Bow Hunting Maryland’s Reservoirs

Many bow hunters in the central Maryland area find themselves taking to the woods in one of the three watersheds.  The three reservoirs are Loch Raven, Liberty, and Pretty Boy.  All three are open to bow hunting during the entire hunting season.  The two main rules that you must follow while hunting there are that you cannot use firearms and only use climbing treestands or removable ground blinds are permitted. They want to make sure that whatever you bring into the woods, you take with you after the hunt, and that you are not harming the trees.   There are of course more rules to follow, the full lists of rules for each reservoir is available through the Maryland DNR and you will find links below for each reservoir.  I hunt Loch Raven reservoir frequently, in fact, normally once a week or more.  I have had decent success in the past, good days and the bad days that you just want to forget. Before they opened Loch Raven to bow hunting, I tagged along on a hunt in Liberty Reservoir with a friend of mine.  I had an interesting evening hunt at Liberty and saw a few deer at a distance, but did not go back because they opened Loch Raven the next hunting season. That being said, I hear very good things about Liberty and plan to branch out and hunt Liberty as well.

So, as I sit here planning my hunting adventures for this coming fall, I thought I would share a little more information about each of the 3 reservoirs located in central Maryland.

I want to start by providing you with the links to each reservoir’s rules, information, as well as the links to the required free permit that you must obtain to hunt on any of these 3 locations.

Liberty Reservoir

Liberty Reservoir Map

Liberty Reservoir Regulations

Liberty Reservoir Permit

Pretty Boy Reservoir

Pretty Boy Reservoir Map

Pretty Boy Reservoir Regulations

Pretty Boy Reservoir Permit

Loch Raven Reservoir

Loch Raven Reservoir Map

Loch Raven Reservoir Regulations

Loch Raven Reservoir Permit

*** NOTE:  The permit for Pretty Boy, Liberty Reservoir and Loch Raven is the same; you must carry this permit with you at all times when hunting any of the 3 reservoirs.

The links above should give you all the information as far as rules, maps, and the free permit that is required to hunt all three of those locations.   The three reservoirs are owned by the City of Baltimore and they are the main water source for central Maryland.  So, a lot of the rules that are maintained within the watershed/reservoirs are because they want to protect the water, the habitat, and the fact that these watersheds are used for a variety of other activities other than hunting.  So, remember be mindful of the fact that there are most likely hikers, bikers, walkers, joggers, dog walkers, fishermen, etc. out there with you, and hopefully they will be mindful that you are out in the woods as well.  You also have to follow all of the normal hunting regulations that anyone else would have to follow whether on public or private land, so make sure you check out the Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping for all the rules and regulations for where you plan to hunt and for what.

I have given you all the basics on the 3 locations, but I wanted to dive a little deeper to give you some statistics from the 2015-2016 hunting season.   I came across an annual report that the Maryland DNR releases each year, it is called the Maryland Annual Deer Report.  It is released each year, normally in July.  The report details current information about whitetail and sika deer from the past hunting season including: the amount of deer shot by each county, the entire state of Maryland, each public hunting area within Maryland, current trophy records, deer harvests by each season, vehicular deer crashes by county, and a lot of other useful information if you are interested in these statistics like me.

The interesting part of this report is the fact that it tells you the reported amount of deer taken in each of the 3 reservoirs that we are talking about.  This chart is going to help me decide where (other than Loch Raven) I want to hunt this fall, and tells me what my odds are at each location.

To give you an idea, I will break down a few numbers for you for each reservoir, maybe you knew these statistics, maybe you did not, but they are helpful to all hunters.

We will start will Liberty Reservoir because it is slightly hard because it spans over two counties.

Doe Harvests in the Baltimore County section of Liberty: 54

Buck Harvests in the Baltimore County section of Liberty: 28

Doe Harvests in the Carroll County section of Liberty: 108

Buck Harvests in the Carroll County section of Liberty: 51

Looking at this, it tells me that there were just less than double the number of bucks killed in the Carroll County sections of Liberty last year than Baltimore County section. The doe harvests were double that of the Baltimore County section, if you take into consideration that more of the land is in Carroll County rather than in Baltimore County I guess this makes sense.  It’s good to see the buck to doe ratio pretty even as it should be at least 2 does to 1 buck. Liberty is also the largest of the 3 reservoirs with around 9,200 acres. This should be taken into consideration as well as we look at the numbers and the numbers of the other reservoirs.

Next, we will look at Pretty Boy Reservoir which is located solely in Baltimore County Maryland

Doe Harvest: 187

Buck Harvest: 75

After looking at Liberty’s numbers, Pretty Boy numbers are actually have a higher number of deer killed. However, the harvest numbers have slightly declined over the past 5 years.  This means you have better odds of taking a deer at Pretty Boy since it is almost 2000 acres smaller at 7,380 acres that Liberty based on the numbers.  I am not saying you have better chance at taking a deer, but by looking at the numbers, it would seem that more opportunities exists at Pretty Boy in a smaller area since more deer are harvested each season.

Finally, we have Loch Raven Reservoir, also solely located in Baltimore County Maryland

Doe Harvest: 163

Buck Harvest: 69

These numbers are very interesting since Loch Raven Reservoir is grossly smaller than the other two at only 1,600 acres.  This means that more deer were taken per acre in Loch Raven than either of the other two reservoirs.  The concerning part of the numbers is that the number of does taken are slightly lower over the past couple season yet the number of bucks is up.  Now, we will get into my personal opinions about Loch Raven hunting and those numbers.

I can tell you that a big part of that is the fact that a large number of people (me included) hunt Loch Raven on a regular basis.  I will also tell you that deer numbers are down in Loch Raven since they opened it up to hunting.  However, I would like to give you my real observations on Loch Raven hunting, which is that yes, deer numbers are down in Loch Raven, but because of the large amount of people that use it for not only for hunting, but all those other activities that I mentioned the deer are getting smarter.  I have hunted areas of Loch Raven day after day and not seen a single deer during daylight hours, yet walking out of the woods right after dark or right before sunrise, you spook large numbers out of those very same areas.  This tells me that the deer are becoming more nocturnal because of all the activity in the woods during daylight hours.  So, when choosing your hunting area in Loch Raven, think of either a place that gets less foot traffic, or a location that deer might get pushed by those not even aware that they are there.   Loch Raven’s buck to doe ratio is fairly similar to the other reservoirs, so this means you have an equal opportunity to take a buck as you do a doe, again as long as you are in the right place at the right time. However, there is a little bit of concerning fact that buck numbers are slightly up over past seasons, yet the quality of deer taken in Loch Raven and seen in Loch Raven is down. Everyone I talk to agrees, the number of mature bucks is down and yes there are a lot of little bucks, but they are not living to a mature age.  Between hunting, car accidents, and other causes they aren’t reaching a mature age, and that for many hunters should be a little frustrating.

You can also read my article on Bow Hunting Loch Raven Reservoir for more details.

Again, all the deer harvest numbers above came from the Maryland Annual Deer Report which you can check out for more details on other locations and statistics.
The rest is my opinions and observations.  I have decided to try some of the other locations around Maryland, including the other Reservoirs.  My goal is to report to our readers what my experiences are each time I go out hunting in different locations, hopefully to provide some pictures, and with any luck some pictures of the deer I harvest

Have you hunted any of the 3 Maryland Reservoirs I discussed?  We would love to hear about your experiences and/or what your opinion is of each location.  You can also feel free to ask questions about any of the locations and we will answer them to the best of our knowledge.  Just leave a comment below with your experiences, opinions, or questions or drop us an email.

Good luck this season!



21 Responses

  1. Gino Ciotola
    Great post. This reservoir hunting sure can be tough, but it's good that the State gives us opportunities to hunt on public land close to home. I'm one of those people who spends almost all of my hunting time on public land, simply because I don't have access to any private land in the area. There are certainly some good deer running around, but they can be hard to come by during legal shooting hours. Sometimes that first week is your best chance before the hunting pressure really gets to them. I'm looking forward to the challenge this year and can't wait to start climbing trees in mid-September!!
    • admin
      Gino, Thanks for the comment. Hunting on public land for a trophy can be a challenge for even the best of us. The first week of hunting season can be a good chance for that trophy, but even the first few weeks are good opportunities. I find the first few days through the first weekend are busy in the woods, then hunting traffic dies off a bit until mid October. I am in the same boat as you, I spend most all of my hunting time on public land, you say you hunt on public land in Maryland, which locations do you frequent? I cannot wait until September 15th either! Thanks, Andy
      • Gino Ciotola
        Andy, I spend 90% of my time hunting Loch Raven. I hunt Prettyboy on occasion, but since Loch Raven opened, I'm spending much more time there. I just feel there is a better opportunity for a trophy deer and it's alot closer to home. I can pop in for an evening hunt after work without a problem. I'm originally from western PA, so I spend about a week during the PA rut up there as well. My family owns some property up there and the big boys are plentyful! That's doesn't mean they are easy to kill, but they are certainly there. Have a good feeling about this year...not sure why, but I can't wait till Sept. 15th!! Gino
        • admin
          Gino, Thanks for the reply. I understand about the being able to get out on the way home from work, I do that many days. I feel pretty good about this season as well. I saw more bucks last year than the year before. I think some of the smaller ones might of grown up, and maybe the decent ones from last season will be in their prime. Good luck!
        • Our family has a place up in Bedford County. Beautiful land. It's funny hunting on the side of a mountain - climbing up on the uphill side of a tree in the dark, and then when the sun comes up, you see how far down it REALLY is!!!
  2. I live 10 minutes from Loch Raven but still haven't hunted it. I used to hunt Liberty with a lot of success...I remember some great mornings out there! I have to be honest, hunting on the state parks in Balt County has really soured me on public land as a whole. Being harassed by non-hunters and by "auxiliary park rangers" who had no freaking clue what they are talking about.....can't a guy just go hunt?
    • admin
      I understand where you are coming from on hunting the reservoirs in Baltimore County. I have had to deal with lots of non hunters, but I only saw one ranger whom was the ranger for this area. So, I cannot say that I have had that experience yet. I agree, why cant we just be allowed to go hunt and be left alone, then again I guess enough people that are not honest also share the woods with us and they have to be kept in check. I have only hunted Liberty once, but it was a nice experience. I plan to try to get back over there this upcoming season. Thanks for the comment!
      • HOnestly, I've never had a real problem at the reservoirs. I've had dogs (off the leash) come bark at me up in the tree at Triadelphia Reservoir......but my bad public experiences were at Gunpowder SP (bow hunt) and North Point State Park (multiple duck hunts).
  3. John
    I went scout liberty reservoir last sunday by ridge rd side. I did not see anything. I will go again this week end and try to actually hunt. This will be the first time for me to go hunt in maryland. So any advice for me, for Liberty reservoir will me greatly appreciated. Seeing all this houses around makes me uneasy.
    • admin
      John, This is not a part of Liberty we have hunted before. i hunted the other side of the reservoir a few years back and had a good afternoon, but like I said that was a few years ago. I have talked to a few people over the last year or so that have hunted over that way and most of them either hunt close to the houses, or try to get as far away from them as possible. Remember acorns have started to fall in most areas and will continue to increase, so maybe look for an area with oak trees or another good food source for your first hunt. This should at least tell you if anything is in the area. Otherwise, I would say spend some more time looking for tracks and sign before you pick a tree, with all the recent rain finding tracks and trails should be pretty easy. Hope this helps you some, and perhaps one of our readers hunts that area and can pass along more detailed information. Good luck this weekend and let us know how your hunting trip turns out!
  4. WLeizear
    I have been told by several other hunters that Loch Raven does not allow ground blinds. They tell me the rangers have been giving folks a hard time with them. Any information out there available? I can also find nothing in the regulations that say yes or no, they are slient. Or have I just run into a jealous fellow hunter?
    • Huh. You're correct. DNR has language that says, "you also must conform to all Balt City DPW rules" and don'tcha know it, where DPW's regs used to say "Permanent tree stands are prohibited" it now ALSO states "blinds of any kind are prohibited." So, unless they violated some legal process by enacting that new regulation, I'd say, yeah, you could get a ticket for that.
    • admin
      Sadly finding things out about the rules past what is on DNR's website is difficult to say the least. The last time I had a question it took 4 phone calls and 2 days to finally get an answer between DNR and the Baltimore City DPW. River Mud is correct, thanks to the DPW you cannot use blinds without the risk of a ticket. Even though I have run into people that do use them, I would not suggest it if you want to say legal. My suggestion would be to find some down tree's or an area of thicket where you want to hunt and either use a tree seat which is legal, or something similar. I have done this on afternoons short on time with some success over the years. Sorry the answer was not quite what you were hoping, but we wish you the best of luck!
  5. Talley
    I'm looking to hunt prettyboy. Any ideas on where to hunt? Thanks for the help.
  6. Seriously dude? Prettyboy is big, heavy terrain (for central Maryland). You need to get yourself out there and check it out before you even consider breaking your ankle in the dark on one of those hellacious hills full of loose rocks, right under the fallen leaves. It's almost all oak-poplar forest with some occasional oak-hickory, maple, and some nice pine groves. Park your truck. Hit the fire road. Scout it. More than the other 2 reservoirs, for safety's sake you really need to make yourself familiar with the terrain. All the basic stuff about deer travel between habitats, ag land and forest, water, etc. apply at Prettyboy. They are out there.
    • Talley
      Thanks, I just moved to PA from Colorado this summer. Still getting settled in and looking for places to hunt.
      • admin
        Welcome to the area Talley! River Mud is right, scouting is a huge part of hunting public land in Maryland, especially Prettyboy. By doing a little research (i.e. scouting, checking out trail maps and topo maps, and refreshing yourself with the area's rules and regulations) you can get a good feel for where the deer might be. After the wind and with a little luck you might find one of the big boys out there. Keep us updated on your adventures this season :)
  7. If you have experience hunting in the snow, some of those cedar/pine groves and BIG draws around Prettyboy can be hot shooting. Just have to know which area to target, so they don't come out the wrong end of the pine grove, 100 yards away! Also, read the regulations closely (min. distance to high water, stand/blind regulations, etc). The wardens were in the woods pretty frequently this summer.
  8. icetrout
    Ghillie-Suits considered ground blinds ??? lol
    • admin
      Not in our book :-)
    • icetrout
      they can't ticket what they can't see...shouldn't be able to see a ground blind any way...

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