The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning a major expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
And the service is seeking public input on its proposed hunting and fishing opening plan at the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges.
Under the proposal, hunters will be able to target more species, including migratory birds for the first time, and be able to hunt over a larger area on the Eastern Shore.
The Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to expand the hunting program at Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR for big game, upland game and migratory game birds, and also open the refuge to fishing for the first time, according to a release.
Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula will also open to migratory game bird hunting for the first time.
The public is invited to review the draft documents for the proposed hunting and fishing access, including the Draft Hunting and Fishing Plan, Compatibility Determinations and Environmental Assessment.
These actions will provide additional wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities, improve efficiency and management of the refuge’s hunting program, and better align with state programs, FWS said.
In addition to the new openings, the following changes are proposed as part of an update to the existing hunting plan:
1. Species changes: At Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR, FWS will add turkey, rabbit, squirrel, quail, raccoon, opossum, fox, coyote, groundhog, European starling, English sparrow, pigeon, waterfowl, rail, snipe, gallinule/moorhen, coot, woodcock, dove, and crow to the current hunting program, which is only white-tailed deer. Fisherman Island NWR will open to migratory bird (waterfowl, rail, snipe, gallinule/moorhen, coot, woodcock, dove, and crow) for the first time.
2. Huntable acreage: The current white-tailed deer hunt at Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR occurs on 250 acres, and FWS proposes to allow big and upland game hunting on 1,211 acres, and migratory game bird hunting on 409 acres. On Fisherman Island NWR, migratory bird hunting will be allowed on 758 acres.
3. Method of take changes: The current hunt allows archery and a 1-week firearms season (shotgun with buckshot only) for white-tailed deer. Proposed changes would follow state regulations and seasons allowing for use of archery, shotgun, muzzleloader, and rifle (small game only). Non-toxic ammunition would be required for small game in the firearms zone and for turkey.
4. Hunter orange: No proposed changes for either refuge.
5. Season/date changes: Hunting on both Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island NWRs would occur from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28, which is an increase of hunting days from 93 days to 151 days.
6. Permit Fees: No Permit Fees. In addition to possessing a valid Virginia hunting license, all big game (white-tailed deer and turkey), upland game, and migratory game bird hunters will be required to read and sign a refuge hunt brochure prior to hunting on the refuge.
Draft documents are available online at the refuge’s official website at www.fws.gov/refuge/eastern_shore_of_virginia/. You can contact the refuge at 757-331-2760 to request more information.
Submit your comments to the refuge by mail at 5003 Hallett Circle, Cape Charles, VA 23310 or by email to HuntFishRuleComments@fws.gov and please put “Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR” in the subject line.
The comment period will stay open through the end of the “2021–2022 Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations” comment period, to be announced in the Federal Register.
The end of the comment period will be 60 days after the rule publishes, which is anticipated to be mid-June. The exact date will be announced later, per the release.