When people think about hunting in Virginia, they probably picture mountain ranges where they can pursue bear or deer in vast stretches of hardwoods.
The picture is very different in Northampton County, on the southern tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Amid farm fields, a patchwork of woodlots hugs the edges of creeks that flow into the ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. Your odds of seeing a bear are extremely low, unless you bring one with you.
But what the area does boast is an abundance of ducks and geese. You can also find deer and small game like squirrels, groundhogs, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, raccoons and possums.
Unless you’re good friends with a local farmer, your best bet for hunting is probably public land. Since the county is a long, thin strip of land between ocean and bay, mostly taken up by fields of corn and beans, you won’t find huge state forests. But here are a few spots to check out.
Mockhorn Island Wildlife Management Area
If you’re looking for waterfowl hunting, this is the place to be. Mockhorn is divided into two sections, a few hundred acres on the mainland, and 7,000 acres of tidal marsh on Mockhorn Island itself, one in a string of barrier islands off the Atlantic coast of the peninsula.
On the island, you can hunt for clapper rail, a kind of marsh bird, as well as ducks and geese. On the mainland side, you can also archery hunt for deer and pursue turkeys in the spring. There is a very limited muzzleloader hunt for deer, but you have to apply by August and win a lottery to get a spot.
Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge
A better bet for deer hunting is this wildlife refuge, right down on the very tip of the peninsula. It’s about as far south as you can hunt on Delmarva. It’s more than 1,000 acres, much of it marshland but with some hardwoods.
Special rules apply here: You can only hunt for deer, and the area is divided into different zones, some of which allow gun hunting (shotguns only). There’s no Sunday hunting, unlike on private land and some other public land. You’ll want to read up on the rules before trying to hunt.
Kiptopeke State Park
Not far north of the wildlife refuge is Kiptopeke State Park. It doesn’t offer much in the way of hunting, but there is a tiny window. From Dec. 3-5, you can hunt deer with bow, muzzleloader or shotgun. You have to reserve a spot, though (this year, reservations started Sept. 11).
Only a limited number of hunters can get spots, so you’ll want to be prompt. According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, there are spots for “12+” hunters, which seems open to some interpretation but doesn’t sound like you should plan on bringing all your cousins and second cousins.
There’s a reservation fee of $15 per day.
For a little more hunting opportunity, including small game like squirrels, you can travel north to Accomack County, where Doe Creek Wildlife Management Area (Onancock) and Saxis Wildlife Management Area (Bloxom) offer the works: Deer, waterfowl, turkey, rabbits, and more.
Before you go