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What Firearms & Ammunition Can You Hunt With In Delaware?

Updated: May 9, 2023

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The United States is known historically for its varying restrictions and allowances of firearm possession, ownership, and what kind of ammunition a citizen can use recreationally or professionally. Even the military has certain clearances that allow or restrict access to certain weapons and grades of ammunition. Although if you just want to get in the woods after your favorite game animal, you have got to know what you are allowed to hunt with. Otherwise, you might get the chance to make some new friends in law enforcement.

Each state has a legislature that governs the legality of owning or possessing certain firearms and ammunition. Delaware’s gun rules are considered tougher than most, and it’s important to know what’s legal and what isn’t if you're residing in or visiting this state.

Now as a hunter, the best way to break this down is probably by the animal. Each type of hunting has its own regulations, and what you are chasing directly correlates with what you are allowed to hunt with.

Legal Munitions For Whitetail Deer Hunting In Delaware

If you want to hunt whitetail in Delaware, you will have a smaller weapon selection than most of the country. Of course, you can hunt whitetail with any kind of vertical bow that has a pull weight of at least 35 pounds. If you want to use a crossbow during archery season, it will need to have a 125 pound pull weight, be manufactured after 1980, and have a mechanical safety. Any broadhead used during the Delaware archery season must also be at least 7/8ths of an inch wide.

A muzzleloader can not be a smaller caliber than .42, and must have a barrel that is at least 20 inches long. For a shotgun, it can be no smaller than 20 gauge for deer hunting using rifle slugs, pumpkin ball or buckshot and must be plugged to hold only 3 shells in the chamber and magazine/tube combined. You also can’t carry any shot smaller than buckshot while you are hunting deer, and if you are hunting something else with your shotgun, you can not carry rifle slugs, pumpkin ball, or buckshot.

If you want to use a rifle, you will be limited to straight walled cartridges that are .357 to .38 caliber with a cartridge case length of no less than 1.25 inches and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches, or in .41 caliber to a maximum of .50 caliber and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches. If you want more insight on which straight wall cartridge would be best for you, we wrote an entire article about it that you can read here.

winchester 350 legend rifle ammo
350 Legend is a popular straight walled cartridge for deer hunting

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Semi-auto, lever action, bolt action, pump action, single shot, and revolver rifles are all acceptable as long as they are chambered in an allowed caliber. Also, it can not hold more than three 3 cartridges in the chamber and magazine combined.

Exact season dates change every year, so I won’t bother putting them here, but here are the general seasons. Archery runs from early September to the end of January. Muzzleloader season opens for a week in mid October, and another week in mid January.

Likewise, general firearm season or shotgun season opens for a week in early November, and a week in January. Archery equipment, muzzleloaders, and straight wall cartridge handguns and rifles may also be used during this season.

There is also a special season for handgun and rifles chambered in straight walled cartridges for a few days in early January. Doe days are sprinkled throughout October, and open for a week in December. (Note: These rifles cannot be used for deer hunting north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.)

Lastly, there is a youth season in early November, where any legal method of take may be used. Click here to see the most recent season dates. To read more about bag limits and antler restrictions, click here.

Legal Munitions For Waterfowl Hunting In Delaware

As most of us know, waterfowl are federal animals due to how much they migrate around the country, and frankly, the world. The same duck can start its year in Canada, and end up in Mexico by the end of the season. So to keep things uniform, the federal government makes the hunting regulations.

For starters, you can only shoot waterfowl with archery equipment (if you’re good enough), a muzzle loading shotgun, or a modern shotgun. Rifles, pistols, punt guns, and all the other fun stuff are prohibited. The shot used in your shotgun must not be lead, and must be non-toxic - steel, bismuth, tungsten, nickel, iron, zine, copper, or a mix of these. Your shot must also be size “F” or smaller (which is fairly large).

The shotgun must be 10 gauge or smaller, and must only hold three shells or have a plug limiting your capacity to three shells that cannot be removed without disassembling the shotgun. However the capacity limit does not apply during certain special light goose only or Canadian goose only seasons when all other waterfowl and crane seasons are closed. There is no poundage requirement for archery equipment.

waterfowl hunting ammunition
12 gauge Hevi Bismuth 4 shot duck load. Hevi Bismuth is denser than steel and non toxic.

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There are 28 types of ducks in Delaware, including the Mallard, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Wood Duck, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Harlequin Duck, King Eider, Common Eider, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Black Scoter, Greater Scaup, and the Surf Scoter. There are also a few types of geese and swans common to Delaware, including the Canadian Goose, Snow Goose, Tundra Swan, and the Mute Swan. Make sure to always follow the season dates and bag limits for these many types of waterfowl, you can find them here.

Legal Munitions For Rabbit & Squirrel Hunting in Delaware

Rabbits and squirrels may be hunted with shotguns, compound bows, recurve bows, longbows. Additionally, squirrels only may be hunted with rimfire rifles or air rifles between .17 (max for air rifles) and .22 caliber. You may also hunt squirrels with a muzzleloader that shoots a .36 caliber or smaller round projectile.

cci stinger 22lr ammo for varmints
22 LR hollow point ammo is a great choice for squirrels and rabbits.

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If you choose to use a shotgun for either rabbit or squirrels, it can not have a capacity of more than 3 shells between the chamber and magazine/tube combined. Although your shot can be made of any type of metal you like, including lead. Your shot size must be at most 2 shot or smaller, but you are allowed to use any gauge shotgun you prefer.

It is also required that rabbit and squirrel hunters wear at least 400 square inches of orange if they are hunting during any deer firearm seasons. Click here to read the most up to date regulations.

There are plenty of rules in Delaware around firearms, and they can change year by year, so always make sure you are up to date on the latest laws in any state that you hunt.

Also, legal methods of take depend on various season dates. Various methods of take are not allowed throughout the entire duration of a season. For example, you can not use a straight walled cartridge rifle during an archery-only season, and doing so will land you in the hot seat. So check the Delaware hunting regulations for more information on season dates and make sure you are using the right weapon at the right time.


​Legal Methods of Take

​Legal Type of Ammunition

Whitetail Deer

​revolvers and single shot pistols with a barrel length of 5.75 to 12.5 inches. single shot antique or authentic reproduction black powder Sharps rifle of .45 to .60 caliber. Crossbows manufactured after 1980 with at least 125 pounds of pull weight. compound, recurve, or longbows with a pull weight greater than 35 pounds. Shotguns between 10 and 20 gauge.

​straight-wall ammunition in .357 to .38 caliber with a cartridge case length of no less than 1.25 inches and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches, or in .41 caliber to a maximum of .50 caliber and a maximum case length of 1.82 inches. Rifles or shotguns cannot be loaded with more than three cartridges/shells in the chamber and magazine/tube combined. Broadheads must be at least ⅞ inches wide. Shotgun loads must be buckshot or pumpkin ball.


Archery equipment - no poundage requirements Muzzle loading and modern shotguns that are 10 gauge or smaller

​Shot must be made of non-toxic metals, lead is expressly prohibited.

Shot size must be size “F” or smaller.

Shotguns must not have a capacity of more than 3 shells between the chamber and magazine combined.

Grey Squirrel

​Compound bows, longbows, and recurve bows with no poundage requirement.


Rimfire rifles and air rifles

Shotguns of any gauge

​Muzzleloaders must shoot a .36 caliber or smaller round projectile. Rimfire and air rifles must shoot a projectile between .17 (max for air rifle) and .22 caliber. Shotguns must not have a capacity of more than 3 shells between the chamber and magazine combined. Shotgun shot must be size 2 or smaller. Lead shot is allowed.

Cottontail Rabbit

​Compound bows, longbows, and recurve bows with no poundage requirement.

Shotguns of any gauge

​Shotguns must not have a capacity of more than 3 shells between the chamber and magazine combined.

Shotgun shot must be size 2 or smaller. Lead shot is allowed.

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