Public Hunting Lands

Wildlife Management Areas: General Rules and Regulations

These lands are held in trust by the Department to conserve habitat for wildlife. The goal of the Wildlife Management Area system is to maintain and enhance habitats that support game and nongame wildlife while providing opportunities to hunt, fish, trap, and view wildlife. Other uses of WMAs may be allowed by written authorization of the Director, as long as they do not interfere with the goals and uses of WMAs.

NOTE: Not all activities listed are available on each WMA; check the WMA section for specific WMA information.

National Forests

COVID-19 Information: Nationwide, the vast majority of National Forest System lands remain open for public use. However, based on consultation with local governments and public health agencies, temporary area closures may be enacted in some local situations due to COVID-19 related concerns. Please visit the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests website for more information.

Day use fees are required on certain recreation areas. Please visit the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest website or contact the appropriate office below for more information on fees and seasonal pass information.

  • Supervisor’s Office: (540) 265-5100
  • Clinch: (276) 679-8370
  • North River: (540) 432-0187
  • Glenwood-Pedlar: (540) 291-2188
  • James River: (540) 839-2521
  • Lee: (540) 984-4101
  • Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area: (276) 783-5196
  • Eastern Divide: (540) 552-4641
  • Warm Springs: (540) 839-2521

Regulations Specific to National Forest and Wildlife Department Lands

It shall be unlawful to have in possession a firearm or any hunting weapon which is not unloaded and cased or dismantled on all National

Forest lands, all Department-owned lands and on lands managed by the Department under cooperative agreement statewide except during the period when it is lawful to take bear, deer, grouse, pheasant, quail, rabbit, raccoon, squirrel, turkey, waterfowl or migratory game birds on these lands. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders on page 22.) It shall be unlawful to possess or transport any loaded firearm or loaded hunting weapon in or on any vehicle at any time on National Forest lands or Department-owned lands. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders and loaded weapons definitions).

“Hunting weapon” is any weapon allowable for hunting as defined in 29.1-519 of the Code of Virginia.

The word “possession” shall include, but not be limited to, having any firearm or weapon used for hunting in or on one’s person, vehicle or conveyance.

It is unlawful to chase with a dog or train dogs on National Forest lands or Department-owned lands except during authorized hunting, chase or training seasons that specifically permit these activities on these lands.

Collecting any portion of the American ginseng plant for personal or commercial use from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and Department-owned lands is prohibited.

Commercial hunting or fishing outfitter activities on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests require a permit from the National Forest.

Access Roads

Hunter access roads on Department lands seasonally open to motor vehicles will be open (weather permitting) from the last Saturday in September to the 2nd Saturday in February and the 1st Saturday in April to the 3rd Saturday in May.

Opening and closing dates of hunter access roads on National Forest lands may vary by ranger district. Opening and closing dates are determined by management considerations for the areas accessed by these roads. Contact the local ranger district listed at left for opening and closing dates on specific roads.

Any motor driven vehicle, or trailer, using roads normally open to motor vehicles on Department-owned and National Forest lands shall

conform with all state laws for highway travel, including valid inspection and registration. No cross country travel is allowed. All-terrain vehicle (ATV) and off-road vehicle (OHV) travel is permitted only on designated National Forest roads and trails.

Camping Policy

Temporary dispersed primitive camping (no water, electric hookups, bathrooms or other facilities) is allowed at many of the Department’s WMAs across the Commonwealth, when occupants are engaged in authorized activities.

However, a camping authorization (no cost) is required to camp on WMAs. The free authorization can be obtained at any license agent or at gooutdoorsva.com. The camping authorization can be found in the list of “Special Licenses”.

Primitive camping is allowed for up to 14 consecutive nights and no more than 14 nights in any 28-day period. Camping is prohibited on or within 300 feet of any boat ramp, fishing lake or at other specific sites as posted or marked on WMA maps. All campers are required to store food in such a manner that it is not accessible by wildlife. Detailed camping regulations are found in 4VAC-15-20-155.

Camping on the George Washington/Jefferson National Forests for more than 21 consecutive days without terminating occupancy for a minimum of 10 consecutive days within a 31-day time period is prohibited. For more information, please visit the National Forest website or call the appropriate Ranger District Office.

No trash service is provided. WMA and National Forest users should practice “Pack it In, Pack it out”.

Structures

It is unlawful to construct, maintain, or occupy any permanent structure, except by permit, on Department-owned lands and National Forest lands.

It is unlawful to maintain any temporary dwelling on Department-owned land for more than 14 consecutive days. Persons constructing or occupying such structures are responsible for complete removal of temporary structures.

Tree Stands

It is unlawful to construct, maintain, or occupy any permanent tree stand on Departmen-towned lands, National Forest lands, and on

Department of Conservation and Recreation-owned or controlled lands. Portable tree stands, which are not permanently affixed, may be used.

Use of a full body safety harness while hunting from tree stands is strongly recommended.

Other Public Access

PALS

The Public Access Lands for Sportsmen (PALS) program opens private lands for public access.

The Department manages access to these properties for hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife viewing. A PALS Permit ($18) is required to access these lands. PALS Permits ($18) are available through DWR license agents, online at the DWR website, and through the Go Outdoors mobile app. Existing properties include:

Coalfields (Dickenson & Wise Counties) PALS

The Coalfields PALS Area offers approximately 30,000 acres in Dickenson and Wise Counties. The Coalfields PALS is possible because of an agreement between the Cumberland Forest Highlands LLC, The Nature Conservancy and DWR. Maps and Rules can be found at the links below.

James City County PALS

The James City County PALS area offers 260 acres for hunting in James City County. The James City County PALS area is possible because of an agreement between James City County and DWR. Maps and Rules can be found at the links below.

Public Opportunities for Wildlife-Related Recreation (POWRR)

The Department was recently awarded federal grant funding to secure more public access for wildlife related recreation on private lands in the Coalfields region of southwest Virginia over the next few years. The Public Opportunities for Wildlife Related Recreation (POWRR) program will open private lands for the public to enjoy hunting, fishing, trapping, boating and wildlife viewing. The program also provides funding for access infrastructure (parking, gates, signs etc.) and habitat improvements. New properties are being evaluated and enrolled continuously.

For more information about opportunities and rules check out our website or call the Marion Regional Office at 276-783-4860.

State Forests

The 26 State Forests of Virginia serve as working forests and research & demonstration sites for multiple use management. Environmental protection, water quality, aesthetics, wildlife habitat, forest research and recreation are as important as a sustained timber harvest. The State Forests are administered under a self-supporting budget. Most operating funds are generated through timber sales, but Use Permits for hunting and other activities are important as well.

Hunting is allowed on many of the State Forest properties in Virginia including: Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest, Big Woods State Forest in Sussex County, Browne State Forest in Essex County, Channels State Forest in Washington and Russell Counties, Charlotte State Forest (waterfowl hunting limited to Monday, Wednesday and Saturday), Chilton Woods State Forest in Lancaster County (archery & black powder only),

Crawfords State Forest in New Kent County, Cumberland State Forest, Devil’s Backbone State Forest in Shenandoah County (archery & black powder only), Dragon Run State Forest in King and Queen County, First Mountain State Forest in Rockingham County (archery & black powder only), Lesesne State Forest in Nelson County (archery & black powder only within designated dates), Moore’s Creek State Forest in Rockbridge County (must be accessed by hiking across George Washington & Jefferson National Forest) and Prince Edward Gallion State Forest. All of the above State Forests will allow Sunday hunting. Hunting is not allowed on 8 State Forests — some with Deed Restrictions such as Niday Place State Forest & Bourassa State Forest, and others with access limitations for the public such South Quay State Forest, Old Flat State Forest & Hawks State Forest, and some with such high public use that safety is a concern such as Zoar State Forest, Chesterfield State Forest, and Paul State Forest.

Hunting will also be allowed on Matthews State Forest in Grayson County (archery only in designated areas) and Sandy Point State Forest in King William County, however these State Forests will remain closed to Sunday hunting. Conway Robinson State Forest in Prince William County and Whitney State Forest in Fauquier County will remain lottery permit only hunts.

A valid State Forest Use Permit and valid hunting license is required and may be purchased from license agents or online. Hunting is allowed on these properties only in accordance with state hunting regulations. No motorized vehicles, including ATVs, are permitted on gated roads and trails whether the gate is open or closed.

Further information on regulations governing the use of specific State Forest properties for hunting or other recreational activities is available at the Virginia Department of Forestry’s website or by calling 804-492-4121.

National Parks

Hunting is prohibited in all National Parks in Virginia including on lands of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For current information related to any neighboring land access, wildlife transport, or permitted hunting activities, view Park specific websites or contact via Park public information telephone lines. Example: Blue Ridge Parkway or (828) 348-3400.

Military Areas

Fort A.P. Hill

  • Youth and Apprentice Day: September 24. Either-sex
  • Either-Sex Archery: October 1 through November 18.
  • Muzzleloading: November 5 through November 18.

General Firearms

November 19 through January 7

See Fort A.P. Hill Hunting Regulations for either-sex hunting days.

One deer per day, two bucks total combining all seasons. See Fort A. P. Hill Hunting Regulations for antler restrictions. Hunting will be closed on Sundays.

Turkey, Small Game, and Waterfowl

See Fort A. P. Hill Hunting Regulations for specific season dates and hunting times. Hunting will be closed on Sundays.

Closed: at 12:00 p.m. Thanksgiving and closed all day Christmas Eve and Christmas. Contact Fish and Wildlife Branch (804) 633-8984 for details. Fort A.P. Hill regulations and requirements differ from state and county regulations.

Fort Pickett

Deer:

  • Archery: October 1 through November 18
  • Muzzleloading: November 5 through November 18
  • General Firearms: November 19 through January 7. Two per day, six per year. See Fort Pickett Hunting Regulations for either-sex hunting days.

Quail:

Hunting permitted on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only.

Dove:

Hunting permitted on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.

All persons 12 years of age and older must have a hunter education certificate in order to purchase a Fort Pickett hunting permit. No apprentice licenses will be accepted. For more information about seasons and special restrictions, contact Ft. Pickett Game Check Station at (434) 292-2618 or visit https://ftpickett.isportsman.net. Open Tuesday–Saturday and closed on state-recognized holidays.

Marine Corps Base Quantico

Youth and Apprentice Day: September 24

Deer:

  • Archery Season: October 1 through November 18
  • General Firearms: November 19 through January 7. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
  • No Muzzleloading or Urban Archery Seasons.

Fall Turkey

  • Archery Season: October 1-November 18
  • General Firearms:
    • October 8 is Youth/Apprentice Day
    • October 22-November 4; November 23; December 5-31; January 14-28

Spring Turkey

  • April 1 is Youth/Apprentice Day
  • April 8-May 13

The Game Check Station is open seasonally, September-January and April-May. For hunting information, contact the Game Check Station at (703) 784-5523/5329 or https://quantico.isportsman.net. A valid base access credential is required to utilize the base for hunting.

Fort Belvoir

Refer to https://ftbelvoir.isportsman.net/ for registration, policies, and to purchase permits.

Archery Only

Qualification required.

Deer:

  • September 3 through March 26
  • September 24 is Youth/Apprentice Day

Fall Turkey:

  • October 22-November 4; November 23-24; December 5-31; and January 14-28

Spring Turkey:

  • April 1 is Youth/Apprentice Day
  • April 8-May 13

Waterfowl and Sunday hunting opportunities to be determined.

Contact Conservation Branch at (703) 805-3969 for further details.

Federal Refuges

Hunting is allowed on the following National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia. For more information:

* Quota hunts are offered through the DWR Quota Hunt program

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

John H. Kerr Reservoir

The John H. Kerr Reservoir is a federally managed multipurpose facility located on the Virginia-North Carolina border. It consists of a 50,000 acre reservoir and 55,000 acres of land surrounding the lake which offers 40,000 acres open to hunting. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains 26 wildlife management areas located around Kerr Reservoir.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

1930 Mays Chapel Road, Boydton, VA 23917 (434) 738-6143 or https://CorpsLakes.erdc.dren.mil/visitors/projects.cfm?ID=K708350.

John W. Flannagan Reservoir

The John W. Flannagan Reservoir in western Dickenson County provides 6,400 acres of land open to public hunting. The area offers deer, black bear, wild turkey, and small game hunting opportunities.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

2207 Flannagan Dam Rd., Haysi, VA 24256-9739 (276) 835-9544 or https://CorpsLakes.erdc.dren/mil/visitors/ projects.cfm?ID=H108550

Philpott Lake

Philpott Lake lies along the border of Henry, Patrick, and Franklin counties and includes a total of approximately 9,500 acres with 2,880 acres of water and approximately 6,500 acres of federally owned land and 240 acres of flowage easement lands on state property. Approximately 4,270 acres of this federal land are designated as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) where hunting is permitted. Popular game species include deer, turkey, and bear. Other game includes squirrel, rabbit, fox, beaver, waterfowl, etc.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

1058 Philpott Dam Road, Bassett, VA 24082, (276) 629-2703 or www.saw.usace.army.mil/Locations/DistrictLakesanddams/Philpott or on the Philpott Lake Facebook page.

State Parks

Virginia State Parks offer a wide variety of hunting opportunities as well as countless other outdoor activities for the entire family. Hunting opportunities range from open hunting in designated areas to managed deer hunts where individuals participate through a reservation or lottery system.

Specific sites that offer hunting may change from year to year. Managed deer hunts are a tool in Virginia State Parks’ overall deer management program. Participating hunters are asked to support our management efforts by following harvest guidelines associated with each hunt.

See this detailed hunting opportunities chart for specific information (PDF)

Cooperative Hunts

Wheelin’ Sportsmen Hunt

There are three special opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in hunts. Special Muzzleloader hunts will be held at Shenandoah River State Park on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and at Lake Anna State Park on Tuesday, Nov. 8. A special General Firearms hunt will be held on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Staunton River State Park. Applications will be available Aug. 1, and the deadline is Sept. 30. Apply or download the application at www.vanwtf.org. Contact Robin Clark, 434249-6154, huntvaws@gmail.com for more info.

Mason Neck State Park

This hunt is run in conjunction with the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Hunt dates are Nov. 15 and Nov. 29. All selected hunters must attend an orientation and show proof of weapons qualification in order to participate.

There is an application and hunt fee. Applications will be accepted from Aug. 1 to Sept. 15. Lottery information and applications are available by calling the Refuge office at 703-490-4979 or online at www.fws.gov/refuge/Mason_Neck/visit/deerhunt.html.

Claytor Lake State Park Youth Deer Hunting Workshop

This workshop and hunt for youth (ages 12-17) is held in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife Resources on Dec. 9-10. Workshop includes a Friday evening seminar on deer biology/ management, hunting safety/ethics and muzzleloader safety, and a Saturday guided muzzleloader hunt. Participants must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult, and meet all hunter education and licensing requirements.

For more information and to register contact Tracy Howard at 540-731-3639, tracy.howard@radford.va.gov.

Widewater State Park Novice Hunter Workshop

This workshop is for novice hunters, age 18 and older, who would like to receive a supplemental education that goes beyond the required hunter education course. Held in cooperation with the Department of Wildlife Resources, novices will be paired one-on-one with an experienced mentor who will offer invaluable knowledge and expertise. Hunts will take place on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. Any interested novice must e-mail or mail a completed application to Joanna.Arrighi@dcr.virginia.gov or to Widewater State Park at 101 Widewater State Park Road, Stafford, VA 22554 by Aug. 19. Notifications will be sent out by Aug. 26. Upon selection, the final payment of $30 for the State Park hunting permit must be paid by Sept. 16. The final payment instructions will be provided during the notification process.