Safety is top priority as deer season begins

November 9, 2018

Today is the opening of Delaware’s shotgun deer season, and there will be hunters in the woods with every level of experience from novice to expert. It is important for all of them to practice safe hunting procedures in order to return from the field.

No. 1 is be sure before you shoot. It is amazing how much like a deer a hunter slowly walking through the woods toward your stand can sound. Do not shoot until you are certain of your target and you have a clear sight path between you and your target, as well as past the target in case you miss. When hunting from an elevated stand, your sight path will be down, so a miss will go into the ground. Hunting from a ground blind means your shot can travel quite a ways before reaching the end of its trajectory.

Always wear your hunter orange. Several years ago, I was part of a lease near Greenwood and we came upon a guy sitting on a tree stump in camouflage. He was not on our lease and was poaching, but since we didn’t have any reason to suspect he was there and he was hard to see, he could have left the woods in a body bag.

If you are hunting on leased land, make sure you know the boundaries. I have had people shoot deer from their land into ours, and that always results in problems. In those cases, the landowner or leaseholder gets the deer, and the poacher gets a stern warning.

Don’t do anything stupid. There will always be people who break the law on purpose, and let’s hope they all get caught. Then there are the folks who just make a stupid mistake like failing to plug their shotgun so it only holds three shells. Trespassing is another mistake, as is illegal parking. Every enforcement officer in DNREC will be out this week looking for violations, so please think before you do something stupid.

Another safety concern is falling from a tree stand. I had a good friend fall from his stand while archery hunting and put a broadhead through his leg. He almost bled to death and was laid up for weeks. Always use a safety strap and make sure your stand is well secured.

Never pull or carry a loaded gun up to your stand. Make sure all the shells are out before you begin to carry or pull the firearm toward you.

Keep the safety on until you are ready to pull the trigger. Don’t forget to put it back on after the shot.

I know this all sounds like common sense and it is, but when you have that big buck moving toward you and after you put him down, it is possible to lose a little bit of the good sense you were taught.

Fannin takes first deer

Emma Fannin, age 14, of Lincoln took her first deer with a 20-gauge H&R Slug Gun while out with her dad during this year’s youth hunt. They sent in a nice photo.

Phillips Landing

The boat ramp at Phillips Landing at the junction of the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek will be closed from Monday, Nov. 12, until April 30, 2019. The entire area will be rebuilt to include three boat ramps with floating docks and a kayak launch area. The parking lot will be paved.

This project has been in the works for several years. The funding was approved, but before work could begin, Indian artifacts were discovered and it took quite a while for the archeological folks to approve disturbing the area.

Boating access to the Nanticoke River is available in Seaford, and the Broad Creek boat ramp in Laurel provides access to that body of water. Shore fishing will still be available at Phillips Landing during the construction period.

Fishing report

Like a broken record, the bad weather keeps on repeating. When boats can reach the Del-Jersey-Land and Site 11, they find sea bass waiting and chomping on clams, squid or jigs. A few flounder are also caught from the same locations.

Closer to the beach, the wrecks at Fenwick Shoal and inside the Shipping Lanes hold a few sea bass, flounder and triggerfish. Indian River Inlet has seen lots of short tog with a very few keepers. The same is true for the fishing pier at Massey’s Landing. Sand fleas and green crabs remain the top tog baits.

Boats working the Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers find short tog with a few large enough to keep. One boat reported catching 60 tog with six keepers. Small blues were caught in the surf and out of Indian River Inlet, but seem to have vanished since the hard northwest blow last Saturday. It would be nice to see some larger blues move into the beach and even nicer to see some large rockfish. Both have been caught to our north, so there is hope.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter