000 acres with a variety of stalls throughout. There are managed food plots, row crop areas, select cut timber areas, and lots of oak trees. One drawback to this property is that once the leaves fall, you’ll think you hear deer everywhere. It’s a preserve for the Delmarva fox squirrel, and there are plenty of them.
Hunting strategy: Arrive early, a few days before opening day if possible, get their permit, and do some exploring. During late summer in this area, it’s fun to drive and watch the deer in the neighboring farm fields. Finding a group of singles and being able to model them a day or two before the season starts gives you an advantage. Don’t be surprised to see a mature male; they grow here like nowhere else on the East Coast.
Accommodation and feeding: You can stay nearby in Cambridge or Salisbury, but if you’ve never been, Ocean City is less than an hour’s drive from LeCompte. You don’t have to be a huge beachgoer to enjoy Ocean City, though you could skip the morning hunts for a little morning fishing. Ocean City has plenty of places to eat and drink, and there’s something for every taste and mood.